Archive for February, 2007

Wolves in 18th century Spain

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

10/10/2006 I came across these accounts of dogs and wolves in A Journey Through Spain in the Years 1786 and 1787 by Joseph Townsend. I assume the tiger is a lynx.

Piedrafita [in Jaca], a little village containing forty six houses is fed by a little valley and surrounded on every side by mountains. The shepherd dogs are large, well qualified to engage the wolves, which are here in great abundance. They wear a spiked collar to protect the neck, and to prevent the wolf from fixing on that mortal part. …..[Pyrenees] On the mountains I am told, are not only wolves, but bears and a species of the tiger; all of which, in the winter are exceedingly ferocious. From the dread of these, the shepherds constantly drive their flocks of sheep and goats into the villages by night, and when they are feeding on the mountains they are attended by strong dogs with spiked collars…. [Pyrenees] All the dogs in the little villages through which we pass have spiked collars . These are absolutely needful because wolves abound in these regions. In winter they become ravenous and bold, but in the summer they commit frequent ravages among the flocks by night if either the shepherd or the flock are sleeping soundly. [Somiedo]

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And here is one of the spiked collars, a carlanca. More here. (Fapas)

Book on wolves in Andalucia

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

04/10/2006 I was recently asked by Ví­ctor Gutiérrez Alba to review his book El Lobo Ibérico en Andalucía. This is a comprehensive account of the wolf in Andalusia covering its history, mythology and relations with man, with fascinating chapters such as the The Wolf as a Transforming Element of the Landscape, War and Wolves, Wolves and Andalusian witchcraft and Wolves and Transhumance. The book is very well researched and brimming with historical anecdotes. It begins with a perhaps overly exhaustive review of the decline extinction of wolves in Andalusia . For the time being here’s an extract from the start of the book from one Enrique IV Alonso de Palencia who writes in the 1570s of the presence of two wolves in the centre of Seville, at a time when wolves roamed throughout the region:

Once the sun had risen, two wolves came into Seville and ran across the city. One of them, frightened by the shouts from the people, entered the Church of Santa Catalina, ran up to the high altar and stained the priest’s chasuble with its saliva , before fleeing from the people in pursuit and those attending mass. It doubled back before being slain by arrows in the outskirts by the Church of San Pedro . Its head was cut off and taken to the Duke. The other wolf fled towards the Templo de St Lucia and left the city unharmed.

An excellent read and I’ll be translating more short extracts over the coming months.. You can order a copy here from Oryx. Snip at 30 euros. (I’m not on any commission by the way).

2nd Spanish TVE documentary on wolves in Spain

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

04/10/2006 Second Spanish TVE documentary on wolves in Spain, broadcast on Sunday night. This episode “Pacto con Lobos”, subtitled “Leyenda y realidad del lobo ibérico” looks at the historical and modern relationships between man and wolves in Spain, and the problems and solutions of wolf conservation here. Essential viewing. Watch video online here on iberianature

Ladder snake on Monteserrat

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

02/10/2006 I had an interesting walk on Montserrat the other day, where my batteries unbelievably failed just as I had the ladder snake to the left full in my sights. By the time I’d replaced them it had slithered away in seach of rodents and quiet. The Iberian wall lizard on the right was far easier prey. More on reptiles in Spain

Spanish wolf documentary

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

25/09/2006 1 hour Spanish TVE documentary broadcast for the first time last night on the natural history of wolves in Spain. Next week second 1 hour part on conflicts with humans. You need JAVA ENABLED. Note, it’s worth putting up with the crap music at the start. This is a great documentary with some fantastic camera work. Wolf killing a genet and a fox, cubs learning to eat a rabbit and playing with a dead magpie, wolves gorging on figs, a fight with a Montpellier snake. Watch video online here on iberianature See also wolves in Spain.

Griffon vulture in Grazalema with a bell

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Clive of wildside holidays took these rather unlikely photos of a griffon vulture in Grazalema complete with a goat’s bell. He informs me “He/she reared a chick this year without it seems any problem but I did wince every time I saw feeding commence. The chick was lucky it didn’t get brained? I wonder how many eggs get broken whilst he/she is turning them.” …”Apparently there is another one flying about in Cazorla. A neighbour of mine says that the goat herders used to do it a lot if they caught a griffon on the ground after a big feed. Apparently it’s funny” I like these photos almost as much as his “wryneck attacking the horseshoe whipsnake”. Clive is also joint owner of the iberianatureforum.

Largest snake in Spain

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Montpellier snake by Stephen Daly. More great photos by him here below and on his site. As long as two metres, the Montpellier Snake is Spain’s largest snake and probably the commonest snake in the Mediterranean region and in Spain. This is despite the numerous deaths on the roads to which it is attracted in search of heat, and its persecution by man – it is seen as a threat to small game species and farm birds because of it size. On the contrary the Montpellier appears to be on the rise, as it easily adapts to humanised environs, which push out its competitor snake species. It is in theory one of the five venomous snakes in Spain , though the back position of its venom fangs means poison injection is unusual, and the latter reputedly weak. See also snakes in Spain quiz

Captive Iberian Lynxes

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Brisa, checking out a rabbit last year, one of the 21 Iberian lynxes (pdf) in the captive breeding programme and among the five surviving animals born in captivity. The captive population is to be increased to over 60 by 2010. More ridiculously cute lynx pictures here at the excellent lynx ex-sit site. See also Iberian lynx news on this site and Lince Iberico Forum

Wolves hunting boar in the Sierra de la Culebra

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Wolf guide Sergi Garcia, and co-author of the future iberianature book sent me this dramatic photo of young wolves training to hunt a pair of wild boars and their young. They were taken in the Sierra de la Culebra this August. Sergi reckoned the wolves had just eaten as their bellies looked full (perhaps one of the boar young as there were only two). You can see the boar chasing the wolves in defence of young (out of picture), but each time the wolves stopped the boar turned and fled. They may have also been expelling the boars from their territory as these would be a potential competitor for carrion. The game lasted for some 30 minutes. Makes me want to go back soon.

Insects in Sierra de Grazalema

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Some more lovely photos by Clive and Sue who run guided walking tours in the Sierra de Grazalema. They note “The scolia flavifrons are most interesting (male on the left, female to the right). These wasps parasitize rhino beetle larvae.. ” Below thread lacewing (nemoptera bipennis) -check out the head close-up in second photo which as Clive points out is amazing- looks to me like its wearing headphones, and, far right blue bee Xylocopa violacea