Tag Archives: La Rioja

Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park

  • Region: La Rioja
  • Province: Rioja media
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1995
  • Park surface area: 23,640 hectares
  • Towns and Villages: Villoslada de Cameros and Lumbreras de Camos

Points of interest

The only designated natural park in the region of La Rioja, the Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park is located on the northern slope of the mountains of the Iberian System about 50 kilometres from Logroño. It is also part of the Sierras de Demanda, Urbión, Cebollera and Cameros special protection areas for birdlife (Zonas de Especial Protección para las Aves (ZEPA)

The backdrop of the Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park is its smooth, rounded mountain terrain coupled with dense forests alternating with clearings in the higher areas to make room for pastures and mountain thickets.

Autumn in particular is a perfect time to visit this area as the mosaic of leaves is a fantastic sight with a whole range of warm colors from yellow to ocher and red that reveals the rich tree diversity that is camouflaged by the lush greenery of spring and summer.

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Flora

La Rioja, in general and over a very long time, has suffered somewhat from the degradation of it’s forests and woodlands (basically holm oaks) caused mainly by logging and sheep (over) grazing.

However, there still remains a long list of plantilfe such as Brachypodium retusum, Helichrysum italicum, Helichrysum stoechas, Lavandula latifolia, Lavandula stoechas, Lonicera etrusca, Pistacia lentiscus, Pistacia terebinthus, Quercus coccifera, Retama sphaerocarpa, Rosmarinus officinalis, Salsola vermiculata, Santolina chamaecyparissus and Thymus mastichina.

The richest riverside forests are those of the Ebro river (Reserva Natural de los Sotos del Ebro). As the riverside forests are humid and fertile, they have been largely occupied by agriculture but wild areas still remain with Cornus sanguinea, Crataegus monogyna, Euonymus europaeus, Fraxinus angustifolia, Humulus lupulus, Populus alba, Populus nigra and Rubus ulmifolius, Sambucus ebulus, Ulmus minor, Urtica dioica and Vitis sylvestris.

There are two types of holm oak groves in La Rioja according to the type of soil. The first is limestone, in which, for example, boxwood and strawberry trees appear (Montes Obarenes and Sierra de Toloño) and the siliceous soils in which heather, acidophilic rockrose and butcher’s broom appear, for example (Valle de Ocón, Monte de Ausejo, Sierra de Yerga, Carrascal de Villarroya, and Sierra de Alcarama). Here we can find Arbutus unedo, Quercus ilex spp. rotundifolia, Viburnum tinus, Rhamnus alaternus, Cistus albidus, Cistus laurifolius, Cistus salviifolius, Rhamnus licioides, Juniperus phoenicea and Juniperus oxycedrus.

Fauna

The Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park also enjoys a rich fauna in which birds of prey such as the goshawk, honey buzzard, booted and short-toed eagle, common buzzard, tawny owl and long-eared owl are present. Also keep an eye open for grey partridge.

Amongst the mammal population to look out for there are fox, wild boar, red deer, red squirrel, wild cat, otter and the Pyrenean desman.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro del Parque Natural Sierra Cebollera

Located in the village of Villoslada de Cameros, at the crossroads between the roads to Montenegro and the Hermitage of Lomos de Orios. There is an excellent exhibition entitled “Sierra de Cebollera: Atlantic refuge in a Mediterranean world” which looks at the most unique environmental values ​​of the Park, its fauna, flora and human impact on the area.

Opening times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Closed Mondays). Friday, Saturday and holidays: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m and from 5 to 7 p.m

Centro de Interpretación o de la Trashumancia

The Transhumance interpretation centre in the village of Lumbreros de Camos is located between the Shrine of Our Lady of the Light and the Venta de Piqueras bar/restaurant. The exhibition seeks to give an overview of the livestock activity of grazing rotation (Trashumancia) which has generated its own grazing culture in the Sierra de Cameros.

Other interpretation centres to visit in La Rioja

Centro de Interpretación de los Sotos del Ebro (Pza. de España, 1, in the town of Alfaro)

Permanent exhibition and projection covering the nature reserve of the Riverbanks of the Ebro, the stork colony and the history of Alfaro (Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro)

Centro de Interpretación del Alto Valle del Cidacos (Amancio González, 2 in the town of Arnedillo)

There are 5 themes covered in this interpretation center with information panels and audiovisual displays: Biosphere, Water, Cultural Heritage, Industrialization, Fiesta and local Traditions (The Biosphere Reserve of La Rioja is a large area that occupies almost a quarter of the southeastern part of the region).

Centro de Interpretación y Observación del Buitre Leonado “El Mirador del Buitre” (Close to the village of Arnedillo)

Located in an old disused quarry this interpretation centre allows visitors to get up close to vultures and eagles. There is an excellent exhibition covering fauna and flora and wifi cameras pointing at various nesting sites (with special attention to booted eagle and griffon vulture). It also offers the chance to observe the different habitats of the area through telescopes and binoculars. You must reserve your visit at the Tourist Information Office of Arnedillo. (Cost 2 euros per person)

Rancho de esquileo de Brieva

In the village of Brieva de Cameros all you need to learn about sheep rearing and associated cultural traditions.

Centro de Interpretación Castillo de la Luna

In the town of Cornago, the museum about the castle is well worth the visit.


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Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro

  • Region: La Rioja
  • Nearest town: Alfaro
  • Declared a Reserva Natural: 2001
  • Protected surface area: 476 hectares

Points of interest

No trip to the region of La Rioja would be complete without a visit to the Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro and the town of Alfaro (The city of storks) that holds a huge colony of white storks. The proximity of the Sotos del Ebro Natural Reserve, the baroque architecture of the Collegiate Church of San Miguel and the protection and pride of the towns inhabitants, provide the storks with an incomparable place that makes this the largest colony in the world of white storks on a single edifice.

Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro
Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro – White storks

The colony consists of about a hundred nests and the oldest ones can weigh half a ton and are made up of branches and plant remains, cloth, rope, paper and clay.

During the nesting and breeding season, the skies of Alfaro are filled with these birds, which carry materials for their nests or food for their chicks. The best place to see them is from the Plaza de España and the Mirador de las Cigüeñas.

Here in the Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro, the river Ebro runs down a very wide alluvial plain, which allows it to form a large number of meanders. This is an area of ​​outstanding ecological value since the area contains a great diversity of fauna with 13 species of fish, 20 amphibians and reptiles, 172 species of birds and 28 of mammals. This is also one of the last areas of La Rioja where original riverside woodland and forest remains (willow, poplar, alder, ash and elm).

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Fauna

In and around the water

Endemic species of fish present are the Ebro barbel (Luciobarbus graellsii), madrilla (Chondrostoma miegii), European chub (Squalius cephalus) and the freshwater blenny (Salaria fluviatilis) which is included in the regional catalogue of threatened species. There are also quite a few introduced species in the river, among among them carp (Cyprinus carpio), Northern pike (Exos lucius), Common bleak (Alburnus alburnus) and of course the Wels catfish (Silurus glanis) which, in the warm waters of the Ebro grows to record breaking sizes.

There are great concerns about the ecological impact of introducing the wels catfish to regions where it is not native. Following the introduction of wels catfish, populations of other fish species have undergone steep declines. Since its introduction in the Mequinenza Reservoir in 1974, it has spread to other parts of the Ebro basin, including its tributaries, especially the Segre River. Some endemic species of Iberian barbels that were once abundant, especially in the Ebro river have disappeared due to competition with and predation by wels catfish. The ecology of the river has also changed with a major growth in aquatic vegetation such as algae.

The habitat here is ideal for the Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita), midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans), Iberian spadefoot toad (Pelobates cultripes) and common frog (Rana perezi). The viperine (Natrix maura) is the most abundant snake and also look out for both types of terrapin, Mediterranean pond turtle (Mauremys leprosa) and the European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis).

Birdlife

The woodlands along the banks of the river are of great importance to both resident and migratory birds. During migration times birds such as cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), various duck species, grey heron (Ardea cinerea), red kite (Milvus milvus), thrush species, long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus) and different groups of finch species can be seen whilst en-route to their summer or winter grounds.

Nesting and resident birds present are the Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), waders such as the small plover (Charadrius dubius ), Green woodpecker (Picus viridis) and the scarce Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor), turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus), European sand martin (Riparia riparia), nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), robin (Erithacus rubecula), blackbird (Turdus merula), wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Melodious warbler (Hippolais polyglotta), Eurasian blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Common chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), short-toed treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), European penduline tit (Remiz pendulinus) and Cirl bunting (Emberiza cirlus).

Mammals

The habitat in the Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro is also ideal for a large amount of mammals such as Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus), wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), Mediterranean pine vole (Microtus duodecimcostatus), Southern water vole (Arbicola sapidus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), fox (Vulpes vulpes), genet (Genetta genetta), badger (Meles meles), weasel (Mustela nivalis), polecat (Mustela putorius) and wild cat (Felis silvestris)

In addition, two emblematic mammals closely linked to the aquatic environment live in in the Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro. Otter (Lutra lutra) and the European mink (Mustela lutreola).

Flora

The protection for this area has come just in time and one can imagine what this area must have looked like before the native woodlands were removed by modern agricultural practices.

The best-preserved groves are presented as dense tree formations that reach 8-15 meters in height with species such as white willow (Salíx alba), black poplar (Populus nigra), white poplar (Populus alba) and ash (Fraxinus angustifolia).

The shrub layer is mostly made up of thorny plants such as roses (Rosa sp.), Blackberries (Rubus sp.) Or hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna). Inside the groves, when they are well developed, the light is scarce so the herbaceous layer becomes poor and climbing plants such as ivy (Hedera helix) and clematis (Clematis vitalba) are present.

On certain banks and flooded areas there are formations of reed (Phragmites australis, Scirpus lacustris), cattails (Thypha angustifolia, Thypha domingensis). Growing in the flood channels and river banks there are spotted lady’s thumb (Persicaria maculosa) and knotgrass (Paspalum distichum), a grass that forms dense masses on the riverbank bank.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Interpretación de los Sotos de Alfaro y sus cigüeñas

Located in the Plaza de España in the town of Alfaro this highly recommendable information centre should be your first place to visit if you are in the area. It is packed with information not only for the Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro and the stork colony in Alfaro but also many more things to do and see in La Rioja and further afield.

The town of Alfaros website (In Spanish) is here. https://alfaro.es/turismo/Ciguenas_CInterpretacion.htm


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Lagoons and wetlands in La Rioja

Wetlands are one of the richest and most productive ecosystems on the planet. They are areas of high natural wealth that act as a prominent refuge for biodiversity and play an important role in modulating weather conditions and the hydrological cycle, without forgetting other values ​​such as landscape and socio-cultural values. There are around 50 Lagoons and wetlands in La Rioja and here is the list to help you get started with visiting some of them. The two main wetland lagoons not to miss are the laguna de Hervías and the lagunas de Urbión

Carrizal de Cofín, Laguna de Cihuri, Laguna de Hervías, Balsa de S. Martín de Berberana, Laguna de La Nava, Laguna de Mateo, Laguna de Foncea, Laguna de El Villar, Embalse de Leiva, Laguna de Cuzcurrita, Laguna de La Venta, Pantano de Sopranis (Orive), Pantano del Recuenco, Laguna de Peciña, Pantano de Valbornedo, Balsas de El Salobrar, Pantano de El Perdiguero, Balsas de Contempo, Laguna de Rabanera, Laguna de Anguta, Sotos del Ebro en Alfaro, Pantano de La Grajera, Balsas de El Cenojal o del Campo, Laguna de Chopera, Hoyos de Iregua, Hoyo de Abajo, Hoyo de Arriba, Hoyo La Huerta, Hoyo Mayor, Hoyos de Iregua, Hoyo Tajuela, Humedal de Urbión, Balsa de La Degollada, Balsa de La Degollada, Laguna de Rabanera.

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Laguna de Hervías

The Laguna de Hervías is a small natural endorheic lagoon (Mediterranean temporary pond) that occupies about 15 hectares of surface and is located in the municipality of Hervías near Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The lagoon is located at the western end of the Ebro Depression, in the Rioja Alta Region.

Flora

The current vegetation of the lagoon is characterized by its arrangement in bands associated with and depending on the degree of flooding and salinity, so that the innermost zone is basically made up of glasswort (Salicornia europaea), the zone that is flooded by Sedge (Cyperus rotundus), and the outer zone by reeds.

The different hydrophytic species or aquatic plants found in the Laguna de Hervías are algae (Chara vulgaris and C. Hispida), duckweed (Lemna sp). These non-rooted vegetation live suspended or floating on the surface of still and fresh waters with other floating herbaceous plants such as lagoon grass (Ranunculus peltatus) which has small white flowers that develop in the shallow water.

The reed beds are made up of (Typho-Scirpetum tabernaemontani) that support high salinity, cane (Phragmites australis) and these are accompanied by bindweed (Calystegia sepium) and marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) which occupy the drainage channel that surrounds the lagoon. In addition to these species small poplar groves (Populus nigra) and Mediterranean scrub type vegetation are present.

Fauna

Humid areas such as these are, in general, home to a specific associated fauna (especially aquatic birds, amphibians, insects, etc.) and are essential for the survival of the surrounding fauna, especially in arid or semi-arid areas and in highly humanized environments, as is the case of the Hervías Lagoon.

Amphibians present are Midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans), Iberian spiny toad (Bufo spinosus), Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita), San Antón frog (Hyla molleri ), Common parsley frog (Pelodytes punctatus), common Iberian frog (Rana perezi), marbled newt (Triturus marmoratus) and the palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus)

Reptiles present are slowworm (Angius fragilis), southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica) and Western three-toed skink (Chalcides striatus)

The waterfowl found in the Laguna de Hervías are of interest especially during the months of March/April (prenuptial step) when the largest number of migratory birds is recorded. However, according to the waterfowl censuses carried out in recent years, only one nesting species can be observed in this lagoon, the moorhen (Gallinulla chloropus)

Lagunas de Urbión

Lagunas de Urbión - There are around 50 Lagoons and wetlands in La Rioja
Lagunas de Urbión – There are around 50 Lagoons and wetlands in La Rioja

The Urbión wetlands complex near to the tiny village of Viniegra de Abajo is a high mountain ecosystem that has remained isolated for thousands of years in the middle of the Mediterranean region. At the foot of the Urbión mountains and on the Rioja slope, glacial effects have created this set of ten lagoons. One lagoon is permanent and typically alpine whilst the rest are smaller and do not always contain water depending on season and rainfall. In February 2006 the urbión lagoons became part of the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar)

Information Centres

The best place to head for to find out about the many lagunas in La Rioja is the main information centre for the natural Park of the Sierra de Cebollera.

It Located in the village of Villoslada de Cameros, at the crossroads between the roads to Montenegro and the Hermitage of Lomos de Orios.

There is an excellent exhibition entitled “Sierra de Cebollera: Atlantic refuge in a Mediterranean world” which looks at the most unique environmental values ​​of the park, its fauna, flora, wetlands, lagunas and human impact on the area.

Opening times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Closed Mondays). Friday, Saturday and holidays: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m and from 5 to 7 p.m

Click here for more information on the natural Park of the Sierra de Cebollera and other interpretation centres in La rioja


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