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Saturday, 25 February 2017

Spain 24: Red? Squirrel

Red Squirrel - Spanish form
Once upon a time the only tree dwelling squirrel to be found across most of Europe was the Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris. With a global range from Spain across to the Pacific coast and north to Siberia, there are currently 23 subspecies defined by size and colour of coat. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Spain 23: Spanish Ibex

Spanish Ibex
Across the mountains of the Old World, from Spain east to the Himalaya, and south into Ethiopia and Sudan, one of the most characteristic large mammals are the various species of Ibex. One of these was eventually domesticated and today has a worldwide range across North and South America and many islands in the form of the domestic goat, Capra aegagrus. However, the wild species still survive and one of these we tracked down in the hills near the ruins of a town called Belchite, which was heavily bombed during the Spanish Civil War. These were a family party of Iberian Ibex, Capra pyrenaica.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Spain 22: Chamois

Pyrenean Chamois
One of the characteristic mammals of the high mountains of Europe and the Caucasus is the chamois. There are actually two species, the Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra from the Alps and eastward, and the Pyrenean Chamois Rupicapra pyrenaica in the Pyrenees. It was the latter species that we found in the mountains on the French border.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Spain 21: Rock Bunting

Rock Bunting - male
One of the over 40 species of true (Emberiza) buntings is the Rock Bunting Emberiza cia. What actually defines a bunting is a rather complex issue, as the Emberizidae also includes New World Sparrows, Juncos, and Towhees. On the other hand, Snow and Lapland Buntings are now placed in an entirely separate family, the Calcariidae, which is closer to tanagers, cardinals, New World warblers and other species found in the Americas. Emberiza buntings are an Old World genus, with various species found from southern Africa to northern Europe and across to Asia.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Spain 20: Hawfinch

Hawfinch
In the UK the Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes is an extremely scarce and hard to see species, with a breeding population of under 1000 pairs. Across Europe it is doing much better and is consequently classed as Least Concern by the IUCN. Its range extends from Eastern Europe across temperate forests as far as eastern Asia and northern Japan. It is closely related to two American species, the Evening and Hooded Grosbeaks which have rather similar ecological requirements. Slightly more distantly related are other grosbeaks found in east Asia and the Himalayas.