Parque Nacional de Monfragűe – click on thumbnail to enlarge picture
Monfrague is a natural park in the northern part of Extremadura in Spain, and was founded in 1979, and in 2003 the title of ‘biosphere’ was added. Peñafalcon, is the heart of the natural reserve and is, with the surrounding countryside, an area unequalled in Europe for birds of prey. Overlooking Peñafalcon is the Castillo de Monfrague, separated by the drowned valley of the Rio Tajo, Over 450 pairs of Vultures breed in the Monfrague Natural Park with a large number nesting on the cliff face of Peñafalcon – these massive birds often fly past very close and this is wonderful to experience. Like Cabanas del Castillo, the Castillo de
Monfrague is surrounded by rocks and cliff faces adorned with a great variety of lichens suffused with the colours of metallic oxides.
Further on in the northern part of the park is the Porto del Tiétar where another flooded river valley, in this case the Rio Tiétar, has cut through the ridge to reveal the rock strata. This has created another area of exposed rock where lichens have thrived and, as with Peñafalcon, only the rocks along the roadside are accessible.
There are a couple of viewing hides where you can look across to the cliff faces to view more breeding vultures, although it is not as extensive as Peňafalcon there is one added bonus. Each spring a pair of Eagle Owls breed on the cliff face and during the spring an adult, or one or two chicks can often be seen sitting on a ledge or in a crevice.
I spent a week at the Porto del Tiétar in 2007, and again in 2008, scrambling up the hillside alongside the road with my camera gear, where I found more wonderful rocks and lichens. Most of the images were photographed in 2007 when everything was so fresh to me and there was so much to photograph. When I returned in 2008 it was nice to see the places I had photographed again, and probably because a year on my thinking had moved forward, I found a few more images that I had passed by a year ago.
What is of concern is that some of these rocks and cliff faces with the lichens are alongside roads that run past Peñafalcon and the Porto del Titar and they do not seem to be openly recognised or valued by the park authorities – some have even been destroyed by providing seating for tourists! We know that lichens are an indicator as to the health of our planet, the purer the air, the more they flourish. If, however, there is a need to look beyond the health of our planet as a reason to focus more fully on these rocks and lichens, then their aesthetic beauty is the perfect vehicle to stir our emotions. I hope that my pictures will open your eyes a little wider and instil within you the need to look after the world we live in.