I´ve just got back from a research trip to the Monegros - a desert steppe area just East of Zaragoza. My good friend Borja is from the area and he really kindly showed me some magical places and we saw a huge variety of birds including Great Bustards.
|1500 year old Sabina|
The area´s name Monegros translates as the Black Mountains and it comes from the ancient forest of the very dark looking Sabina trees which were here until the 17th/18th Centuries when most were cut down. This is a Juniper species (Juniperus thurifera) which, if left, lives thousands of years. It produces a rot and woodworm resistant timber that was used for building some of the finest houses and palaces in Aragón.
Monegros is a semi desert area dry and hot in Summer, dry and cold in Winter. It is also swept by ferocious Cierzo (westerly) winds. This Spring has been very wet however and everyone said they had never seen the area so green. There were flowers everywhere! There were also a huge number of birds. The highlights of our trip were the huge and very rare Great Bustards and Little Bustards and many birds of prey. We saw Golden eagle, Booted eagle, many Montagu´s and Hen harriers, as well as numerous Griffon vultures and Red and Black kites. There were also many larks. We saw all of the spanish lark species except the Duponts lark which, as so often, is heard but not seen! An area of salt marshes revealed Black winged stilts which had just arrived. I will get the bird photos from Borja (excellent wildlife photographer) for another blog entry soon. In the meantime you can see an album of his Monegros photos if you click on the link below.
|Cave Living room|
The wooden framework is a ´just in case´. This area has a lot of seismic activity so you can´t be too careful.
|View South from the Caves|
Flowers were everywhere and, although most were familiar, there are many plants which only grow in the Monegros. There is also a Mudskipper (amphibious fish) adapted to live in this area. In times of drought (most of the time) it buries itself in damp mud until the rains come again.
|Flowers and Wide Open Spaces|
|Grey leaved Cistus|