Summer heat in the Sierra de Grazalema

Someone has turned up the heating here in the Sierra de Grazalema and the rain and cool of the spring seems to be a long distant memory. Temperatures are up in the high thirties and the forecast is for more intense heat yet to come which will probably take us into the forties and the Summer heat in the Sierra de Grazalema

The green fields and colourful meadows have changed to dusty soil as the summer does its work to dry seed heads. Local farmers are doing their work to harvesting the fields of wheat, sunflowers and other crops.

Nothing surely can compare with walking through a pine forest in Andalucia with cones cracking in the heat and cicadas “whirring” in the branches.

The temperature hits the melt point releasing the essential oils from cistus, rosemary and lavender that fill the air with that unmistakeable Mediterranean hot summer scent… Maybe you can guess from my words… I love Andalucia in the summer!

in summer the bright pink Nerium oleander is in full bloom and if you look closer you will see that this plant generally follows watercourses and dry (sometimes wet) gullies… Oleander hedges always provide great rewards for insect expeditions over the hot months of July and August.

Especially look out for dragonflies and damselflies, shining jewels of the summer flying alongside the butterflies that appear in a myriad of colours and sizes feeding on blue sea holly and other plants of the thistle family

Many people find it too hot during the months of July and August but for those with a special interest in insects this area is litterally a “hotspot” for many normally hard to find species.


Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!

https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/

The VoiceMap GPS Audio Guide for Ronda

If you are staying in the Grazalema area then most likely a trip to Ronda will be on the agenda and so its great to announce that recently I created the The VoiceMap GPS Audio Guide for Ronda

The VoiceMap GPS Audio Guide for Ronda

Listening to me along the way (and also some captivating guitar music from the amazing Paco Seco), you’ll pass breathtaking lookout points including the Mirador de Ronda and the Mirador de Aldehuela.

As we leave the new town behind us and enter the old, past the Mondragón Palace and museum we’ll visit Ronda’s former defensive border at the Puerta de Almocábar, and quake in the boots of history’s soldiers as you imagine approaching armies.

From there we’ll follow the old walls to the Arab Baths and the Puente Viejo bridge, before making our way back over Puente Nuevo. The tour ends in front of the Plaza de Toros, the Bullring of the Royal Cavalry of Ronda.

I’ll also provide answers to some intriguing questions like:

• What did Blas infante, the father of Spanish nationalism, do in Ronda?
• Why is one particular Italian priest famous around here?
• Who built the Puente Nuevo?
• Did Queen Isabella really visit Ronda?
• When did the Christian conquerors arrive?
• How important is bullfighting in Andalucia?

Creating the VoiceMap GPS Audio Guide for Ronda from the content here at Ronda Today has been a real pleasure and I hope that you enjoy walking the tour as much I did making it.

You can get the guide directly here: https://voicemap.me/tour/ronda/ronda-andalucia-s-city-of-dreams-a-walking-tour


Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!

https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/

Wildlife in July in the Sierra de Grazalema

There is always a marked difference between the first and second parts of this month as plants succumb to the intense heat and set their seeds. Areas that have held high moisture levels during the winter and spring will now come into their own with ribbons of bright pink Oleanders mapping the watercourses with Penny Royal and Apple Mint accompanying them. Climbing higher, aromatic herbs tucked into rock crevices in the mountains will be attracting bees and butterflies with their nectar rich blooms. Read on for more wildlife in July in the Sierra de Grazalema

Birds gather around water sources early in the morning and during the hottest part of the day for a bath and a drink at “aguaderos”. The real challenge though, for a summer birdwatcher, is identifying juvenile birds, which very often look completely different from the adults. The Robin looks odd, in its brown streaked plumage, resembling a large wren. Blue rock thrush youngsters look like their mother: brown with vermiculated breast, in other words resembling a young blackbird in a slightly lighter shade of brown. The soon to be “rainbow-coloured” Bee-eater sports lovely shades of grey and brown on its back in its first few months.

Wildlife in July in the Sierra de Grazalema
Water is a good place to look for birdlife during the heat of the summer in the Sierra de Grazalema. Goldfinch posing nicely 🙂

Birds speed-feeding before setting off back to Africa for the winter are also quite a good fortune for the birdwatcher. The European Bee-Eater starts feeding voraciously after the young birds have fledged as the colony only has a couple of months, at the most, to be strong enough to fly all the way to Africa. Want to bird watch in Spain? have a look here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/birds-and-birdwatching-in-spain/

As the intense summer sun sends many annual plants to seed, thistles and rock dwelling plants continue to provide food for the growing number of insects on the wing. Beautiful butterflies and colourful beetles take advantage of the nectar supply of Santolina, Arenaria, Sedums, Spanish oyster thistle, Eryngiums and the strangely named Tooth-pick Bishop’s Weed. As butterflies are plentiful, to see several species feeding off one plant can be a delight.

Most of the animals around us are shy and take practice to locate. The sound of bush-crickets and cicadas chirping in the day and crickets by night will accompany your stay, you can hear them, but can you find them?

Try creeping up to the water’s edge to spy on a shy terrapin, it can be a tricky task, as at the slightest movement they dive into the water!

leaf covered pool and a Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
leaf covered pool and a Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)

Reptiles are out basking in the sun and with luck they might allow us to observe their antics, but most will have disappeared at the sound of our footsteps. Reptiles in Spain here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/reptiles-and-amphibians/

Wildlife in July in the Sierra de Grazalema
Moorish gecko in the Sierra de Grazalema
Wildlife in July in the Sierra de Grazalema
Cork harvesting in July in the Sierra de Grazalema

Cork is the outer layer of bark which forms on a particular species of oak tree. The cork oak forests around us here in the Sierra de Grazalema are harvested during two months of summer.

Walk through the forest; learn how the cork is removed, its importance to the community, to the environment and, how you can help sustain it. Read about it here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/cork-and-its-huge-importance-to-the-environment/

A few plants to look out for whilst enjoying wildlife in July in the Sierra de Grazalema

Wooly Lavender (Lavandula lanata)

A shrubby lavender species found high in the limestone mountains. The pale woolly hairs on its leaves protect it from weather extremes with frosts and possible snow in winter and harsh summer droughts. The deep violet flowers are borne on spikes which grow well above the leafy part of the plant. Distribution: Southern Spain, and cultivated for garden use elsewhere.

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)

Wildlife in July in the Sierra de Grazalema

This is a tall, decorative plant often seen at roadsides and on rough ground. It culminates in a spreading umbel of tiny white flowers and always has a dark red centre. It might reach1.5 m but is very variable in height as well as flower size. This is a wild version of carrot from which our modern cultivars were derived. The root is edible when young. The umbel closes as the plant goes to seed, creating a natural cage. Distribution: Europe and SW Asia and naturalised elsewhere.

Yellow Flax (Linum tenue)

Yellow flax in the sierra de grazalema

This is a delicate plant which can grow to around 80cm in height if amongst other plants. The stems are extremely fine and often branched. The small bright yellow flowers of 5 petals are held at the tips. They may be widespread at roadsides, in pastures or on mountainsides, although never very noticeable due to their size. Distribution: Iberia and North Africa

Cynara baetica

Cynara-baetica - white thistle in the sierra de grazalema

This is an attractive thistle which is silvery white in all parts (to 80 cm tall). It can be branched at the top, having several broad white flower heads with showy, strong and slightly curved spikes beneath. The basal leaves and those on the stem are all finely cut. Found in pastures, roadsides and woodland clearings. Distribution: Endemic to Southern Spain

Sea holly (Eryngium aquifolium)

Eryngium-aquifolium - Sea holly in the sierra de grazalema

A low growing plant of the “sea holly” family which can reach around 40cm in height, though often less. It can create a decorative ground cover with its silvery green leaves and pale blue flowers – which attract butterflies. The leaves are slightly similar to holly in their dentate and prickly edges. The long bracts beneath each flower head are covered in spines, these and the branched flowering stems are often the same blue shade as the flowers. Found on dry, sunny slopes. Distribution: Southern Spain and N Africa.

Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)

Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)

An upright, branched thistle to 60 cm, with fine silvery foliage and an almost white flowering stem. The flower head is composed of many blue florets and is easily identified by its spherical shape. Grows at roadsides and in pastures, sometimes covering large areas. Distribution: Southern central and south-eastern Europe, western Asia.

Below is a list of a few more July flowers to look out for in the Sierra de Grazalema.

Yellow

Spanish Oyster Thistle (Scolymus hispanicus)
Shrubby Hare’s Ears (Bupleurum fruticosum)
Golden Stoechas (Helichrysum stoechas)
Pale Stonecrop (Sedum sediforme)
Common Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Yellow Flax (Linum tenue)
Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus)
Sweet Yarrow (Achillea ageratum)

Blue/Pink/Purple

Conehead Thyme (Coridothymus capitatus)
Oleander (Nerium oleander)
Sedum brevifolium
Throatwort (Trachelium caearulum )
Eryngium aquifolium
Putoria (Putoria calabrica)
Blue Lettuce (Lactuca tenerrima)
Wooly Lavender (Lavandula lanata)
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
Verbena (Verbena officinalis)
Dianthus broteri
Dianthus lusitanus
Delphinium gracile
Delphinium pentagynum

Hairy Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum)
Purple Starthistle (Centaurea calcitrapa)

White

Cirsum baetica
Fragrant Clematis (Clematis flammula)
Travelers’ Joy (Clematis vitalba)
Sedum album
Toothpickweed (Ammi visnaga)
Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)
Origanum (Origanum virens)
Thymus baetica
Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens)
European Heliotrope (Heliotropium europaeum)

Wildlife in July in the Sierra de Grazalema.


Wildside Holidays – Spain

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https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/

Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)

Sporting the colours yellow and black of a normal wasp, the Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex) looks strangely disconnected in flight. The overall length is from 19 to 25mm with part of that made up of a yellow “thread” or pedicel. The body is mainly black with yellow bands on the long legs which hang down in flight. They can be found in Southern Europe and Africa.

Sceliphron spirifex are solitary wasps and are not aggressive, they do not sting unless mishandled. The sexes look very similar with the female being larger and with a visible sting.

Collecting mud for the nest - Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Collecting mud for the nest – Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)

The female searches out an ideal shelter to create a mud daub nest, by flying repeatedly around an area and finally walking around to be thoroughly sure in her choice.

Shade from the sun and shelter from the rain are priority. Fine particles of mud are then collected, balled up and flown back to the chosen site. They will search out a damp patch from an irrigation system, pond or puddle, returning frequently during the day to collect more.

Mud nest of Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Mud nest of Thread-waisted Wasp
Mud nest of Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Mud nest of Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)

Several cells are connected along side each other, sharing the mud walls, but they are individual, sealed tube. Each cell will contain one egg and be provided with food for the larvae when it hatches.

The food is in the form of small spiders with between 6 and 14 per cell. These are mostly small crab or jumping spiders that the wasp hunts and brings alive but paralised to the mud cell.

Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)

Similar species

There are quite a few thread wasted or potter wasps in Spain. The Great Potter Wasp is quite beautiful but has a gruesome lifecycle similar to the thread wasted wasp detailed above.


Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!

https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/

Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, The town of Ronda, Wildside Holidays and the Caminito del Rey.