Archive for July, 2007

Canaries fire 2 Nasa satellite image

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Image from Nasa of the fire on Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Somewhere between a third and a half of Gran Canary’s forest has been burnt.

Nasa satellite Canary Islands Fire

Canaries fire

Monday, July 30th, 2007

The scourge of Spanish summer fires are upon us again with this fire in La Alsandara, Tejeda on Gran Canaria, which has so far burnt more than 20,000 hectares of pine forest. A forest fire guard whose contract was about to run out, and who originally raised the alarm, has confessed to starting the fire and has been arrested. Forest guards are frequently accused of starting fires to guarantee work for themselves. A second fire is also raging on Tenerife. 13,000 people have been evacuated.(El Pais here)

More on forest fires

BBC report here

“The fires have burnt at least 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres) of land on the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Spain’s Environment Minister Cristina Narbona called a state of “maximum alert” and ordered more water-bombing planes to help douse the fires. Hundreds of firefighters are working with planes to quell the blaze. On Saturday, police arrested a forest ranger who admitted to starting one of the fires. The 37-year-old man told police his job contract was about to expire and he wanted to keep working, according to the AP news agency.

Local officials said that 5,200 people had been taken to safety on Gran Canaria and at least 5,700 people were evacuated from homes in Tenerife as the four-day blaze continued to burn.

Hazards Previously, dozens of people had been evacuated from seven areas since Friday. Paulino Rivero, head of the regional government said: “The rugged landscape of these islands makes firefighting very complicated, except from the air. “But while there is a lot of wind and very high temperatures, helicopters generally cannot operate.” A spokesman for Gran Canaria’s authorities said fires were burning on four fronts but attention was being focused on two in the central Fataga area. He added that only two helicopters were able to drop water there because of the “terrible” wind. The fire has damaged 65% of the Palmitos bird sanctuary park. There are fears that toucans and other exotic birds may have been killed. A spokeswoman from Tenerife’s island authorities said some 300 members of fire and other emergency services were fighting the blazes, with the support of 34 lorries, four helicopters and a water-bomber airplane.

Meanwhile, officials in southern Portugal said a major forest fire that broke out on Monday had now been brought under control.” (BBC)

Scops owl chick

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Derek of the forum has sent me this photo of one of this year’s batch of scops owl chicks from his hideout somewhere in the Sierra de Madrid. He notes “I’m pretty certain from past clutches that although this is the biggest of the three scoplets a first-hatched fourth had already flown”

This one was the last to leave the nest, much later than other years, perhaps because of the mild temperatures this July in Spain. Read more about Derek’s scops owls here.

Triperias de León

Friday, July 27th, 2007

I was impressed by the idiosyncrasy and number of the triperias of the city of Leon on my last visit there. Everything you need to make a chorizo. All things pig.


Fotos de Triperias de León Leon Triperias, León Triperia

Photo of a Spanish Ibex

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Xavi Vicent sent me this remarkable photo of a Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica)

More of his work great here

Snow in Barcelona

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Snow falls on average just over once a year in Barcelona, though it sticks less than one in every ten. These photos are testament to the remarkable snowfall of 25 December 1962, the heaviest in living memory. See also snowfall of 2010 here

Explosion of common vole population in Castilla

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

The explosion of the population of Common vole (microtus arvalis, topillo campesino), estimated at some 500 million individuals, in Castilla-Leon this year has devastated some 400,000 ha of crops. The origins of the population boom are in this year’s mild winter temperature, the cyclical nature of vole populations, and in the long term in its move into the cereal plains where now “there are few natural predators.” Until 20 years ago, the common vole was only found at medium and high altitude meadows in the Pyrenees, Picos de Europa and the Sistema Central. Juan José Luque from the Universidad de Valladolid notes here «We are not entirely sure why, but we can say that the agricultural changes in the cereal steppes from dry farming to irrigated crops has helped their expansion”

Vole pests Collecting voles in Valladolid

Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture and environmental groups recommend the use of predators, parasites and natural pathogens, but farmers are up in arms demanding and indeed using toxic chemicals, with all the consequent dangers for humans and wildlife (see below). Similar vole explosions occurred in 1988-89 and 1993-94, which then subsided due to natural causes. More here from Consumer

Photo of a common vole

Read Dave’s post on Castilian voles on the Forum. This is first hand experience on the ground and is frankly more interesting than my above piece” This year has been a very mild year in Castilla and Leon, and so the common or garden field vole, has survived in large numbers, something that occurs fairly often, in a similar way to Lemmings. The area south of Leon is called the Tierras de Campo, and covers the provinces of Palencia, Leon Vallodolid and Zamora, and it is called the breadbasket of Spain for obvious reasons, for this is Cereal country. Voles like the young shoots of Cereal crops, and were posing a significant threat to this years crop, and the farmers were worried, and approached the Junta of Castilla and Leon for a solution to the problem, threatening street protest if no action was taken. Continue reading

Wikipedia notes “The population density of Common Vole, Microtus arvalis varies seasonally and exhibits a considerable long-term fluctuation that shows typically three-year or five-year cycles. Densities can range from 100 individuals per ha (very low level) over 500 individuals per ha (medium level) up to 2000 individuals per ha in some years.

The Cenachero

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Huge selection of photos of old Spain sent in by the public here.

This one from La Playa de Fuengirola in the 1950s shows a cenachero de Málaga selling sardines. The disappeared Cenacheros were ambulant fish sellers. Today they have been relegated to a folkloric symbol in Malaga

Spanish mantis

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Sue of wildsideholidays has some great photos and information on the cone-head mantis and praying mantis in Spain here on the iberianatureforum

Allen’s rule and the Iberian lynx

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Leafing through a dictionary of zoology I came across a definition for Allen’s rule. It strikes me that this might apply to the lankiness of the Iberian lynx in comparison with its cousin the heftier Eurasian Lynx. (For size difference see below)

It states (from wikipedia) that:

“endotherms from colder climates usually have shorter limbs than the equivalent animals from warmer climates.The theory behind Allen’s Rule is that endothermic animals with the same volume may have differing surface areas, which will aid or impede their temperature regulation.”

“In cold climates, the greater the exposed surface area, the greater the loss of heat and therefore energy. Animals (including humans) in cold climates need to conserve as much energy as possible. A low surface area to volume ratio helps to conserve heat.

In warm climates, the opposite is true. An animal will overheat quickly if it has a low surface area to volume ratio. Therefore, animals in warm climates will have high surface area to volume ratios so as to help them lose heat.

In a nutshell, it simply means there is a ratio between body surface to body mass.”

Given that the Eurasian Lynx is much larger than the Iberian Lynx, also perhaps applicable is Bergmann’s Rule which “correlates environmental temperature with body mass in warm-blooded animals. It asserts that within a species, the body mass increases with latitude and colder climate. Among mammals and birds, individuals of a particular speciesin colder areas tend to have greater body mass than individuals in warmer areas. ” This is no doubt the case further north and when comparing areas with similar levels of rainfall, but also coming into play is the the extremely limiting factor of the Mediterranean summer drought, which also tends to reduce body size. There simply isn’t as much prey in the Mediterranean summer.

Top, a Eurasian Lynx, bottom Iberian lynx. Not sure if these pictures do justice to my idea.

Origin of the Iberian lynx and relation to Eurasian lynx.
The ancestors of both the Iberian lynx and the Spanish Imperial Eagle came originally from far to the East in the steppes of Asia Minor, and did not arrive in the Peninsula until one million years ago. The Iberian species separated from their Eurasian counterparts around one million years ago at the start of the Quaternary, when a series of intense ice ages swept across Eurasia. As the weather grew colder both south western populations were pushed into the Mediterranean in search of ground squirrels until they finally reached Iberia. With the cold, prey must have become scarce from Greece to Italy and the Eurasian imperial eagle and the lynx died out there. The populations which reached Iberia were saved by the presence of rabbits. The Eurasian lynx then moved back into Europe from Asia as the ices receded. To the north of Spain, the Eurasian Lynx was eliminated in Western Europe during the 18-19th centuries, but unlike its Iberian cousin its range is much greater, once extending from the Pyrenees to Siberia. (The Eurasian Lynx possibly existed in Spain and formed the northern boundary of the Iberian Lynx). Eurasian Lynx are still relatively common in parts of the ex-URSS which is enabling reintroduction programmes in Switzerland, France and Germany. A million years ago there was probably one species from Cadiz to Vladivostok. More on the Iberian Lynx