Looking for Wildlife & Walking Holidays in Spain?

Looking for Wildlife, walking and cultural Holidays in Spain? Wildside Holidays publishes information pages about the Natural and National parks in Spain. Information about wildlife in Spain and where to find it. Just look in the right hand column for the Spanish regions or the top menu for the wildlife pages. On a mobile just scroll down or use the menu button.

Sustainable rural and wildlife tourism in Spain is a major key to wildlife and habitat protection. There are many studies showing how wildlife tourism can impact local economies, habitats and the wildlife it contains in a very positive way.

If you are on a desktop or laptop, then in the left column you will find links to some of the top INDEPENDENT activity holiday companies in Spain. On a mobile just scroll down.

If you are travelling without a walking or wildlife guiding company in Spain then we highly reccommend booking.com for your hotel and accommodation needs.

You can also reserve trains and buses using the booking box of OMIO located on all pages.

Trips and tours in Spain from Viator

Spain holds a vast array of amazing places to visit and explore and very often a guide will help you get the best out of a visit to a certain area. Have a look at the organised guided trips on offer from the Viator website.

A huge thank you to everyone that uses the links on these pages to reserve a hotel, Viator guided trip or transport in Spain. The small commission we receive helps a lot. Thankyou!

Looking for Wildlife & Walking Holidays in Spain? Wildside Holidays is the answer!


Otter – Lutra lutra -Nutria Europea.


The Otter – Lutra lutra – Nutria Europea. A carnivorous mammal in the subfamily Lutrinae. They are semiaquatic in Spain with diets based mostly on fish and invertebrates.

Although most European otters tend to prey primarily on fish, some have developed a taste for frogs and toads—a food choice that requires some deft preparation. Because common toads (Bufo bufo) have toxins in both their skin and the glands on either side near the front of their bodies, these resourceful otters use their sharp teeth to remove the skin from the back half of the toads and then eat just the hind legs. While common frogs (Rana rana) don’t have toxic skin or glands, most otters appear to not know the difference, and generally play it safe by following the same food-prep routine they use on toads.

There is a brilliant photo of an otter with a frog on the website link below. https://www.biographic.com/frog-leg-feast/

A slow population recovery.

With the creation of many natural and national parks in Spain, and other environmental awareness campaigns, the otter population seems to have increased, certainly in Andalusia, over the past 20 years. However, this recovery has been relatively slow, and in some areas the impact of human activities still prevents the species, from expanding into new territory.

There is also a concern that river water quality is still declining in many areas due to overuse of agricultural and home use chemicals. Such as household cleaning products pesticides and herbicides. The otter relies on a clean and healthy river environment for its food supply, so the consequences of pollution are devastating for this mammal.

Recent studies published in 2022 have shown that otters are feeding on the introduced and invasive American crayfish so the bigger the otter population the better! See the conversation over at the Iberia nature forum: https://iberianatureforum.com/forums/topic/good-news-for-spanish-otters/

Signs, smells and behaviour.

You are most likely to smell an otter living in an area well before you see one. The feces (spraints) are typically identified by their distinctive aroma, the smell of which has been described as ranging from freshly cut grass to putrefied stinking fish. The holt is built under a fallen tree, root or rocky outcrop and lined with grasses, moss and leaves.

Otter spraint left on a rock
Images of otter spraint left on a rock in a mostly dry riverbed and on the right a beautiful dragonfly.

Sexual maturity of the European otter is reached at around two years of age and males at approximately three years. The gestation period in otters is about 60 to 86 days. The newborn pup is cared for by both parents. After one month the pup starts exploring outside of the holt, and after about two months is able to swim without the aid of its parents. The pup lives with its family for approximately one year and they can have a lifespan of around 16.

Otters are mischievous by nature and can often be seen enjoying the company of other family members, playing and chasing each other in the water.


Iberia Nature Forum.

Are you struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum. Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Cork and its huge importance to the environment

Quercus suber (Cork) is a type of evergreen oak tree native to the Mediterranean region. The tree has adapted to the problems of fire and drought in this area by growing a thicker bark as a protective layer. This outer layer of cork has many industrial uses and huge open forests have been developed to benefit from it in 7 countries bordering the Mediterranean sea – covering some 2.7 million hectares in Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia, and France.


These majestic oak trees are not felled or damaged during the cork harvest, small professional teams work through the forests, carefully stripping the bark by hand using a special axe. This is done during the heat of the summer when it comes away more freely.  The cork sheets are carried out on mules before being stacked onto lorries and stored. The outer tree layer regenerates over 9 to 12 years, a tree will be approximately 50 years old before its bark will be of suitable quality for a wine stopper and live on to be around 200 years old.

Forests have little or no work carried out in between harvests, so you can envisage the importance to wildlife that these forests hold as havens for rare and endemic species. Recent research has discovered a wealth of animal and plant forms that exist here because of the humidity. The heavy tree canopy and many deep water channels combine to create a subtropical micro climate in a normally dry part of Spain.

Find a hotel in cork country


Booking.com

These forests are exemplary in their balance of conservation and economic development.  Spain is the second largest producer at around 25% of the world supply (following Portugal), selling around 300 million euros of cork abroad, and providing a source of livelihood for many thousands of people.

Cork has been used by humans in the Mediterranean basin since the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used it for sealing jars, for roofing and for making beehives. Beginning in the 18th century cork became widely used in industry, particularly after the development of the cork stopper by Dom Pierre Pérignon , a Benedictine monk well known for creating the first champagne. Cork’s elasticity combined with its near-impermeability makes it an ideal material for bottle stoppers. The most expensive corks are cut from one piece, but “agglomerated” corks are made from the smaller grains glued together. Offcuts of cork and scraps are collected for processing into alternative cork products – nothing is wasted.

Due to cork’s unique qualities its applications are diverse; from spacecraft heat shields and fairings to mopping up oil spills. Some of the following uses you may be aware of;  flooring, wall covering, sound/heat insulation, engine gaskets, fishing floats, shoes, furniture, kitchen utensils, ornaments,  handles for fishing rods, walking poles and bicycles, helmet linings, dartboards, the core of baseballs, hockey and cricket balls.

After a recent decline in use as wine-closures when cheaper synthetic alternatives were heavily marketed, cork wine-stoppers are making a comeback. Its environmental impact is dramatically less than that of oil and metal based closures, plus it is the best material suited for red wines, cognacs etc., allowing oxygen to interact with wine for proper ageing.

Environmentalists, WWF and ornithological groups are campaigning to save the cork industry from further decline by making wine drinkers more aware of their power in choosing cork only bottles. If the market demand for cork stoppers were to decrease significantly, the entire system could collapse (cork stoppers represent about 60% of all cork based production), it is likely that the forests could be lost through neglect, fire, diversification and over-grazing during the next 10 years.

Cork is a completely natural, renewable, recyclable material with a huge importance to the environment.

Where can you go to find out more?

Written by Clive Muir  (Edited by Sue Eatock)
Photographs by Sue Eatock


The Grazalema Guide

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

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

https://grazalemaguide.com/

Global Geoparks in Spain

What is a global geopark? (from the Unesco website)

UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.

A UNESCO Global Geopark uses its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society, such as using our earth’s resources sustainably, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing natural disasters-related risks. By raising awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage in history and society today,

UNESCO Global Geoparks give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area. The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses is stimulated as new sources of revenue are generated through geotourism, while the geological resources of the area are protected.

While a UNESCO Global Geopark must demonstrate geological heritage of international significance, the purpose of a UNESCO Global Geopark is to explore, develop and celebrate the links between that geological heritage and all other aspects of the area’s natural, cultural and intangible heritages. It is about reconnecting human society at all levels to the planet we all call home and to celebrate how our planet and its 4,600 million year long history has shaped every aspect of our lives and our societies. (Read more here https://en.unesco.org/global-geoparks)

Global geoparks in Spain

Andalucia
Cabo de Gata-Níjar natural park (Almeria)

Cabo de Gata is located in the southeast of the province of Almería. Its coastline is marked by cliffs, coves and beaches. This space was also declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1997 and includes the Cabo Gata-Níjar Natural Park and surrounding areas. Read more: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/cabo-de-gata-nijar

Sierras Subbéticas natural park (Cordoba)

The Sierras Subbéticas Global Geopark is noted for its stunning karstic landscape with Massive limestone and dolostone outcrop in the higher terrains. The karst landscape holds a great variety of elements such as poljes, great dolines and a dense subteranean network of around 900 recorded caves and abysses. The area is also famous for the abundance of ammonite fossils. Read More: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/sierra-subbetica/

Sierra Norte de Sevilla natural park (Seville)

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Global Geopark is located at the north of the province of Seville in the Sierra Morena and. The geopark includes ten towns and villages within its limits: Alanís, Almadén de la Plata, Cazalla de la Sierra, Constantina, Guadalcanal, Las Navas de la Concepción, El Pedroso, La Puebla de los Infantes, El Real de la Jara and San Nicolás del Puerto. Read More: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/sierra-norte-de-sevilla/

Granada global geopark (Granada)

The Granada global geopark extends over the depressions called the Hoya de Guadix and the Hoya de Baza and is surrounded by some of the highest mountains of the Iberian Peninsula such as the Sierra de la Sagra (2381 m), the Sierra Mágina (2187 m), the Sierra de Arana-Huétor (1940 m), the Sierra Nevada (3484 m), the Sierra de Baza-Filabres (2271 m), the Sierra de las Estancias-Cúllar (1471 m) and the Sierra de Orce-María (1612 m). Read more: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/granada-global-geopark/

Aragón.
Maestrazgo global geopark

The Maestrazgo global geopark lies between Zaragoza and Teruel in a very mountainous region at the eastern end of the Iberian System. Famous for dinosaur footprints and fossils. Read more: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/maestrazgo-global-geopark

Sobrarbe global geopark
Cantabria

Geoparque Valles de Cantabria

Castilla y León
Las Loras global geopark

(Global Geosite, in the valley of the Luna River) https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/los-valles-de-omana-y-luna-biosphere-reserve/

Castilla la Mancha
Molina-Alto Tajo global geopark
Cataluña
Origens global geopark
Cataluña Central global geopark
Extremadura
Villuercas-Ibores-Jara global geopark en Extremadura.
Galicia
Montañas do Caurel global geopark
Islas Canarias.
El Hierro global geopark
Lanzarote y Archipiélago Chinijo global geopark
País Vasco
Costa Vasca global geopark

Iberia Nature Forum

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Iberia Nature Forum: https://iberianatureforum.com/

Bearded Vulture – Gypaetus barbatus – Quebrantahuesos

  • English: Bearded Vulture
  • Spanish: Quebrantahuesos
  • Alternative names / spellings: Lammergeier, Lammergeyer, Lammergeir.
  • Catalan: Trencalòs

The Bearded Vulture – Gypaetus barbatusQuebrantahuesos is one of the largest raptors in Spain and also the rarest. It has a wingspan of 2.8 m and length of around 1.10 m. The dark, narrow wings taper to a point while the tail is long and wedge shaped. The body, legs and head are a dirty white although they deliberately stain this to a dark orange colour using iron oxides contained in calcareous rock where available. They have dark feathers around the eyes and it is the long bristles draped beside the bill which leads to the English common name of Bearded Vulture.

Join in with the conversation about bearded vultures in Spain over at the Iberianature Forum: Bearded Vultures reintroduction in Spain – The Iberia Nature forum

Bearded Vulture - Gypaetus barbatus - Quebrantahuesos
Bearded Vulture – Gypaetus barbatus – Quebrantahuesos – appeared in an official Spanishpostage stamp

They only live in high mountainous areas, usually between 500 to 4000m, preferring ledges on steep cliffs. They can be seen soaring through valleys in search for food. This can be live prey, carrion or the better known habit of breaking bones by dropping them from a great height onto rocks. This exposes the nutrient rich marrow and splinters the bone into smaller pieces which are also eaten.

These birds are very territorial, defending from 200 to 400 km2 against the presence of other adults. Sexual maturity is reached at 5 to 6 years old for females and 8 to 9 years for males. Nesting begins from mid December to January. Normally there are 2 eggs laid but all being well, only one will fledge in the June or July. Disturbances during the initial reproduction period are especially problematic, resulting in failure to raise chicks that year.

Human interference has pushed these birds to near extinction in many areas. Poisoning, power line collision or electrocution, shooting and encroachment have greatly reduced their numbers. There are protection, education, breeding and release programs in place to help support their numbers.

The Bearded Vulture was widespread through the main mountain chains of Spain until the mid 20th century, persecution had almost eradicated this raptor from its western European stronghold.

Bearded vultures in Andalusia

As recently as 1986 the last specimen disappeared from Andalucia but a reintroduction program has returned this stuning bird to the mountains of eastern Andalusia.

From 2006 to 2019 of the 60 odd individuals released in Andalusia 23 are still alive and being tracked. 19 are dead and the rest have lost or their transmitors are broken . However, 19 of these individuals are confirmed alive and well from recent sightings.

The Guadalentin breeding centre in Cazorla is run by the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF)


VCF website here: https://4vultures.org/blog/achieving-a-world-record-guadalentin-centre-in-andalusia-hatched-the-highest-ever-number-of-bearded-vulture-chicks-produced-in-a-single-breeding-season/

In March 2021 6 pairs of bearded vultures had already nested and were sitting eggs. with 10 chicks already hatched….Great news!

Guinness the Bearded vulture chick
Guinness the Bearded vulture chick

The Junta de Andalucia official web page for this programme is here. (In Spanish) Plan de recuperación y conservación de aves necrófagas

There is an unoficial facebook page that has some English language updated information here. https://www.facebook.com/necrofagasandalucia/


Great news for bearded vultures in La Rioja

A pair of Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus), a species that had not reproduced in La Rioja since the 1950s, began breeding at the beginning of 2022 in the upper basin of the river Najerilla, specifically in the Sierra de Urbión, for the first time since the species’ extinction in the region. See here on the Iberianature Forum: Bearded Vulture pair lays an egg in La Rioja in 2022 – The Iberia Nature forum

Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture

This program has supplied food, mainly sheep limbs, during the winter months when chick survival is at a critical balance. In turn it has enabled the population to grow within the central Pyrenees and expand east and west into the provinces of Catalonia and Navarre. It is from these western populations that sub adults are once again expanding in search of new territories. They are reaching the Cantabrian mountains, especially the Picos de Europa, where projects are underway to prevent a repeat of the hunting / poisoning which eradicated them from here previously.

The “Fundación para la Conservación del Quebrantahuesos” which translates to the Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture are continuing with their protection and education schemes to ensure the expansion of this species.

There is an interesting Eco-museum / visitors centre at the Castle of Ainsa in the Aragon Pyrenees with information dedicated to these birds.

https://quebrantahuesos.org/the-eco-museum-visitor-centre-pyrenees-bird-center-of-the-ainsa-castle-huesca/?lang=en

If you see a bearded vulture and are lucky enough to also note the colors and position of any rings or wing tags then you can identify the bird on the website of Quebrantehuesos.org.

According to their website there are 135 tagged released birds. Some have radio tracking systems whilst others are ringed and/or wing tagged. Not all the birds are accounted for so your observation is important for the continuing success of the re-introduction system

https://quebrantahuesos.org/seguimiento-de-ejemplares-vivos-list/?lang=en

Some bearded vultures are mapped via gps and you can track their movements here…

https://quebrantahuesos.org/seguimiento-por-satelite/


Iberia Nature Forum

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Iberia Nature Forum: https://iberianatureforum.com/

Take a trip on the Wildside! Discover the wildlife and nature of Spain, its Natural and National Parks and find the top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain.