The Reserva Nacional de Caça de Boumort (RNC - Boumort National Game Reserve) belongs to theDepartament de Medi Ambient (Department of the Environment) of the Generalitat de Catalunyaand was established by Llei 17/1991, which was passed by the Catalan Parliament on 23rd October, 1991 with the aim of protecting, encouraging and benefiting from the wild animal species that live in the Reserve and conserving their respective ecosystems.
The Reserve has a total surface area of 13,097 ha and is located in the western part of the Catalan Pre-Pyrenees (Spain), between the valleys of the rivers Noguera Pallaresa and Segre. This territory contains a series of mountain ranges and valleys, of which it is possible to highlight the Serra de Boumort, the range that gives its names to the Reserve, Serra de Carreu, Serra de Cuberes and Serra de Batsacans.
The highest points in the Reserve are the peaks of Boumort (2,077 m), Pi Sec (1,917 m) and Cap de Carreu (1,848 m).
This is a typical Pre-Pyrenean landscape with abrupt ridges and rugged relief that create sharp contrasts and favour the existence of great diversity.
The vegetation of the RNC provides a very representative sample of the typical vegetation of the Catalan central-western Pre-Pyrenees (Spain). This area has been further enriched by the penetration of the boreoalpine species that can now be found in the subalpine zones along the crests of the Serra de Boumort and the presence of dry Mediterranean elements that also add to the unique nature of these mountains.
One of the most outstanding characteristics of the area is the great diversity of its vegetation, both in terms of the total number of existing communities and their respective structures. This is a consequence of the wide range of environmental conditions that can be found within this relatively small area. Today's vegetation also presents flora representative of practically all of the different altitude zones with the almost sole exception of the alpine zone.
The predominant landscape type is sub-Mediterranean with secondary pine stands. Forests of Scotch pine have now taken over from the previously dominant small-leaved gall-oak, which has been relegated to areas around gullies and to other relatively inaccessible places.
The trees found in the area include small-leaved oak, Scotch and Spanish pine, fir, box, Gramineae and juniper. Rosemary and gorse are two of the varieties to have colonised areas that were destroyed by fire several years ago.
It is also important to highlight the presence of five strictly protected species in this area: Aquilegia pyrenaica, Narcissus alpestris, Astragalus danicus, Thymelaea nivalis and Pulsatilla alpina.
The most characteristic species found in the RNC is the red deer (Cervus elaphus). These mountains host one of the largest and best structured populations of this animal in the Pyrenees. It is also important to highlight the presence of the Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica) and, in more limited areas, of the roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). The wild boar (Sus scrofa) can also be found in this area and it is often possible to observe the oak-groves where this creature searches for acorns and other wild fruits.
Amongst the eminently forest fauna, it is possible to highlight the presence of the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), Tengmalm's owl (Aegolius funereus) andwoodcock (Scolopax rusticola).
In open spaces visitors may see the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), rabit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and European hare (Lepus europaeus); and on cliff faces and precipices it is possible to find rupicoline birds of prey, including the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) (this is the part of Catalonia with most examples of this species), griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) (the Reserve is home to the largest colony of captivity-bred vultures in Catalonia), Egyptian vulture(Neophron percnopterus), golden eagle(Aquila chrysaetos), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and eagle owl (Bubo bubo).
Amongst the carnivores present in the area, it is important to mention the fox (Vulpes vulpes), badger(Meles meles) and marten (Martes foina), as well as more area-specific species, such as the wild cat(Felis silvestris), pine mar (Martes martes) and five-bearded rockling (Mustela nivalis).
Finally, it is important to stress the presence of quite unique species in the streams and water courses of the area. These include the Pyrenean brook salamander (Euproctus asper) (which is endemic to the Iberian Peninsula) and the Spanish crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) (which is ever more scarce and localised).
Description of the braying of the stag
The braying season begins in mid-September and lasts until mid-October. During this period, the stags dispute the favours of the female deer and create their own harems. During this period, the males of the species bray constantly and mark out their territories using glandular secretions and urine and scrapping tree trunks with their antlers.
During the rutting season, the dominant males are actively employed in maintaining the unity of their respective harems. As a result, this is a period in which they are continuously chasing each other and fighting against male rivals. However, this intense activity also tends to leave them notably weakened by the end of the mating season.
The youngest and dominated males wait until the end of the braying season (when the dominant males are at their weakest) to seize the opportunity to mate with a late doe.
It should be remembered that does only remain in season for a very short time: this can be for as little as 24 hours.
Towards the middle of October, the intensity of the male desire begins to decline and the females begin to abandon the harems and to join other groups of females with which they remain until the following autumn.
What to do at the RNC of Boumort during the braying season
First of all, it is necessary to bear in mind that this is an extremely important moment for the species and that it is therefore important to take care not to interfere with this animal's activity or to try to do so as little as possible.
Always make sure to observe these animals in silence.
Always follow the main tracks and do not leave them in order to get closer to the animals, because otherwise they will note your presence, stop braying and run away.
Visitors are recommended to search for an area where a lot of braying can be heard and then wait in silence. This should offer a greater possibility of seeing something interesting.
Take some binoculars and a telescope to get a better view. It is also a good idea to take a bird and animal spotters' guide (as these are the easiest vertebrates to observe).
To follow some routes visitors may need a 4x4 vehicle.
The recent increase in the number of visitors to the Reserve has also led to an increase in the quantity of litter. The Reserve would therefore like to appeal to visitors to be considerate to others and to help look after the natural environment.
Trekking without a guide is not recommended during this period.
New bird watching hide
This is a small building with a total area of around 11.5 m2, which has been covered in local stone in order to help it to blend into the surroundings. The hide has 360º observational visibility, so it can offer visitors a panoramic view of the area frequented by the carrion-seeking birds of Boumort. Visitors wishing to use the hide must formally request to do so by contacting the Delegació Territorial del Departament de Medi Ambient i Habitatge, (Ronda. Sant Martí 2-6 25006 Lleida) and paying a small fee.
The hide contains several different modules:
Observational space: this is used for observing the carrion-eating birds. The fact that the hide is hexagonal in shape makes it possible to look out from any of the 6 sides and, in effect, allows a 360º view of the surrounding area. As far as photography is concerned, this makes it possible to use one window or another, according to the light available and the time of day.
Annex space: this is located near the entrance: there are shelves on which to leave things and there is also a small toilet.
Water hole and bathing pool for fauna: Running from the deposit which collects rain water, there is an overflow which carries water to a 10 metre diameter pool from which the local fauna can drink and where they can also bathe.
System of photovoltaic cells: This system of cells makes it possible to plug in any electrical device that may be needed inside the hide.
This space will soon also have a radio tracker with a constant signal: this antenna, which will be installed in the near future, will make it possible to carry out 24 hour radio tracking of all of the bearded vultures in the Pyrenees that have been fitted with transmitters. This monitoring of the bird population will make it possible to study how the bearded vulture uses the carrion available in the Reserve.