Cañón del río Lobos Natural Park

Region: Castilla y Leon
Province: Soria y Burgos
Declared a Natural Park: 1985
Park surface area: 10,176 hectares
Towns and Villages: Casarejos, Hontoria del Pinar, Herrera de Soria, Ucero, Nafría de Ucero, San Leonardo de Yagüe, Santa María de las Hoyas

Points of interest

The Cañón del Río Lobos Natural Park is a stunning limestone landscape with two thirds of the park located in the province of Soria and the rest in the province of Burgos.

One of the most visited areas of ​​the Natural Park is the Templar hermitage of San Bartolomé, a Romanesque construction from the first quarter of the 13th century with some Gothic influence. It was part of a monastery of which only the chapel remains.

Located behind the hermitage are the caves which contain engravings and paintings dated to the Bronze Age.

There are extensive forests of juniper and black pine, over a hundred pairs of griffon vultures and also nesting in the area golden eagle, bonellis eagle, Egyptian vulture and various hawks. Mammals include roe deer, wild boar, squirrels, otters, badgers, and wildcats.

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Video on You tube in Spanish about the Cañón del río Lobos Natural Park


Main access points to the Cañón del río Lobos Natural Park.

  • On the western side, upstream, access is from the village of Hontoria del Pinar On the N-234 road.
  • 12km from Hontoria del Pinar the Puente de los Siete Ojos is the acces most used by hikers who want to walk through the Canyon to the hermitage of San Bartolomé and to visit the caves
  • At the end (downstream) of the canyon is the Galiana entrance, on the SO-920 road between Casarejos and Ucero. This is close to the Interpretation Center which is located in an old mill converted into a fish farm. (See below)
At all entrances there are car parks and information services.

There are recreational areas at various points in the park, in the Siete Ojos area, the Galiana entrance, in Hontoria del Pinar, Los Agualinos and La Fuente del Pino near Santa María de las Hoyas.

In addition, there are five fantastic viewpoints in the natural park: Costalago, Lastrilla, Castillo, Galiana and Gullurías. The first four can be accessed by car, whilst Gullurías can only be accessed on foot.

Information/Visitors Centers

Casa del Parque del Cañón del Río Lobos interpretation centre

Carretera SO-920 del Burgo a S. Leonardo de Yagüe Km. 16. The best way to access is via the SO-920 that connects El Burgo de Osma with San Leonardo de Yagüe, accessing these two towns either by the N-122 or the N -234.

A very informative information centre with knowedgable staff. there are audio visual displays and exhibitions of the fauna, flora, gology and human history of the area. Also one of the largest exhibitions about mushrooms and funghi in Spain.

Castilla y Leon official Tourism website for the Cañón del río Lobos Natural Park

Web: https://patrimonionatural.org/espacios-naturales/parque-natural/parque-natural-canon-del-rio-lobos


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Andalusian Funnel-Web Spider – Macrothele calpeiana – La araña negra de los alcornocales

In Andalucia there is a fairly large, black burrowing spider belonging to the venomous funnel-web tarantula family. Its scientific name is Macrothele calpeiana and it belongs to the Hexathelidae group which is normally associated with Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Central Africa and South America.

There is one species known for the Mediterranean region. (Walckenaer, 1805). The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek makro meaning big and thele which refers to the spinnerets. The origin of the name calpeiana is from “Calpe” a name that the Phoenicians gave to Gibraltar.

It is known in Spanish as “La araña negra de los alcornocales”, as within the Los Alcornocales Natural Park (Cadiz province) the largest populations are found. “Los Alcornocales” is a forest of evergreen oak trees, mainly Cork Oaks (Quercus suber) with a vast shady canopy creating an almost tropical feel. The temperatures and humidity levels in that area are more suited to these spiders’ requirements with a deep leaf litter for ease of burrowing.

Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)
Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)

The first sign of their location is a silken white, sheet-like web anchored firmly to twigs, rocks, plants etc. This narrows to a tube near the centre, the entrance to the tunnel, which often leads to cooler depths underground.

There may be a labyrinth of several entrances to the one tunnel and the range of sites for these webs can be a simple scrape under a rock, vegetated banks, under logs, crevices in dry-stone walls, tree trunk bases and even tree hollows up to 2metres above ground level. The underground portion can be to a depth of 80cm, the upper part of which has a non-sticky web lining and the rest is left bare. The day-time temperature at the burrow end can be 3 to 5 degrees centigrade cooler than at the entrance.

Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)
Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)

The Andalucian funnel-web spider is considered to be the largest in Europe and is easily recognized. They are jet black with a glossy carapace and fine hairs on their legs and abdomen. The 1.5cm long spinnerets, at the rear, almost look like extra legs. The body can be up to 3.5cm long and the stretched legs reaching a span of 8cm.When under threat it can raise up its front legs into an attack position, exposing its fangs.

This is the only spider in Europe to be protected by the European Union Habitats Directive. They are found mostly in Cádiz and Málaga provinces with smaller numbers in scattered enclaves discovered in Huelva, Sevilla, Granada, Jaén, Gibraltar and the furthest north Badajoz, Extremadura.

Two smaller communities found in North Africa are thought to be accidental imports from Spain. Further reports of their existence on the French side of the Pyrenees have been put down to their being carried with Olive trees and such, but they are unlikely to survive cold winter temperatures.

Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)
Andalusian funnel web spider (Macrothele calpeiana)

These spiders are most active at night when they will wait at the tunnel entrance for prey to become glued onto the silken web. Their diet consists of small insects such as beetles, woodlouse, millipedes and crickets. When they feel the vibration of a trapped insect they will carefully approach, then bite the ill-fated prey with venom which will begin to liquefy it as they wrap it in silk. The venom is injected into their prey through openings in the tips of the pair of fangs. The glands that produce this venom are located in the two segments of the chelicerae. (The parts to which the fangs are attached).

“Dinner” is then taken into the private and protected retreat area behind the web to be devoured. After eating they are fastidious cleaners. Any food debris will be discarded away from the web and around an hour of thorough grooming will follow. Mites are often seen on the carapace of these spiders and this cleaning will minimize their numbers.

https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/andalusian-funnel-web-spider-macrothele-calpeiana-la-arana-negra-de-los-alcornocales/
Andalusian Funnel-Web Spider – Macrothele calpeiana – La araña negra de los alcornocales. Close up showing the mites on a females back.

Around April-May males will wander around at night in search of one or more female with which to breed. It is thought that there are pheromones in the silk of a female’s web that attract a mate. A gentle courtship ensues, as the male does not want to become the next meal. The female will eat more over the ensuing weeks, then in early July seal herself into the retreat in order to produce the egg sac.

The females care for the egg sac by carrying it with them, maneuvering to different parts of the tunnel to maintain the right levels of temperature and humidity. The young have their first moult within the sac and she then helps to release them using her fangs. Possibly 100 to 250 eggs will hatch into spiderlings. They will accompany the female to the outer web after dark and are thought to feed on smaller prey. At some point cannibalism amongst the young may occur triggering dispersal of the survivors. At this point many of the young will fall prey to other animals.

As they prefer little disturbed areas and are active at night you will not normally encounter these spiders. Be cautious if you are moving logs, rocks etc and see a sheet like web. If provoked these spiders will rear up in a threatening manner and can even give an audible hiss. unlike its famous close relative is the Australian funnel-web (Atrax robustus) whose bites can be fatal, Macrothele calpeiana venom is mild in comparison giving a localized but painful swelling.


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Mantis in Iberia

Mantis in Iberia are carnivorous insects that rest on plants while they await their prey. The size, colour and shape can vary greatly between species through their virtually world wide distribution, which consists of more than 1800 species.

Within Iberia there are 15 species on the mainland with another on the Canary Islands.

The green, brown or grey body colouring that we see in these European species allows them to hide undetected amongst shrubs or grasses.

During their early growth stages they shed their outgrown exoskeleton and at this time can take on the colour of the surrounding vegetation i.e. brown for dried grasses or green for lush plants. They will only feed on active prey and have well developed senses to locate a promising meal.

An ability to turn their heads to view 300º is unusual amongst insects and large, compound eyes set on a triangular head is a common trait amongst the differing types.

Alert to both food and danger they mostly rely on their mimicry to give them cover.

Mantids of Iberia Ameles sp. and nymph of Empusa pennata
Mantids of Iberia Ameles sp. and nymph of Empusa pennata

In their preferred method of hunting they simply sit in a discreet position, blending with their surroundings. The common name “Praying” mantis is in reference to its poise whilst waiting patiently for food to come within reach.

The two front legs are folded as if in prayer but are armed with many sharp spikes and when an insect passes close by they can snatch it from the air, grasping it as they draw their forelegs back in a pincer movement, thereby preventing escape.

Sitting close to flowers will provide a steady stream of pollinating insects to choose from, as they hunt by day. The remaining two pairs of legs are used to climb, cling onto plant material and jump.

Common European Praying Mantis leg detail
Common European Praying Mantis leg detail

Many, but not all, mantids have wings and are good flyers. The outer set of wings are coloured to match the body, are harder and act as protection for the second set.

One species in particular has another use for their wings. The Iris oratoria mantis has coloured eye spots on its wings and will stand tall, flapping its wings if it feels threatened – aiming to startle a predator. The more common and widespread Mantis religiosa has eye spots on the inside of its forelimbs which it can show to ward off predators. Males are more likely to fly while in search of a mate, some may fly to lights at night.

During copulation the male places a sperm sac inside the female. On some occasions the female may eat the head of the male during copulation if food is scarce. By doing this not only does she get necessary nourishment before egg laying but she also removes the competition for food in the vicinity. As the eggs pass through her reproductive system, the stored sperm fertilizes them. She chooses a situation to place the eggs such as a branch, stem, rock or building and exudes a substance which develops into a foam and soon hardens. (Each species produces a slightly different shaped and coloured egg case). Inside this protective foam are individual cells, as few as thirty or up to three hundred depending on type. This ootheca affords protection to the developing nymphs. A single female may produce several oothecas.

Generally the mating and egg laying takes place at the end of summer with the eggs remaining in the ootheca over winter. When the temperatures are suitable the nymphs may all hatch together or in batches. They are voracious eaters and may cannibalise their siblings if there is not adequate food available. They will soon make the first of up to 7 moults before reaching the adult stage. They emerge as miniature mantis of around 4mm but have no wings at this point, so they rely on running and jumping away from danger.

Mantis moulted skin

In most cases, from hatching to adulthood, mating and consequent egg laying and death occurs between spring and autumn of the same year. (It is rare for an adult mantis to survive through the winter). There are however some species that pass through the winter both as oothecas and nymphs such as the Iberian endemic Apteromantis aptera which is a protected species. This means that adults and nymphs may be seen together in both spring and autumn.


List of mantis present in Spain (If the text is green you can click through for further information)
  • African Mantis – Ameles africana (spallanzania) – Mantis africana
  • Ameles assoi
  • Ameles decolor
  • Ameles picteti
  • European Dwarf Mantis – Ameles spallanzania
  • Apteromantis aptera
  • Blepharopsis mendica (Canary Islands and North Africa)
  • Geomantis larvoides
  • Iris oratoria
  • Common European “Praying Mantis” – Mantis religiosa
  • Pseudoyersinia paui
  • Pseudoyersinia canariensis
  • Rivetina baetica
  • African Mantis – Sphodromantis viridis
  • Conehead Mantis – Empusa pennata
  • Perlamantis alliberti

Mantis Predators: Bee-eater and parasitic wasp
Mantis Predators: Bee-eater and parasitic wasp

Mantis species may have a voracious appetite but sometimes they are preyed upon themselves. The left hand image shows a colourful Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) which is a summer visitor to Iberia, about to take a preying mantis into the nest tunnel to feed to its young. The image to the right has been enlarged to show a tiny parasitic wasp which uses the long ovipositor at the rear to embed its eggs inside the mantis ootheca where the larva will feed off its contents, in this case the mantis eggs involved are Apteromantis aptera.

Mantis oothcae: after emergence: after parasitic wasp emergence
Mantis oothcae: after emergence: after parasitic wasp emergence

These two images are both of common Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa) oothecae. The left hand image shows pieces hanging that protect each tiny mantis inside the egg case but are shed as they exit and disperse. This was a mass emergence as there is a lot of debris, it is very fine and so will soon break away. The nymphs will always exit via the central line where there are overlaid flaps like tiles, the side walls are too solid for them to break.

The right hand image shows small holes in the side wall of the egg case, these are made by the emergence of parasitic wasps.


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Megarian banded centipede – Scolopendra cingulata – Escolopendra

Scientific: Scolopendra cingulata
English: Megarian Banded Centipede
Spanish: Escolopendra

The Megarian banded centipede – Scolopendra cingulata – Escolopendra is one of the smallest members of the scolopendra family at approximately 10-15 cm. They are easily recognised by the alternating bands of black and yellow/gold. They can be found throughout southern Europe and typically inhabit dark, damp environments such as areas beneath logs and rocks.

The head of this centipede has a pair of antennae, jaw-like mandibles, and other mouth parts. Each segment has one pair of legs. The front segment has a pair of venomous claws (called maxillipedes) that are used for both defense and for capturing and paralyzing prey. The venom is less toxic than other scolopendrid centipedes, but they are still fast moving and can be aggressive so it’s best just to look at these colourful creatures rather than try to handle them.

scolopendra cingulata-escolopendra-megarian banded centipede
Scolopendra cingulata – Escolopendra – Megarian banded centipede

They are mostly nocturnal and opportunistic carnivorous hunters, feeding on a broad variety of ground dwelling insects. Youngsters will eat crickets, or other small insects. Adults will consume almost any creature that is not larger that itself, including large crickets, other large insects, and even small lizards.


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Argiope spiders in Spain

There are three Argiope spiders in Spain. The above image is of the lobed argiope and you can clearly see the much smaller male above and to the left of her.

The Wasp Spider

  • Scientific: Argiope bruennichi
  • English: Wasp Spider
  • Spanish: Araña tigre
  • French: Argiope frelon
  • German: Wespenspinne
  • Italian: Ragno vespa
  • Portuguese: Aranha-vespa
  • Distribution: Southern, central and northern Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia.
Argiope bruennichi - female on web
Argiope bruennichi – female on web

This spider is easily recognised due the female’s large size and striking horizontal yellow, white and black stripes. Their legs are brown or blackish with darker rings. Often seen waiting in the centre of the web facing downwards with legs held in pairs. The male is much smaller, generally brown in colour with 2 variable darker brown stripes.

Living for one season, and most easily seen during summer and autumn when they reach adult size.The females measure 15-20 mm (½-¾ inch), the males measure a tiny 5 – 6 mm. (0.20”)

Argiope bruennichi - male on web
Argiope bruennichi – male on web

They create a large spiral web often with a central zigzag of thickened silk, this decoration is called stabilimenta. The web is built in open areas between shrubs or grasses and is made at dusk or dawn, usually a little above ground level and takes about an hour.

When the prey first touches the web, the spider quickly wraps it completely in silk thread. The prey is later bitten, injecting a paralysing venom and a protein dissolving enzyme that aids digestion. Food supply is generally grasshoppers and flying insects.

Often you can see a much smaller male near the female web waiting for her to complete her final moult, which is when she reaches sexual maturity. At that time her chelicerae remain soft for a short period allowing the male to mate without danger of being devoured. After mating, the female begins to increase in size. She places several hundred eggs into silk containers in late autumn. The next generation overwinter as eggs or tiny spiders inside the ootheca.


The Lobed Argiope

  • Scientific: Argiope lobata
  • English: Lobed Argiope
  • Spanish: Argiope lobulado
  • French: Argiope lobée
  • German:
  • Italian:
  • Portuguese: Tecedeira-lobada
  • Distribution: Africa and stretching to southern Europe and into Asia.

Easily recognised by its wavy edged body, which is cream to silvery white in colour with black lateral lines marking the edge of each lobe. The long legs have light and dark rings. They pose facing downwards in the centre of the web.

Argiope lobulado - female underside
Argiope lobulado – female underside

Living for one season, and most easily seen during summer and autumn when they reach adult size. The adult female reaches 25 mm (1 inch) and the male a much smaller 6 mm (¼ inch).

They live in dry, low scrub and the web is large, up to 1m in diameter (3ft3 inches), resistant, built almost vertically and discreetly placed between bushes. It is often decorated by bands of thicker silk in a zigzag pattern at the centre, a structure that is called stabilimenta.

There are three Argiope spiders in Spain. The above image is of the lobed argiope and you can clearly see the much smaller male above and to the left of her.
There are three Argiope spiders in Spain. The above image is of the lobed argiope and you can clearly see the much smaller male above and to the left of her.

Often you can see a male near the female web waiting for her to complete her final moult, which is when she reaches sexual maturity. At that time her chelicerae remain soft for a short period allowing the male to mate without danger of being devoured. After mating, the female begins to increase in size. She places several hundred eggs into silk containers in late autumn. The next generation overwinter as eggs or tiny spiders inside the ootheca.


The Banded Argiope – Argiope trifasciata

Argiope trifasciata (the banded garden spider or banded orb weaving spider is a species of spider native to North and South America, but now found in many places around the world.

In Europe it is only found in the Iberian Peninsula, Madeira, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands and is relatively common in southern Spain. (Andalusia)

Easily confused with the wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi)

Banded garden spider - Argiope trifasciata - Underside
Banded garden spider – Argiope trifasciata – Underside

Images of the banded argiope from wikipedia By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30210363

Banded garden spider - Argiope trifasciata - Female top of body
Banded garden spider – Argiope trifasciata – Female top of body

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The Iberia nature Forum

Big news this week is that we have decided to relaunch the Iberia Nature Forum.

Does a forum still have a place in this world of facebook, twitter and instagram? I think it does so please feel free to register

Sharing nature is a pleasure. It´s contagious and it´s exhilarating, it´s healthy and it´s worthwhile, no matter what your age or nationality, it´s a common language and quite possibly the easiest to learn.

With everyones help we can continue to meet in the meadows and mountains of Spain to speak this special language and enjoy the days ahead.

Please help the forum to grow by sharing with your friends and family the re launch of the Iberia Nature Forum

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