Alcornoque is the Spanish name for the Cork Oak, an iconic tree in the Mediterranean forest. Los Alcornocales Natural Park, adjacent to El Estrecho Natural Park in Tarifa, holds the largest and best-preserved Cork Oak forest in Europe. The traditional and sustainable management of this forest, with its rich soils and abundant, shady streams, results in an environment of striking beauty and biodiversity. During the autumn migration, whenever easterly gales blow in the Strait, hundreds of Short-toed Snake Eagles, Honey Buzzards and Egyptian Vultures interrupt their journey and seek shelter on the sloping hillsides of the forest, gathering in large communal roosts which do not occur elsewhere in Europe.
Thanks to a recent and successful reintroduction project, Spanish Imperial Eagles and Ospreys are now breeding again in Los Alcornocales Natural Park and their contingents are increased by the presence of counterparts on dispersal or migration.
The Iberian Chiffchaff, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Nuthatch, Eurasian Blackcap, Robin and Wren are present within the forest and are easily found thanks to their characteristic songs, whilst Woodlarks and Cirl Buntings occupy the clearings.
The unspoiled rivers and creeks within Los Alcornocales are among the most interesting places to look for dragonflies in Europe, including glacial relict species such as the Splendid Cruiser and Orange-spotted Emerald.
Well hidden within narrow stream valleys, exuberant vegetation typical of the tropical and subtropical Macaronesian regions prospers. Species include numerous epiphyte ferns, mosses and colourful rhododendrons, which come as something of a surprise given we are in the most southern part of Spain!