The Laguna de Gallocanta

Without a doubt, one of the most distinctive living elements of the Laguna de Gallocanta are the birds, especially the striking flocks of common cranes that rest and feed here during the course of their migratory trips.

Above image wikipedia (De Secretaria – http://www.xiloca.com/xilocapedia/index.php/Imagen:Atardecer_6_Gallocanta.jpg, CC BY 3.0 es, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19561884

The vast majority of the European population moving on the western migratory route use Gallocanta as a resting area and over 100,000 cranes have been counted in a single day (02/24/2011) .

Flocks of common cranes arrive en masse at dusk. This has to be one of the most impressive visual and sound spectacles of nature.

Best times to visiting the area is during the months of November to February.

The protected area covers1.924 hectares of natural reserve (the wetland itself) and 4.553 hectares of peripheral protection zone (the surrounding farmland sometimes also wetland dependin on rainfall)

Where is Gallocanta?

The Gallocanta Lake (Spanish: Laguna de Gallocanta) is an endorheic lake in the province of Aragon. It is within the boundaries of two provinces, Teruel and Zaragoza, and is located just to the south of Gallocanta village, between the Aragonese comarcas of Campo de Daroca and Comarca del Jiloca. This lake is situated on a high continental plain at an altitude of almost 1,000 m

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The Interpretation Center of the Gallocanta Lagoon (Obligatory visit to get the best out of the area)

Location: in an old road laborer’s house located on the A-1507 road, between the villages of Tornos and Bello. 120 km from Zaragoza and 95 km from Teruel.

The Interpretation Center of the Gallocanta Lagoon
The Interpretation Center of the
Gallocanta Lagoon

The main content of the interpretation centre is the natural history ​​of the lagoon, its history and formation and the uniqueness of the species it provides a home for with special emphasis on the common crane. There is also an audiovisual projection and an interactive exhibition covering the geology of the lagoon, the habitat and human existence in the area.

Opening times Spring-Summer (from March 21 to September 20)

Mornings: 10:00 to 14:00
Afternoons: 15:00 to 18:00

Opening times Autumn-Winter (from January 24 to March 15 and from September 26 to December 20)

Mornings: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Afternoons: 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Telephone: 978 734 031
Telephone (central offices): 976 07 00 00
Website: https://www.aragon.es/-/reserva-natural-de-la-laguna-de-gallocanta (In Spanish language)

Places to visit and parking

  • Centro de Interpretación de la Reserva Natural de la Laguna de Gallocanta.(see above info about the intepretation centre)
  • Mirador de la Ermita de la Virgen del Buen Acuerdo.
  • Observatorio de Gallocanta.
  • Centro de visitantes de Gallocanta, con mirador (fuera de la Reserva y de su zona periférica de protección).

Parking

  • Centro de interpretación de la Reserva Natural Dirigida de la Laguna de Gallocanta) (Bello).
  • Ermita Nuestra Señora del Buen Acuerdo (Gallocanta).
  • Centro de visitantes y museo de las Aves (Gallocanta).

Walking Trails

Path PR-Z 33 La Laguna de Gallocanta and los Lagunazos. (32 Km – 9 hours – Circular)

This footpath is circular and goes completely around the lagoon passing by the 5 observation hides and the Ermita de la Virgen del Buen Acuerdo from where there is also an excellen view of the Lagoon. This path can also be made by bike. Its not obligatory to do the whole footpath, just walk as far as you want then turn around.

Berrueco trail (1km – 30 mins – Linear

This is a Linear path, which starts from the town of Berrueco and ascends to its Castle, from where you can see a magnificent panoramic view of the Gallocanta Lagoon.

Observation hides

  • Torre-observatorio del Cañizar.
  • Observatorio de los Aguanares.
  • Observatorio de la Ermita.
  • Observatorio de los Ojos.
  • Torre-observatorio de La Reguera.
  • Obvervatorio del Centro de Interpretación de la Reserva Natural de la Laguna de Gallocanta.
  • Observatorio accesible de Gallocanta.

Recreation and picnic sites

  • Fuente de los Haces.
  • Fuente Sancho.
  • Church of the Ermita de la Virgen del Buen Acuerdo.
  • La Serna.
  • Gallocanta swimming pool.

Museums

  • Gallocanta avian museum (Inside the Gallocanta visitor centre).

Other lagunas in the area

  • Laguna de La Zaida.
  • Laguna de Guialguerrero.

Renting hides at the Laguna de Gallocanta

Request processing is carried out by Servicio Provincial en Teruel del
Departamento de Agricultura, Ganadería y Medio Ambiente, Subdirección de Medio Ambiente, placed in C/ San Francisco, 27 de Teruel (44071).

Telephone +34 978 64 11 45
Email adress: hidesgallocanta@aragon.es.

Dowload the full guide to renting a hide here
https://www.aragon.es/documents/20127/12362674/How+to+book+hides+-+Reserva+Natural+Dirigida+de+la+Laguna+de+Gallocanta+-+2020.pdf/2925f255-4585-6d6e-6691-9ac7ab57cedf?t=1597824000140


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Botanical Garden Detunda (Nerja Cave)

The Botanical Garden of Detunda (Nerja Cave) can be found next to the Cueva de Nerja, in Maro, a small village close to the town of Nerja.

Located right on the edge of the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park, which includes the mountains of the southwestern area of ​​Granada and the eastern area of ​​Malaga.

This is a natural space of great beauty with an intermediate location between the mountains and the coast. The area holds a great geological variety that together with the unique climatic characteristics provides a large variety of habitats. This allows the presence of a varied flora including some endemic species.

The garden aims to represent the flora and plant landscape of the mountains of Tejeda, Almijara, Alhama, Huétor, Arana, mountains of Malaga, the limestone-dolomitic border of Sierra Nevada (Trevenque peak) and coastal areas between Malaga and Motril.

It contains a great diversity of species and ecologies, but if one must be highlighted above the others, it may be the abundance of exclusive plants of dolomitic sands (dolomithophilic species), almost all of them rare and many exclusive to these mountains.

A visit to the Botanical Garden Detunda (Nerja Cave)

From the start point there are fantastic views down to the coast and of the surrounding scenery. The garden is organized into different areas such as traditional crops, vegetation linked to the climate and vegetation linked to special soils, ecosystems, habitat (rock formations), taxonomic (taxonomic families) and singularity (rare and threatened), etc.

Following the entrance path you cross the area of ​​traditional crops such as almond and olive tree and also other more modern ones that have adapted to the subtropical climate of the area (custard apples, avocados and mangoes.) Included in this area are the typical muscat grape vines of the region and other crops such as sugar cane.

Once past the crops, the path descends towards the “sea”. The natural ecosystems have been represented starting with the most mountainous and, as one descends, ending in the coastal and sandy beaches.

My favorite part of the garden is at the lowest point by the lagoon and the “sands of the beach” area where you can find the starry sea daisy (Asteriscus maritimus), the sea lily (Pancratium maritimus) or the exclusive saladilla endemic to Malaga province (Limonium malacitanum).

A visit to the Botanical Garden Detunda (Nerja Cave)
The laguna area on a visit to the Botanical Garden Detunda (Nerja Cave)

Continuing you will come to the garden area dedicated to the plant communities that depend on certain soil and microclimatic characteristics This area represents beach sand, salt marshes, gypsum areas, rock communities, ponds and banks. An extensive representation of those species typical of dolomitic substrates, and other ecosystems typical of soils free of lime (calcium carbonate) such as cork oaks, holm oaks and oak forests.

The route through the garden is circular so you will arrive back at the cultivation area. Continue in the direction of the classroom-workshop to find the collection of endemic and threatened species of the area such as Maytenus senegalensis or the olive Cneorum tricoccon

Opening times

Tuesdays to Sundays 9am to 3pm

Closed on Mondays and the 24th, 25th and 31st of December


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El Aljibe Botanic Gardens in Alcalá de los Gazules

Part of a network of Botanic Gardens in Andalusia and aimed at preserving the local endemic flora, El Aljibe Botanic Gardens in Alcalá de los Gazules specialises in the plant-life within the Los Alcornocales Natural Park.

This is a small but very informative botanic garden covering about one hectare on the western edge of the Los Alcornocales oak forest easily accessed from the newly upgraded A381 dual carriageway. The gardens, which were begun in 2003 and inaugurated in July 2008, are well labelled with information not just about the plants but also the rock structures and terrain/habitat that support them.

These gardens are characterised by the sandstone terrain of their namesake, El Aljibe, which is the highest peak in the Los Alcornocales parkland. The vegetation is verdant due to the rainfall and fog created by its proximity to the Mediterranean sea and Atlantic ocean and by the mild winter temperatures.

Aljilbe botanic garden in Alcala de los Gazules
Informative maps in the Aljilbe botanic garden in Alcala de los Gazules

The layout of the gardens makes good use of a small area by curving the paths which are screened from each other by the trees. A water way dissects this to represent the steep v shaped ‘Canutos’ that these oak forests are famed for. The pathways of stone or wood are well laid and only gently sloped, allowing for an easy amble that demonstrates the different zones of the area.

Map boards explain the overall layout, with smaller signs giving more detailed information on particular vegetation types. (In Spanish)

Signs are very informative with scientific names allowing you to identify a plant then look it up later on Google :)
The yellow spot means that the plant is not endangered.

Most of the plants have signs which give scientific species name, inc sub-species, family, common Spanish name, its distribution and also if it is in endanger of extinction. The latter is shown in the form of a coloured spot, Red Yellow or Green.

The gardens collect plants or seeds from the local habitat concentrating on the emblematic and those most endangered to aid in their preservation.

The botanic gardens network aims to raise awareness in youngsters by holding educational fun days and also ‘introduction to botany’ days for adults.

El Aljibe’ contains around 185 trees and shrubs protected by law, some of which are included in the “Lista Roja de la Flora vascular de Andalucía”, Red list of endangered vascular plants of Andalusia. There are 300 different species of perennials and the range will continue to expand. Some of the plant species that are most noteworthy within this area are Cork Oak (Quercus suber), Pyrenean Oak (Quercus pyrenaica), Portuguese Oak (Quercus lusitanica), Canary Island Oak (Quercus canariensis), Alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus subsp baetica), Gorse species Stauracanthus boivinii, Whisk Fern (Psilotum nudum), a European Tree Fern Culcita macrocarpa and Diplazium caudatum.

Signs are very informative with scientific names allowing you to identify a plant then look it up later on Google :)
Signs are very informative with scientific names allowing you to identify a plant then look it up later on Google 🙂

The botanic gardens are fronted by the ‘Los Alcornocales visitors centre’ containing shop, restaurant and study rooms. Access is through the quadrangle behind the main building. (On my last visit the information centre, café etc were closed but I was still able to access the gardens)

Entrance Free is free

Getting to El Aljibe Botanic Gardens in Alcalá de los Gazules

Take the exit at kilometre 42 on the A-381 dual-carriageway (Jerez to Los Barrios) sign posted as Alcalá de los Gazules / Benalup-Casas Viejas.

El Aljibe Botanic Gardens inAlcalá de los Gazules is behind the natural Park information centre
El Aljibe Botanic Gardens inAlcalá de los Gazules is behind the natural Park information centre

Drive towards Benalup for 1km and the gardens are behind the “Centro de visitantes del Parque Natural de los Alcornocales” The visitors centre for the Los Alcornocales Natural Park.


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Western Three-toed Skink

  • Spanish: Eslizón tridáctilo
  • Scientific: Chalcides striatus
  • English: Western Three-toed Skink
  • French: Scinque à trois doigts
  • German: Westliche Erzschleiche
  • Italian: Luscengola striata
  • Portuguese: Cobra-de-pernas-tridáctila

Description

Notable in the Western Three-toed Skink is the elongated serpent like body, often reaching lengths around 30 cm in total (12 inches). An intact tail can be longer than the head-body in length. Colouration is yellowish to brown or more often grey, with a metallic sheen.

They have 9 or more narrow, dark longitudinal stripes. The limbs are very short and have only 3 digits. It is very agile and fast as it moves across the surface. Females normally exceed males in length.

chalcides striatus – eslizón tridáctilo – western three-toed skink
chalcides striatus – eslizón tridáctilo – western three-toed skink – Tiny legs with just three toes

On the hottest days they restrict their movement to early in the morning or late evening remaining hidden during the main heat of the day and so regulating their body temperature. They prefer damp meadows and cool hillsides including seasonally flooded areas, abandoned fields, hedges and land with abundant herbaceous vegetation.

The Western Three-toed Skink feeds mainly on insects – crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and spiders and worms etc.

Between March and June the breeding season begins. Between two and three months after mating, females give birth to 1 – 12 fully formed young. They are ovoviviparous (able to incubate the eggs inside the female)

  • Conservation Status: LC. Least Concern – The IUCN has listed the western three-toed skink as being of “Least Concern” because of its wide range and the fact that it is very common in some parts of its range. It is nevertheless threatened by changes in agricultural practices resulting in degradation of its habitat. In some areas it is persecuted because it is mistakenly thought to be venomous.
  • Distribution: Portugal, Spain, the Mediterranean coast of France, NW Italy.

Similar species: Bedriagai’s Skink (Chalcides bedriagai)


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Bedriaga’s skink

  • Spanish: Eslizón Ibérico
  • Scientific: Chalcides bedriagai
  • English: Bedriagas Skink
  • French: Scinque iberique
  • German: Iberische Walzenskink
  • Italian: Lo scinco di bedriaga
  • Portuguese: Cobra-de-pernas-pentadáctila

Description

Bedriaga’s skink, a small reptile with four visible limbs, although very short (almost atrophied) with 5 digits to each. To move quickly, it holds its limbs against its body and moves like a snake. It is covered with smooth, shiny scales of variable tones: from copper to greyish brown or olive green, dotted with small black spots with pale centres and faintly marked stripes. Adults can reach up to 14 cm (5½ inches) in total length.

chalcides bedriagai – eslizón Ibérico – bedriagas skink
chalcides bedriagai – eslizón Ibérico – bedriagas skink

Most active during the day and twilight. They hide under rocks, decaying wood in undergrowth and underground as they can excavate loose soil easily. They live in scrubland, woodland clearings and stony areas.

The Bedriaga’s skink feeds mainly on small invertebrates, isopods and arachnids.

The mating period occurs between the months of March and June. They are ovoviviparous (able to incubate the eggs inside the female). They only give birth once a year. About 78 days after fertilization, during July or August, the females have 1 – 6 live young.

  • Conservation Status: T Threatened
  • Distribution: An Endemic Species. Distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula, except the extreme north. Prefers a Mediterranean climate.

Similar species: Western Three-toed Skink (Chalcides striatus)


The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

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Doñana National and Natural Parks

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Provinces: Sevilla, Huelva, Cadiz
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1969 reclassified in 1978
  • In1963 WWF and the Council of Scientific Research bought land (6,794ha) and set up a research station
  • In 1994 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site  
  • Natural Park surface area: 54,200
  • National Park surface area: 50,720 hectares – Total area: 77,260ha:
  • World Heritage and Special Bird Protection Areas: 50,720ha.
  • National Park and Ramsar site; buffer zone 26,540ha.

Towns and Villages

  • Huelva: Almonte, Hinojos, Bollullos Par del Condado, Rociana del Condado, Bonanes y Lucena del Puerto, Palos de la Frontera, Moguer, La Puebla del Río and the Isla Mayor
  • Sevilla: Aznalcázar, Pilas y Villamanrique de la Condesa.
  • Cádiz: Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Points of interest

The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. Six thousand years ago it would have been a wide estuary, but this has mostly been closed off by a long, natural sand bar. This in turn created a large saline lake which gradually collected silt leaving a huge wetland area with lagoons, marshlands and semi-permanent sand dunes.

Some lake areas are saline and others are supplied by freshwater streams. Pine and oak woodland plus scrub or maquis further enhance the diversity of one of the most important habitats in Europe. This accumulation of varied ecosystems is capable of sustaining an incredible assortment of wildlife.

Used as hunting grounds for royalty from the 14th century, it was made a reserve in 1963 and a national park in 1969, and it remains the largest protected area in Europe.

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Flora

A diverse collection of around 750 species of plants exist through the different habitats. There are four main types of vegetation: marshland/aquatic, salt-tolerant, open forest and heathland.

  • Marsh land types; Glasswort (Salicornia ramosissima), Seablite (Suaeda sp) and Perennial glasswort (Arthrocnemum perenne).
  • Brackish lagoon types; Reeds (Juncus maritimus) and Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
  • Dunes type; European beachgrass (Ammophila Arenaria), Portuguese crowberry (Corema album), Buckthorn (Rhamnus) and Juniper (Juniperus macrocarpa).
  • Inland dunes; Wild olive (Olea europea subsp oleaster) and Ash trees (Fraxinus angustifolia).
  • Forest; introduced stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Eucalyptus sp.
  • Heath lands; Tree heather (Erica scoparia), Heather (Erica ciliaris) Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) Thyme (Thymus tomentosa), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Lavender (Lavandula stoechas).

Four national endemics occur, each a protected species, Linaria tursica and grasses, Micropyropsis tuberosa, Gaudinia hispanica and Vulpia fontquerana.

Fauna

Mammals include the highly endangered Iberian Lynx (the closest to extinction of all the big cat species) Wild boar, Red deer, Fallow deer, Egyptian mongoose and European badger.

Reptiles, which are found especially in the dunes, include Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca), Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon), Lataste’s viper (Vipera latasti) and Spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus).

Common fish are carp (Cyprinus carpio) and Eel (Anguilla anguilla) plus a threatened species, the Iberian toothcarp (Aphanius iberus).

The Doñana National and Natural Parks are on the main migration routes between Europe and Africa making it a favorite with ornithologists with as many as 250 species found in the reserve each year.

This huge list includes resident Greater flamingos, Spoonbills and summer breeding Little bittern, Purple heron with wintering Black stork and Osprey to name only a few. The park is also home to one of the world’s largest colonies of the Spanish Imperial Eagle.

The best times for birdwatchers are considered to be

  • Spring; to see the influx of migrating birds arriving to breed, or rest before continuing their journey.
  • Autumn; to see the selection of migrating birds that collect to rest and feed before their crossing into Africa.
  • Winter; when the reserve is topped up by rain water and vast flocks of wildfowl – geese and ducks arrive in Doñana.
  • The summer months see the wetlands begin to dry and many of the spring visitors depart with temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celsius leaving only the summer residents. Amongst the numerous species are Griffon Vultures, Booted eagles, Red-necked nightjars, Bee-eaters and Hoopoe. Spanish Imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti), Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) and Red-knobbed coot (Fulica cristata) are some of the rarities to look out for.

As well as the National Park of Doñana there is also a buffer zone (or pre-park area) around it, which is a designated Natural Park of Doñana (known in Spanish as Entorno de Doñana).

The National Park is under very tight protection, with public access restricted to its official visitor centres and some marked footpaths around them.

The Natural Park is less strictly protected with more open access but being a natural continuation of the National Park it is also of great importance for migratory and breeding birds, wildlife in general and tourism for the area

Research in the Park is of international scientific importance. Ornithological research has been carried out since the 1950s and studies have since been carried out on vertebrate zoology, botany, ecology, plant ecology, entomology, limnology, geography, ethnology, pesticides and diseases.

Also in the area of Doñana National and Natural Parks

Wood gathering, charcoal production, cattle-grazing, beekeeping and fish farming are traditional practices that occur within the park.

Market gardening forms a part of the agricultural land uses in the surrounding area. Rice farming covers over 38,000 hectares of former salt marsh areas with water from the Guadalquivir used for irrigation.

Intensive fruit farming (Strawberries) and illegal wells have caused issues over the years creating clashes between local farmers and ecologists

El Rocio is a small, sleepy lake side village of wide sandy streets whose focal point is the “Santuario de Nuestra Señora de el Rocio” Church. There is a religious festival at El Rocio each year coinciding with Whitsunday which brings approximately a million pilgrims from every part of Spain. There is an explosion of music, dance, traditional dress and flower adorned wagons, drawn by mule or oxen.

For the rest of the year the village remains virtually unihabited in comparison.

Information/Visitors Centers

Remember that the Doñana area is huge and has quite a few “official” interpretation centres. Most towns and villages also have their own municipal information centres. Your first resource for guides and leaflets for the area would also be your hotel reception.

La Rocina (Information Centre, walks and hides)

In the village of El Rocio, this visitor centre has a nice and accessible, easy hike with a few observation points overlooking the marshes. The path also takes you through some other ecosystems such as the scrubland.

El Acebuche (Information centre, café, walk-ways and hides)

Close to El Rocio on the road to Matalascañas this Center (OBLIGATORY VISIT IF YOU ARE IN THE AREA) offers an excellent information service to visitors. There is normally a live TV feed showing the current captive breeding area of the Iberian lynx. There is also an audiovisual room and well marked footpaths to hides and areas of marsh and scrubland.

El Acebuche is also the start point for guided visits to the National Park of Doñana in all-terrain vehicles, accompanied by guide-driver, on a route of around 70 kms. This guided route takes you through the different ecosystems of the National Park.

Palacio del Acebrón

(On the A-483 take the turning for La Rocina and El Acebrón. Once you have passed the La Rocina visitor centre continue for 6 kilomtres on the H-9021)

Once a private hunting estate the an ethnological museum inside in very interesting with lots of detail and is free to enter

José Antonio Valverde (water side café/hide and great information)

Road access not well marked and from Villamanrique de la Condesa, Puebla del Río and Isla Mayor it is about 25 km. Access is through unpaved tracks. Ask in your hotel or other visitor centre to double check opening times before you make the trip!

This Visitor Centre is located on a small hill known as Cerro del Palo, from which there is a great view of the Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra. (Not to be confused with Fuente de Piedra in the province of Malaga.) Inside there is a fantastic view from the large windows that looks out onto the lagoon. There is also an excellent exhibition of photographs of the lagoons and other wetlands of Andalusia.

Ask about guided tours for wildlife watching.

The center was named after Jose Antonio Valverde. A biologist and ecologist born in 1926 in Valladolid who was one of the pioneers of the conservation of wetlands in Andalusia. He died in Seville
In 2003.

Fábrica de hielo (Ice Factory).

At the southern point of the Guadalquivir estuary. (Av. Bajo de Guía, S/N, 11540 Sanlúcar de Barrameda)

This interpretation centre offers an overview of the area from the flora and fauna that make up the landscape to the richness of the marine ecosystem associated with the mouth of the Guadalquivir.

Dehesa Boyal near Villamanrique de la Condesa. Camino del Bujeo in front of the sports ground.

The excellent Dehesa Boyal visitors centre is in the village of Villamanrique de la Condesa. It offers visitors general information about the Natural Park of Doñana and the fauna and flora of the area and an exhibition detailing traditional uses and exploits of nearby populations such as coal production, pineapple harvesting, beekeeping, cork mining and cotton are also part of the sample.

This centre also arranges guided visits, hiking, horseriding and is a popular destination for schools for education courses. (See the website here.)


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