Archive for September, 2007

Whale deaths in the Canary Islands

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

One in three deaths of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Canaries Islands are caused by human activities (El Mundo). This is the findings of a study on 233 Cetaceans beached in archipelago between 1999 and 2005. 14% died from interactions with fishing, 9.4% associated with military maneuvers and 4.5% due to resulting pathologies The remaining 62% died from natural diseases or 4.3% for unknown reasons”. Antonio Fernández, the researcher in charge of the study noted that many deaths from natural causes may also result from a weakening of their immunodeficiency due to pollution, and suspects that the proven 4.5% could be the tip of the iceberg. The same team gained international recognition with their study published in nature on whale strandings due to military sonar in the Canary Islands. This cause of death appears to have fallen with the prohibition of sonar use within 50 miles of the Canaries.

fin whale

Photo of beached Fin whale (rorcual común – Balaenoptera physalus) in Las Palmas

Alligator caught in River Besòs

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

A young alligator (70 cm) was caught in Barcelona in the River Besòs yesterday. The reptile was spotted by a local naturalist doing a study on birds. Experts believe the mild temperatures on the Catalan coast and the abundant presence of swamp crayfish may allow alligators to survive the winter here.  This is the second alligator to be caught in just over a year near Barcelona, after the larger alligator caught in a pool in Collserola. (El Pais)

Demand for cereals in Spain threatens birds

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

The increasing demand for cereals in Spain and the EU is threatening birds associated with farming habitats. This has been heightened by the Ministry of Agriculture following the decision of the EU to eliminate temporarily the rule requiring EU farmers to leave 10% of their land fallow. Fallow land plays an essential role in preserving bird biodiversity. Much of the rise in prices is due to the demand for biofuels, bad weather and soaring demand. SEO/BirdLife has asked national and regional authorities to respect fallow areas at least in the high value natural areas such as those of Red Natura 2000. (SEO)

partridge stubble

Red partridge in wheat stubble from here

River Guadix

Friday, September 21st, 2007

The River Guadix, a sub-tributary of the Guadiana Menor, which flows through the town of the same name must lay claim to world’s most tautological geographical name.

Wikipedia claims in tautological place names:

Río Guadix, Spain (The River River RiverRío is “river” in Spanish, Guad < w?d? is “river” in Arabic and Ix is “river” in Phoenician)

Climbing Naranjo de Bulnes

Friday, September 21st, 2007

I came across this eerie and beautiful photo of Naranjo de Bulnes, the most famous peak of the Picos de Europa on this climbing page.

naranjo de bulnes photo

I also enjoyed the introduction from the same climbing guide:

It is important to understand what Naranjo de Bulnes means to Spanish Mountaineers. It is our most precious jewel, and the most wanted summit. Every single Spanish mountaineer dreams on the possibility of looking from its summit. The beauty of this mountain is not only in what you look at, is has to do more with the magic of it. When you feel it you understand. It is very difficult to express in words how people feel about it. And all this does not means it has an easy way to reach its top, because it has not. Rock climbing technics and gear is necesary, even in the easiest route on the south face. There are about 70 routes on the mountain, and only a few of them are relalatively easy; the rest are long, difficult and exposed.”

Long, difficult and exposed it may be, but all Spanish climbers are in still awe of the peak’s first ascent. The first to conquer Picu Urriellu was Pedro Pidal, the Marques of Villaviciosa, in the summer of 1904, at a time when the contemporary fashion of the sport added a certain charm to the life of an aristocrat. He was accompanied by Gregorio Pérez acting as a guide, a shepherd from the village of Cain, who was known as ‘El Cainejo’. The gear of the two climbers was made up of a haversack with something to eat and a couple of ropes … The Marques wore gaiters and hunting boots and El Cainejo, espadrilles. One is reminded of the colonial relationship of Sherpa Tenzing and Edmund Hillary. El Cainejo in his espadrilles accompanies the Marques in his boots. Read Naranjo de Bulnes and the beginnings of Spanish conservationism

Spanish charcoal making

Friday, September 21st, 2007

One of the most traditional economic activities associated with forests in Spain is the virtually extinct job of charcoal making. The job of the carbonero, the charcoal maker, was a hard one, requiring constant attention in all weathers. Whole families were often involved. Forestman has posted this video on the art, in this case on the common use of carrasco (holm oak). The 1984 film Tasio pays tribute to the Basque charcoal makers of the Sierra de Urbasa.

The landscape of Goya 1

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Goya was one of the first landcape painters. He had other motives than depicting pretty scapes. Here below Attack on a Coach Asalto de la diligencia (1787 and 1783 below)

Attack on a Coach

From Classical connections – commentary and critique “Goya (1746-1828) undermines faith in order, showing instead the isolated forest where disorder reigns: travelers plead for their lives to murderous but indifferent bandits whose ruthlessness is more a reflection of nature than inherently cruel. The dead bodies of coachmen bleeding away to senselessness are no deterrent to further savagery. Goya does not predict the outcome of this tragedy, rather invites viewers to speculate in clinical abstraction about the amoral motives of robbers and the plight of travellers. As the first of two similar scenes of robbers attacking carriages, the other a smaller canvas (43 x 32 cm) in 1793 set in a rocky landscape and now in Madrid, the scene “present a vision of Man’s helplessness before the forces of nature or human wickedness…” Goya’s pitiful surviving travelers have no recourse surrounded only by trees who seem to not hear the screams or last prayers any more than the musket shots and curses. Goya is not glorfying such attacks, only recording the abstract threat of rampant chaos to any civilization foolish enough to think it is safe. ”

Asalto de la diligencia

The Cantabrian brown bear

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Lisa of the iberianature forum has written this excellent piece on the Cantabrian brown bear for the Olive Press with which she begins:

“CANTABRIAN brown bears have developed a slightly different genetic identity to other brown bears, including the European. This is due to the geography of the Iberian peninsula effectively cutting them off from other populations to the North. However, they have not been recognised by the scientific community as a distinct subspecies, being referred to as simply Ursus arctos. Read 

Lisa runs this rather nice guesthouse in the Picos. Go there and discuss bears over breakast with her. Photo of Cantabrian bear nabbed from here site.

Sierra Morena lynxes to be released in Doñana

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Three Iberian lynxes taken from Andújar in Sierra Morena are to be released in Doñana. Key to the transfer has been the control of feline leukemia within Doñana (Consumer). As far as I know this is the first time lynxes have been moved. It seems to me that before carrying out such drastic measures they should cut the number deaths of lynx in the Doñana, i.e. sort out the problem of traffic around the park first.

Coast of Asturias

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

I love these photos of the coast of Asturias by Oviedo photographer Iñigo Calles Here below Ría Villaviciosa and Verdicio.