Yellow Bee Ophrys Ophrys lutea© Teresa Farino
The Sierra de Grazalema
Spring wildflowers, birds and other wildlife of Western Andalucía
Leaders: ||Teresa Farino joined sometimes by local naturalist Sue Eatock.|
2014 Dates: ||Thurs. 29 May - Thurs. 5 June|
Price: ||1,290€ per person (single-room supplement 135€), excluding flights.|
| ||Click here for full details|
The Sierra de Grazalema is one of south-western Spain's natural wonders. Its rugged limestone terrain rises to 1,654m and attracts an average annual rainfall of 2,200mm, providing a refuge for all manner of wildlife that cannot survive in the arid plains round about. Grazalema is perhaps best-known for its relict Spanish Fir forest (el pinsapar), Portuguese Squill
Scilla peruviana © Teresa Farinobut is also home to around 1,300 species of vascular plant (including some 30 orchids), as well as more than 220 species of vertebrate, notable among which are a healthy population of Spanish Ibex, the diverse forest and cliff-breeding bird communities and a rich amphibian and reptile fauna.
Grazalema is an outstanding spring destination for the travelling naturalist. Quite apart from the diversity of birds to be seen in this corner of Spain - ranging from Griffon Vulture to Greater Flamingo, from Blue Rock Thrush to Purple Gallinule - Grazalema's flora is outstanding, rich in spring wildflowers and including many attractive species that are confined to the Iberian Peninsula.
During the week we will be exploring the limestone rock gardens, meadows and pastures, Spanish Fir forests and dehesas of Cork and Western Holm Oak of the Grazalema Biosphere Reserve and parque natural (53,439ha). Here we can expect to encounter a wealth of spring-flowering monocots, notably Spanish Iris, Portuguese Squill, Spanish Bluebell, Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius © Teresa FarinoAnthericum baeticum and Ornithogalum orthophyllum, as well as many members of the Orchidaceae, including Dull, Yellow, Mirror, Bumble-bee, Sawfly and Woodcock Ophrys, and Lange's, Green-winged, Lax-flowered, Tongue, Man and Dense-flowered Orchids. Other notable spring-flowering plants of the area include Iberian endemics such as Western Peony and the related, but much rarer, Paeonia coriacea, the white-flowered saxifrages Saxifraga bourgeana, S. globulifera and S. haenseleri, the diminutive Viola demetria, the chunky, silver-leaved viper's-bugloss Echium albicans, the toadflax Linaria platycalyx and the stunning cliff-hugging knapweed Centaurea clementei.
Among the birds to look out for are those of rocky habitats such as Alpine and Pallid Swifts, Crag Martin, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow and Chough, Juvenile Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus © Teresa Farinoas well as an abundance of Griffon Vultures (some 320 pairs breed here) and the possibility of Egyptian Vulture, Golden and Bonelli's Eagles and Peregrine Falcon. More Mediterranean habitats harbour Scops Owl, Bee-eater, Thekla Lark, Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers, Black-eared Wheatear, Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes and Rock Bunting. By contrast, the thick Spanish Fir forests are home to little more than Bonelli's Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff and Short-toed Treecreeper, but our visit to this habitat is likely to be enlivened by sightings of the splendid Spanish Ibex and coloured by Western Peonies, Barton's Orchids and Sword-leaved and Red Helleborines.
The reptiles of Grazalema are many and varied, with the most commonly seen species including Large and Spanish Psammodromuses, Andalusian Wall and Ocellated Lizards, Western Three-toed Skinks and the locally endemic worm-lizard Blanus mariae. Among the butterflies on the wing at this time of year are striking Spanish Festoons and Scarce Swallowtails, Spanish, Marsh and Aetherie Fritillaries, Green-striped, Western Dappled and Wood Whites, Berger's Clouded Yellow, Provence Orange Tip, Lorquin's and Panoptes Blues and Provence Hairstreak. Male Small Red-eye Erythromma viridulum © Teresa FarinoPlenty of dragonflies should also be on the wing in sunny conditions, with Copper Demoiselle, Orange Featherleg and Orange-winged Dropwing perhaps the highlights, and we should also keep an eye out for Ringed Cascader, Orange-spotted Emerald and Pronged Clubtail. Other interesting invertebrates of the area include the fabulous Conehead Mantis, its diminutive Iberian-endemic relative Apteromantis aptera, the Megarian Banded Centipede, Striped Oil-beetles and the magnificent Andalusian Funnel-web, Europe's largest – and possibly most threatened – spider!
One day during the week we will take time out from the mountains to visit the endorheic lagoon complex of Espera: a fabulous place for birds in late spring, with White-headed Duck, Purple Gallinule and Crested Coot all fairly easy to see here, along with Black-necked Grebe, Purple Heron, Red-crested Pochard, Great Reed Warbler and even Stone Curlew. Overhead it is worth watching out for Black Kite, Marsh Harrier and Booted and Short-toed Eagles, while closer at hand we might encounter Spanish Terrapins, Large Psammodromus, several species of snakes, and amphibians such as Stripeless Tree, Iberian Water and West Iberian Painted Frogs.
Spanish Ibex Capra pyrenaica hispanica © Teresa Farino
These wetlands also harbour a wealth of dragonflies, notably Migrant Spreadwing, Iberian Bluetail, Dainty Bluet, Small Red-eye, Blue-eye, Lesser Emperor, Black-tailed Skimmer, Broad Scarlet and Violet Dropwing. The surrounding Mediterranean scrub is worth examining for Roller, Golden Oriole, Black-eared Wheatear and Woodchat Shrike, while the dry grasslands and cereal fields are coloured by pheasant's-eyes Adonis spp., Fennel Flower, Large Blue Alkanet, Yellow Cupidone, Cleonia lusitanica and the curious monocot Biarum arundanum at this time of year.
We will return to Málaga via another endorheic lagoon - Fuente de Piedra - which is home to the largest colony of Greater Flamingo in Spain (often more than 20,000 pairs), as well as breeding Collared Pratincole, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Gull-billed Tern. The surrounding arid cereal fields and scrub are a known haunt of breeding Montagu's Harrier, Stone Curlew, Short-toed Lark and Spectacled Warbler.
We also hope to have time to visit the Torcal de Antequera, whose sculpted limestone turrets harbour such botanical gems as Ranunculus rupestris, Saxifraga biternata, Phlomis lychnitis, Linaria anticaria and Iris subbiflora, as well as a community of typically Mediterranean birds and reptiles and a healthy colony of Spanish Ibex.
"We thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful excursion you organised and just wanted to thank you again for the huge effort we know you put in to it all to make it so successful. Grazalema was a perfect centre for us and the surrounding area just superb. My mind is so full of new species and those wonderfully rich assemblages we saw everywhere. Our very warmest thanks to you."
Jane and Maurice C. April 2007
Phoenicopterus roseus © Teresa Farino
The Sierra de Grazalema
Leader: Teresa Farino
2014 Dates: Thurs. 29 May - Thurs. 5 June
Price: 1,290€, including half-board, en suite accommodation in the family-run Casa de las Piedras, picnic lunches, hired minibus transport throughout, all entry fees and the services of Teresa Farino as leader. A single-room supplement of 135€ is applicable.
Although the cost of the tour is given in euros, clients may pay in sterling, the exchange rate to be calculated at the time of payment using www.oanda.com
This is a land-based tour. Flights and travel insurance (obligatory) are the responsibility of the client.
Pick-up details: In order to allow clients some flexibility with their travel arrangements, we have decided that the best option is to start from – and return to – Málaga. Several airlines fly to this destination from a range of UK airports, which should make your life as easy as possible.
Teresa will be collecting participants from Málaga airport at 13.00 on Tuesday 29 May 2014, and returning to the airport by about 16.00 at the end of the tour on Tuesday 5 June 2014, both of which will enable us to visit interesting habitats en route. Fennel Flower Nigella papillosa © Teresa FarinoPlease contact Teresa to discuss flight times and pick-up arrangements further if you have any queries, as the itinerary is flexible, up to a point.
Alternatively, those travelling to Grazalema independently can arrange to meet the group at the hotel on the first evening.
Group size: maximum 8 clients.
Booking information: please contact Teresa Farino for further details and a booking form, or if you have any queries about this tour.
|Office phone: ||(+34) 942 735154|
|Mobile phone: ||(+34) 656 337129|
||Apartado de Correos 59
"Thank you so much for the wonderful time you gave us in the Grazalema natural park. Grazalema itself was such a charming mountain town, and the surroundings were both spectacular and accessible. We were very excited to be introduced to so many choice plants. I very much hope we can join one of your splendid tours again."
James & Joy C. April 2007