Category Archives: Walking in Nature

February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema

Even though its still winter, February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema is well worth looking out for. Resident birds will be actively looking for a mate, or existing pairs renovating old nest sites. The latter includes the protected Bonelli’s eagle which can give an amazing aerial display while warding off any large birds which stray into their territory.

February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Bonnellis eagle attacking a griffon vulture

Griffon vultures will be alternating their incubation duties, imagine piloting an approximately 9ft (3m) wingspan onto a narrow cliff ledge – it is an awesome sight! Swallows herald the coming spring season and they will be passing through with a selection of interesting birdlife on their northwards migration.

Small herds of Spanish Ibex quietly graze while moving across the mountains, although as large as a domestic goat, seeing them can sometimes be quite a challenge as their colours blend so well into the landscape. Look out for the Alpha male as he watches over his herd, distinctive large horns set him apart from the rest.

February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
The male Spanish ibex are unmistakeable with their large horns.

Pools of winter rain ensure an active time for amphibians with either flowing streams or temporary puddles providing ideal breeding grounds. For Fire salamanders, Iberian parsley frogs, Natterjack toads and Southern (pygmy) marbled newts, this is a great time to see their lifecycle stages with spawn, tadpoles and hopefully a few adults too

Wildflowers are always a welcome sight, especially through the winter months, as coupled with the birds beginning to sing they show us that spring is just around the corner.

Continuing their flowering from January, almond trees in blossom are the most noticeable which adorn the hillsides and fields, varying from almost white to a shocking pink. The Paperwhite narcissus, Branched asphodels and Broad-leaved iris as each can create swathes of colour across pastures. Even the much smaller flowered Andaluz storksbill and Field marigolds can cover a large area in pink or golden yellow respectively.

Giant orchids are robust plants and the first orchids of the year to flower in these mountains. Other notable plants are the variety of wild narcissus – many cultivated hybrids used in gardens today originated from these endemic species native to Southern Spain.

Narcissus baeticus (Also known as Narcissus assoanus subsp. praelongus)
February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Narcissus baeticus (Also known as Narcissus assoanus subsp. praelongus)

A small and scented yellow narcissus with up to four flowers per stem held on long, sometimes curved, tube. They are found in small clusters or scattered in an open colony. The leaves are grooved on the upper side, rounded beneath and lax in habit. This bulbous plant grows in rocky limestone grasslands, dry pastures, in mountainous areas. Distribution; endemic to Andalucia in the Baetic mountain range.

Giant orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum)
February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Himantoglossum robertianum are the first orchids to flower in the Sierra de Grazalema

This is the earliest orchid to flower in the Grazalema area, it earns its name by reaching 50cm in height. The overall flower colour is pink – purple, with occasional white – green forms. The basal rosette is made of large dark green leaves, the finer upper leaves clasp the scape (flower stem). Found scattered on grassy slopes, roadsides, amongst scrub and in light woodland. Distribution; much of the Mediterranean area, excluding the east.

Branched Asphodel (Asphodelus ramosus)
February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Branched Asphodel (Asphodelus ramosus)

The white flowers have a pinkish – brown stripe through the back of each tepal, most noticeable when in bud. (Tepal describes both petals and sepals when they look equal). The flowering stem is around 1metre tall with many branches, but none longer than the central raceme. Each branch is covered in multiple flowers, each backed by a whitish papery bract. The leaves are grey / green, strap like and form a dense clump at the base. As they are not palatable to animals, pastures can be over taken by them. Found on rocky slopes, waste ground, open pine forests and roadsides. Distribution; Mediterranean Region.

Sombre bee orchid (Ophrys fusca)
February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Sombre bee orchid (Ophrys fusca)

This is the earliest of the Ophrys group of orchids here. Individuals are not easy to spot due to their dull colours blending well into the landscape, but it can form large colonies. The flower spike holds between 3 to 10 flowers, the sepals are generally green, concave, oblong to oval, the petals are shorter, green/yellow and narrow. The lip is tri-lobed, the central lobe is the largest and notched at the base; the smooth upper area has a blue/grey pattern like insect wings, the lower area is a reddish brown and covered in velvety hairs like a bee. Some have a yellow outer trim, and there are many variants. Found scattered on grassy slopes, roadsides, amongst scrub and in light woodland. General distribution of Ophrys fusca is the Mediterranean Region, with many isolated subspecies.

Friars Cowl (Arisarum simorrhinum)
February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Friars Cowl (Arisarum simorrhinum)

The heart shaped leaves sit close to the ground in a patch or clump, hiding within is the unusual inflorescence. The brown and white spathe is n upright tube, curled over at the top with a bulbous tipped spadix in the mouth. It can be found in stony areas and in rock crevices. Distribution; South and east Spain, NW Africa

Andaluz storksbill (Erodium primulaceum)
February wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Andaluz storksbill (Erodium primulaceum)

A multitude of these plants can cover the ground creating a pink carpet. Recognised by the five pink petals which are uneven in size; the two shorter, upper petals usually have a dark purple mark at the base. The leaves are finely pinnate. It is most frequently seen creating a matt at ground level, but occasionally growing to 50cm -if competing with grasses. Open ground, uncultivated areas. Distribution; Southern Spain, NW Africa.

A few other plants in flower to look out for whilst you are walking in the Sierra de Grazalema
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Violet cabbage (Moricandia moricandiodes)
  • Bean trefoil (Anagyris foetida)
  • Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia baetica)
  • Hoop petticoat daffodil (Narcissus bulbocodium)
  • Western gorse (Ulex parviflorus)
  • Narcissus cerrolazae, previously N. fernandesii
  • Common daisy (Bellis sylvestris)
  • Marsh chamomile (Chamaemelum fuscatum)
  • Field marigold (Calendula arvensis)
  • Bermuda buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae) Invasive introduced species
  • Fedia (Fedia cornucopiae)
  • Common mallow (Malva sylvestris)
  • Spurge laurel (Daphne laureola)
  • Periwinkle (Vinca difformis)
  • Tree germander (Teucrium fruticans)
  • Southern knapweed (Centaurea pullata)
  • Romulea (Romulea bulbocodium)
  • Pink catchfly (Silene colorata)
  • Shepherds purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Wildside Holidays – Spain

Take a trip on the Wildside! Discover the wildlife and nature of Spain, its Natural and National Parks and find the top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies.

Walking in the Spanish countryside. Safety and advice.

Walking in the Spanish countryside is an incredibly rewarding experience. Whether it is to enjoy the stunning scenery, searching for particular plants or enjoying photography and birdlife, the Sierras offer something for everyone. Even if you are familiar with the area there are still some essentials in order to be properly prepared for a hike into the hills so here is a bit about walking in the Spanish countryside. Safety and advice.

Basics

  • Compass
  • Map or guide
  • Basic first aid kit containing bandage, gauze pads, plasters and an antiseptic cream.
  • Altough you may want to “get away” completely you should take a mobile phone with you. After all it only would be used in the rare event of an emergency and the rest of the time it can be turned off. Mobile coverage may also be weak in the mountains
  • Always tell at least one person where you will be walking and roughly what time you expect to be back

112 the emergency number

If you get into difficulties or have have an emergency whilst out walking and require the police, fire brigade, or an ambulance then the number to call ( in Spain) is 112. You don’t need to dial an area code, and the operator should be able to speak a range of different languages. If you have a disability that makes speaking on the phone difficult then you can also send an SMS text message to 112

Walking in the Spanish countryside. Safety and advice.
  1. Carry plenty of food and water. Food for energy is important not only to keep your stomach happy but also your mind. If your brain is lacking in essential sugars you cannot make correct decisions for your safety. Healthy foods such as nuts, fruit, muesli bars, (some chocolate) and sandwiches are a better type of food to take walking.
  2. Wearing comfortable walking shoes or boots is important, especially when tackling difficult terrain. They are designed for comfort and safety and if looked after will last for many years. In spring you may start off walking in good weather conditions, but a gain in altitude of a few hundred meters and it will be a different story. Normally a medium weight sweater and a light wind/rain proof jacket should be sufficient.
  3. “Ordinance survey” type maps in Spain are not updated on a regular basis. Dirt tracks and trails that are marked on the maps may not have been maintained. Often the route is over-grown, ploughed up, or sometimes a fence has been erected across it. I would recommend that you don’t rely on just one track or trail for your route, look for options before you set out on your walk, as dead-ends can be really frustrating. Some tracks and goat trails may not be marked on the maps. You can normally find local walking maps and guides in most towns visitor centres or ask at your hotel or guest house for up to date local information.

Online maps and guides.

Websites like All trails and Wikiloc have become very popular over the last few years and it is likely that you will find a route in the area that you are visiting published. Remember, though, that in many cases the routes published are individual experiences by the website users who have only walked the route once. (See paragraph 3 above!)

https://www.alltrails.com/
https://www.wikiloc.com/

Guided walking

Guided walking might be a better option if you want to learn more about the wildlife of the area such as this guided option in the Sierra de Grazalema : https://grazalemaguide.com/blog/nature-plus-grazalema/

Walking in the Spanish countryside. Safety and advice.

A few other tips

  • Especially in summer, it is a good idea to start a walk in early morning or evening. Try to finish a morning walk by 13.00 at the latest and an evening walk before dark.
  • Shorts or lightweight trousers (to avoid scratches on your legs) and a t-Shirt or shirt with collar keeps you cool and the sun off your neck. A hat is important, even though it may be hot it’s better than getting heat stroke. (A woven grass hat allows more air through). You may be tempted to use open footwear, however proper boots or shoes offer more support and comfort and safety.
  • High factor sun block is recommended. When you are out walking for several hours a slight burn on the shoulders, arms or behind the knees can rub on your clothing. Always carry extra sun block to top up after a while as sweat will wear it off.
  • Take as much water as you and your group can carry, especially if you are not sure how long you will be out walking. Take regular sips of water rather than drinking a lot every hour. Take advantage of any natural springs to cool off your head and arms only drinking it if there is a notice clearly stating it is safe to drink.

During the winter months dressing in layers is better than wearing one thick sweater or fleece. Carry a waterproof jacket in case of rain. Take a spare pair of socks, a woolly hat, scarf & gloves. It is best to treat your walking shoes or boots with a waterproofing agent the day before a walk.

Carry enough water for the duration of your walk. You may not feel thirsty while you are walking but dehydration still occurs in cold, dry conditions. Past a certain point it is difficult to re-hydrate your body.

Meeting the local guard dog on a walk

While walking in the Spanish countryside you will more than likely pass by a farm or two. Some people can be put off by the idea of a dog lurking behind a barn waiting to pounce on the “happy wanderer”. If you approach a farm expecting to meet a dog it tends to take the shock out of the “bark”. A lot of bigger dogs will be tied up, if not you must be confident and stand your ground.

If the dog starts to advance stamp your foot and shout “FUERA”, which means away or get out. Repeating this as you walk past their territory usually works quite well, if you still feel a bit un-nerved pretend to pick up a small rock while shouting “FUERA”. If you are still not sure about passing through the dog’s territory, find another way around the farm. Always walk away with confidence NEVER RUN. More often than not, if you show no fear and use an aggressive tone in your voice they will loose interest in you as you leave their territory.

In short, whatever time of year you walk in the mountains

  • Wear the correct clothing and footwear
  • Always carry plenty of water
  • Make sure at least one person knows where you are walking
  • Carry first-aid kit and know some basic first – aid techniques.

Have a great time walking in the Spanish countryside.


Looking for Wildlife & Walking Holidays in Spain? Wildside Holidays publishes information pages about the Natural and National parks in Spain. Information about wildlife in Spain and where to find it.

https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/

A high walk in the mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema – Coros Peak

As the name suggests this is a high walk in the mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema. But, the easy access by road gains the altitude for you and then the walk is a fairly short circular one that goes around the peak rather than climbing to the top of it.

The view from the Coros peak close to Grazalema

This walk offers spectacular views and gives an overview of the whole area with 360 degree views from the peak itself. The peak of Coros is 1,328m above sea level and the car park 1,157m. The walk takes about 1.5 at a leisurely pace to complete the 2.7km and may give amazing sightings of Griffon Vultures, from above and below. The terrain is rugged limestone rock with rough grasses, stunted oak trees and sparse Mediterranean scrub.

How to get to the Puerto de la Palomas.

Park in the large area at “Puerto de Las Palomas” which is on the CA9104 road from Grazalema to Zahara de la Sierra.

Place your back to the view point “Mirador”/road and beyond the car park on the left hand side the trail begins at a slight incline passing through a rustic fence gate. (Not the big green gate on the right!)

Sensible shoes please?

The path is narrow and bordered by rock and amongst the rocks are a myriad of plants that have adapted to these altitudes and exposure to the elements such as Woolly lavender (Lavandula lanata), Blue Aphyllanthes (Aphyllanthes monspeliensis), Silver-leaved bugloss (Echium albicans) and White Flax (Linum suffruticosum).The path continues to climb steadily, crossing loose stones that form part of a scree slope. Along here there are several small examples of Spanish Fir trees which are endemic to this area of south western Spain and a relict of the Tertiary period. (There is an area of dense forest of this species, on the northern slopes of Sierra del Pinar).

The coros peak in the Sierra de Grazalema
Left: Purple Phlomis (Phlomis purpurea) Right: A path around Coros peak Grazalema
Incredible views

The views take in the reservoir and hilltop tower of Zahara de la Sierra, just beyond this is the village of Algodonales with a long hill behind called Sierra de Líjar that is well known for hangliding.

The reservoir forms the northern border of the parkland. The two joined peaks are Tajo Algarín at 1,068m and the flat top is 1,040m, the hill top town of Olvera is behind these. The slope directly below you is called Monte Prieto and this suffered a devastating fire in 1992. The grasses and small shrubs such as Mediterranean Daphne (Daphne gnidium) recovered quickly, but the oak shrubs and trees (Quercus coccifera, Q. ilex) have been slow to re-populate.

The path is well defined and in most places edged by stone, though there are some areas where the wild rose bushes and prickly leaved oaks make it a bit narrow. Here there are a few bushes of denocarpus decorticans which have attractive yellow flowers in the early spring.

Be carefull don’t take the down path

Look out for a junction before you round the end of the mountain, you should continue on the same level / slight incline and not descend to the left.

If taking this walk around May to June then look out for tall Lizard orchids (Himantoglossum hircinum) as you walk through taller scrub of hawthorns and oaks and your view changes towards Montecorto village as you curve to the right.

The path appears to stop a little further on and this is a good place to choose a rock to rest upon and enjoy any snacks that you have prepared. Scan the valley immediately below for Spanish Ibex (Capra hispanica pyrenaica) a type of wild mountain goat, and watch the skies for Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus). They often pass close to here and you have an advantage of being partly hidden as they round the cliffs.

Views from Coros peak across the lake to Montecorto and beyond.
Views from Coros peak across the lake to Montecorto and beyond.

To continue, the path climbs up between these rocks. At this point anyone with slight vertigo will be aware of the steep slopes dropping down into the Gaidóvar valley below. This quiet valley once contained around 20 working mills that were all water powered. Few now have working machinery with most in ruins. The hills behind are covered in Cork oak trees (Quercus suber) which are selectively harvested each summer and the ever growing town of Ronda glitters in the sunshine. The soft, hairy, grey leaves of Purple Phlomis (Phlomis purpurea) contrast starkly with the sharp gorse bushes.

In early spring there are tall white flowering Asphodels whose leaves form clumps for most of the year.

Griffon Vultures

Below are cliffs where the Griffon vultures start nesting in January with the chicks not fledging until August. The cliffs remain in constant use as they roost here through the winter too. They are majestic birds and if you are lucky enough to see them along this stretch, take a moment to watch their behaviour, especially if they are dropping from the sky with legs down to land on the cliff face below you. Some of the other birds that you may encounter on this walk are Rock bunting, Dartford and Sardinian warblers, Black redstart, Rock thrush, Blue rock thrush, Black wheatear, Hoopoe, Red-billed chough with both Ring ouzel and Alpine accentor only arriving in the winter.

Griffon Vultures in Grazalema

The path climbs again and at the point where you are faced with rugged cliffs it doubles back to the right, away from the cliffs up towards a group of stunted oaks and then opens out into a grassy area with many hawthorns. This can be a good place to see Black-veined White butterflies (Aporia crataegi) around June.

In May/June Western Peony (Paeonia broteroi) adds a bright pink flash to the otherwise green scenery. After September their seed heads look like jesters hats and are decorated with bright red and black seeds. This part of the walk brings you back to the original views but at a higher level. The peak of Coros will become visible above you and if you want to go to the highest point you can take the steep path to the cliff top, be aware that it is a sheer drop off!

Peonies on the peak of Coros in the Sierra de Grazalema
Peonies on the peak of Coros in the Sierra de Grazalema

Continue along the path, dropping past a stone walled coral in disrepair, heading towards a copse of Stone Pine trees (Pinus pinaster). These trees produce the edible pine nuts in their large, almost round cones. In the shade of these trees we used to find many trap door spiders’ nests but since cattle have been resting and trampling there, they are more difficult to observe.

As you drop down through taller scrub and trees you will return to the carpark via a large green gate.

Notes

This path does not need permission to enter from the park authorities. (See the walks that need permission here).

During the week it is rare to meet other walkers. As you approach the mountain it will be obvious if it is cloud covered or clear. Cloud cover will prevent you seeing the spectacular views and may be disorientating. Also be aware that in strong blustery winds or the winter months this walk will not only be very cold but also dangerous near to the cliff edges.

In high summer remember that there is virtually no shade along this route, therefore early morning would be a better time to enjoy it.


Looking for more nature in Spain? Check out Wildside Holidays!

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/

January wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema

January is a great month for watching griffon vultures repairing last year´s nests high on limestone ledges, performing beautifully synchronized flights that are a part of their courtship routines, breeding and incubating their single egg. The parents take turns at sitting on the nest and perform an almost acrobatic change-over at the nest. The cliffs where griffons nest, or “buitreras” in Spanish, are full of activity and interest at this time of the year.

January wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Griffon vultures performing beautifully synchronized flights that are a part of their courtship routines

Spanish Ibex normally roam at lower altitudes during the winter months and the alpha males are more visible as they are establishing and keeping a close eye on their harems, while the pregnant females ruminate in the winter sun.

January wildlife in the Sierra de Grazalema
Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica) Cabra montés Young female

There are plenty of exciting resident and wintering birds to see, such as the Iberian Grey Shrike, Bonelli´s Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Rock and Cirl Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Black Wheatear, Ring Ouzel and Alpine Accentor.

Plants to look out for whilst walking in the Sierra de Grazalema

Although its winter, there are still a lot of flowering plants to enjoy including the stunning displays of almond blossom and, in places, carpets of the bright blue and yellow broad-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia) along with paperwhite narcissus

Broad-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia)
Broad-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia)
Yellow
  • Bean trefoil (Anagyris foetida)
  • Bermuda buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae)
  • Western gorse (Ulex parviflorus)
  • Field marigold (Calendula arvensis)
Bean trefoil (Anagyris foetida)
Bean trefoil (Anagyris foetida)
Green, Brown
  • Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)
  • Dutchman’s pipe (Aritolochia baetica)
  • Friars Cowl (Arisarum simorrhinum)
  • Spurge laurel (Daphne laureola)
Pink, Blue, Purple
  • Broad-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia)
  • Pink catchfly (Silene colorata)
  • Periwinkle (Vinca difformis)
  • Tree germander (Teucrium fruticans)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata)
  • Fedia (Fedia cornucopiae)
  • Andaluz storksbill (Erodium primulaceum)

White

  • Marsh chamomile (Chamaemelum fuscatum)
  • Paper-white Narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus)
  • Branched asphodel (Asphodelus ramosus)
  • Common daisy (Bellis sylvestris)
  • Shepherds purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
  • Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritime)
  • Common daisy (Bellis sylvestris)

Wildside Holidays – Spain

Fifty percent of the Andalucian territory is mountainous, one-third is found at an altitude above 600 metres, including an extensive high plateau and 46 peaks are higher than 1,000 metres. Eighteen percent of its territory is protected.

Find out more about the national and natural parks in Andalucia at Wildside Holidays – Spain: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/natural-and-national-parks-in-andalucia/

Nature Plus – Grazalema

Tailored nature and cultural tours in the Sierra de Grazalema

Nature Plus – Grazalema is based in the picturesque white village of Grazalema in southwest Andalusia. The village is known for its white-washed houses, clay-tiled roofs, steep cobbled streets, traditional architecture, and deeply rooted cuisine.

To complete the idyllic setting, Grazalema is surrounded by rugged limestone mountains which form part of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. With good reason, this was the first area to receive Natural Park status as you can see when walking the many stunning footpaths in the area.

This protected area holds a wealth of flora & fauna in diverse habitats, and of course with amazing views as a backdrop.

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’.


Guided tours and day trips

  • All tours are flexible and can be adapted to suit your needs and abilities
  • Prices are on request and include Insurance
NATURE: Some of the options available for individuals or groups
  • A gentle nature amble of 2 or more hours.
  • A botanical tour taking in various habitats.
  • Mountain route with wonderful views, looking out for Spanish Ibex & Griffon vultures.
  • Searching for target species of plant, butterfly, bird, etc.
PLUS: Also available
  • Guided cultural tour of Grazalema village.
  • Guided circular route to visit both Zahara de la Sierra & Grazalema villages pausing to appreciate the beautiful mountain scenery from ‘Puerto de las Palomas’ and to see the endemic species of Spanish fir tree Abies pinsapo.
AND MORE: Need to unwind?

Reduce your stress by connecting with nature. Sue is qualified to take you through breathing techniques and simple meditations to help you relax while focusing on beautiful natural surroundings.

Universal energy therapy for individuals (non-contact channeled energy therapy). You don’t need to be spiritual, hypersensitive or anything along those lines to benefit from an energy healing treatment. We humans, tend to store unpleasant memories or trauma deep within. This negative ‘baggage’ can have an impact on the functionality of your body. Universal energy therapy can help you to optimize your health and wellbeing, by balancing the emotional energy of your body, and so assist in physical healing.

Reservations and Contact details

Sue Eatock

Tel: (0034) 666 99 94 21
Email: natureplus.grazalema@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sue.Eatock.Grazalema
Get Your Guide:

Legal: Susan Eatock X2922441S



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/