Archive for May, 2008

First complete tapir skeleton in Europe found in Girona

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

The first complete skeleton of a tapir in Europe has been found in Girona at the archaeological dig, El Camp del Ninots. The fossil dates from 3.5 million years ago. Tapirs disappeared from Europe some 1.3 million years later at the start of the Pleistocene probably due to climate change. El País

New conservation management project for Cantabrian brown bear

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Following the news of the creation of a third patrol for the Fundación Oso Pardo which will be financed by the Obra Social Caja Madrid to further and coordinate the work of the existing two, today comes news of a new investigation into the conservation management of the Cantabrian brown bear. The project will be headed by the environmental department of the Asturian government and the Doñana Research Centre of the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas). Yesterday, no lesser personages than Miguel Delibes de Castro, respected Spanish biologist and mammal expert, and one of the leading European brown bear experts, Jon Swenson, met in Asturias for a working meeting to oversee the start of the investigation which consists of three phases. First is a study of the demographic evolution of the Cantabrian bears in order to diagnose their current conservation status, followed by the identification of possible communication corridors and the analysis of damages to agriculture and livestock. Delibes and Swenson finished their meeting with José Félix García Gaona, head of the Asturian Biodiversity and Countryside Department (Biodiversidad y Paisaje) with a visit to Proaza from where the Asturian Bear Foundation (Fundación Oso Asturias) is sponsoring a doctoral thesis by Andrés Ordiz Fernández, titled “Análisis de patrones de movimiento y actividad del oso pardo en Europa. Aplicación a la conservación de pequeñas poblaciones amenazadas. El caso de la Cordillera Cantábrica.” (Analysis of patterns of movement and activity of the brown bear in Europe. Application of the conservation of small, endangered populations. The case of the Cantabrian mountains.)

Doubtless, they also visited Paca and Tola with their new, hopeful mate Furaco.


News from

Follow the Cantabrian brown bear on IberiaNature forum

Vandals destroy peregrine family

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Sad news. A group of vandals have disturbed one of the four “nests” of peregrine falcons in Barcelona. They climbed up one the chimney stacks in Poble Nou where the pair where raising three chicks, and in their panic the chicks flew before they were fully fledged. Two have been rescued but one was found dead in the street. The two rescued chicks are to taken to a nest on Montjuic and introduced to the pair there through hacking. May the full force of the law fall on these idiots. El Periódico

See also Peregrines of the Sagrada Familia

The Tramontana wind

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I enjoyed reading this piece on the Tramontana wind written for Iberianature by Francis Barrett as part of his Guide to the Ampurdan. In Spain, Tramontana refers to the wind which blows NE-SW across the Ampurdan region of Girona. (Painting above by Fransesc Gimeno: An Ampordan village. Note Montgrí in the background – 1918)

…. the strong Tramontana wind is a fairly regular feature of the region in all seasons except summer. This variant of the French Mistral wind blows NE-SW across the landscape for 3-12 days at a time, and can be bitter when the Pyranees are covered in snow and ice. Taking shelter indoors avoids the icy blast, but not the shrill moan as the wind swirls around corners and down chimneys to make fireplace flames flicker and die. The English proverb “red sky at night – shepherds’ delight; red sky in the morning – sailors’ warning” is reversed in the Ampurdan; glorious sunsets signal the imminence of the Tramontana, whereas beautiful dawns are the norm.

The influence of the Tramontana can be seen in the rural landscape and architecture, with walls and lines of beech (sic) trees designed as windbreaks, and open arches at the top level of old farmhouses to dry stored crops. The people of the region tend to live in harmony with the local climactic vagaries, but the Tramontana affects their behaviour most of all, making the children giddy on the first day and rendering everybody depressed when it blows for a week. After 10 days of Tramontana, the murder rate goes up and both people and animals have been known to commit suicide. Catalonia celebrates eight traditional winds, but only the people of the Ampurdan, or Empordanesos, are said to be tocats per al vent – “touched”or mentally affected by the wind.

Elsewhere is this excellent piece by Ian Gibson in the New York Times on the tramontana wind from his Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí

Around 1881 Gal Dali moved to Barcelona. According to family tradition the main reason for this decision was that he found he could no longer stand the tramuntana. This fierce north wind, as integral a part of life in the Upper Emporda as the rain in London, has to be experienced to be believed. Dry and bitterly cold in winter, it roars and blasts its way down through the passes of the Pyrenees (hence tramuntana, `from across the mountains’), sweeping the sky clear of clouds, and, hitting the Emporda, forces the cypresses almost to their knees, smashes flowerpots, snaps television masts and coats the cliffs of Cape Creus white with salt lashed from the waves. The tramuntana blows regularly at over 130 kilometres an hour, and has been known to overturn railway carriages and hurl cars into the sea. At Port-Bou, on the French frontier, it can be so violent that the paramilitary Civil Guard used to enjoy a special dispensation allowing them to climb to their quarters upstairs on all-fours: a position that would normally have been considered undignified in the extreme for a force of law and order famed for its machismo.

Gibson continues:

The tramuntana can affect the emotions as brutally as it does the sea and countryside, and is a constant topic of conversation in this region. The Empordanese are known for their intransigence (the Dalis were no exception), and one authority on the area has attributed this to their having to push constantly against the wind. Anyone a little dotty in these parts, or with a tendency suddenly to flare up, is likely to be labelled atramuntanat (`touched by the tramuntana’), and in the past crimes passionnels committed when the wind was raging were half-way to being condoned. As for depressives, they can be driven to absolute despair by a prolonged bout of the wind–and the bouts may last for eight or ten days, especially in winter. It is even alleged that the tramuntana is responsible for suicides, especially in Cadaques. The protagonist of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story, `Tramuntana’, is such a victim. It may well be that Gal Dali feared that, if he stayed on in the village, he was in mortal danger.


  • The wind also lends its name to the Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca.
  • According to Wikipedia. the word tramontana comes from the Latin “transmontanus” and the Italian “tramontana,” meaning not just “across the mountains” but also “The North Star” (literally the star “above the mountains,”)

Visit the lammergeyer breeding centre in Cazorla

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

    The Fundación Gypaetus is organising a series of guided to the lammergeyer breeding centre in Cazorla. The centre is home to 18 adult birds and one chick born in March. The visits are open between 15th May and 30th September. Tel. 953 720923 or read in La Fundación Gypaetus

    Red footed falcons in Spain

    Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

    From the Birds in Spain blogspot

    “During the last days of April and May to date, what has been considered to be an unprecedented invasion of Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus has been recorded in Spain. With groups peaking tens of birds altogether in Girona and Mallorca, largest numbers have been gathered in East Spain as expected for this rather eastern migrant.”

    See also the thread on forum on this

    The lost Capercaillie

    Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

    A male Capercaillie (in Spanish, urogallo), named Manso by villagers in Asturias, has returned to the area where last year he was desparately looking for females of his own species. Having travelled to the mountains around the village of Lillo in León, he’s back equipped with a radio collar. His progress is being monitored and if relocating him to a more suitable area doesn’t work, then he’ll be moved the a new breeding centre not far away in Sobrescobio. Biologists say his behaviour is typical of a species heading towards extinction. From

    Lost capercaillie in Tarna

    Photo from

    Read more on Capercaillie in Spain on the forum.

    Agbar Tower

    Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

    It’s not nature, but Lucy has written this rather good piece on Barcelona’s Agbar Tower

    Iberianature forum sponsored wildlife project

    Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

    I’m pleased to announce the first iberianatureforum sponsored wildlife project. The plan is to support the conservation of the endangered Southern Midwife toad (Alytes dickhilleni – above photo from The idea has arisen from a visit members of the forum made last month to the Zoo Botanico in Jerez de la Frontera, the best in Spain in terms of conservation of local species, and has been organised by joint forum-owner Clive whom I quote here.

    • The zoo is in the process or requesting permission to collect from the wild an endangered species of amphibian for captive breeding and release and we (The Forum) can help out with the project.
    • Alytes dickhilleni is a species of Midwife toad that only occurs in the Southern part of Spain hence its common name of “Betic / Southern Midwife Toad” after the “Baetic” mountain range in the Andalucía. (In Spanish it’s a Sapo partero bético).
    • The project needs some large glass terrariums (5) in order to house and breed the toads that cost (the terrariums) about 150 Euros each. In return for our help the Iberianature Forum will be named as sponsors and our collaboration will be mentioned in all the results returned from the project. (We will be famous at last!)
    • The community of iberianature has come a long way over the last year or so and we have all contributed to an excellent resource about the natural world of Iberia but this, for me at least, is an excellent opportunity for us as a group to help in a practical way some people who are really working hard to protect their environment.

    If you like iberianature and you would like to contribute to this project please send me or Clive an email.

    See on the forum

    Brown bear population in the Pyrenees

    Sunday, May 18th, 2008

    oso pardo Photo El País

    Another update on brown bears in the Pyrenees. The population of bears in the range has “stabilised” at 20 individuals, of which only two (old) males and one cub belong to the autocthonous “group of Pyrenean bears. The remaining bears are those introduced from Eastern Europe in 1996, 1997 and 2006, or are cubs of these animals.

    In Catalonia, in the last year at least 12 bears have been recorded passing some time here, and as some of these are now cubs, we can now begin to talk about a second generation growing up since the reintroductions began. A sign of the increased activity of bears is the first recording of a bear In the Vall d’Arán for a number of years. Watch the video of a female bear being followed by a male here. Both have recently awoken from hibernation.

    The latest DNA evidence suggests that the genetic difference between Spanish bears and those from the rest of Europe is small, and therefore there should be no reason to oppose transfers from other areas on biological grounds. See Wikipedia for more on links on this. In 2007, brown bears in the Catalan Pyrenees killed 20 sheep, 1 cow and 1 horse, which the Catalan Government compensated to a tune of 6,640 euros. A small price to pay. See

    See also Pyrenean bear news