Blog: El Paraje de las Alpujarras and Sierra Nevada walks · nature · culture · events · publications · weather
blog by: El Paraje
Berchules, Granada, Spain

30 July 2010

Festival de Música Tradicional de la Alpujarra, Almócita 2010

The Festival de Música Tradicional de la Alpujarra is the most important manifestation of traditional Alpujarran music. This Festival of Traditional Music of the Alpujarra is held every year since 1982, on the second Sunday of August. The locality where it takes place varies each year. This year it is on the 8th of August and it will be hosted by Almócita. About twenty-five groups will participate in this town in de Almería province. According to an article in the Ideal, Celia Garcia-Ruiz won the contest of the design of the poster of the 29th edition of the festival. The first years it was designed by Martín Morales, and over the years it has become a type of collector´s item for some people. On a personal blog of somebody from Cádiar, we can find all the ´carteles del festival´ and a ´historia del festival´.
The twenty-ninth edition of the festival will be dedicated to Alejandro Buendía Muñoz for his research work on the local customs and traditions. The ethnologist Alejandro Buendía Muñoz is the director of the Museo Histórico Etnográfico de Terque and Museo de la Uva del Barco.
The ´orden the actuación´ , the order of performances or program can be found on the blog of Rafael Gan, one of the ´presentadores´. The first group will perform at 10.00 hours.

Related articles:
- Music of the day archive

Related links:
- Article from the Ideal Almócita se convierte en sede del consolidado día de la Alpujarra

29 July 2010

Iberis carnosa embergeri, carraspique de Sierra Nevada

The Iberis carnosa subsp embergeri is one of the more than sixty endemic plants of Sierra Nevada. It is a small type of candytuft with lovely white or pinkish flowers. Its habitat are pastures with little vegetation on steep rocky slopes and ´cascajares´ (steep slopes of relatively unstable mica-schist slabs). It grows in windy areas with a high insolation between 2,900 and 3,200 metres (criomediterranean level), often accompanied by Linaria glaciales, Viola crassiuscula and Artemisia. It starts flowering in June, whereas most other plants in this bioclimatic zone start flowering in July. It can also be found at the highest parts of the oromediterranean level, accompanied by Sideritis glacialis, Arenaria tetraquetra subsp. amabilis, Thymus serpylloides, Hormathophylla spinosa, Arenaria pungens and Erodium cheilanthifolium. It passed from the list of ´vulnerable´ to ´endangered´. One of the risks is overgrazing by herbivorous mammals. Tourism constitutes another threat. According to the information on this ´carraspique de Sierra Nevada´ in Flora amenazada y endémica de Sierra Nevada there are only two populations (between 12000 and 15000 plants). These are close to classical hiking routes (Loma Pelada), and this is one of the reasons why it passed to the list of endangered species. This situation implies a great risk, if something happens to one of the populations, the situation becomes very alarming. We (think we) saw this endangered iberis close to the top of the Cerro del Gallo. If this is correct there must be another population. When we look at the small map in Flora amenazada y endémica de Sierra Nevada on which the two known populations are located, we are to the right of them. We will try to find out whether this is true. If so this would be good news, as ´our´ iberis is relatively far from any classical walking route.

Related articles:
- Cerro del Gallo, the highest mountain of Bérchules
- References on the local flora

Related key words: brassicaceae, brasicáceas, brassicacées, cruciferae, crucifers, crucíferas, kruisbloemenfamilie, kreuzblütengewächse, crucifères, sierra nevada candytuft, sierra nevada scheefbloem, sierra nevada schleifenblume, sierra nevada ibéride

References on the local flora

We enjoy writing about the local wildlife as we are ourselves enchanted by how much the area with its unique biodiversity has to offer. Quite a number of texts on the local flora are written by Gabriel Blanca. This botanist and leading Spanish taxonomist is a professor at the University of Granada. He has dedicated part of his academic and scientific career to the study of the flora of eastern Andalusia and the study and conservation of endemic and threatened flora. An important publication that we often consult is Flora amenazada y endémica de Sierra Nevada (pdf 18MB), published by the Universidad de Granada in 2001. Many guidebooks like Guía de visita Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada count on his contributions. We hope that our posts on the local flora and fauna are appreciated by those interested in the natural heritage of the Sierra Nevada, but that do not know Spanish. We use the texts of Gabriel Blanca and his collaborators as a source of information for our ´flora posts´. An important reference to which we quite regularly make direct links are the texts Merche S. Calle and Juan Enrique Gómez, authors of the Guía de Plantas of the online magazine Waste. Another important source of information is the publication Flores Silvestres de Andalucía de Gabriel García Guardia, published by Editorial Rueda in 1988.

Semana Cultural Juviles 2010

The VII Semana Cultural de Juviles will this year be held from the 30th of July to the 4th of August. This is the programme of this cultural week, that can also be found on the website of the Ayuntamiento de Juviles.

28 July 2010

Música en las Montañas, La Taha 2010

The VII Festival ´Música en las Montañas´, a series of summer concerts of classical music, will take place from July to September. The concerts are on old threshing circles, village squares or in churches of differrent villages in the Taha valley. The first concert will be given by the Coral Ciudad de Granada on Friday the 30th of July in Pitres. The festival ´Music in the Mountains´ is organized by the Alexander Music School in Ferreirola and the Ayuntamiento de La Taha.

25 July 2010

Viola crassiuscula or Sierra Nevada violet

The Viola crassiuscula is one of the more than sixty endemic plants of Sierra Nevada. There are other violas in the massif, like Viola palustris and Viola riviniana, but this Nevada violet is the only one that can be found exclusively in Sierra Nevada above 2,500 metres. It is a perennial and multi-stemmed species (caespitose) with flowers that range from violet to pinkish to white. After flowering, small fruit capsules are produced that split open by way of three valves to release tiny seeds. As there are few insects in the high peak area, flowers need to compete to be pollinated. The flower needs to seduce the insect with attractive colours and well developed petals. The flower is relatively large compared to the size of the plant itself. In Sierra Nevada the precious viola can be found between cracks in the rock faces. It is small and it has a minimum of foliage in order to minimize the loss of water by transpiration. Having little folliage makes them also less interesting for the mountain goats. It finds shelter by the rocks so that the negative effect of the strong solar radiation, typical at this height, is minimal. The rocks also protect them from being eaten or trampled. These are a few examples of the adaptations through thousands of years to survive the harsh climatic circumstances of the ´pisos oro y crioromediterráneo´ (oromediterranean and crioromediterranean levels). The most striking adaptation is its ability to sprout from the root collar that goes as deep as the ´stable´ ground. Because of this adaptation, the Nevada violet can survive on steep stony slopes or ´canchales´. This are ´pedregales móviles´ or ´cascajales sueltos´, gravelly areas with unstable schist slabs. When the slates or stones move and the stems break, the plant is able to sprout again. Viola crassiuscula was scientifically catagolized by the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent (1778-1846), who published in 1820 his Florule de Sierra Nevada. Viola crassiuscula is listed as rare and vulnerable, and therefor included in the Lista roja de la flora vascular de Andalucía (Red List of Vascular Flora of Andalusia). It is said that it is more common where the human presence is more limited. Personally we did see the Viola crassiuscula at one of the busier areas, namely very close to the top of the Mulhacén. We also saw a number of these botanical jewels where we think very few people go, namely near the source of the Río Chico de Bérchules, not too far from the top of the Cerro del Gallo. We were really pleased to see a few white ones, which are said to be less common.

Related article:
-Guía de visita Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada
-References on the local flora

Related key words: violeta de sierra nevada, sierra nevada viooltje, sierra nevada veilchen, sierra nevada violette, violaceae, violet family, viooltjesfamilie, familie der veilchengewächse, famille des violacées

24 July 2010

Guía de visita Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada

There are a number of publications available on the Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada, but there is one that we think that deserves special attention. This is the Guía de Visita del Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada, published in 2004. In its introduction we can read that the National Park of Sierra Nevada wants to offer visitors a handy guide that gives a complete and realistic picture of its natural, cultural and environmental values. "In this guide, visitors will find a detailed description of its infrastructures, visitor´s service points, suggestions for activities and itineraries that allows them to plan their visit and get the most out of it." We personally think that this guide offers a lot more than you expect after reading this introduction. The vital adaptations of the different species through their evolutional process over thousands of years are described for example. Natural and ecological features are explained in detail which gives visitors a very good idea of the complex interrelationships. Last week we wondered why we find the most exclusive botanical jewels in the peak areas where you would think that nothing could surive. We found the answer to this question in this guide. In fact there are many answers as each species has its special story to tell. As we will dedicate posts to the botanical jewels and the endemic fauna, we will certainly refer to this excellent visitor´s guide of the Sierra Nevada.

Related article:
- References on the local flora

Related links.
-website Parque Sierra Nevada

21 July 2010

Parnassius apollo nevadensis (2)

The beautiful butterfly Parnassius apollo of the Papilionidae family is found in mountainous areas. Twenty-three subspecies have been recorded on the Iberian Peninsula, four of which in Andalusia. Unfortunately the Parnassius apollo subspecies gadorensis (Sierra de Gador) is likely to be extinguished and the disappearance of the subspecies filabricus (Sierra de Filabres and Baza) is being feared. The population of the subspecies mariae (Sierra de Maria) is considered stable after there was a period of regression. Of our Parnassius apollo subspecies nevadensis the reports are more optimistic.  It is stated that they can be locally abundant and that there is a stable trend. This is no guarantee as the other subspecies of the Sierra de Gador and the Sierra de Filabres were just as abundant twenty-five years ago. The Parnassius apollo subspecies nevadens is being monitored by the Observatioro de Cambio global de Sierra Nevada at the Altas Cumbre, Loma de Papeles, Hoya de la Mora and the Lagunilla Seca. They write that the Parnassius apollo is probably one of the best indicators of ecosystem changes related to climate variations. Its larval food plants are sedum, sempervivum and bryophylum, so these are studied as well as the nectar sources of the apollo. In an earlier post we wrote about spotting the Parnassius apollo subspecies nevadensis near the top of the Morrón del Mediodía. This summer we have seen many apollos on the Loma del Chullo, the Loma de Piedra Ventana and the Loma de las Albardas. To photograph a butterfly you either need a lot of patience or catch it when inactive (the apollo is said to be inactive on cloudy days), feeding or mating. Last Sunday we were lucky to see a mating couple. We quickly took this photograph and then left them alone. On the website of Matt Rowling we found an additional note on the mating behaviour of the apollo. "One of the amazing features of this genus (shared by some other butterflies too) is the structure called the 'sphragus'. It is a hard structure that is deposited on the female's abdomen by the male during mating. It physically prevents the female mating a second time." On Wikipedia  and on other websites we read that the apollo is found above 1,000 metres up to 2,000 metres. This is not correct taking the subspecies nevadensis into account. In Sierra Nevada it flies up to 3,000 metres. The proof is this mating couple that we photographed on the Loma de las Albardes at an altitude of 2,860 metres. The females are said to have ´darker´ wings, so on our photograph that should be the one with the orange eye-spots on the hindwings. The wings of the male are said to be ´whiter´, so this must be the one with the more yellowy eyespots.

Related key words: mountain apollo, apollovlinder, apolo, pavón diurno, rote apollo, apollofalter, apollon, familia papiliónidos, familie grote pages, familie der ritterfalter, parnassiinae, Alpujarras, Sierra Nevada, wandelen, wandelingen, trektocht, standplaats vakantie, hiking, trekking, Berchules, B&B, hotel, wanderungen

20 July 2010

Cerro del Gallo, the highest mountain of Bérchules

The Cerro del Gallo is with an altitude of 2,913 metres the highest summit of Bérchules. It is located on the northernmost border of our municipality that has a surface area of almost seventy square kilometres. There is little written about this summit that you can see while driving up from the Empalme de Bérchules towards the village. The Cerro del Gallo is mentioned in the new guide book ´Guía Turística de la Alpujarra de Granada`. It says that it is an important peak within the Sierra Nevada with an abundant endemic plant life. On the internet there are only a few websites with the personal experiences of hikers that write about climbing this summit. Most of these accounts are of people walking up from the refugio Postero Alto, something we did ourselves many years ago.
Last Sunday we decided to revisit `our` highest mountain, this time from the Plaza de los Lobos at almost 2,600 metres. To get there you follow the pista de la sierra from the Cruz de Juviles for twelve kilometres. Then you are at 2,000 metres and go up a track to your left that passes Cortijo de las Minas. There is no sign, but you recognize it by two small posts with a chain on the ground (hopefully) and a steep track that looks overgrown. For these last eight kilometres you probably need a fourwheel drive as it is not in a very good state.
The Plaza de los Lobos offers a spectacular view of the Mulhacén, the Alcazaba and the Chorreras Negras and is already worth the drive up. With a map and the GPS to orient ourselves, we followed the Loma de Piedra Ventana passing the Peñones del Muerto to reach the Puerto de Jerez. Then we followed the Loma de Albardas to reach the Cerro del Gallo. It was spectacular to walk on the ridges because of the views and the large number of butterflies (many ´apollos´). To re-experience the Cerro del Gallo in high summer was absolutely fantastic. The summit is a broad stone heap with plants growing between almost every stone. We recognized one endemic one, the Arenaria tetraquetra subsp amabilis, in Spanish known as piel de león, papo o cojin. The return route we walked about fifty metres below the ridge, crossing a number of snow fields and passing the source of the Río Chico. It was especially on our way back that we saw a large number of endemic plants like  Chaenorrhinum glareosum (espuelilla, dragoncillo), Iberis carnosa subsp embergeri (carraspique de Sierra Nevada), Jasione amethystina (botón azul de Sierra Nevada), Ranunculus acetosellifolius (ranillo de las nieves) and Viola crassiuscula (violeta de Sierra Nevada or Nevada violet). Our conclusion at the end of the day was that going up our highest mountain, the Cerro del Gallo, is one of the best kept secrets of the sierra.

16 July 2010

Erodium cheilanthifolium

Since North-Africa and southern Andalusia were once connected, these two areas still have many flora and fauna species in common. The Moroccan Rif Mountains formed part of the Betic Cordillera, and is known to ecologists as the Baetic-Rifan complex. On the on-line magazine Waste we can read that the Erodium cheilanthifolium is a ´Bético magrebí´ (Baetic-maghrebi) species. On the internet we found a photo of the Erodium cheilanthifolium – called Moroccan dwarf storksbill by its author - taken in the Rif Mountains. As the Maghreb refers to the five countries constituting North Africa, it might occur in other countries as well. Gabriel García Guardia writes in his Flores Silvestres de Andalucía that Edmond Boissier the discoverer of this geranium, thought it to be related to the ´trichomanifolium de Oriente´ which can be found as far as Syria and Lebanon. Boissier therefore rectified its scientific name a number of times, but than decided on the epithet ´cheilanthifolium´ to distinguish it from other species. Cheilanthifolium refers to the similarity of its leaves with the fronds of the ferns of the genus Cheilantes. As it depends on the wind for its polination, it can be found on summits and ridges. We saw thousands on the Loma de las Albardas, and a large number near the summit of El Chullo (2,611 m).
In Sierra Nevada other species of Erodium can be found. Four are endemic, or almost exclusive, and are threatened with extinction: Erodium astragaloides, Erodium boissieri (alfileres del Trevenque), Erodium daucoides (agujas de Sierra Nevada, alfileres) and Erodium rupícola (alfilerillos de Sierra Nevada, reloj de Sierra Nevada). These four can be found on the ´Lista Roja de la Flora Vascular de Andalucía´, which lists the most important aspects to consider for the protection and conservation of threatened flora of southern Spain. The Erodium astragaloides and the Erodium rupícola form part of the special Life proyect of species that are protected by the Habitats Directive. 

Related key words: geraniaceae, geranio, geranien, geraniales, famille des géraniacées, ooievaarsbekfamilie, storchschnabelartigen, filarees, heron's bill, storksbill, reiherschnäbel, storchschnäbel, pelargonium, pelargonien, reloj

13 July 2010

Pycnogaster inermis

The ´Observatorio de Cambio Global de Sierra Nevada‘ is a proyect that was initiated a couple of years ago and which basic objectives are to define, quantify and characterise natural processes and resources for identifying and differentiating between natural situations and other situations resulting from global change in any of its multiple factors. About eighty people are involved in this ambitious proyect. While searching information on the internet on the Plebejus idas nevadensis we saw that this butterfly is one of the thirteen species that is being monitored by this ´Sierra Nevada Global Change Observatory´. Right underneath the photograph of this butterfly, we saw a photo of a cricket that we had seen on the same ´Chullo walk´. This interesting insect that we photographed at 2,200 metres is apparently a Pycnogaster inermis. This ´grillo de matorral´ or ´unarmed bush-cricket´ is endemic to the Sierra de los Filabres, Baza and Sierra Nevada. On this same website we can see that the Loma del Chullo and the Lagunilla Seca are on the list of areas in which the different species are being monitored.

11 July 2010

Plebejus idas nevadensis or Sierra Nevada idas blue

The Puerto de la Ragua is one of our favourite starting points for walks throughout the year. As this mountain pass has an altitude of 2,000 metres, the temperatures do not easily get too high for summer hikes in this area. One of the interesting routes that starts at the Puerto de la Ragua goes up El Chullo (2,680m), the highest peak of the Almería province, and passes the Laguna Seca. There are a few signposts along the route, but not enough to find it without a map or description. On the internet various descriptions can be found like on the website of Top Walks which has got a good map as well. Last Sunday we enjoyed a magnificent day, enjoying the large amount of butterflies that fly around at this time of the year. After climbing about 200 metres, we saw a group of blues that at first we thought to be the ´Niñas de Sierra Nevada´. This butterfly has two scientific names: Polyommatus golgus or Plebicula golgus. Seeing a number of this Sierra Nevada blue was a nice surprise as we know that it has become rare and that it is restricted to a few locations, the ´Chullo´ being apparently one of them. The Nevada Blue flies during the month of July in a single generation and prefers open spaces of slopes and ridges. Its main threat comes from the building of tourist infrastructure and tourist activities. There are never many people in the area around the Puerto de la Ragua, but the building of the Sierra Nevada ski resort at the at other side of the mountain range, is a big threat for this endangered species. International agencies recommend an absolute protection, as well as in-depth study of their life cycle. More information can be found on the website of the IUCN, the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. On the website of the Consejería de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Andalucía we can read what sort of work has been carried out to protect this Nevada blue; like planting the host plant of the Polyommatus golgus, the anthyllis vulneraria pseudoarundana. It is explained that these ´replantations´ have been fenced off to protect them from the  flocks of sheep and goats that are grazing in this area.
PS After coming across the website of the Observatorio del cambio global de Sierra Nevada, we now think that it is the Plebejus idas nevadensis or la ´Niña Esmeralda´ that we photographed near El Chullo. This Plebejus idas doesn´t have the white stains that distinguishes this Sierra Nevada northern or idas blue from the Polyommatus golgus or Sierra Nevada blue. There is another butterfly that looks very similar which is the Plebejus argus, we therefor hope that we have determined this butterfly correctly as the Plebejus idas subsp nevadensis.

Related key words: familia licénidos, lycaenidae family, polyommatinae, gossamer-winged butterflies, famille des azurés, bläulinge, blauwtjes, sierra nevada idas blue, sierra nevada northern blue, sierre nevada vals heideblauwtje