Archive for July, 2008

New blog by Simon Rice

Friday, July 25th, 2008

I’m pleased announce that Simon Rice, another iberianatureforum stalwart has just begun his own blog on iberianature. Simon is an excellent writer with an eye for the quirkier side of things, and is, like myself, a geographer who enjoys looking for patterns in landscapes, and interplay between geography, history and nature. He divides his time between Tarragona city and Fígols de Tremps, a hamlet in the Leridan Pyrenees so he’ll be concentrating on southern and western Catalonia. Here’s an extract from his first post, illustrated with the photo above.

What is it that makes a landscape so stunning? Certainly not sheer size as in this case the valley is dwarfed by the higher ranges just to the north and the two local big sierras, Boumort and Montsec. Walking the mile or so (a couple of kilometres at most) of farm track towards the Obac de Serradell, the last flat, cultivated space at the head of the valley, it struck me that here quite the opposite was the case; even though the landscape is big, even by Spanish standards, it is small enough to be constantly changing as I walked up the valley, with new vistas and facets emerging with every turn. Plus there is a lovely juxtaposition between the bare cliffs and the wooded slopes that reach up to them from the valley floor. Meanwhile, the domesticity of the immediate surroundings, with their rolling meadows and quaint bordes, or field barns, contrasted with the primordial appearance of the dense forest and the heavily eroded slopes.

Read Simon’s blog

Remains found in the Cantabrian mountains are not of bear

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

The remains of a young bear were found late on Monday in the Riofrío, an area of high pasture below the highest peak, Peña Prieta, in the Cantabrian mountain chain. Estimated to be some weeks old, the skeleton was discovered by a member of the Fundación Oso Pardo (Brown Bear Foundation) during a routine patrol. This latest discovery brings the number of bears found dead in the last decade to eleven, eight of which have been proven to have been poisoned. The animal remains have been taken for an autopsy.

News from

Update 24.7.08 Tests have shown the remains to be of canine origen. Samples are being taken to the laboratories of the Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos de la Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha to ascertain exactly which canine species the dead animal did belong to. Toxicological tests will also be carried out due to the recent spate of poisoned Griffon vultures and foxes found in neighbouring areas.

See the Diario de León .

Iberian wolf summer exhibitions

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Two exhibitions are running concurrently this summer in Spain to reveal the truth behind the myths that still abound regarding the Iberian wolf, Canis lupus signatus. Organised by Carlos Sanz, one of the leading Spanish defenders of the species, they will run until at least the end of August and are well worth a visit. Here are the addresses and opening times;

In the city of Guadalajara, Castilla La Mancha the exhibition is open to the public from 11.00 – 14.00, Monday to Friday in the Teatro Auditorio “Buero Vallejo”, Calle Cifuentes, 30.

In Asturias, the larger of the two exhibitions can be visited in the town of Belmonte de Miranda from 11.00 – 14.00 and from 16.00 – 20.00, every day.

Iberian wolf exhibition in Belmonte, Asturias

Saving the Cantabrian Capercaillie from extinction

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

A male Capercaillie displaying

As part of the Spanish ornithological society SEO/Birdlife’s campaign, El Sonido del Bosque (Sounds of the Forests), work-camps will begin this August to improve the habitat of the Cantabrian Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus cantábricus) in the Picos de Europa National Park. Working through to mid-December while the birds are at their most inactive, they hope to help promote the growth of berry-bearing plants and, at the same time, identify the Capercaillie population within the areas where the field-work will be concentrated. The last censuses of the remaining main populations centred in Asturias and León were carried out in 2001 and 1998-2000 respectively and gave a figure of about 400 individuals in total. SEO/Birdlife give a figure of 500, which supposedly takes into account the numbers of Capercaillie in the subspecies’ other habitats of Galicia and Cantabria, a number strongly refuted by the Asturian ornithological society, the Coordinadora Ornitolóxica d’Asturies, who say the total population must now be only about half that number.

Barcelona swifts

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Another great bit of writing from Lucy, this time on the swifts of Collserola. “The city doesn’t get more pristine than this. It’s the middle of July, typically a month of stagnant heat, when the sky is discoloured by smog. But in today’s diaphanous atmosphere, Barcelona is visible in intricate detail and the sea is like deep blue silk. After yesterday’s torrential storm, there’s a mountain freshness in the air that promises a good night’s sleep. The soaring swifts take your heart that little bit higher.” Read

Portuguese man o’war threat in Cantabrian Sea

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Portuguese man o'war

Photo by Scott Sonnenberg (wikipedia)

In recent weeks the presence of Portuguese man o’war (Sp. carabela portuguesa- Physalia phisalis) has been detected at various points on the coasts of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Several people have been stung in beaches in Guipúzcoa (Ondarreta and Zarautz) and in Cantabria (Isla) although nobody has yet been seriously injured. Four years ago, the massive presence of the species forced the closure of several beaches in Asturias. Experts believe that the rise in the temperature of the Cantabrian Sea due to climate change has brought the Portuguese man o’war here with warmer waters. The cooler waters of Galicia have so far been free of the threat. El País. The purple Man-o-war is not a true jellyfish, but a colony of hydrozoan polyps. It can in extreme cases provoke a cardiac arrest and death in particularly sensitive persons.

Note the English and Spanish etymology comes from the creature’s air bladder, which looks similar to the triangular sails of the Portuguese ship (man-of-war) Caravela latina (two- or three-masted lateen-rigged ship caravel), of the 15th and 16th centuries. See Wikipedia

See also: Sharks, weaver fish, jellyfish and other dangerous animals in the seas around Spain

Hoopoe story

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Lucy has written this lovely piece of natural history observation on the hoopoes in her local Barcelona park. Great photos too.

“A woman comes out on the fire escape to smoke a cigarette. Nearby there’s a Judas tree – it’s seen better days and bears little foliage now, only on the highest branches. The woman stands and talks on her mobile. She’s unaware that on the other side of the tree, there’s movement and two eyes appear at a hole.” Read

Bear eating roe deer

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Check out this short but rather good video of Hvala tucking into a roe deer corpse, left in front of a bear cam by the Vall d’Arán authorities. Hvala was one of the bears released into the Pyrenees from Slovenia six years ago.  The Vall d’Arán have contracted the services of a shepherd this year to gather together and protect the flocks of sheep of 17 farmers.


Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Fapas have started a new campaign with the slogan Más osos menos CO2 (More bears less co2) to give local businesses an opportunity to neutralise their carbon emissions by planting fruit trees. The idea is for any interested companies to (simply) calculate their co2 emissions and Fapas then work out how many trees would need to be planted in bear habitat in the north of Spain. The companies will benefit by being presented with “green” certificates and the bears will profit by having more, for example, chestnut, apple and cherry trees from which to feed.

+bears-co2 campaign

Capercaillie Mansín apparently killed by stray dog

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Mansin, the Capercaillie who had recently made his home in villages in the Redes Natural Park, Asturias was yesterday found dead in Tarna. Villagers blame a stray dog for his death. Members of the environmental department of the Asturian government and officers from Seprona, the wildlife protection unit of the Civil Guard, have collected what’s left of his body which will be taken to Madrid for forensic tests. There will probably follow an enquiry as the bird, a member of a species threatened with extinction in Spain, was supposedly being monitored to ensure something like this didn’t happen. See previous entries on Iberianature about Mansín and the topic on the forum.

Mans?n, the urban Capercaillie

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