Flora and Fauna of Andalusia


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After two winter months travelling around in southern Spain, we are surprised with the number of new animals and plants that we have been able to add to our Nature Guide. Spain has a lot of flora and fauna that can not be found in the rest of Europe, but very ordinary to northern Africa.

RikenMons Flora and Fauna  Andalusia1_Himantoglossum robertianum P2022231RikenMons Flora and Fauna  Andalusia2_Aristolochia baetica P1171890RikenMons Flora and Fauna  Andalusia3_Arisarum simorrhinum PC311286

Some of the flowers we found so far: 1) the Giant orch, 2) Dutchmen's pipe 3) And our favourite the Arissarum simorrhinum. This plant we see everywhere, or we see the leaf, and only after you peek under it, you suddenly see this particular flower.

We have already talked about the Iberian ibex, the Longfingerd Bat and the Alpine Crows in an earlier blog. And of course the Barbary macaque, these monkeys from Gibraltar.

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The Black wheatear has a striking white end, 2) The Chiffchaff we often hear, but we rarely see them, 3) Also the Stonechat is always happy to be on the lookout.

One advantage of winter is that the leaves fall from the trees and you can look through the branches to the birds that are in it. Along the Spanish coast, however, many Stone pines have the needles so close together that all those cheerful Whistles and Canaries are invisible. We hear many, and not all birds are hiding, so we regularly see the Stonechat, which is almost as standard here as the Tree sparrow, while we have not seen the House Sparrow much. In the south-east, we regularly see the Black Wheatear, but rarely in the southwest of Spain. In the mountains, we encounter the Red-legged partridge in front of us on the road and the Hoopoe in the roadside.

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1) A Northern gannet dives into the sea from a great height. 2) Griffon vultures can float very well, but sometimes they have to flap to stay aloft. 3) A tree full of Cattle egret, they return here every night to sleep.

On the coast, we see the Northern Gannet and very regularly the Yellow-legged Gull, the Sanderling, the White Wagtail and many Cattle Egrets that sleep together in the same tree every evening. Also the Black Redstart, Kestrel and Crested Lark are often seen. And of course, the Griffon Vulture that still flies around in large groups at the thermals in search of food. We see many birds of prey flying, but find it difficult to recognise them in the sky.

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1) The Northern bald ibis is not plain black but has a purplish glow. 2) The three-toed sandpiper you will find in the surf. 3) Kestrel can be seen here regularly.

And ever heard of the Northern bald ibis? Only a few hundred couples are left, they live in Morocco, and in the past, there was also a significant group in Turkey, Europe. We suddenly see this group fly and, unfamiliar with this bird we think it is the Glossy ibis. But then we notice the neck feathers. Several times people tried to re-establish populations but with poor result. However, in southern Spain, there is now this group, and it is looking good.

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1) The Pill millipede does not roll up until there is a threat. 2) The same goes for this millipede does. 3) We rather see the Oriental cockroach outside than inside.

We also see small tickle bugs and butterflies. We are surprised by a slow floating butterfly, the Monarch butterfly, which we mainly know from America where they migrate from between the two continents. Here they just fly around on the sunny days as do the Large tortoiseshell. And even though most people do not like creepy bugs they make my day, and I am thrilled to see the Oriental cockroach and millipede. And new pictures for the Pill millipede and Spider Centipede.

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1) Unbelievable how well the Monarch butterfly can float. 2) You rarely find the Large tortoiseshell in the Netherlands anymore. 3) The Andalusian wall lizard can only be found here and in Morocco.

Finally, we see the Andalucian wall lizard, and with that, we have something new for every animal category!


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Walking the Sierra Espuña.

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The Sierra Espuña is a mountain range located in the south-east of Spain, not directly at the coast so in winter it can be a little cold. In the early days, snow was stored here to become ice in winter that subsequently was used in surrounding cities like Murcia. Fortunately for us today it was not freezing!RikenMon Sierra Espuna 1P1100114

We set up camp in El Berro, a small town in the north-east corner of the park. Here we find some bars, restaurants and the starting point of 2 hikes. The first night we cook our dinner outside, but this is a mistake, it becomes too cold pretty soon, so we spend the remainder of the evening in our van. The following days we use the town restaurants which offer affordable food, beer, wine and comfort.

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1) Sierra Espuna, 2) the campsite in El Berro.

Our first day we delay our walk, so the hunting time (up to 14:00) is over. However, we did not hear shots at all so maybe in this park hunting is not allowed. Now we opt for the smaller trail of about 8 km in the direction of Gebas.

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The route, signed with white-yellow markings starts directly outside the campsite. In no time we enter the forest up to the mountain, almost the entire track is off-road. Just before Gebas, the path becomes a sort of ditch, the sides 2-4 meter height and width of 6 meter. This particular pathway ends in a small tunnel close to Gebas. We decide not to go to this town but to continue on our way back, unfortunately again without sun that has just set behind the ridge. Probably this is fortunate if you do this walk in summer when temperatures here are much higher! It is getting late now, so we walk fast missing some wildlife, but we did hear and see the wallcreeper fleeing with its red wings.

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1) There is the campsite, 2,3) Looks like mistletoe, but it is pine.

The second walk is in the opposite direction. We now leave a little earlier, and the first part is on tarmac uphill. The sun is shining so soon enough we take some clothes off. After a while we enter the forest, the trail flattens, and it is getting cooler again. A varied scenery brings our first wildlife; some Moeflons quickly disappear after spotting us. This trail crosses several other hiking trails, so a little more attention is needed to find our way. We walk a small trail, seeing the road across the valley, how to get there? Fortunately, the trail ends on a footpath and then we are OK finding a refuge.

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 We spotted a small Schreibers' long-fingered bat in a cave.

Again we find ourselves on the tarmac where a few cars pass. Alongside the road we notice some caves to be exploited and, quickly we are in the dark. The temperature rises when we go deeper into the cave, and a careful inspection of the ceiling reveals a small batt. Just One that is awakened by us but not enough to flee the scene. A bit scary being without light so, we exit quickly again!

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1,2) the abandoned Sanatorium, 3) Walking down in the small valley.

Like the previous walk, we did not see anyone else during the walk, very unusual and unique. Halfway there is an abandoned Sanatorium (treating TBC patients), unfortunately, fenced so we can not peep inside. On we go into a valley downwards till we suddenly exit very close to the campsite. This time we are early enough to catch the last sunshine before going to the restaurant. There are several other trails to walk in this vast reserve, but we decide to go back to the beach where temperatures are a bit more camping orientated. A place to revisit another warmer day!

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1) Strawberry tree. 2) Bees on the watertube, 3) The mandarins are ready to eat.