The Sierra Maria-Los Velez Natural Park occupies 22,562 hectares in northern Almeria. It constitutes a mountainous massif that reaches a maximum height of 2,045 meters and covers the municipalities of Chirivel, Maria, Velez-Blanco and Velez-Rubio. In this natural reserve you can find an enormous wealth of animals and plant life.
This area stands out among the aridity that characterizes the region and provides a remarkable sight for visitors. Some elements that make up the area are limestone soils and rugged hills, where it is possible to see the remains of primitive civilizations. Here you can find prehistoric caves with important archaeological sites that help us to understand the history of our ancestors to our current era.
In addition to all the cultural and historical richness, this natural reserve is maintained in an optimal state of conservation to give life and to allow the development of a vast amount vegetation. It also allows for a varied amount of fauna to grow – fauna that is established here as its natural hábitat.
Exclusive plant species, more than a hundred species of birds, and many other types of animals make up this natural park.
The Sierra Maria-Los Velez Natural Park forms an ideal habitat for various animal species to develop and survive. All this fauna can be observed with the naked eye and is seen all along the trails in the mountains.
The park is home of the “Las Almohallas” Endangered Species Recovery Center, located in the Velez-Blanco area, where there is a safe haven for endangered species like the common tortoise.
From mammals to birds, there are important populations within this natural territory. In the case of mammals, the presence of common genets, badgers, foxes, barbary sheeps, wild boars and wildcats stand out.
However, birds make up the largest variety of fauna, since there are more than 107 species in this area. In the cereal plains live some steppe birds, such as the calandra lark, the crested lark, the little bustard, the common quail, the stone-curlew and the eurasian skylark.
Along the northern zone a colony of lesser kestrel settled, while the populations of raptors have a prominent presence. On the high rocky peaks and in the pine forests, safe places have been created for the golden eagle, the eagle owl, the peregrine falcon, the northern goshawk, the sparrowhawk and the booted eagle.
Other temporary or permanent species are the short-toed treecreeper, Iberian grey shrike, Eurasian hobby, meadow pipit, kestrel, long-tailed tit, common buzzard, goldcrest, wallcreeper and alpine swift.
Also appearing within the fauna are the short-toed eagle, the long-eared owl, the short-eared owl and the scops owl, along with other types of birds that fly free and in harmony with nature.
Undoubtedly, the diversity of birds in the park constitutes an invaluable heritage. One of the species that deserves special attention is the northern goshawk. It has unique abilities to hunt surprisingly quickly and accurately, as its morphology is a weapon of attack that does not fail, and it has a flight that is an unparalleled spectacle. This bird prefers to attack its prey at the edge of the forest, thanks to its plumage that provides an ideal camouflage to ambush its victim, who surely can not escape.
In the Sierra Maria-Los Velez Natural Park, some invertebrate species that are only found in the Betic mountain ranges, specifically the Apollo Mariae butterfly, are also of interest. This small animal is established in the mountainous massifs of Central Asia and Europe.
In the territory of the Iberian Peninsula there are 23 subspecies and four of them are in Almeria. It is a butterfly that measures at 8 centimeters and has 3 pairs of legs. It consists of wings of ivory or a yellow-white color; the upper pair has a translucent border and black, round spots, while on the back they have some interesting colorful spots.
Usually you can see mammals, such as the red squirrel, the weasel, the wildcat, the genet, the garden dormouse, the wild boar, the badger and the red fox. On the other hand, there are also reptiles like the ladder snake, the ocellated lizard and the Lataste's viper.
All these animals constitute a remarkable biological diversity that, added to the great vegetation of the mountain range, gives the park a great natural attraction. The Natural Park of the Sierra de Maria-Los Velez is a magical place from end to end.