Las Batuecas-Sierra de Francia Natural Park

  • Region: Castilla y Leon
  • Province: Salamanca
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2000
  • Park surface area: 32,300 hectares
  • Towns and Villages: Monsagro, El Maíllo, Serradilla del Arroyo, La Alberca, El Cabaco, Nava de Francia, Mogarraz, Herguijuela de la Sierra, Monforte de la Sierra, Madroñal, Cepeda, Villanueva del Conde, Miranda del Castañar y Sotoserrano and​ San Martín del Castañar

Points of interest

Las Batuecas-Sierra de Francia Natural Park is part of the western foothills of the Cordillera Central. An isolated area, it is located to the south of the province of Salamanca. The highest peaks are the Hastiala at 1,735 meters and the Peña de Francia at 1,723 meters.

The whole area has a great scenic and ecological value with abundant fauna and flora along with a great cultural wealth and an important historical-artistic heritage. There are five municipalities in the area declared “Historic-Artistic Complex” due to the wealth of cave paintings, remains of Roman mines, hermitages and monasteries that are scattered throughout area.

Among prehistoric remains we find the dolmen of La Morisca in Nava de Francia, the cave shelter of the Canchal de las Cabras Pintadas de las Batuecas (declared Asset of Cultural Interest ) and six cave shelters in Linares de Riofrío “Coquilla”, “Las Viñas”, “Majada Llana”, “Las Carreteras”, “Los Vallejos” and “Relagüesa“.

The great biodiversity of this area has led to it also being designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO as well as SCI and ZEPA within the Red Natura 2000 project.

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Flora

At higher levels the vegetation has had to adapt to the windswept harsher climate and is dominated by broom and the “hedgehog zone” (low growing prickly shrubs). As you descend, species such as holly and chestnut, oak and birch forests appear. In the lands facing south there are holm oaks, cork oaks, strawberry trees and rockrose whilst in sheltered and sunny areas there are orchards of chestnut, almonds, vineyards and olive groves.

Fauna

Fauna of the park is well represented with 213 cataloged species of vertebrates, of which 9 correspond to the fish group, 13 to amphibians, 19 to reptiles, 126 to birds and 46 to mammals.

As for birds, it is common to see vultures, both griffon and black, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, Egyptian vulture and eagle owl. The black stork, listed as endangered, is also present

Among the mammals that inhabit the Las Batuecas-Sierra de Francia Natural Park are Iberian lynx, badger, ibex, wild cat, mongoose, marten, Iberian desman and otter as well as roe deer, red deer and wild boar.

In the many streams and ponds you can find Iberian newt and Iberian midwife toad

The Peña de Francia lizard (Lagartija batueca – Iberolacerta martinezricai) is exclusive to these mountains as the name sugggests.

Information/Visitors Centers

Casa del Parque de las Batuecas-Sierra de Francia

The information centre is located in the village of La Alberca. From Salamanca, take the CL-512 road towards Necinos. After about 30 km arrive at Tamames and from there on the SA-215, follow the signs to La Peña de Francia. It can also be reached by the A62 motorway; Salamanca – Portugal. Take the Fuentes de San Esteban exit towards Cabrillas-Tamames-La Alberca.

There are excellent audio visual displays, exhibitions covering fauna, flora and the area in general plus the friendly helpful staff will help you to find the best routes and places to see in the area.

Official website for the tourist infomation centre
https://patrimonionatural.org/casas-del-parque/casas-del-parque/casa-del-parque-de-las-batuecas-sierra-de-francia


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Hoces del río Duratón Natural Park

  • Region: Castilla y Leon
  • Province: Segovia
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 5,037 hectares
  • Towns and villages Carrascal del Río, Sebúlcor, Sepúlveda

Points of interest

The relatively small Hoces del río Duratón Natural Park is a jewel in the countryside in the province of Segovia. Its name refers to a 27 kilometre stretch of the Duratón River and “Las Hoces” refers to the series of gorges, some up to 100 metres high, that have been formed by the river..

The Duratón river gorges have also been classified as a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA) and integrated into the Natura 2000 Network in April 1991. The whole area has also been declared as a Site of Community Importance (SCI) in January 1998 and since 2004 the management of the park has been carried out through the European Unions LIFE Project.

The cultural heritage of this area also makes it an important tourist and leisure destination. The hermitage of San Frutos and the monastery of Nuestra Señora de la Hoz are well visited monuments.

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Flora

In the protected area there are varied habitats depending on the climatic and soil differences. Three different and determined zones are distinguished, the moorland in the upper zone, the riverside forest on the river bank and the gorge cliffs.

The moorland zone, which occupies most of the surface of the park, is located in the upper zone, where the soil is dry and poor. Here we find junipers, thyme, gorse, sage, lavender and other scrubland polants that dominate the open areas.The junipers have been greatly affected by human action and clearing have been replaced by thyme and gorse that have come to form a kind of pseudo- steppeland. In some areas there are resin pine plantations although today they are practically abandoned.

The vertical walls that make up the gorges and rupicolous ecosystem descend from the height of the moors to the bottom of the canyon. They are a rocky and inaccessable with very little soil and a scarcity of water creating a unique habitat. Sedum acre, S. dasyphyllum and S. sediforme are present along with ivy, maidenhair fern and asplenium taking advantage of the nitrogen rich droppings from the bird nesting areas. Larger vegetation is made up of black hawthorn, fig tree and Terebinth or turpentine tree (Pistacia terebinthus).

At the bottom of the canyon the riparian ecosystem holds richer soils, a greater availability of water and shelter provide an excellent habitat for an exuberant riverside forest made up of alder, willow, poplar, elm, and ash trees mixed with dogwood, elderberry, blackberry, wild rose, blackthorn and hawthorn. There are also planted stands of fast-growing poplars, walnut and chestnut trees.

Fauna

Birdlife is well represented in the area especially the nesting colony of Griffon vultures with over 500 pairs and many other raptors. The river gorge is a haven for many types of warbler, kingfisher, dipper, woodpecker and finches.

Larger mammals present are otter, wild boar, roe deer and badgers accompanied by the smaller weasel, rabbit and stone marten.

Among the amphibians there are common frog and San Antonio frog, common toad, midwife toad and natterjack toad. Common reptiles seen are viperine snake, ladder snake and ocelated lizard.

Other sites of interest

El Solapo del Águila, in the Corral de Muñecas has the highest concentration of cave paintings.

The hermitage of San Frutos is located on a rocky spur over one of the gorges, and the monastery of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles at the bottom of the canyon. Also interesting to visit are the ruins of the Visigothic hermitage of San Julián, excavated in the rock and the cave of the Seven Altars.

Not to miss viewpoints (Miradors)

  • Mirador de la Virgen de la Peña, in Sepúlveda, next to the church of the Virgen de la Peña, with information panels.
  • Mirador del Meandro, on the road to Villar de Sobrepeña .
  • Postigo de la Perejilera viewpoint, near the town of Sepúlveda.
  • Mirador del Portillo, with views of the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de la Hoz.
  • Viewpoint of the Paso de la Glorieta, near Sepúlveda.

Information/Visitors Centers

The interpretation center of the Hoces del Río Duratón natural park is located in the town of Sepúlveda. It is located in the old church of Santiago, in ruins since 1930, which was restored and adapted for this purpose in 1994 . There is an audiovisual room plus an excellent exhibition covering many aspects of the fauna and flora and human habitation/history of the area.

This is also where you get any permits to visit some of the resticted areas of the park.

official website for the Hoces del río Duratón Natural Park
https://www.turismocastillayleon.com/es/rural-naturaleza/casas-parque/casa-parque-hoces-rio-duraton


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Arribes del Duero Natural Park

  • Region: Castilla y Leon
  • Province: Salamanca y Zamora
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2002
  • Park surface area: 106,000 hectares
  • Towns and villages. Argañín, Almendra, Cabeza del Caballo, Villardiegua de la Ribera, Villadepera, Torregamones, Villar del Buey, Fariza, Gamones, Fermoselle, Villarino de los Aires, Pereña, Masueco, Mieza, Vilvestre, Puerto Seguro, San Felices de los Gallegos, Ahigal de los Aceiteros, Sobradillo, La Fregeneda, Hinojosa del Duero, Saucelle, Adeadávila de la Ribera, La Bouza, Bermellar, Saldeana, Barruecopardo, Fonfría, Pino del Oro, Villalcampo, Moralina, Moral de Sayago, Trabanca, Lumbrales, Cerezal de Peñahorcada, La Zarza de Pumareda, La Peña.

Points of interest

The steep gorges of the Arribes del Duero Natural Park are formed by the river Duero which is also the national boundary between Spain and Portugal. The protected area continues into the Portuguese side where it is called the International Douro Natural Park. In 2015, the two parks were declared a transboundary biosphere reserve by Unesco under the name of the Meseta Ibérica and combined, this enormous protected biosphere reserve covers over 1 million hectares in both countries.

The biosphere reserve of the Mesta Ibéricas altitudes range between 100 and 2000 meters above sea level and includes several protected areas including the natural parks of Arribes del Duero and Lago de Sanabria in Spanish territory and that of the International Duero in the Portuguese part. There are also various areas of the Natura 2000 Network such as the Duero Canyons, the Villafáfila Lagoons, the Sierra de la Culebra and the Albufera del Azibo/Romeo.


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Flora

There is a very rich plant community present which is characterized by the great abundance of typically Mediterranean species mixed in with cultivated olive, grape vine, almond and other fruit trees. In many areas the farmland has been abandoned and is now covered with naturaly regenerated thickets of junipers, holm oak, gall oak, cork oak interspersed with beautiful meadows of grasses and wild flowers.

Fauna

Over 300 species of bird have been recorded here but the black stork is one of the most emblematic in the Arribes del Duero Natural Park and they are accompanied by birds of prey such as griffon vulture, egyptian vulture, eagle owl, golden eagle, bonnellis eagle, kites (both red and black), peregrine falcon and lesser kestrel.

Mammals include both the Iberian wolf and Iberian lynx.

Traditionally, hunting of the Iberian wolf has been allowed north of the Duero river but in 2021 the Spanish goverment announced a total ban much to the dismay of the hunting fraternity and many livestock owners. Time will tell how this works. (Read the comments on the ban at the Iberia Nature Forum https://iberianatureforum.com/forums/topic/iberian-wolf-hunting-ban/ )

Video on YouTube – Arribes del Duero Natural Park (Spanish)


Information/Visitors Centers

Casa del Parque de Arribes del Duero ‘El Torreón de Sobradillo’

Located in the town of Sobradillo east of Salamanca on the border with Portugal, the best way to get there is from Salamanca via the SA-300 heading towards Ledesma or towards Vitigudino via the C-517 and from Zamora via the C-527 towards Fermoselle. From Portugal take the N-620 towards Salamanca and the N-122 towards Zamora.

This information centre has audivisual films about the park and its fauna and flora with exhibitions and models showing the geology and history of the area.

Casa del Parque de Arribes del Duero ‘Convento de San Francisco’

This information centre is located in the old Convent of San Francisco de Fermoselle, a town located in the southwest of the province of Zamora.

Staffed by knowledgable local people this centre will help you get the best out of a visit to the area and has a lot of information on local events and activities as well as exhibitions about the Arribes del Duero Natural Park, its fauna, flora and human history.

Official Tourism website here: https://patrimonionatural.org/espacios-naturales/parque-natural/parque-natural-arribes-del-duero


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Injured bearded vulture released after good recovery

The bearded vulture ‘”Aquilón” who is part of the recovery project in the Picos de Europa has been re released this Tuesday, March 2 in Cantabria by the Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture (FCQ)

Almost three years old, this young male has now been returned to his natural habitat in the vicinity of the town of Espinama, in Camaleño after spending the last few months in rehabilitation.

He was found in a badly injured state after an impact with power lines and although his foot was so badly damaged that it had to be amputated, it was deemed that he still had a very high percentage of survival in the wild.

Aquilon the bearded vulture with his amputated foot
Aquilon the bearded vulture with his amputated foot

Read more about the Beraded Vulture here

Source: https://www.animalshealth.es/animaladas/veterinarios-espanoles-recuperan-quebrantahuesos-electrocutado


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Mammoth Wasp (Megascolia (Regiscolia) maculata flavifrons) Avispa parasita de cuatro puntas

This is a very large solitary wasp, the female reaching up to 4.5cm whereas the male is a little smaller. This species appears in warm weather during late May, June, July and August. They hold no danger to humans despite their size and black / yellow warning colours. (Above image Megascolia bidens)

They feed eagerly on flower nectar and this is the best time to view them.

Megascolia flavifrons male and female examples

Mammoth Wasp (Megascolia (Regiscolia) maculata flavifrons) Avispa parasita de cuatro puntas
Mammoth Wasp (Megascolia (Regiscolia) maculata flavifrons) Avispa parasita de cuatro puntas

Left: Female showing yellow head Right: Male, note long antennae

The larger female can be told apart by her yellow face and short antennae. The male has a black head and longer antennae. Both have two yellow bands on their abdomens which can sometimes be divided to form 4 spots, which is more evident on the female in these pictures.

You may see several of these wasps flying around decaying tree stumps, they have a purpose here. They are searching for larvae of a particular beetle.

Inside the rotten wood may be young of the Rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes nasicornis). The female Mammoth wasp, once she has discovered the huge larvae, will sting one to paralyze it and then lay her egg on the outer skin.

Mammoth Wasp (Megascolia (Regiscolia) maculata flavifrons) Avispa parasita de cuatro puntas
The rhino beetle larvae is the food supply for the larvae of the mammoth wasp. Left: Rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes nasicornis) Right: Rhinoceros beetle Larva.

On hatching, the larvae of the Mammoth wasp will eat into its host thereby killing it. The larva of the wasp then creates a cocoon near to the meal remains. It will stay in this cocoon over winter and hatch out once the spring weather warms sufficiently.


Family: Scoliidae

  • Scientific name: Megascolia (Regiscolia) maculata flavifrons (Fabricius 1775)
  • Also accepted as Scolia flavifrons

There are several very similar species within Iberia, including:

Megascolia bidens
Megascolia bidens showing yellow antennae
  • Megascolia bidens – always has coloured antennae, either reddish or yellow.

Other mammoth wasps

  • Scolia erythrocephala – has more than two yellow bands
  • Scolia hirta – two yellow bands and a violet tinge on wings
  • Scolia hortorum
  • Scolia sexmaculata – has six yellow spots

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Hoces del Río Riaza Natural Park

  • Region: Castilla y Leon
  • Province: Segovia
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2004
  • Park surface area: 6470 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Maderuelo, Galende, Montejo

Points of interest

The Hoces del Río Riaza Natural Park is located in the northeast of the province of Segovia near to the border with the province of Burgos.

This stunning area has been created by the Riaza river which has excavated the limestone of the Segovian plains to create one of the largest areas of gorges, canyons, cliffs and ravines in Spain.

One of the largest Griffon vulture colonies in Spain are resident here and also, due to the caves, it is a safe haven for the Greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis.)

The Linares reservoir is worth a visit especially the dam which has fantastic views and is a great place for birdwatching. The village of Maderuelo was recently named as one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.

This area is characterized by the dominance of the sessile juniper mixed with other oak species woodland. There are rosaceae species such as wild rose, blackberry, hawthorn and blackthorn and various planted woodlands of pine. Depending on the time of year, the Cistus species (Cistus ladanifer and Cistus laurifolius.) can be a beautiful sight when in flower.

Mammals are represented well in this area with otter, wild boar, fox, roe deer, badger, genet, marten, weasel, wild cat, rabbit and hare

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Footpaths in the area (Ask in the visitor centre)

  • Senda entre puentes
  • Senda del Río
  • Senda de la Ermita del Casuar
  • Senda del Cerro Alto
  • Senda de las Tenadas de Valdevacas
  • Senda del Embalse de Linares del Arroyo
AUTHORIZATIONS

From January 1 to July 31 it is necessary to request an authorization at the Information Centre to be able to travel through the reserve area of ​​the natural park, this area includes the PR-SG-6 (Senda del Rio) and PRC-SG- 7 (Hermitage of Casuar).

Information/Visitors Centers

Hoces del Río Riaza Natural Park visitor centre

Address: Las Eras street in the village of Montejo de la Vega de la Serrezuela. Take the A-1 / E-5 highway, exit 146 and in Milagros, the road to Montejo de la Vega. From Aranda de Duero, continue on the N-1 road to Fuentespina and there take the C-114 road to Fuentelcesped where you take the detour to Montejo de la Vega.

At the Information centre you will find all the information you need to get the best out of a visit to the area. Guides and leaflets are available about the various trails (Including permits when needed) as well as details of other nearby areas of cultural or natural interest.

There is an audivisual film and also exhibitions on the fauna, flora, geology and culture of the area.

Castilla y Leon official tourist website for the Hoces del Río Riaza Natural Park
https://www.turismocastillayleon.com/en/countryside-nature/natural-areas/hoces-del-rio-riaza


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