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Flora & Fauna watching with Destination Spain

Our DMC partner, Destination Spain has some information to share on Wildlife, flora and fauna!

Discover Spain's natural wild attractions in protected nature areas and help towards their conservation. Seeing the most emblematic and threatened wildlife is a once- in-a-lifetime experience, and in Spain you can see the big five of Iberian wildlife: the brown bear, the Iberian lynx, the wolf, the Iberian imperial eagle and the bearded vulture. Observe over hundreds of bird species, discover a flora that is exclusive to Spain, enjoy the spectacular sight of the bellowing of the stags, see pilot whales and dolphins, or learn more about the successful conservation programs of species such as the Iberian lynx or the imperial eagle... these are just a few of the multiple experiences you can enjoy as you discover Spain's wildlife. Not to mention its flora, it varied and well-conserved forests, and its spectacular geological attractions featuring a wide variety of landscapes. A word of advice – you'll enjoy it all even more if you go with a guide or a specialized company. Bring your camera because you'll find the ideal conditions for nature photography. We challenge you to capture life itself.

Why Spain This is the best country in Europe for wildlife observation due to its wide variety, the protection of its endangered species, and the clusters of wildlife to be found in specific easy-to-reach sites that make this a convenient and attractive experience. Spain is known for its different types of forest and its exclusive flora the result of its position as a bridge between Europe and Africa. Its great mountain ranges serve as a habitat for a large number of species that live only there. What's more, this is the country with the second highest number of UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserves in the world.

Its network of 15 National Parks contains all the best aspects of Spanish nature and includes everything from imposing mountain landscapes through to Mediterranean forest. Spain is a country of spectacular mountains, volcanoes, river canyons, underground caves, fossil sitesand such emblematic places as Atapuerca. In fact, it is also the European country with the largest number of geoparks declared by the UNESCO.

Birdwatching Enjoy birdwatching with various tourism companies with offers tailored to the needs of birdwatchers in the mountains of Extremadura or the Pyrenees, steppes of Navarre, and on the plains and forests of Castile and León. The flights of migratory birds between Europe and Africa make the Strait of Gibraltar a paradise for ornithologists, who should on no account miss a visit to the mountain ranges of Andalusia. The winter concentrations of the European populations of cranes and geese, and the vast numbers of water birds that flock to its world-renowned wetlands are a unique sight. You can enjoy them in the marshes of Doñana National Park, Tablas de Daimiel, Albufera in Valencia, and the Ebro Delta. In spring you can visit the plains to see nature's heaviest flying bird, the bustard. Over half of its world population lives on the Iberian steppes, from Villafáfila in Castile and León to the plains of Toledo in Castile-La Mancha, Cáceres and La Serena in Extremadura, and even the countryside in Madrid.

In summer, in the mountains Picos de Europa National Park, the Sistema Central (Gredos, Guadarrama) and the Pyrenees in Aragon and Catalonia you can spot various forest-dwelling and high-mountain birds. You'll also be able to see marine birds on the beaches and coasts of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Basque Country, Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. Spain is chosen by ornithologists from all over the world as a place for birdwatching. You can enjoy seeing the birds and the landscapes where they live practically all over the country. Seo BirdLife allows you to search according to each place, and enjoy a wide range of activities: Birds and their habitats and migratory habits. Best places to see birds, and which birds to see. Several foundations specializing in species conservation offer a chance to learn more at first hand, about advances in their conservation through visits to biological stations and their conservation programs. This is the case of the vulture in Asturias or the Iberian imperial eagle in Castile-La Mancha.

Large mammal watching You can explore bear territory in the central part of the Cordillera Cantábrica mountains between León and Asturias in the nature reserves of Somiedo and Fuentes del Narcea, which is home to the largest bear population. The Brown Bear Foundation and various companies will show you to the correct way to observe this sensitive species, particularly between the months of April and September. You can find more information on the brown bear in Spain at the Brown Bear Foundation Meanwhile in the mountain landscapes you'll discover the world of the wolf and its relationship with humans. You can observe this legendary animal with the help of experts in the mountains of the Sierra de la Culebra, Cordillera Cantábrica and Picos de Europa.

Look out for the Iberian lynx –the most endangered feline in the wild– which only lives on the Iberian Peninsula. Sightings can be arranged through specialized companies in the Doñana National Park and the nature reserves in the Sierra Morena (Cardeña and Montoro, Andújar). The population is recovering thanks to a program of breeding in captivity and release into the natural environment. There are currently four breeding centers in Spain, and you can see lynxes in captivity in the Zoological Botanical center in Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz).

Whale and dolphin watching Did you know that the Canary Islands is one of the most important marine areas in the world for the conservation of cetaceans? That's why you can see dolphins all year round, and particularly near the southwest coast of the island of Tenerife and very near La Gomera. However, excursions are available from all the islands, as their waters are frequented by over twenty different species of cetaceans. Other areas where you can also see cetaceans include Asturias, Galicia, Basque Country, Balearic Islands and Andalusia. In this last place, in early summer you can see groups of orcas in the waters of Tarifa, in the Strait of Gibraltar (Cadiz).

Stag rutting Stag rutting is a spectacle that takes place in many parts of Spain between September and October. This is the stag's mating period, and you will often hear the guttural sounds of their bellowing and see the males in heat –particularly towards dusk, so we recommend you wear warm clothing. Some of the places where you can enjoy them are: the Montes de Toledo and Cabañeros National Park in Castile- La Mancha; Sierra de San Pedro and Monfragüe National Park in Extremadura; Doñana National Park, Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y las Villas Nature Reserve, Hornachuelos Nature Reserve and Alcornocales Nature Reserve in Andalusia; Sierra de Cameros in La Rioja; Picos de Europa National Park in Asturias; Saja Nature Reserve in Cantabria; Boumort Nature Reserve in Catalonia; Sierra de la Culebra, in Zamora; and the nature reserves of Fuentes Carrionas and Fuente Cobre-Montaña Palentina, both in Castile and León.

Looking for endemic flora Spain's natural diversity makes it highly likely you'll find numerous species of flora that only grow in Spain. A good example is the Canary Islands, where it is estimated that 30% of its fauna and flora is endemic. Some examples are the Teide violet, echium, and Teide broom, among many others. Discover the most singular flora in the Canary Islands in its national parks: the forests of Canarian pines in the Caldera de Taburiente in La Palma, the laurisilva in Garajonay and La Gomera, and the broom on the Teide in Tenerife.Photograph the endemic flora on the highest summits in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Pyrenees and Picos de Europa, and on the wetlands of Castile-La Mancha. Visit exceptionally well-conserved forests like the Irati beech forest in Navarre, the Oza forest in Aragon, the fir forests in La Bonaigua in Catalonia, the oak forests in the mountains of the Cordillera Cantábrica, the pine forests in the Sierra de Guadarrama, and the juniper groves and riverbank forests in Castile-León and Castile-La Mancha.

Photograph nature If you like photography and nature, you'll have a wonderful time. Be respectful with the environment and make the most of the many hours of sunshine in Spain to put all your skills to the test in its natural spaces. In addition to being able to immortalise animals at risk of extinction and numerous endemic flora, you'll also have the chance to enjoy spectacles such as the migratory flight of birds like cranes, in addition to spectacular viewing points and landscapes which change with the different seasons of the year, and can include everything from beech forests in autumn to snow- capped mountains, volcanoes, deserts, beaches and marshes.

Discover the best conserved sea floors in the Mediterranean, the multitude of fish species in the Cabrera Nature Reserve in the Balearic Islands, and the forests of seaweed in the Islas Atlánticas National Park in Galicia. You can practise your underwater photography in Spain's Marine Reserves in the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Region of Valencia and Murcia.Whether you're an expert or you're just an aspiring nature photographer, you can find companies that organise photographic safaris around Spain, or that will rent out "hides" for you.

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