The Laguna de Gallocanta

Without a doubt, one of the most distinctive living elements of the Laguna de Gallocanta are the birds, especially the striking flocks of common cranes that rest and feed here during the course of their migratory trips.

The vast majority of the European crane population moving on the western migratory route use Gallocanta as a feeding and resting area. Over 100,000 cranes have been counted in a single day (02/24/2011) and its normal for 40,000 to 60,000 individuals to be present during an average migratory season.

Flocks of common cranes arrive en masse at dusk after spending the day feeding in the outlying fields. This has to be one of the most impressive visual and sound spectacles of nature.

Best time to visit the area is during the months of November to February. (I visited and stayed in Tornos for a few days during July 2022 and the lagoon was virtually dry in temperatures of 40 degrees!)

The protected area covers 1.924 hectares of natural reserve (the wetland itself) and 4.553 hectares of peripheral protection zone (the surrounding farmland sometimes is also wetland depending on rainfall)


Aragón Active Holidays arrange bird watching trips to Gallocanta
Aragón Active Holidays provide small group special interest & activity holidays with local, qualified mountain and wildlife guides
Aragón Active Holidays provide small group special interest & activity holidays with local, qualified mountain and wildlife guides

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Where and what is Gallocanta?

The Gallocanta Lake (Spanish: Laguna de Gallocanta) is an endorheic lake in the province of Aragon. It is within the boundaries of two provinces, Teruel and Zaragoza, and is located just to the south of Gallocanta village, between the Aragonese comarcas of Campo de Daroca and Comarca del Jiloca. This lake is situated on a high continental plain at an altitude of almost 1,000 m

Find a hotel close to The Laguna de Gallocanta

The comfortable hostel las Grullas in the small village of Tornos is an excellent base for exploring the area. Also the Allucant guest house in Gallocanta village. (See below map for reservations)

Booking.com

The interpretation center of the gallocanta lagoon (obligatory visit to get the best out of the area)

Location: in an old road laborer’s house located on the A-1507 road, between the villages of Tornos and Bello. 120 km from Zaragoza and 95 km from Teruel.

The Interpretation Center of the Gallocanta Lagoon
The Interpretation Center of the
Gallocanta Lagoon

The main content of the interpretation centre is the natural history ​​of the lagoon, its history and formation and the uniqueness of the species it provides a home for with special emphasis on the common crane.

There is also an audiovisual projection and an interactive exhibition covering the geology of the lagoon, the habitat and human existence in the area.

Opening times Spring-Summer (from March 21 to September 20)

Mornings: 10:00 to 14:00
Afternoons: 15:00 to 18:00

Opening times Autumn-Winter (from January 24 to March 15 and from September 26 to December 20)

Mornings: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Afternoons: 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Telephone: 978 734 031
Telephone (central offices): 976 07 00 00
Website: https://www.aragon.es/-/reserva-natural-de-la-laguna-de-gallocanta (Spanish)

Places to visit and parking

  • Centro de Interpretación de la Reserva Natural de la Laguna de Gallocanta.(see above info about the intepretation centre)
  • Mirador de la Ermita de la Virgen del Buen Acuerdo.
  • Observatorio de Gallocanta.

Parking

  • Centro de interpretación de la Reserva Natural Dirigida de la Laguna de Gallocanta (Bello).
  • Ermita Nuestra Señora del Buen Acuerdo (Gallocanta).
  • Centro de visitantes y museo de las Aves (Gallocanta).

Walking Trails

Path PR-Z 33 La Laguna de Gallocanta and los Lagunazos. (32 Km – 9 hours – Circular)

This footpath is circular and goes completely around the lagoon passing by the 5 observation hides and the Ermita de la Virgen del Buen Acuerdo from where there is also an excellen view of the Lagoon. This path can also be made by bike. Its not obligatory to do the whole footpath, just walk as far as you want then turn around.

Berrueco trail (1km – 30 mins – Linear

This is a Linear path, which starts from the town of Berrueco and ascends to its Castle, from where you can see a magnificent panoramic view of the Gallocanta Lagoon.

Observation hides

  • Torre-observatorio del Cañizar.
  • Observatorio de los Aguanares.
  • Observatorio de la Ermita.
  • Observatorio de los Ojos.
  • Torre-observatorio de La Reguera.
  • Obvervatorio del Centro de Interpretación de la Reserva Natural de la Laguna de Gallocanta.
  • Observatorio accesible de Gallocanta.

Recreation and picnic sites

  • Fuente de los Haces.
  • Fuente Sancho.
  • Church of the Ermita de la Virgen del Buen Acuerdo.
  • La Serna.
  • Gallocanta swimming pool.

Museums

  • Gallocanta avian museum (Inside the Gallocanta visitor centre).

Other lagunas in the area

  • Laguna de La Zaida.
  • Laguna de Guialguerrero.

Renting hides at the Laguna de Gallocanta

Request processing is carried out by Servicio Provincial en Teruel del
Departamento de Agricultura, Ganadería y Medio Ambiente, Subdirección de Medio Ambiente, placed in C/ San Francisco, 27 de Teruel (44071).

Telephone +34 978 64 11 45
Email adress: hidesgallocanta@aragon.es.

Dowload the full guide to renting a hide here
https://www.aragon.es/documents/20127/12362674/How+to+book+hides+-+Reserva+Natural+Dirigida+de+la+Laguna+de+Gallocanta+-+2020.pdf/2925f255-4585-6d6e-6691-9ac7ab57cedf?t=1597824000140


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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.


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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.

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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

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