There are sixteen areas designated national parks in Spain. Ten are in the Iberian Peninsula, four are in the Canary Islands and one is in the Balearic Islands. National parks are different to natural parks in that the area they cover is predominantly wilderness with less human impact in their history and evolution. Natural parks on the other hand are areas of outstanding natural beauty and biodiversity that have also been shaped in someway by human occupation, agriculture etc. It goes without saying that they are obvious destinations for wildlife enthusiasts like myself but untill one visits one or all of these parks it is hard to imagine the incredibly biodiversity of these areas located on the iberian peninsular and Spanish islands.
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January is a great month for watching Griffon Vultures repairing last year´s nests high on limestone ledges, performing beautifully synchronized flights that are a part of their courtship routines, breeding and incubating their single egg. The parents take turns at sitting on the nest and perform an almost acrobatic change-over at the nest. The cliffs where Griffons nest, or “buitreras” in Spanish, are full of activity and interest at this time of the year. Continue reading January -WINTER WALKING – Nesting Griffon vultures, Broad-leaved iris, Spanish Ibex, resident and wintering birds.
The resident birds will be actively looking for a mate, or existing pairs renovating old nest sites. The latter includes the protected Bonelli’s eagle which can give an amazing aerial display while warding off any large birds which stray into their territory. Griffon vultures will be alternating their incubation duties, imagine piloting an approximately 9ft (3m) wingspan onto a narrow cliff ledge – it is an awesome sight! Swallows herald the spring season and they will be passing through with a selection of interesting birdlife on their northwards migration. Continue reading February – WINTER WALKING – Bonelli´s eagle and Griffon vultures nesting, start of bird migration, Spanish Ibex. Beginning of wild narcissi, almond blossom and first orchids (Giant orchid). Plus amphibians.
March brings more migratory birds back to their breeding grounds, with large groups of Short-toed and Booted Eagles passing through to the Central and Northern Spain, and then “our” breeding pairs settling back home. This is also the time when you have a good chance to spot the beautiful white and black Egyptian vultures, which are progressively rarer here in the South of Spain. There are a few breeding pairs in the Grazalema Park, however in March good numbers can be observed refuelling and resting on their flight northwards.
Continue reading March – Bird migration is in full swing. Wild narcissi, beginning of wildflowers and orchids, plus a growing selection of butterflies.
The flowering plant seasons starts afresh as the temperatures drop and humidity rises, with autumn bulbs setting the scene; Yellow Autumn crocus grows between the rocks close to the village, Narcissus cavanillesii can be difficult to locate as it is such a tiny plant, the same goes for the delicate Autumn squill. Both Autumn colchicum and Autumn crocus are more visible and although very similar in colour and form, you can tell them apart by counting the stamens (3 for the crocus). Continue reading October – AUTUMN COLOURS – flowering bulbs, Spanish Ibex, resident and wintering birds.
In the summer, water is very important to birds as much as it is to us humans. The heat makes it easier to see birds in certain areas: for example at natural springs around Grazalema in the morning where birds gather for drink, food and a bit of socialising. June, July and even August are the months when one can see particularly great numbers of juvenile birds, something that also makes the parents easier to observe as they fuss over their clumsy and inexperienced offspring, feeding them on tree branches and on the ground, teaching them by example about the world and survival. Bold birds get even bolder, such as the colourful Woodchat Shrike whose families move from one Hawthorn bush to another as the greyish- brown young make hissing and chattering noises demanding food. It is pure joy to be able to observe the normally shy Hoopoe when the parents and the young probe the ground under trees for tasty morsels. Continue reading June – SUMMER MEADOWS AND MOUNTAINS – Numerous butterflies, reptiles, dragonflies, delicate thread-winged lacewings and other interesting insects.