Archive for December, 2009

Young Montpellier snake

Sunday, December 20th, 2009










Check out Lucy’s great new post on a Montpellier snake she spotted on Montjuic, Barcelona.

First lynxes released in the wild

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

An important step has been taken this week with the release into the wild of the first Iberian lynx bred in captivity. The two animals were set free in Guadalmellato, Cordoba in the Sierra Morena. Three more are to be released soon.

Photo from El Mundo of one of the released lynx as it bounds into the freedoms of the Cordoban hills.

George Orwell in Gibraltar

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I’m enjoying very much reading the newly published George Orwell Diaries, also available online here. In addition to politics and fascinating insights into the daily life of the late 1930s such as the price of eggs, there is a remarkable amount on natural history, clearly something Orwell found important and interesting. Although the diaries do not cover his time in the Civil War in Spain, he does write this from Gibraltar in September 1938:

Weather mostly hot & nights sometimes uncomfortably so. Sea variable mostly rather choppy. When no wind fish visible at least 10 feet below surface.
The Barbary Ape is said to be now very rare at Gibraltar & the authorities are trying to exterminate them as they are a nuisance. At a certain season of the year (owing to shortage of food I suppose) they come down from the rock & invade peoples° houses & gardens. They are described as large doglike ape with only a short stump of tail. The same species found on the African coast just opposite.
The breed of goat here is the Maltese, or at any rate is chiefly Maltese. The goat is rather small, & has the top half of its body covered with long & rather shaggy hair which overhangs to about the knees, giving the impression that it has very short legs. Ears are set low and drooping. Most of the goats are hornless, those having horns have ones that curve back so sharply that they lie against the head, & usually continue round in a semi-circle, the point of the horn being beside the eye. Udders are very pendulous & in many cases simply a bag with practically no teats, or teats barely 1/2 inch long. Colours black, white & (especially) reddish brown. Yield said to be about a litre a day. Goats apparently will graze on almost anything, eg. The flock I watched had grazed the wild fennel plants right to the ground.
Breed of donkeys here small, like the English. The conveyance peculiar to the place a little partly closed in carriage like the Indian gharry with the sides taken out.

Photo from Wikipedia by Karyn Sig

Earthquake in Andalucia and Extremadura

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

An earthquake of 6.3 on the Rictar scale with its epicentre 100km off Cabo de San Vicente, Portugal hit Andalucia and Extremadura. Although, there are no reports of injuries, its intensity is a reminder of the small potential of a large quake striking southern Iberia.

See also earthquakes in Spain

Mediterranean flood mystery solved

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

A new study published in Nature has revealed details of the catastrophic flood that refilled the Mediterranean Sea more than five million years ago. The flood occurred when Atlantic waters cut through into the Mediterranean basin which had dried up when Africa crashed into Iberia, drying out the trapped Mediterranean. The researchers say that a 200km channel across the Gibraltar strait was carved out by the floodwaters. It may have may involved peak rates of sea level rise in the Mediterranean of over 10 metres a day and may have taken just two years to fill up. Imagine the immense power of the waterfall at Gibraltar. BBC

See also: The biggest waterfall in geological history (with video)

EU may change dead livestock law

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

The Guardian reports here on a study by scientists that vultures should be allowed to return to their old jobs as nature’s waste managers. They say the birds are suffering as they increasingly depend on being fed by people. The law was changed in 2002 because of mad cow disease and outlawed the leaving of carcasses of dead cows, as well as sheep, goats and other livestock, in the open.

The upcoming decision by the EU on whether to change the law affecting dead livestock will have important repercusions for Spanish wildlife. The Spanish government has called on the European Union to alter the rules on the animal corpses and allow farmers to leave them where they fall.

Good news from Palencia

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Localizada otra osa con crías en la Montaña Palentina

A “new” reproductive female bear with two cubs has been found in Palencia, part of the beleaguered Eastern Cantabrian bear population. With only 30 odd individuals, this population is in a critical state, with at the last count, only two breeding females. In 2008 three cubs were born to the two females only one of which survived, one having been lost to infanticide and the other dying from unknown causes. This discovery of a third female and her two cubs of this year is raises hope for the bears’ future in this region. From Lisa on PicosdeEuropa and originally from (above photo with bear and cubs). This autumn have may been a good one for Cantabrian bears thanks to the mild conditions and plentiful fruit.

Climate change in Catalonia

Friday, December 4th, 2009

ICO, the Catalan Ornithological Institute, have published a study on changes in the bird population in Catalonia. The climate of Barcelona is now similar to Castellon a hundred years ago, while Montpellier up in France is now like Barcelona used to be.  This shift has meant birds such as hoopoes no longer leave Catalonia for the winter. Cetti’s warblers and Bee-eaters have been doing remarkably well, growing by 71% and 98%, respectively. Earlier springs and extended summers mean they have a longer breeding season. Butterflies, like the Monarch are now spotted as far north as the Delta del Ebro. A bird running out of cooler habitats in Catalunya is the Alpine Chough.The study also points out that birds are adapting to climate change by moving northwards and upwards, but at a slower rate than the actual changes taking place.

Adapted from Lucy’s post on the forum and orginally from El Periodico.

Accomodation in Ordesa biological station

Friday, December 4th, 2009

This renovated stone lodge run by the Fundación Quebrantahuesos looks, frankly, like a fantastic place to stay for researchers. Accomodation in the biological station in the heart of Ordesa National Park for groups of 15-20 persons. PS This is not a commercial advert, but a personal recommendation. More

Storks back early

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Large numbers of storks have returned to Spain several months early from the Sahel driven not by global warming but by African drought and the promise of rich pickings on Iberian rubbish tips and ricefields. Some 30,000 don’t even bother making the journey anymore. La Crónica Verde