Los Alcornocales Natural Park (official website and maps) is made up from low mountain ranges containing more sandstone than limestone. It borders the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park (23) where the reverse is true. Inside the park is the Cortes de la Frontera National Game Reserve.
The park also contains the world´s largest Cork Oak forest, the harvesting of which is undertaken on a nine to twelve year cycle. Bark is stripped from the trees by hand, packed onto mules and taken via forest tracks to be loaded into vehicles. The harvest is carried out in the heat of summer when the bark separates most easily from the tree.
In between harvests the fauna and flora are left undisturbed, giving refuge to many birds and animals. Research has uncovered a wealth of animal and plant forms that exist here because of the humidity. The heavy tree canopy and many deep water channels combine to create a subtropical micro climate in an otherwies dry part of Spain.
Other trees include Gall, Pyrenean and Holm Oaks, Wild Olives, Carob, Alder and Ash. Undergrowth and scrub includes Tree Heathers, Lavender, Spurge Flax, Mastic, Rockroses, Needle-leaved Broom, Yellow-heart Iris, Hawthorn, Spanish Heather, Ferns, Rhododendrons, Laurels, Hazels and Hollies.
Provinces: Cadiz & Malaga
Status: Natural Park – 1989
Size: 168,000 hectares
Birds of prey include Tawny Vultures, Owls, Peregrine Falcons, Kestrels, Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, Goshawks, Sparrow Hawks, Snake, Short-toed, Spanish Imperial, Golden and Booted Eagles. Other birdlife includes Golden Orioles, Hoopoes, Bonelli’s Warbler, Long-tailed Tits, Bee-eaters, Robins, Wrens, Swifts and Nightingales. Near to water courses are Kingfishers, Dippers and Sand Martins. During spring and autumn migrating birds pass through or rest in the forest which is close to the Straits of Gibraltar.
Mammals include Roe, Red and Fallow Deer, Spanish Ibex, Wild Boar, Mongoose, Fox, Badger, Genet, Dormouse, Polecats, Weasels and Mountain Cats. In the rivers are Terrapins and Otters.