- Rivers, Reservoirs and Ponds
In an area where the summers can be really harsh, the presence of places where fauna and cattle ensure their water needs, enrich notably the landscapes. Valdeazogues and Alcudia rivers and Castilseras and Peña del Gato reservoirs are two of these places.
In almost any place of these calm waters, we will find the vestiges of the otters (their footprints and droppings). Egrets and Herons can also be observed, and it is usual to see them going up and down the river into small groups. Some nooks and crannies of these waters have secrets, some are the resting place of the Black Storks in their migratory journeys, others are backwaters where water lilies can be discovered, a native species from Castilseras, only found in some points of the Guadiana basin. This magic places will make us feel as if we were in tropical rivers.
In many places, the meadow gets close to the water, but almost everywhere riverbanks are covered by reeds, canes and bulrushes and the fluvial groves is formed by ash-trees, willows, poplars and tamarisks.
There is a part of the fauna that is linked more closely to the water, as they need to be able to lay their eggs: these are the amphibians.
There are several species that can be seen: the Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita), the Perez´s Frog (Pelophylax perezi), the Iberian Common Toad (Bufo spinosus), the Newt (Pleurodeles waltl), the Iberian Spadefoot Toad Toad (Pelobates cultripes), the Iberian Midwife Toad (Alytes cisternasii), the Mediterranean Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis)…
- Rocks and Cliffs
The reliefs of the mountains are mainly formed by quartzite, old sedimentary materials of ancient seas (over 400 million years), than in the later geological eras were raised and transformed into what is seen today. We can also find old volcanic materials (the most famous is the one that establish the mining area of Almadén). The lower parts of the mountains are made mostly from sedimentary materials of the degradation of old and distant layers, similar to the ones that form the areas of sandstone and conglomerate.
The most abrupt areas of rocks and cliffs are used by a bird life specialists in these high rugged geography, from the Black Wheatear, the Blue Rock Thrush, the Rock Bunting, the Eurasian Crag Martin and the Alpine Swift.
The more inaccessible places are privileged nesting for species as striking as the Golden Eagle, the Bonelli’s Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon, the Egyptian Vulture, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl and the Griffon Vulture.
The large rocks are also observation points or resting areas for those birds. This fact makes well worth scrutinizing these areas from a distance.
Some hillsides, especially sunny ones, are areas to camp for one of the more specialized feeding eagles in Europe, the Short-toed Snake Eagle, that only eats snakes and lizards. Sometimes, we can observe this big eagle, looking almost white from below, suspended in the air thanks to its acrobatic flight capability that allows him to stay almost still in the sky.
- The Dehesa
The Dehesa is one of the most characteristic landscapes of Castilseras, an ecological jewel that we can only find in the Iberian Peninsula all around Europe.
The Dehesa are the equivalent of the African Savannas, where instead of herds of antelopes, zebras and wildebeests, we have mainly sheep, cows and deers.
The Dehesa is the cleared part of the Holm-oak wood. There are places where the oaks, cork trees and gall oaks form closed masses. The natural evolution of these original forests makes larger trees to cause shadow where it will be very difficult to grow seedlings of the same species.
This clearing part of the wood of oaks, provoked by the own oaks, is increased by the action of the large herbivores.
The Dehesa is currently a landscape that we associate to cattle, but in ancient times, when no human had walked these lands, old grazers ( buffaloes, antelopes, rhinoceroses, elephants…) formed a very similar landscape to the current dehesa.
Because of their exceptional situation, Dehesa de Castilseras provide with pasture and acorns to livestock. Deers, fallow deers and wild boars take advantage of these pastures and acorns.
Traditionally, the dehesa in the south of Ciudad Real were the meeting point and winter supplying of large herds of north of Castilla, to where they escaped from the winter harshness from further north.
- The cereal crops
Weather conditions, especially the rainfall and temperatures, make the crops in this area mostly dry-farming crops, particularly cereals and some legumes used for forage for livestock.
These open agricultural landscapes constitute what in recent years has come to be called Pseudo-Steppes, now that all the ecological effects of associated species, especially birds, behave like natural steppes. Birds linked to these environments are Black-Bellied Sandgrouses, Montagu´s Harriers, and Larks (Skylarks, Tekla Larks, Calandra Larks).
Livestock, cattle and hunting species in Castilseras
Dehesa landscapes and the Mediterranean mountains typical in this area, shelter and feed domestic animals (sheep and cows) and some of big game species (deer, fallow deer, roe deer, wild boar).
The fact that Castilseras lands are a game preserve where there is no small game hunting (rabbit, hare, partridge…) makes this property a territory of home range for winged hunters (eagles, falcons, hawks, buzzards), and by proximity to the territories of the Lynx, we hope that the most threatened feline species in the world, the Iberian Lynx, appears and settles in this area very soon.
Although some small game species are abundant, it is worth remembering that some are authentic Iberian endemic species, such as the Hare (Lepus granatensis), smaller and different than the European Hare (Lepus europaeus) or the Red Partridge (Alectoris rufa).
Geographical location of Dehesa de Castilseras and sociocultural context of the municipality of Almadén
Dehesa de Castilseras is a private ownership farm with almost 9,000 hectares, covering part of the municipalities of Almadenejos, Alamillo and Almadén, most of the surface of the estate belonging to the latter. The municipality of Almadén is located in the southwest of the province of Ciudad Real, in the community of Castilla- La Mancha. The farm is crossed by the rivers Valdeazogues and Alcudia, which have shaped the landscape over thousands of years, leaving a relief of valleys and mountains ranges, mostly quartzite ones. It is an area with environmental characteristics that favors the presence of some species as emblematic as the Black Vulture, the Black Stork and the Imperial Eagle. Due to these environmental values, the European Union has included Almadén-Chillón-Guadalmez mountains in the “Red Natura 2000”, as well as other protected areas nearby, like Sierra Morena, Sierra de Santa Eufemia, Sierra de los Canalizos, and the rivers Quejigaol, Valdeazogues and Alcudia.
As for sociocultural terms, this region is of great significance for having being the main world producer of mercury, from the time of the Romans, making of this activity the social-economic engine of the region, and whose mines, the oldest in the world, have been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The ethnography of the region revolves around this activity; Almadén Mining Park has a visitor centre and offers guided visits to the mines. The old miners houses were built in hexagonal shape, leaving a space in the center that was converted into a picturesque bullring, considered one of the oldest in Spain.
It is certainly a place full of natural and ethnographic undiscovered values.