Following Wildlife Traces
Plaça de Sencelles
Following Wildlife Traces
As you walk along the different paths, you will have the opportunity to meet numerous animal ‘inhabitants’.
Some of these animals feed on the nectar of the colorful and scented flowers and others take refuge in the dense vegetation. Some, take advantage of the tilling of the fields, go out to hunt for food and others wait for everyone to be asleep and move out. They won’t always lie in wait for you, but if you pay close attention, maybe you can see their trail, a footprint or mark on the ground, a sign that indicates their presence, a nest, a burrow, a feather…
The mammals you can most easily find in our fields are leporidae, the hare and the rabbit and due to their abundance and size are easily spotted. But there are also other creatures that are more difficult to get a glimpse of, such as the dormouse or the hedgehog. The dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) is a small rodent that arouses sympathy to everyone who comes across it. Is it due to the markings of its fur that reminds us of a mask? Or because of its long tail finished with a pompom of fur? They spend the winter hibernating and it is possible to find their nests made up of moss, feathers and fur of other animals. The hedgehog (Atelerix algirus) is a species that abounds in the garrigue. We can come across it more easily during sunset or early in the morning, since it is a nocturnal species. It feeds mainly on small invertebrates such as insects, pill bugs or small snails. Formerly its meat was consumed, but the main cause of its death nowadays is that of being run over by cars.
The reptile most easily seen is the common gecko (Tarentola mauritanica) not so much in the wild, but rather near households. We often find it lurking around to catch an insect on the walls of our houses or between the corners of the dry stone walls. The garriga serp (Macroprotodon mauritanicus) is a small snake, probably introduced by the Romans, which has extirpated the endemic lizard (Podarcis lilfordi) from the two main large islands and is now only present on the islets. The garriga serp is nocturnal and despite its common name, can also be found in pine forests, fields and gardens. In the areas close to shrub vegetation and garrigue we can also find the Hermann´s tortoise (Testudo hermanni). It is a protected species since it is seriously threatened, mainly due to its natural habitat loss, but also because it has been popularly collected as a pet. We will hardly find them in winter, since they spend their time hibernating, they bury themselves in the earth, which reduces their metabolic activity until the arrival of spring when temperatures rise and reactivate their metabolism.
The invertebrate fauna of our landscape is the most diverse and abundant, and the arthropods are the largest group.
In this group all these invertebrates that have an external skeleton are the following; pill bugs (crustaceans), centipedes (myriapods), spiders and scorpions (arachnids) and a great diversity of insects. Insects are the most varied group since they include beetles such as the great capricorn beetle (Cerambix cerdo) or the lady bug (Coccinellidae) and the damselfly (Ischnura elegans) that we can find near water bassins. Bugs group a great variety of insects, such as the shield bug (Graphosoma lineatum) that we often find pollinating the umbel of a carrot, or butterflies such as the white cabbage (Pieris rapae) fluttering between white wall rocket herbs, or once summer has arrived the thistle butterfly ( Cynthia cardui) and the song of field crickets (Gryllus campestris). Insects play a very important role in the functioning of ecosystems, since they help in the control of plagues and in the reproduction of plants through pollination.
When we think of worms, we imagine small animals with long, thin and soft, cylindrical or flattened bodies, but in reality worms belong to several groups.
Flatworms (Platyhelminthes), like the planarians, are mainly parasites, the nematodes can be parasites of plants and animals but also free-living animals, the rotifers exclusively inhabit the aquatic environment and the annelids, not a diverse group, are the ones we find more easily in our environment. The best known annelids and we will see on our outings to the countryside are the worms or earthworms that, despite living underground digging galleries, sometimes come to the surface allowing themselves to be seen. These have a very important role in the health of the soil, since they are responsible for decomposing plant debris, while “tilling” the land, thus helping plant growth. Among the annelids we also find leeches, parasites that are less and less frequent due to the current hygienic conditions of cattle.
Walking in silence not only allows us to connect with the present moment, but also with the winged fauna that accompanies us during our walk. Birds are the animals that we will find most easily, some are not shy and fly around from tree to tree, hunting an insect or even singing their peculiar melodies.
Among the most abundant and sedentary species we find the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula), a bird that we will easily see scratching the ground looking for worms, fruit or seeds to feed on, or the Great Tit (Parus major), a species that is seen throughout the year in any habitat, just like the Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops), a bird easy to distinguish by its unique “pup-up-up” call. Another song that cannot be missed from the soundtrack of our fields is that of the Stone-Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), a wading bird that does not need water to survive. Then there’s the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), which we often see accompanying herds of sheep, sometimes riding on their backs or when the farmers are plowing the earth, they trail behind.
Walking late in the afternoon, at sunset when it starts to get dark in summer, we can come across the peculiar song of the green toad (Bufo Viridis), an amphibian that lives in any type of habitat, both in garrigues and cultivated fields, and takes advantage of pools and ponds to reproduce. It is getting increasingly rare to find this amphibian, because of its loss of habitat. The building of roads and reduction of its breeding areas has caused the decline of its species. On the other hand, we also have the Iberian green frog (Pelophylax perezi), which with its grave and not very discreet song, allows us to differentiate it from the green toad. This frog is always found close to water and in order to see it we have to approach it very discreetly, since its defense response in the presence of predators is to jump quickly into the water.
The mollusks that we can find are terrestrial gastropods, those being snails and slugs. Gastropods are characterized to walk on their bellies and are the most important group of mollusks. They are mainly herbivores but can also be carnivores, parasites or scavengers.
Theba pisana is a snail that can act as a plague in agriculture and is often found on stems and leaves of plants or on fence posts. Now, if there is any known and appreciated snail in gastronomy, it is the common snail (Helix aspersa), but also the widow snail (Otala lactea) and the grouper (Otala punctata) Some gastropods are predators, as is the case of Rumina decollata , others are part of the soil fauna such as the Ferrussacia folliculus, which often take shelter under stones. Another mollusk present on land is the slug (Milax gagates), which we will hardly see due to its underground habits. Among all the diversity of gastropods we find endemism species such as the caragolí rovellat (Tudoerella ferruginea) frequent in the fields and can be distinguished by its conical and twisted carapace of an orange-violet color.