Distribution: Europe (except Britain), North Africa & the Near East. Widely distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula, though apparently absent from the coastal fringes of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria.
Habitat: Usually rivers & streams with regularly protruding rocks or boulders, occasionally larger still water bodies.
Similar species: Very similar to the Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus) which contrary to its name is only marginally bigger than the Small Pincertail.
The Small Pincertail (Onychogomphus forcipatus) is a relatively common & widespread species in the Iberian Peninsula, though apparently absent from the west coast regions of Portugal & the north coast regions of Spain.
This dragonfly frequently occurs along rivers & streams, often with very shallow water, peppered with large boulders & rocks from where mature males sit with their claspers raised defending small transient territories perhaps 2.5 to 3 metres apart. Although preferring moving water, occasionally they are also present at lakes.
There are three subspecies of Onychogomphus forcipatus with Onychogomphus forcipatus unguiculatus being the one that occurs throughout the Iberian Peninsula. It is a predominantly black & yellow, medium size dragonfly, with blue eyes in the Mediterranean area, (though greenish eyes further north in Europe).
It is very similar in appearance to the Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus) and the two species cannot be reliably separated by colour markings alone. For instance the black stripes on the upper surface of the thorax are usually connected via the black central keel in the Small Pincertail, whereas the Large Pincertail there is a gap between the two, sadly however that is not always the case!
The anal triangle on the hind wings of a male also offers a method of separating the two species, usually comprising of 3 cells in the Small Pincertail (see photo) and 4 cells in the Large Pincertail.
However, the male anal appendages offer a more reliable feature to separate the two species with the Small Pincertail having a subterminal knob on the inferior anal appendage (see photo). This feature can only really be seen clearly by examining the insect in the hand, or perhaps a little more easily, by taking a digital photo, concentrating on a side view of the anal appendage and enlarging it on a screen.
The Hoya de Pedraza and La Cortijuela botanic gardens in the Sierra Nevada National Park and both are well worth a visit. Between them they contain a large amount of endemic plants and also hold collections of many of the endangered and rarer plantlife of the Sierra Nevada, Sierra de los Filabres, Sierra de Gádor and Sierra de Lújar – La Contraviesa.
Jardín botánico Hoya de Pedraza
The 16 hectare Hoya de Pedraza botanical garden is located about 30 minutes from Granada about four kilometres before the Pradollano ski resort.
At almost 2000 metres this botanic garden represents the flora and vegetation of the peaks of Sierra Nevada and the Alpujarra foothills and is home to some of the endemic species such as Royal chamomile (Artemisa granatensis), Sierra Nevada willow (Salix hastata subsp sierrae – nevadae) and Senecio elodes.
The whole area has undergone a re forestation scheme with over 5000 specimens of local plantlife making up the backbone habitat for the more rarer species. The gardens are well cared for and split into various habitat sections accessed by signposted footpaths.
Endangered species garden
Directions and opening times
Opening times are 9:30 am to 2:30 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays
Entry and parking is free.
Address: Ctra. Sierra Nevada Km. 27 18193 (Monachil, Granada). about 30 minutes from Granada about four kilometres before the Pradollano ski resort.
Jardín botánico de la Cortijuela
La Cortijuela botanical garden is located in an area of extreme ecological value within the Sierra Nevada National Park. In the foothills of Cerro del Trevenque. Access is from the Cumbres Verdes Urbanization (La Zubia) or from the Los Llanos Recreational Area (Monachil). Head for the picnic area ofFuente del Hervidero and from there you may have to walk to the gardens (depending on the state of the track).
Once at the gardens there is a circular route that takes you through many examples of the resident plant community. From herbaceous species dotted with orchids, passing through the typical vegetation of the riparian forest to thorny plants such as hawthorn and aromatic plants such as sage. All of them live surrounded by a mixed forest of holm oaks and wild pines. The route is completed with a viewpoint that offers an excellent panoramic view of the Sierra Nevada.
The botanical garden, with an area of 12 hectares, contains over 200 species of native plantlife within a backdrop of Pinus sylvestris subsp. nevadensis, Quercus rotundifolia holm oaks and introduced Pinus sylvestris and Pinus nigra
There is an undergrowth of a great variety of companion species such as peony (Paeonia coriacea), sage (Salvia lavandulifolia), Jerusalem sage (Phlomis crinita), broom (Erinacea anthyllis), stinking helebore (Helleborus foetidus), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).
Cooler areas are occupied with Granada acer (Acer opalus subsp. Granatense), whitebeam (Sorbus aria and Sorbus torminalis), snowy mespilus (Amelanchier ovalis), Granada cotoneaster (Cotoneaster granatense) and yew (Taxus baccata). Also abundant are wild rose (Rosa canina), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Berberis (Berberis hispanica), blackberry (Rubus ulmifolius), blackthorn (Prunus ramburii), rhamnus (Rhamnus myrtifolius), juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), and various species of orchids.
The interior of the garden is crossed by two streams where species such as elms (Ulmus minor), willows and wickers (Salix alba , Salix x rubens), rushes (Juncus inflexus), peppermint (Mentha longifolia) and birch (Betula pendula subsp. fontqueri)
In the botanic garden nursery, plants of both those that are in danger of extinction and those considered vulnerable are grown for repopulation purposes. Endangered and rare species such as Acer opalus subsp. granatense, Erodium boissieri, Rothmaleria granatensis, Salix hastata subsp. sierrae-nevadae, Senecio elodes, Narcissus nevadensis, Artemisa granatensis, Amelanchier ovalis, Celtis australis, Ilex aquifolium,Quercus pyrenaica, Santolina elegans and Sorbus aria
Access is from the Cumbres Verdes Urbanization (La Zubia) or from the Los Llanos Recreational Area (Monachil). Head for the picnic area ofFuente del Hervidero and from there you may have to walk to the gardens (depending on the state of the track).
You can find more information about places like the Hoya de Pedraza and La Cortijuela botanic gardens on the main Andalucia page here under the heading botanic gardens.
Dragonflies and damselflies in Spain are extremely beautiful insects which capture the very essence of summer as they perform their intricate aerobatics around the gleaming backdrop of rivers and pools on hot and sunny days.
As such they are highly visible and important indicators of the health of our wetlands being top insect predators both as airborne adults & aquatic larvae.
Dragonflies are entirely harmless and do not bite or sting, (though they may give a gentle nip if roughly handled!). They also make superb subjects for photography though getting close enough for a good shot can be difficult!
Over 70 species of Odonata (Dragonflies) have been recorded from the Iberian Peninsula and these can be divided into two sub-orders, the Zygoptera (damselflies), and the Anisoptera (dragonflies).
Damselflies are generally smaller insects which when at rest hold their wings together over their abdomen (although an exception to this are the 5 species of Spreadwings (Lestes) damselflies which hold their wings out at 45 degrees to the abdomen when at rest).
Dragonflies are generally larger insects and as mature adults when at rest hold their wings apart at approximately 90 degrees to their body.
Wetland habitats are very important for all odonata species with both dragonflies & damselflies spending the majority of their lives as larvae in a pond, river, lake or marsh. The hot & dry climate in many parts of Iberia frequently means that water is a scarce commodity so man made habitats such as reservoirs and water tanks for livestock & irrigation can be vital resources.
Dragonflies first come to water as mature adults, the males establishing a territory along a stretch of freshwater habitat which they will defend against intrusion from other males, while also mating with any females that enter their domain. You may come across a male and female embraced in a heart shape, this is known as the “wheel”, a position which the pair adopt during copulation.
After mating the female may lay her eggs in tandem with the male, the male grasping the female between the head and thorax with the tip of his abdomen. In dragonflies this tends to mean the pair fly low over the water and adopt a swinging motion so that the tip of the female’s abdomen dips into the water with the eggs washing off randomly.
In damselflies where ovipositing is carried out in tandem the male sometimes lowers the female down a plant stem so that she becomes totally immersed in the water before carefully depositing her eggs into the aquatic vegetation.
In some species of dragonfly where the female oviposits by dipping her abdomen into the water during flight the male hovers nearby guarding against any rival male attempting to mate with her and displacing his sperm (males can remove another dragonflies sperm before placing their own!). Another strategy employed by some dragonfly & damselfly species sees the female ovipositing alone by carefully placing her eggs in plant tissue with no male presence at all.
Once the egg hatches the larva may undergo as many as 15 moults over a period of 1 to 2 years or more before emerging as an adult. However a species such as the Red-veined Darter – Sympetrum fonscolombei can complete its larval stage in as little as three or four months, thus producing two generations in a year, and at the other extreme a Golden Ringed Dragonfly – Cordulegaster boltonii may take up to 5 years to complete it’s larval development.
The transformation from aquatic larva to airborne adult is one of the most amazing spectacles in the natural world. This often takes place during the early hours of the morning (eg hawkers), but some species will continue to emerge throughout the day (eg darters & most damselflies). In some species the larva select suitable plant stems to emerge on (frequently vertical), though others such as the Clubtails, (Gomphus species), may emerge horizontally on a rock or bolder.
Once the larva is happy with its chosen emergence support it will remain in the same position for some time before the top of its thorax splits open and the adult slowly hauls itself out of the exuvia (or cast skin), head first. While its abdomen is still tucked in the exuvia the fledgling adult will hang upside down allowing its new legs to harden for about half an hour. It then miraculously flicks itself upwards, extracting the remainder of its abdomen while simultaneously grasping at a support with its newly hardened legs, a breath taking manoeuvre which is all over in seconds. The insect then pumps up its wings and abdomen before allowing both to harden up. This whole process may take anything from 2 to 3 hours.
Emergence is a very vulnerable time for dragonflies as whilst unable to fly they provide an easy meal for birds, spiders, slugs and ants. Deteriorating weather such as rain showers or strong gusts of wind can ruin a dragonflies wings while they are relatively soft, leaving the insect flightless and doomed.
Newly emerged adults, known as tenerals, may fly many kilometres away from the wetland in order to feed and mature. It will take these tenerals several days to gain their full adult colours, and males will frequently resemble females in tone at this stage. Once fully mature the adults will search out suitable water bodies in order to breed. This may mean returning to the wetland where it developed as an aquatic larva, or it may involve a dispersal where the obvious advantages of a winged adult allow new sites to be colonized.
The Iberian dragonfly population is frequently reinforced by migrants from North Africa. A walk on a beach along the Mediterranean coast during March may often be rewarded by the sight of the Lesser Emperor – Anax parthenope or even the Vagrant Emperor – Anax ephippiger, coming ashore after a crossing from the African continent.
It is also interesting to note that over the last 3 decades or so species such as the Violet Dropwing – Trithemis annulata, the Banded Groundling – Brachythemis leucosticta and the Black Percher – Diplacodes lefebvrii have all colonized the Iberian Peninsula from North Africa, and more may follow in their footsteps as the effects of climate change take hold.
Below is an ongoing project about dragonflies and damselflies in Spain. Follow the links if the text is green for further information and images.
The latest study titled Cantabrian bears. Demographics, coexistence and conservation challenges. has now been published and makes fascinating reading.
Cantabrian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) Oso Pardo Cantábrico is a flagship species of the Iberian fauna. As a key species situated at the apex of the food chain, it plays a crucial role in maintaining the functionality and diversity of the ecosystems it inhabits. Together with other flagship species, such as the wolf, Iberian lynx or Spanish ibex, the Cantabrian brown bear is an outstanding representative of the megafauna which has survived until today. They are the last witnesses of the numerous large mammals of the Pleistocene era, which have survived better in Spain than in the remainder of the Western European countries, contributing as part of the cultural heritage of the human societies alongside which they have coexisted for millennia.
The Cantabrian brown bear is a large carnivore and as such, invokes respect as well as fear amongst humans. These animals, at the same time as generating a degree of unrest among livestock farmers are also an emblematic species and indicators of the well conserved condition of the Cantabrian forests.
Guillermo Palomero, Fernando Ballesteros, Juan Carlos Blanco, José Vicente López-Bao (Editors)
Click the below link to download the publication in pdf format.
Listed in the Spanish Catalogue of Endangered Species (Catálogo Nacional de Especies Amenazadas) as being in danger of extinction, the Cantabrian brown bear’s existence in Spain is not widely known.
Cantabrian brown bears have developed a slightly different genetic identity to other brown bears, although not as different as was once believed. A study in 2007 led by mainly Spanish scientists hoping to prove the subspecies status of the Iberian bears, has revealed them instead to be more closely related to the European brown bear (in particular those of Southern Scandanavia) than was previously thought. So rather than once being scientifically known as Ursus arctos pyrenaicus, they are now classed as simply Ursus arctos.
Hunted and persecuted
Having once roamed most of the mountains of the Iberian peninsular, the Cantabrian brown bear was seen by man to be competition for food and the population was reduced in the first half of the twentieth century to two isolated pockets in the northerly mountains of the Cordillera Cantábrica. Systematic persecution through hunting led to a drastic decline in numbers and a total ban on hunting did not come into force until 1973. The maximum fine for killing a bear in Spain is now €300,000.
Island / Towns : Mallorca / Artá, Capdepera, Son Cervera
Declared a Natural Park: 2001
Park surface area:1671 hectares.
Points of interest
The Península del Llevant Natural Park includes almost the entire Artá peninsula, in the municipalities of Artá, Capdepera and Son Servera including smaller areas of San Lorenzo del Cardezar, Manacor and Santa Margarita.
The area forms part of the European Union’s Natura 2000 Network as both an Area of Special Protection for Birds and a Site of Community Interest.
The current appearance of this land is the result of centuries of human interaction. Scrubland was repeatedly burned thus favoring the species resistent to forest fire such as Mauritanian grass (Ampelodesmos mauritanica) and the European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis). As a result, today Mauritanian grass covers a greater part of the park in areas that were once covered with trees and other plantlife. (The abundance of the fan palm gave rise to the widespread development of palm-based craftwork in the late 19th century. There are still a few craftsfolk in the area).
Find a hotel close to Península del Llevant Natural Park
The park’s fauna include populations of Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni), Algerian hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), genet (Geneta geneta), pine marten (Martes martes) and the Balearic green toad (Bufo balearicus).
Look out for booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii), European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) and the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Red kite (Milvus milvus) have been successfully reintroduced to the area
Centre d’Informació de s’Alqueria Vella de Baix
Information centre and Natural Park office: S’Alqueria Vella de Baix.
Take the road from Artà towards the hermitage “Ermita de Betlem” (Ma-3333) and turn right at kilometre 4,7. Opening times: (Monday to Sunday) from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
The females of Oak spider – Aculepeira ceropegia- Araña hoja de roble are large and conspicuous with an unmistakable design on the abdomen in the form of an oak leaf, from which comes the common name of the species. The basic colour is usually yellow to orange, patterned with highly contrasting black and white. The abdomen is pointed at both ends. The legs are darkly banded and the head covered by greyish-brown hairs.
The females measure up to 14 mm (0.51 inches), and the males, tiny in comparison, 8 mm (0.31 inches).
Located mainly in open areas of scrub, in meadows and woodland clearings, they build a web among small shrubs or grasses and stay motionless in the centre facing downwards, waiting for prey to get caught up.
The webs are more dense in the centre.
This species can be seen more often in spring and early summer though adults are visible from May to September. During the summer they mature and mating takes place. The eggs are produced in early autumn and wrapped in a silk ball for protection.
This photo below shows the size difference between the male and female but note that both have the oak leaf pattern on the abdomen.
The Oak spider – Aculepeira ceropegia – Araña hoja de roble is an orb weaving spider and so at a distance may be confused with some other orb weavers. On closer inspection, though, the oak leaf pattern on the abdomen is an unmistakeable guide to identification.
Wildside Holidays – Spain
The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!