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Spring in the Sierra de Grazalema, Andalucia

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Offline Sue

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« on: May 17, 2007, 21:20 PM »
A week of walks around the Sierra de Grazalema in early May to visit spectacular view points, observe the wildlife and enjoy the wildflowers. The starting point is Garganta Verde, a deep gorge with vertical cliffs that are home to several hundred breeding Griffon vultures. Passing the gate from the car park, accompanied by the song of a Nightingale, onto a narrow path through Mediterranean scrub such as Purple phlomis just coming into flower and Lentisc often tangled with Honeysuckle or Smilax. Small birds like Sardinian warblers hide in this dense cover. The occasional taller trees are Carob with Gorse about to turn the predominant colour from green to yellow. A slight incline goes up through Retama scrub and patches of low white Daisies, yellow Hawkbit, blue Pimpernel and Bladder vetch. There is the call of a common Cuckoo in the background and the occasional rustle of lizards moving away from us through the grasses.

A Black wheatear flies from a rocky perch catching insects and offering great views of its white tail. Clouded yellow, Scarce Swallowtail, Brimstone and Spanish festoon butterflies bring our eyes back to the path. A zigzag descent through scrub including European fan palm and Turpentine tree demands more concentration to avoid loose rocks. The last scrabble upwards to the vulture viewing platform climbs roughly hewn steps in the limestone rock with every nook containing plant life including the Silvery-leaved hound's-tongue and yellow flowered Wild jasmine.

A tall column of vultures circled at the far end of the cliffs with several more perched on the high points, their form obvious against the backdrop of blue sky. Scanning the ledges with binoculars reveals numerous adult vultures guarding their chicks. The chicks themselves don't seem to be able to set their wings comfortably within the nest and sprawl like leggy teenagers across a sofa. Setting up a telescope allows a close up view of the feeding of a chick. Better left to the imagination, let's just say that a gooey mass is regurgitated from the crop (holding pouch in the throat) which the young ones swallow eagerly.

Closer to hand Red-billed choughs show their aerial prowess by rising and plummeting in a noisy display. Great-spotted woodpeckers, Linnets, Goldfinches, Sardinian warblers, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Serins entertain us at close quarters while Swift, Alpine swift and Crag martins feed high above us on the wing.

The flowers around us on the cliffs are white, fine and airy Crambe filiformis, Andalucian yellow toadflax hugs the rocks and forget-me-not style white flowers of Omphalodes commutata takes advantage of shady crevices.

Eyes again to the sky as vultures return from a feed, cutting in close and the quiet is disturbed as they lower their landing gear, fold in wings and drop steeply to their ledges. The last second opening of their wings gives a final lift before landing at the nest.

Some of what we saw in English common name, Scientific and Spanish common name.
Griffon vulture Gyps fulvus Buitre leonado
Black wheatear Oenanthe leucura Collalba Negra
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus Aguililla Calzada
Red-billed chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Chova Piquirroja
Great-spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major Pico Picapinos
Linnet Carduelis cannabina Pardillo Común
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Jilguero
Sardinian warbler Sylvia melanocephala Curruca Cabecinegra
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Pinzón Vulgar
Blackbird Turdus merula Mirlo Común
Serin Serinus serinus Verdecillo
Swift Apus apus Vencejo Común
Alpine swift Apus melba Vencejo Real
Crag martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris Avión Roquero
Cuckoo Cuculus canorus Cuco Común
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Ruiseñor Común

Clouded yellow Colias croceus Colias común
Spanish festoon Zerynthia rumina Arlequí­n
Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius Chupaleches
Provence Orange Tip Anthocharis euphenoides Puntanaranjada Meridional?
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni Limonera

Lentisc Pistacia lentiscus Lentisco
Purple Phlomis Phlomis purpurea Matagallo
Common Smilax Smilax aspera Zarzaparrilla
European fan palm Chamaerops humilis Palmito común
Turpentine tree Pistacia terebinthus Terebinto
Retama Retama sphaerocarpa Retama
Carob Ceratonia siliqua Algarrobo
Bladder vetch Anthyllis tetraphylla Trebol de pezón de vaca
Silvery-leaved hound's-tongue Cynoglossum cheirifolium Viniebla de hoja de alhelí­
Wild jasmine Jasminium fruticans Jazmí­n silvestre
Crambe filiformis
Andalucian yellow toadflax Linaria platycalyx
Omphalodes commutata Carmelita

Sue
« Last Edit: June 14, 2007, 21:07 PM by Sue »
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Offline Sue

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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2007, 19:13 PM »
"La Rana" is a seasonally damp meadow that is home in the month of May to a large number of orchids plus extensive carpets of blue and yellow lupins, dotted with tall pink gladioli and low growing white star of Bethlehem. The land which is mostly unfenced lies 6 kilometres out of Grazalema village on the road to Villaluenga. There are a few scattered cork and evergreen oak trees within the grassland and a small stand of pines. A green woodpecker called loudly from the pines and woodchat shrikes went about the business of feeding their fledglings. Bee eaters flew above in small numbers and we disturbed many small heath butterflies as we stepped carefully through the short grass.

Whereas the lupins form brightly coloured swathes the orchids are mostly small and remain unseen unless you walk right up to them. Only then can their amazing shapes, patterns and details be appreciated. Several species can be found together in mixed clusters or scattered thinly throughout.

The Champagne orchid, which is a fairly dainty purple flower, grows in large patches. Ophrys dyris, a mix of dark velvety brown, green and peach colours, also grows well here although more scattered. Sawfly orchids which are a more garish pink and yellow are found in singles or small clusters. The showy pink butterfly orchids are limited to just a handful of plants throughout the whole park area. La Rana has just two clusters that we could find. Orchis gennarii is a taller orchid of various shades of pink through to purple as it is a cross between the champagne and butterfly orchids, interestingly it is growing far more prolifically than the butterfly orchid although it is a sterile hybrid.
There were just a few Lange's orchids tucked close to a fenced edge and one woodcock orchid as it is a little early for these given the altitude of around 800m above sea level.
The last orchid that we came across here, is one that is not known to us nor is it listed in the new orchid book for the area.

Hairy lupin Lupinus micranthus Altramuz peludo
Yellow lupin Lupinus luteus
Byzantine gladiolus Gladiolus Byzantinus Gladiolo de campo
Star of Bethlehem Ornithogalum orthophyllum  Leche de ave

Champagne orchid Orchis champagneuxii
Orchis gennarii
Butterfly orchid Orchis papilionacea Orquí­dea mariposa
Lange's orchid Orchis langei Orchis de Lange
Sawfly orchid Ophrys tenthredinifera Flor de Avispa
Ophrys of unknown name ???
Woodcock orchid Ophrys scolopax Abejera Becada 
Small flowered serapia Serapias parviflora
Tongue orchid Serapias lingua

Sue
« Last Edit: June 05, 2007, 20:50 PM by Sue »
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Offline lisa

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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2007, 22:36 PM »
Hi Sue,
lovely ophrys, no idea which though.
I'm a bit worried about the lupins. We went to the other side of the world a couple of years ago (N.Z. very passing ref.) and the place was covered in them. Artificially introduced of course. I wonder to what extent yours spread?
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Offline Sue

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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2007, 23:02 PM »
Hi Lisa,

the fields of La Rana are the only open area that i have seen with lupins growing strongly, otherwise they seem to be restricted to occasional roadside banks. Both varieties are found wild in Spain. Although not suitable as animal food, they do make quite a spectacle when in bloom.

Regards, Sue

Hairy lupin Lupinus micranthus Altramuz peludo
Yellow lupin Lupinus luteus
« Last Edit: May 23, 2007, 21:29 PM by Sue »
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Offline lisa

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« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2007, 07:24 AM »
Thanks for the info Sue. I was wondering because we don't seem to have any lupins here at all.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2007, 07:27 AM by lisa »
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Offline Sue

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« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2007, 10:38 AM »
Hi Lisa,

the lupins grow in sandy soil, along with the cork oak trees here. Although the peaks of Grazalema are limestone there are various other different soils zones making up the park. Are you just on limestone in your patch??

Regards, Sue
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Offline lisa

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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2007, 08:34 AM »
Sorry Sue, got sidetracked by a certain blue flower.
Apart from the limestone, we've got conglomerate (poss. sandy?) and some Devonian sandstone towards the north. Will keep my eyes open the next time we head to the coast. Can't be anything to do with latitude with them being such a common feature of that northern isle.
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Offline Sue

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« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2007, 00:05 AM »
El Pinsapar

Found on the Puerto De Las Palomas road out of Grazalema, this walk starts uphill through pine woodland where we were chided by robins and wrens. Several small blue butterflies eluded identification by refusing to sit still. Provence orange tip butterflies passing swiftly by didn't need to stop as their colouration is an obvious id. Speckled wood and Wall brown b.flies enjoyed the dappled shade, as did we. A Western bonelli's warbler sang above from a pine bough.

Scurrying lizards in the grasses all appeared to be Large Psammodromus. We have seen a Western three-toed skink on this walk but, on another occasion. Clouds of pollen dusted us as a gentle breeze released it from the Aleppo pine trees. Clearings in the wood opened up views over the village of Grazalema and the mountains beyond.

Drawing close to the top of the climb there were a few orchids of both Dyris and Lange's. Tussocks of Blue aphyllanthes monspeliensis decorated the path sides. Once at the top we sat and enjoyed the view, now overlooking Garganta Verde (where we had previously watched the Griffon vultures at their nests) and beyond the mountains onto the flat arable fields towards Arcos de la Frontera. Closer to where we were sitting laid a Spanish Ibex resting alone on an outcrop of rocks. Asphodels held onto their flowers here whereas at lower altitude they were already forming seeds.

Progress along the, now almost level, path was initially slow due to many different plants flowering, Rush-leaved jonquil, with its delicate yellow flower, Dense-flowered orchid, easily overlooked as it is not a showy variety, Viola demetria, a miniature yellow viola that although numerous is so tiny it can be missed. Saxifrage is tucked into rocky crevices and white Ionopsidium prolongoi forms low patches on the stony ground. In a small tree above us a Subalpine warbler flicked and twitched showing its dislike of visitors before flying off down the slope.

A grassy area forms a natural view point decorated with Andaluz storksbill and from here it is a short distance to our turning point, the snow well, which is adorned inside with ferns and ivy. The snow well is a vast, stone lined, pit dug into the mountain for the purpose of collecting and storing snow. The compacting of snow created ice which was later transported off the peaks down to the towns by pack mules.

Mounds of lilac flowering Hedgehog brooms cover the slope near the well. Carpenter and bumble bees were frantically climbing through the sharp spines to reach the flowers. From this point there is a good view of the Abies pinsapo forest that covers the northern, cooler, slopes of Sierra del Pinar.



Rush-leaved jonquil Narcissus assoanus
Demeter's violet Viola demetria
False candytuft Ionopsidium prolongoi Mostacilla de prolongo
Ronda wallflower Erysimum rondae Berza rondeña
Hedgehog broom Erinacea anthyllis Piorno azul
Andaluz storksbill Erodium primulaceum Aguja de pastor
Blue aphyllanthes Aphyllanthes monspeliensis Junquillo falso
Dense-flowered orchid Neotinea maculata
Dyris Ophrys Dyris
Lange's Orchis langei
Aleppo pine Pinus halepensis Carrasco
Spanish fir Abies pinsapo Pinsapo
Spanish Ibex Capra pyrenaica hispanica Cabra montés
Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algirus Lagartija colilarga
Winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes Chochín
Robin Erithacus rubecula Petirrojo
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans Curruca Carrasqueña
Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli Mosquitero
Carpenter bee Xylocopa violacea Abejorro / La abeja azul de la madera
Provence orange tip Anthocharis euphenoides Puntanaranjada Meridional?
Speckled wood Pararge aegeria Mariposa de los muros
Wall brown Lasiommata megera Saltacercas
« Last Edit: June 05, 2007, 20:54 PM by Sue »
Thinking of visiting the beautiful Sierra de Grazalema in Andalucia?
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2007, 23:30 PM »
Spanish sighs
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Sue

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« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2007, 17:53 PM »
La Ermita, Garganta Verde

At the base of the Garganta Verde ("Green Gorge" near Zahara de la Sierra) is La Ermita, a most amazing cathedral sized opening in the rock. To get to it, there is a steeply descending path that requires concentration, good boots, reasonable fitness and plenty of cool water for the return journey!

The path sets off from a car park on the Zahara to Grazalema mountain pass road. (Permission must be sought from the visitors centre in El Bosque as the number of daily entrants is limited to 30.) The initial path winds gently through Retama, Lentisc, Honeysuckle, Juniper, Rhamnus, Purple phlomis and a selection of flowers that attracted many butterflies, mainly small dark streaks of Spanish gatekeepers. Low flowering plants in early summer include scented Pink woodruff, bright Mallow-leaved bindweed, strikingly blue Cupidone, yellow daisy like Pallensis, mixed Thyme, tussocks of Blue aphyllanthes, unusual Pine-cone knapweed and delicate Crupina.

Once onto the rocky path that zigzags down into the gorge, a view of the sheer sided valley, surrounding by tree covered slopes and soft orange streaked cliffs opens out.  The plants alter now, there are more Carob, Wild olives and Turpentine trees with European dwarf palms all among a steep carpet of mixed wild flowers. Small patches of Paronychia look like mounds of snow on the rocks with their bright white bracts hiding any green leaves. Occasional tall Pinks and soft blue cushions of Jasione grow among decorative grasses. Butterflies flying back and forth include many Marsh fritillaries, Provence orange tip, Western Dappled White, large and bright Cleopatra, Clouded yellow and Speckled wood with the first Two-tailed pasha so far this year. Birds seen on rocky outcrops are Black Wheatear, Black redstart and Blue Rock Thrush. The sky is busy with Red-billed choughs, Sand martins and Swifts, the large passing shadows are created by Griffon vultures or less frequently Short -Toed Eagle with tiny Sardinian warblers chattering close by in the trees.

As we drop further into the gorge the rock crevices contain Putoria, Hairy toadflax and then lower still to Ferns, Stonecrop and Navelwort. Large leaves of Bear's breeches help to give a lush feel to this cooler zone. The trees become tall and slender as they stretch for the reduced sunlight. Figs, Sweet laurel and Laurustinus draped with Smilax and Bramble close in over our heads as we drop into the recently dried river bed, virtually closed off by huge boulders. All under the gaze of a silent Robin from an Oleander bush. A Cetti's warbler continued with the busy job of feeding newly fledged chicks. A fairly short but by no means easy walk brings us into a narrow chasm with high vertical sides. La Ermita opening is on the outer bend of a curve in the river bed. This shelter in the rock is of mammoth proportions with the added attraction of being a soft pink with green streaks. Calcium deposits form shapely, stationary cascades with stalactites and stalagmites continuing to grow. There are small holes in the roof that are home to nesting, noisy Alpine swifts. Rock doves make nests in the larger crevices and House martins attach their mud abodes to the rough ceiling.

The only way out further down the river bed drops over massive rocks and tall cascades requiring ropes and climbing guides, so for us the slow accent returning by the same path is the only option.

Yellow Retama (Lygos)  Retama sphaerocarpa Retama
Lentisc Pistacia lentiscus Lentisco
Honeysuckle Lonicera Madreselva       
Phoenician juniper Juniperus phoenicea Sabina negra
Mediterranean buckthorn Rhamnus alaternus Aladierno
Mallow-leaved bindweed Convolvulus althaeoides Campanilla de Canarias
Crupina Crupina crupinastrum Escobas
Pallensis Pallenis spinosa Castañuela
Blue aphyllanthes Aphyllanthes monspeliensis Junquillo falso
Purple phlomis Phlomis purpurea Matagallo
Cupidone Catananche caerulea Hierba cupido
Pink woodruff Asperula hirsuta Asperilla
European dwarf palm Chamaerops humilis  Palmito       
Paronychia Paronychia capitata Arrecadas
Pinks Dianthus Clavel
Jasiones foliosa subso minuta ?
Pine-cone knapweed Leuzea conifera Piña de San Juan / Cuchara de pastor
Putoria Putoria calabrica Hedionda
Hairy toadflax Chaenorhinum villosum
Rusty back fern Ceterach officinarum
Maidenhair fern Adiantum capillus-veneris
Navelwort Umbilicus rupestris Ombligo de Venus
Pale stonecrop Sedum sediforme Uvas de pajaro
Bear's breeches Acanthus mollis Acanto
Smilax Smilax aspera Zarzaparrilla
Bramble Rubus fruiticosus Zarza
Oleander Nerium oleander Adelfa

Carob Ceratonia siliqua Algarrobo       
Wild olives Olea europaea subsp oleaster Acebuche         
Turpentine trees Pistacia terebinthus Cornicabra         
Fig Ficus carica Higuera   
Sweet laurel Laurus nobilis Laurel         
Laurustinus Viburnum tinus Durillo     
   

Spanish gatekeeper Pyronia bathseba Lobito listado
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas Manto bicolor
Marsh fritillary Euphydryas aurini Doncella de ondas rojas
Provence orange tip Anthocharis euphenoides Puntanaranjada Meridional?
Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra Cleopatra
Clouded yellow Colias crocea Colias común
Speckled wood Pararge aegeria Mariposa de los muros
Western Dappled White Euchloe crameri Blanca Meridional
Two-tailed pasha Charaxes jasius Bajá de dos colas

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura Collalba Negra   
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius Roquero Solitario   
Red-billed chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Chova Piquirroja   
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris Avión Roquero   
Swift Apus apus Vencejo Común
Griffon vultures Gyps fulvus Buitre Leonado   
Short -Toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus Culebrera Europea   
Sardinian warbler Sylvia melanocephala Curruca Cabecinegra   
Black Redstart Pheonicurus ochruros Colirrojo Tizón   
Robin Erithacus rubecula Petirrojo   
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Ruiseñor Bastardo   
Rock dove Columba livia Paloma Bravá   
Alpine swifts Apus melba Vencejo Real
House martin Delichon urbica Avion Común   

« Last Edit: June 14, 2007, 21:20 PM by Sue »
Thinking of visiting the beautiful Sierra de Grazalema in Andalucia?
www.grazalemaguide.com