Looking for Wildlife, walking and cultural Holidays in Spain? Wildside Holidays publishes information pages about theNatural 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!
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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 herehttps://en.unesco.org/global-geoparks)
Global geoparks in Spain
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/
Alternative names / spellings: Lammergeier, Lammergeyer, Lammergeir.
The Bearded Vulture – Gypaetus barbatus – Quebrantahuesos 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.
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)
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.
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
Distribution: Iberia, southern and western France, noth west Italy
Classification: Formerly classified as Lacerta lepida and now a species of Timon, a genus of lizard sometimes regarded as a subgenus of Lacerta, both of which belong to the family of Lacertidae (the wall lizards). They are commonly referred to as “ocellated” due to the eyelike spots of colour on the body. There are now two (formerly three) recognised subspecies as the subspecies T. nevadensis has been elevated to species level.
Timon lepidus ibericus – North-western Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) Their teeth are not arranged the same as the other sub-species, being more aligned and becoming larger and irregular towards the back of the mouth.
Timon lepidus oteroi is endemic to the island of Sálvora, in Galicia.
Timon nevadensis – Declared a species recently and present in South-Eastern Spain (Sierra Nevada area). They are duller in colour; their head also seems more pointed.
The ocellated lizard is the largest lizard resident in Europe growing to an adult size between 40 to 60 centimetres and sometimes reaching 90 centimetres. Generally, two thirds of the length is taken up by the thick tail. The legs, especially the hind legs, are muscular and strong, with long curved and sharp claws. The sides of the body are decorated with blue spots (especially during breeding season) and the back is a mixture of greens, browns, yellows and reds. The throat and belly, particularly of the males, are yellow. Adult males generally have more blue spots and always a larger, wider head.
Often though, you need to see both sexes at the same time to tell the difference between male and female. Females are generally smaller and sometimes have no blue spots at all. A long lived reptile they can live for as much as 25 years given a lot of luck and agility.
The species is found throughout almost all of Iberia, (plus Mediterranean France and southern Italy) and prefers habitats that are open to the sun, rocky scrub, olive plantations and grasslands. Juveniles seem especially at home close to dry river beds, lakes and water courses but adults seem to thrive in the driest of terrains. Territorial area is usually quite small and localised colonies can be made up of breeding adults, juveniles and young. When disturbed they will quickly run to the nearest cover or return to their burrow amongst tree roots or under a large rock.
Telling the difference between the sub species is very difficult but the geographical position will help. (See classification list at top). In reality only a capture and close inspection will reveal the true identification. Beware though as an adult can inflict a very painful bite which almost always festers and takes an age to heal!
Diet is very varied and made up of large insects, beetles and spiders, on occasion bird’s eggs, baby birds, small mammals, other lizards and small snakes. Fruits and berries will be eaten when available as well. Rabbit burrows are often occupied which of course means that a constant supply of young rabbit is available.
Breeding occurs in late spring and early summer, often accompanied by violent fights between males over territory and the right to mate with a female. Generally 5 to 12 eggs are laid between June and July in the ground and the incubation period is about 3 months. The young start to emerge during the month of September giving them only a few short weeks to find a food supply and a suitable safe place to hibernate through the winter.
Hibernation takes place from October until March or April depending on seasonal temperatures
The Ocellated lizard is preyed upon by Eagles such as Short toed (aguila culebrera) Circaetus gallicus. Large snakes will take young and juveniles but a fully grown adult only has one real enemy, man, and although reasonable populations are present in Spain and Portugal there has been a substantial decline in many areas due to habitat loss and persecution by hunters that fear the lizard eats all of the partridge eggs and young rabbits.
In the past larger lizards were hunted and eaten as well. A lizard stew in garlic and tomato sauce may sound tasty but beware as the main ingredient is now a protected species!
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.