Category Archives: Nature notes diary

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/

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

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/

Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema

Summer time is when many insects reach the adult phase of their life. They may have spent months, even years as a larva, drab in colour and unable to move far, possibly living underwater or underground. Now, in this last stage of their lifecycle, they might be brightly coloured, able to fly or to emit sounds and so they become more obvious to us. Insects are a very important part of the food chain on which we depend. We also rely heavily on insects for their ability to pollinate much of our food crops, and so they deserve at least a moment of our time. Here is a tiny selection of Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema

Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema
Southern Swallotail (Iphiclides feisthamelii).
Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema

Of the many butterflies on the wing during June, the Swallowtail will catch your attention due to its large size. Their main colour is a pale creamy-yellow with striking black stripes. If you can get close to one when it is stationary, then look for the red and blue scales on the hind wing, near its long ”tails”. These bright “eyespots” attract the attention of a hungry bird, if the bird successfully grabs the false eyes, then the butterfly will lose a piece of its wing but perhaps get away with its life.

See more information about butterflies in Spain over at Wildside Holidays: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/butterflies-found-in-andalusia/

According to biologists, it is a species in its own right rather than a subspecies of the Scarce Swallotail (Iphiclides podalirius)
The larvae, caterpillars, feed on wild or domestic fruiting trees such as Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Cherry (Prunus cerasus) and Apricot (Prunus armeniaca) and so are often associated with gardens and orchards.

Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi).
Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema

A brightly coloured dragonfly which has only recently made its home in Spain. This species is expanding its territory northwards from North Africa into southern Europe. The eyes, body and legs of the male are bright red with large patches of amber at the base of all four wings. Although fast flying when hunting or patrolling, they will often rest on a rock, a stick, or open ground beside a body of water. Their favourite areas include swimming pools, rivers with rocky bases and small irrigation ponds.

Read more about dragonflies in Spain here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/dragonflies-and-damselflies-in-spain/

At rest they may lower their wings which give rise to the common name of “dropwing”. Dragonflies hunt small flying insects and will often dash out from their perch, catch something and return to their resting spot to eat it.

Cicada (Cicada orni).
Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema

These are well camouflaged insects and you will only notice their presence by the powerful call emitted by the males to attract the females, a sound which accompanies long hot summer days. If you are inquisitive enough to search for them, you will notice that they often go quiet as you approach. Their overall length is approximately 2.5cm, they have bulbous eyes which are set wide apart and their transparent wings are decorated with black veins and several spots.

The adults feed on tree sap which is why they usually rest on tree trunks. They have a long proboscis which is tucked underneath the body and is not easily seen. The females lay their eggs in the late summer or autumn. As an adult they live for 1 or 2 months, whereas the larvae will live underground for several years, feeding on moisture from plant roots. This species is common in southern and central Europe

Egyptian Grasshopper (Anacridium aegyptium).
Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema

This is the largest grasshopper we have in this area and to see it fly is impressive. Size alone of the fully grown adults is enough to recognise them, you can also identify them by the vertical dark stripes in their eyes and they usually have a pale orange line along the pronotum; a shield like cover behind the head. The size of the adult can vary from 30 to 70 cm, with the males being smaller than the females.

The nymphs are similar in appearance to the adults, although their abdomen is more visible as the wings develop only a small amount with each moult that they undergo. The colour of the youngsters is varied and can be sandy, green or ochre.

Andalusian Bushcricket (Steropleurus andalusius).
Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema

Although this is a sizeable bush-cricket (20 to 35 mm) which often sits up in branches of shrubs, unless you are scanning the plants it may go unnoticed. They vary from straw coloured to brown or green, each with yellow along the sides. On this species the head is bulbous, the antennae emerge from close below the eyes and they have vestigial wing buds (the yellow area just behind the pronotum). Found in dry, scrub areas of Andalucía, they are omnivorous; eating such things as leaves, eggs and caterpillars.

Bush-crickets: have very long, fine antennae. The long, sabre-like appendage is not used in defence, this is only seen on the females and is called an ovipositor; used to place the eggs into soil or plant material – depending on the species.

Red-striped Oil Beetle (Berberomeloe majalis).
Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema

This is an unmistakeable beetle due to its distinctive size, shape and colour. The body is up to 6cm in length, black and ringed by red (or orange) stripes, hence the common name. These are warning colours, and this species is also known as a type of blister beetle; as a defensive mechanism it can excrete oil along its body that will blister skin on contact. These heavy bodied beetles are unable to fly and will drag their abdomen along.

These beetles have recently (2021) been reclassified into seperate species. Find out more here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/red-striped-oil-beetle-berberomeloe-majalis-aceitera/

As adults they eat plants and can climb surprisingly well. They live in sandy habitats where the female can dig a hole to lay hundreds of eggs in the soil. Once the tiny larvae hatch, they emerge from the soil and climb onto a flower. Here it will wait for a solitary species of bee; if lucky it will latch onto one and be carried back to where she lays her egg. The young beetle devours the egg and pollen food store, giving it the energy it needs to then develop into an adult beetle itself.

I hope you enjoyed Insects in June in the Sierra de Grazalema. Please feel free to leave a comment!


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/

Butterflies on the wing in June in the Sierra de Grazalema

These delicate insects can be seen in a multitude of colours, patterns and sizes, ranging from 3 to 10 cm and from plain white to jazzy orange mosaics. There are 80+ species of butterflies on the wing in June in the Sierra de Grazalema. Some are rare and localised, others are common throughout Europe.

Read more about butterflies in Spain over at Wildside Holidays: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/butterflies-found-in-andalusia/

A hot sunny day in June, proved to be a good time to see a variety of butterflies whilst walking on the Sierra de Endrinal footpath above the village of Grazalema. Some species were numerous, others in singles and not all of them posed to be photographed, but this will give you an idea of what butterflies you might be able to see in Grazalema. Heres the list of the butterflies seen on the day and a gallery of images of some of them. 🙂

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra)
Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)
Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Pieris rapae)
Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi)
Moroccan Orange-tip (Anthocharis belia)

Blue-spot Hairstreak (Satyrium spini)
False-ilex Hairstreak (Satyrium esculi)
Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus)
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros)

Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia)
Knapweed fritillary (Melitaea phoebe)

Spanish Marbled White (Melanargia ines)
Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis)
Southern Gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia)
Spanish Gatekeeper (Pyronia bathsheba)
Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera)

Rock Grayling (Hipparchia alcyone)

Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus action)
Sage skipper (Muschampia proto)

Butterfly spotting and photography tips

The flowers which attracted many butterflies were the scabious, thyme and putoria. These type of plants also make it easier for a closer look, or for photography as with many tiny blooms clustered together to feed from, the butterfly remains in one place for a while. If you find a very flowery patch you may want to sit and wait to see which ones come to you.

It is a good idea to use binoculars for a more detailed view of particularly fidgety or nervous species, and a zoom lens on your camera means they do not feel too encroached. I like to take a distant shot, just for the record, then sneak in closer bit by bit, improving the images as I go. A shadow crossing over a butterfly is often enough to spook it, so stay low! And a tip to get as much of the butterfly in focus as possible – keep the camera at the same tilt/angle as its wings.

Happy butterfly spotting! 🙂


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/

June flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema

Road side verges are full of colour and cereal fields can turn red with poppies or yellow with false fennel during late May and into June. As the weeks progress spring blooms will be turning to seed and the golden browns of summer will begin to dominate the lower landscapes. Howeve,r the later flowering of the mountainous plants means that there is still plenty to discover in what is known as the ‘hedgehog zone’. Here are a few of the June flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema to look out for.

Purple Milk Thistle (Galactites tomentosa)

The flowers are generally around 3 cm in width, lilac to purple in colour or occasionally white. The stems and flower buds appear white as they are covered in fine hairs. The leaves are narrow and spiny, with white markings. They can grow to around 80 cm in height. Found on uncultivated or barren ground, well-drained soils, pastures and roadsides. Distribution: SW and S of Europe, NW Africa.

June flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
Spanish Oyster Thistle (Scolymus hispanicus)

This is a robust, branched thistle which is usually wider at the base and can grow more than a metre tall. The yellow flowers are around 2–3 cm diameter. The new basal leaves are collected when in season as a wild vegetable. They are often cooked with scrambled eggs or with chickpeas in a stew and are locally called “Tagarninas”.
Distribution: Mediterranean area.

flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
Campanula (Campanula specularioides)

This delicate looking annual campanula forms small mats of leaves, topped by purple flowers with a white centre and dark purple veining. It can be found in limestone rock crevices and in built walls. Although it can grow profusely around the village of Grazalema, it is very localised. (Also known as Campanula lusitanica subsp. Specularioides) Distribution: Sierra de Grazalema and Serranía de Ronda.

flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema
Pale Stonecrop (Sedum sediforme)

This is a perennial, evergreen plant which can grow in the most inhospitable areas, including baking hot clay roof tiles. They store moisture in the small plump leaves which are a bronze / green in colour. It can reach a height of around 50cm when in flower. Each upright stem is topped by a radial spray of small yellow flowers of 5 petals. Can be seen in arid rocky areas, rock crevices, in dry-stone walls and rooftops.
Distribution: Mediterranean area.

Pale Stonecrop (Sedum sediforme)
Putoria (Putoria calabrica)

This is a low growing, spreading evergreen, which is woody at the base and forms a dense mat. During the summer it is covered in tight clusters of delicate, pink tubular flowers, which are very popular with butterflies and bees. The flowers are followed by red berries, and they can occasionally be seen bearing both. Found on vertical limestone cliffs, rocky areas and slopes. Distribution: Mediterranean area.

Putoria (Putoria calabrica)
Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

An elegant orchid smothered in pink flowers which are densely arranged in a cone shape on the flowering scape. May reach 30cm in height and can be seen in meadows and rocky exposed slopes. Unlike the bee-orchid group, these are pollinated by butterflies and moths. Distribution: Central and Southern Europe, Mediterranean region.

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Nature Plus – Grazalema

Your local guide at Nature Plus – Grazalema is Sue Eatock. Originally from the UK, she has lived in Grazalema since 2005 and specializes in the wild plants and animals of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park’.


Below is a list of a few more June flowers in the Sierra de Grazalema.

Yellow

Retama (Lygos sphaerocarpa)
Biting Stonecrop (Sedum acre)
Pistorinia breviflora
Squirting Cucumber (Ecballium elaterium)
Star Hawkbit (Rhagadiolus stellatus)
Rabbit’s Bread (Andryala integrifolia)
Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola)
Chondrillia (Chondrilla juncea)
Bladder Vetch (Anthyllis tetraphylla)
St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)
Yellow Bartsia (Parentucellia viscose)
Great Mullein (Verbascum giganteum)
False fennel (Ridolfia segetum)
Elaoselinum foetidum

Red and orange

Field Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
Long-headed Poppy (Papaver dubium)
Prickly Poppy (Papaver argemone)
Rough headed poppy (Papaver hybridum)
Grazalema Poppy (Papaver rupifragum)

White

Oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. virens)
White stonecrop (Sedum album)
Sedum brevifolium
Sedum hirsutum subsp. baeticum
Sedum rubens
Saxifraga bourgeana
Saxifraga globulifera
Hormathophylla spinosa

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)
White Flax (Linum suffruticosum)
Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris)
Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum)
Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)
Mediterranean Daphne (Daphne gnidium)
Clematis (Clematis vitalba)
Hedge parsley (Torilis arvensis)
Bear’s-breeches (Acanthus mollis)
Evergreen Rose (Rosa sempervirens)
Silver sage (Salvia argentea)
Fragrant virgin’s bower (Clematis flammula)
Traveller’s Joy (Clematis vitalba)

Purples blues and pinks

Oleander (Nerium oleander)
Barrelier’s Sage (Salvia barrelieri)
Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)
Sheep’s bit scabious (Jasione Montana)
Purple Rush Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
False grass-poly (Lythrum junceum)
Phlomis herba-venti
Cleonia lusitanica
Pistorinia hispanica

Cliffhanger (Chaenorhinum Villosum)
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Blue Aphyllanthes (Aphyllanthes monspeliensis)
Putoria (Putoria calabrica)
Spanish love-in-a-mist (Nigella papillosa subsp. papillosa)
Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)
Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum)
Tree Honeysuckle (Lonicera arborea)
Pitch Trefoil (Bituminaria bituminosa)
Cottonball Clover (Trifolium tomentosum)
Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)
Dog Figwort (Scrophularia canina)
Mediterranean lineseed (Bellardia trixago)
Blue lettuce (Lactuca tenerrima)
Staehelina (Staehelina dubia)
Cupid’s dart (Catananche caerulea)
Purple starthistle (Centaurea calcitrapa)
Hairy pink (Petrorhagia dubia)
Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea)
Wild Artichoke (Cynara humilis)
Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)
Scabious (Lomelosia simplex)
Mournful Widow (Sixalix atropurpurea)
Delphinium pentagynum
Stavesacre (Delphinium staphisagria)
Sand Spurrey (Spergularia purpurea)
Rampion bellflower (Campanula rapunculus)
Campanula velutina
Campanula specularioides
Campanula lusitanica
Sedum mucizonia
Asperula hirsuta

Orchids

Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum)
Bug Orchid (Anacamptis (Orchis) coriophora)
Robust Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza elata)
Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)
Red Helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra)
Tongue Orchid (Serapias lingua)
Small-flowered serapias (Serapias parviflora)


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/