Archive for October, 2008

Lynx numbers in Doñana 2008

Friday, October 31st, 2008

La Crónica Verde has posted the latest figures for Iberian lynx in Doñana for 2008 complete with maps. A more positive breeding season than the disastrous recent years. 10 females had 23 cubs of which as far as is known 18 have survived. Total numbers of lynxes: 18 territorial females, 4-5 territorial males, 9 sub-adults, 18 cubs. 50-53 known lynxes in Doñana.

Idea to reintroduce Eurasian lynx in Spanish Pyrenees

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Two Eurasian lynxes (Lynx lynx) have been acquired by Les Planes de Son (Pallars Sobirà) run by Territori i Paisatge. The director of Territori i Paisatge Jordi Sargatal made it clear that these lynxes will not be released but does not rule out a release of their offspring. There is however still much work to be done before any reintroduction. Sargatal noted “A viability plan needs to be drawn up a consensus reaached”…but “We all need to understand that reintroducing the Eurasian lynx  would be very positive for the ecosystem and for the economy”, noting that “the lynx is at the top of the ecosystem and plays a very important role of predation on the smaller predators such as foxes, wild cats and genets, which would have a positive effect on other species in the area”. There were Eurasian lynx in the Pyrenees until a few decades ago, possibly more recently, and the species may have also lived in the Cordillera Cantábrica.

Catalan government to monitor bears more closely

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Following the hysteria surrounding a hunter who was bitten by a bear last week (full story here on iberianature), the Catalan government has decided to study bears in the Pyrenees more closely and are to set up a new group to monitor the bears in the Aran valley to avoid any similar incidences in the future. Fapas have commented and point out that while this is the first incident of its kind in the Pyrenees, hunters are far more likely to suffer injuries (and death) at the hands of other hunters (20 hunters are killed by other hunters a year in Spain.) The bear in question Hvala is currently in France and so is safe for the time being from the attempts by the Aranese authorities to capture her. Ecological organisations are threatening legal action should they be successful. El Mundo

The images above (El Mundo) are the first of Hvala since the incident took place.

Bear run over and killed in Leon

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Image by FOP

A young brown bear has been run over and killed in Leon in El Bierzo. This is the first confirmed case of bear being killed by a vehicle (a lorry) in Spain. The incident took place along the A16 dual carriageway (autovia). Experts from the Fundación Oso Pardo (FOP) are trying to find where the bear entered the autovia as it is fenced. According to the Fundación Oso Pardo, although bears are not common in El Bierzo, it is an area of dispersion from the nearby Alto Sil which supports a small but rising breeding population of brown bears, and so the bear was probably from this latter area. This bear formed part of the much smaller eastern population of Cantabrian bears with at most 30 individuals and so the loss of one is of some concern.

Hunter injured by bear

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Update 27/10/2008. It is clear that this story has been blown out of all proportion to the facts and the risks involved. A man received slight injuries to his foot, and the result is the call for the removal of all bears from the Pyrenees. How many slight injuries to feet are sustained every day in the Pyrenees due to a whole host of reasons? Skiing accident. Let’s ban skiing. Iron falling on your foot. Let’s ban ironing. Children playing in the park. Let’s ban playing.

Thankfully the Catalan authorities are seeing sense in this matter and are refusing to listen to the yuppie owners of Vall d’Aran. As Simon on the forum points out the Catalan Minsitry of the Environment should no more take into account the opinions of hotel owners than these should listen to the former’s advice on how to make beds. For me, the underlying problem is the ridiculous amount of local automony and respect afforded to a small area, just because they happen to speak a different language. The Aranese have powers in the environment, while the next valley along which doesn’t happen to speak a different language, doesn’t. This means that they can I think, in effect, legally remove the bear in question. These small number of persons, in many cases greedily linked to the skiing and hotel industry, are going against what by all accounts are the wishes of the majority of people in Catalonia who want to maintain the bear reintroduction programme. It’s a mockery of democracy.

Update 26/10/2008. The Aranese authorities are now searching for the bear Hvala with the objective of shooting it with tranquillising darts and removing it from the wild. They claim this is to avoid a “generalised vendetta” against all bears in the area (El Periodico) Meanwhile, the ecological organisation Depana while lamenting the injuries to the man, lay the blame at poorly organised boar hunts, and note that bears and boar hunting are perfectly compatible when managed properly, citing the example of the Cordillera Cantábrica.

Original story. Bad news for bears in the Pyrenees. A boar hunter in the Vall d’Aran was bitten today by a bear and has suffered minor injuries to his foot and hand. Although this is the first time a human has been attacked by a bear in the Pyrenees since the reintroduction programme began in 1996, it has led to calls from the Aranese government for the removal of all bears from the range, claiming that the “bear reintroduction experiment has failed”. One suspects that the Aranese authorities have been looking any excuse to stop the programme. So far the Catalan government has called for calm. The bear in question is “called” Hvala, the same bear which was filmed last month. New Vote No to reconsidering the reintroduction programme at La Vanguardia below.

Climate change affecting wine in Spain

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Climate change is beginning to affect vineyards in Spain. The start of the grape harvest has moved forward 11 days in the last 20 years. This is increasingly seen as a major threat to the wine industry in Spain and elsewhere. According to the experts, until now the changes to grapes caused by higher temperatures (fruitier flavours, higher acidity and higher concentrations of alcohol) have generally had a positive impact on the taste of wines. But if temperatures keep rising in Spain, wines could soon taste very different, ruining some vintages.

Snakes in Barcelona

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Lucy chanced upon this Montpellier snake on Montjuic. It is remarkable that they still survive on a hill so hemmed in by urban sprawl and industry. It is also unusual for anybody to spot one. The fact that the individual is young bodes well for the population’s future.

A natural history trip across Spain

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Lisa has posted this very interesting series of natural history reports on her journey across north-east Spain. Setting off from Cantabria she passes through Cañon del Rio Lobos, Gallocanta, the Valencian coast, the Oliva marshes, the Serra de Espadá, the Ebro Delta, El Garraf, Llobregat Delta and the Monegros, on which she notes: “Nothing had really prepared me for the subtle beauty of Los Monegros. I was expecting an arid, barren desert, although thanks to Insectarium Virtual’s “Testing Los Monegros” I knew it was extraordinarily rich in insect life. What I wasn’t expecting were the vast canvasses of colours, shapes and forms. Shadowy folds in the moulded, flat-topped hills, once dark with Spanish juniper and pines now almost denuded by man, contrasted with foregrounds of the palest of soils dotted with dark green mounds of wild herbs, all blanketed by that big blue sky.”

Threat to important birding site in Extremadura

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

The area around Sierra Brava Reservoir and Casas de Hitos is one of the most important wintering area for cranes, waterfowl and steppe birds in Extremadura. It is now under threat from the proposed building of several thermosolar power stations, which it appears could very easily be sited elsewhere. As Clive points out on the forum. “It is important to note that the problem here is not the new technology itself for energy production but the poorly researched situation of the proposed plan”. See also SEO’s page in English on this story.

SEO note

  • This will suppose the direct occupation of more than 300 hectares of land, directly on the principal winter roost of the common crane in Europe, with 11,325 cranes registered there last year.
  • Those two solar power plants also include a natural gas combustion unit each, to maintain the energy production during cloudy days, which will suppose the installation of both tall chimneys for the evacuation of waste gases and of cooling towers.
  • In order to be able to use the energy produced, both power stations will share an electrical substation and a new high voltage power line more than 38 km in lengh, to connect with the grid at Valdecaballeros, and which will affect the entire Vegas Altas del Guadiana zone, including two SPAs.

Martin kelsey of Birding Extremadura has brought this to the attention of iberianature so thanks to him, and he has drafted the following series of letters for you to get in contact with the authorities in Extremadura. Revenue from birding tourism now represents quite a fair of amount for Extremadura and the more people that contest this, the more the Extremaduran authorities are likely to rethink such a poorly planned scheme. (more…)

Biscay bay whales

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Dylan Walker of planetwhale has sent iberianature this great guide to whale watching in the Bay of Biscay Highly recommended! (Above photo is a fin whale)

Just how rich the Bay is for cetaceans can be assessed with a quick number crunching session of the ORCA database. This database includes over 50,000 km of survey effort from volunteers working aboard both ferries between February and November 1996 – 2008. During the period 1996-2004, for example, cetaceans were encountered on 3,429 occasions involving 15,725 individuals of 21 species. This equates to an average of one encounter every 44 minutes of ferry cruising – a very high return for any whale watcher! Read

Also well worth reading see is piece on the 2008 Plymouth – Santander Big Whale Watch