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Catching Birds, Mountain Research, and Cave Drawings, Oh My! June 9, 2010

Posted by Becky Byler in Travel Log.
Tags: , , , , , ,

These past two weeks have certainly been a blast… and full of activities! I knew that we would be busy nonstop, given that we are supposed to complete an entire biology course in four weeks, but, despite all of the work and field trips that we have to do, I wouldn’t change this experience for anything!

Our biology class started off with a day trip to La Font Roja, a local nature reserve located about 45 minutes away from Valencia. Although it started thunderstorming, so we had to turnaround during our 5 mile hike, we waited out the storm while having lunch and still were able to complete the afternoon activities: bird catching!

Recording Data After Catching a Woodpecker

We were incredibly lucky to have caught such a huge bird, as we caught a very large, female woodpecker, and, after catching it, we then proceeded to take measurements and tag her before finally setting her free. It was really cool since, being the most fluent, I got to work directly with Pep, the specialist, to record all of the data.

A few days later, I ventured out on a three-day trip to Fredes, a small town where we conducted our first extended research project in the mountains. The town we stayed in, El Boixar, was beautiful, albeit with a population of only 10 people (really only 3 people on a normal day). It was abandoned during Spain’s period of urbanization, when most of the rural populations surged towards the cities in search of work, and, even now, the few residents that remain only return on weekends or during the summer months.

I decided to conduct research on two local flowers, the tufted milkwort and herb bennet, looking specifically at their dispersal and competition patters. We were initially drawn to them because of their vibrant purple and yellow colors, respectively, but as we studied them we became more and more interested in their other characteristics as well. It was a lot of fun utilizing the different data collection methods we had been reading about in our textbook, and we surveyed 28 different quadrants across the mountainous slope we were working on.

Measuring Trees in Fredes

One of the best parts of each day, however, was returning after a hard day’s work of data collection to literally some of the freshest, most delicious food we’ve had yet. I know I’ve probably said that several times by now, but literally, this food was excellent.

Our cook was an old man, and one of the only three people that routinely live in El Boixar, and each night he cooked up a spectacular three-course meal all by himself. My favorite were the soups that began each meal, my favorite being a pumpkin soup on the first night.

Today’s trip to La Valltorta was also one of the coolest trips so far… we got to see cave drawings from 10,000 BC! After arriving in the town, we spent our first hour touring the local museum so that we knew what to expect once we were actually at the caves. Next, we visited two different cave sites. One was very close to the museum, and the other was about 45 minutes away and located on private property.

I found it interesting how the public cave drawings were literally non-existent due to high, unregulated tourism traffic starting in the 1980s, and it made me so sad to learn that people actually attempted to chip off the cave paintings in order to “bring home a piece of the drawings”. Seriously, the huge toursim boom during Post-Franco Era was the worst thing that could have happened to Spain’s history and attempts to conserve its history. Just like the Altamira caves, which had to be closed from public viewing, the first cave sights had been so trashed and graffited that it was almost useless, in my opinion, to look at them.

In Front of the La Valltorta Caves

The second cave site, which has been virtually void of human traffic, was so well preserved that you could still see just about every detail. Compared to the first cave, the second cave’s deer and cattle were impeccable. And, we could even see bloody footprints leading from the hunter to the animal!

The walk back down the mountain was very nice… we made it before it started raining too much, and the prospect of rain made the climate very temperate instead of burning hot! The whole group was still very tired, however, so we all ended up falling asleep on the bus ride back to Valencia.



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