Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Being at One with Nature for 2 Hours a Week Boosts Your Health

The following article, written by Rod Minchin and quoted in full from the i newspaper of Friday 14th June 2019, supports what we have felt all along. It is a privilege to share such moments of communal silence in surroundings which occasionally gives us superb wolf sightings, but also often presents us with fascinating scenarios from the natural world. In a world where so many have so much stress in their everyday lives, we recognise the importance of retaining just a little bit of the Sierra de la Culebra in those mental back burners.

" Being at one with nature for two hours a week boosts health.

by Rod Minchin.

Spending at least two hours a week in nature may be a crucial threshold  for promoting health and wellbeing according to a study.

Researchers found that people who spend 120 minutes in nature a week are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well being than those who do not visit nature at all during an average week.

The time spent in natural settings, such as town parks, woodlands, country parks and beaches can be spread out over short bursts during the week or one longer visit - both will still have the same benefit, providing the amount adds up to at least two hours.

Experts say that taking a walk in the woods, listening to birdsong, looking around and engaging with nature lowers stress and blood pressure.

Last year NHS Shetland became the first organisation to start prescribing nature walks to patients.

The University of Exeter-led survey used data from nearly 20,000 people in England. It found that the 120 minute threshold applied to both women and men, older and younger adults, across different occupational and ethnic groups, among those living in both rich and poor areas, and even among people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.                                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                                                                        Study leader Dr Mat White said, "It's well-know getting outdoors in nature can be good for people's health and well-being, but until now we've
not been able to say how much is enough."

The majority of nature visits took place within two miles of home,so even visiting local urban green spaces seems to be a good thing. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target.."

The data for the current research came from Natural England's Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey, the worlds largest study of its kind.

Co-author, Professor Terry Hartig, of Uppsala University, Sweden, said,"There are many reasons it may be good, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress and enjoying quality time with friends and family."

Margaret writing from Sierra de la Culebra - Nature's very own mental FitBit!

Monday, 6 May 2019

Newsletters 2019

I am writing this post to explain  that I shall be pausing the production of Newsletters for a few months while other exciting projects are getting closer to fruition and demand more of my time at present.

Please look out for some promising new developments with Wild Wolf Experience as we explore the possibility of expanding the tours offered to you, again only operating totally exclusively with you, our clients, and never joining strangers together for tours; John and I are very hopeful that the future developments will add to the experiences we already offer for you so successfully. There are a couple of new developments which should be available to you all within the next couple of months and along with some of my own personal work which is demanding more of my time at present, I hope you will allow me to pause Newsletter publication to concentrate on these future offers which will be published here as well as on the website.

John is continuing to publish photos and videos almost as they happen, on our Wild Wolf Experience and his own personal Facebook pages, and you don't need to be a signed-up member of Facebook to see these...just click on the link on the website sidebar. Also as you know I am always ready to answer any queries you may have personally and promptly. Clients' comments are also quoted verbatim on our website , for you to see.

I look forward to sharing these exciting new developments with you soon, and in the meantime thank you for your continued custom and interest in all we do here.

Margaret 07/05/19.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Newsletter September 2018

Newsletter September/ October/November 2018.

September started off exceptionally well with regular wolf sightings and our first clients of this month, Heidi and Ingbert, were delighted to have good wolf views on every day of their tour. After heavy thunderstorms over night, day one of the tour began with good sightings of eight wolves, and this set the tone for the rest of the week. Each day on either the morning or the evening watch or on occasion  both, John, Heidi and Ingbert were watching up to 11 wolves, enjoying being witness to their undisturbed interaction as they greeted and played. On one occasion on day three, they watched as a wolf stalked a red deer, after seeing eight other wolves further away on the hillside.

Wild boar sightings were plentiful too

The heavy thunderstorms had washed away a lot of tracks but there was plenty of fresh scat to discover. Birds seen on the first day included pied flycatcher, plenty of these here at this time of year, honey buzzard, common buzzard, short-toed eagle, Iberian green woodpecker and stonechat. These good views were continued through the tour, with upwards of 100 griffon vultures being seen circling above a local village along with black vulture on the second day. Also present was booted eagle, and Ingbert and Heidi enjoyed watching the crag martins at the dam, along with spotting whinchat, stonechat, cormorant and grey heron. Blue rock thrush was a special sighting on day three along with lots of house martins, crag martin, booted eagle, raven, griffon vultures, red kite and they heard Cetti's warbler. Two red-rumped swallows were spotted on the final day's activities along with whinchat, wheatear, long-tailed tit, yellow wagtail, crested lark, Montague's harrier, nuthatch, lesser spotted woodpecker and a lovely little tree frog.

The Browsing for Bears tour began on 11th September and John was delighted to spend time again with John, Janet and Andrew. For John and Janet this was their third tour with Wild Wolf Experience having undertaken both a wolf and a lynx tour in previous years, and it was Andrew's second tour with us after his Looking for Lynx tour in April 2017.

Ros and Terry, who were back in the Sierra de la Culebra for their annual "fix",also joined the group in the hotel and during the watches in Somiedo. The first evening gave great views of wildcat for over an hour to be followed by superb lengthy sightings of  a large young male Cantabrian brown besr the next evening feeding up on the hillside fruits before the winter, in stunning sunshine. I bow to Andrew, John and Janet's recording skills and as with their lynx tour last year, I make no excuse for simply reproducing their extensive list below. As well as the mammals and birds, the array of butterflies seen during this tour is truly rewarding. Thank you John, Janet and Andrew for your work post-tour in identifying so many of these.

Brown Bear
Red Fox                               
Red Deer
Roe Deer
Wild Boar
European Wildcat           
Common Noctule
Common Pipistrelle
Red-legged Partridge
White Stork                                             
Griffon Vulture         
Golden Eagle
Common Buzzard
Common Kestrel
Common Sandpiper
Rock Dove
Collared Dove
Tawny Owl
European Nightjar
Iberian Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Crag Martin
Barn Swallow
House Martin
Meadow Pipit
Tree Pipit
White Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Black Redstart
Northern Wheatear
Mistle Thrush
Sardinian Warbler
Common Chiffchaff
Pied Flycatcher
Long-tailed Tit
Marsh Tit
Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Great Tit
Common Treecreeper
Red-backed Shrike
Red-billed Chough
Alpine Chough
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Rock Bunting
Reptiles & Amphibians
Spanish Psammodromus
Iberian Wall Lizard
Large White 
Clouded Yellow 
Berger's Clouded Yellow 
Brown Hairstreak
False Ilex Hairstreak
Small Copper 
Long-tailed Blue
Lang's Short-tailed Blue
Southern Brown Argus
Chalkhill Blue
Spanish Chalkhill Blue
Adonis Blue
Southern White Admiral 
Red Admiral
Small Tortoiseshell
Silver-washed Fritillary
Queen of Spain Fritillary
Meadow Fritillary
Spanish Marbled White
Rock Grayling
Meadow Brown
Spanish Gatekeeper
Small Heath
Speckled Wood
Large Wall Brown
Grizzled Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper
Large Skipper
Lulworth Skipper
Hummingbird Hawkmoth
Jersey Tiger
Silver Y
Golden-ringed Dragonfly
Yellow-winged Darter

As mentioned above, we were delighted to have the company of Ros and Terry here in the Sierra de la Culebra again this September; since their Watching for Wolves tour in 2013, they have returned to this fascinating area each year, a journey often requiring great effort on their part, and we were delighted that this year they were both able to enjoy such wonderful wildlife views of both wolf and bear during their stay. We always enjoy their lively interest in everything and everybody that combine to make this the place that people just have to come back to!

Linda, who arrived into Asturias airport on 15th September for her fifth  consecutive Watching for Wolves tour, is also testament to the magnetic quality this little corner of rural Spain possesses. Every year, Linda has seen wolf during her Watching for Wolves tour, but this year surpassed the previous tours with wolves seen every day of Linda's extended tour. As well as revisiting some favourite sites, Linda enjoyed the tranquility when just taking time out at two hermitage sites deep in the forest which were new to her.  Local residents welcome Linda as a friend and it was good time spent together, with tremendous sightings of one particularly successful pack. Each day brought new views and offered greater understanding of the workings and behaviour of this particular pack as they hunted, played and generally showed the care evident between pack members.

Linda also enjoyed getting to know our newest addition to the Cional family, and 4 month old Tyke was there to wave Linda off as she flew back from Asturias airport, both hoping this was just au revoir and not adieu.

Bill and Joan arrived into Porto airport on 24th September and noticed how sparsely populated the  countryside was as we drove further away from the city lights,with the full moon being the only light to be seen. Again, like Linda the week before, Bill and Joan were treated to spectacular views of wolf every day of their extended tour, at times upward of ten wolves were to be watched interacting, hunting, carrying carrion away, playing and at times just lying out on tracks. They were always acting in total ease, as can be observed from all of John's videos.

 The alpha breeding pair, plus other pack members, sub-adults and this year's young, were all out at various times and it was a privilege to have an insight into the lifestyle and mannerisms of these wonderful large predators as they roam their territories in this most special of places. Days spent walking the forest paths gave up good tracks and scat, along with some interesting birds, including spotted flycatcher and pied flycatcher.

On one occasion a flock of over 60 griffon vultures were to be seen, as Bill, Joan and John were out looking at the splendid Iberian water frogs.

The trip to Villafafila gave Bill and Joan their first Great Bustard sightings along with marsh harrier, green sandpiper, peregrine, common buzzard, rock sparrow, wheatear, lesser kestrel, cormorant, crag martin and the spectacular sight of thousands of house martins resting momentarily on their migration. Bill, Joan and John felt lucky to be part of this scene as on their return journey from Villafafila, the house martins were gone without trace.

Saturday 29th September was a particularly good day for Bill and Joan. Early that morning Bill spotted a lone wolf moving purposefully across the open land with a leg of a deer in its mouth , a sight which was appreciated by all the other watchers.Later that day Joan pointed out a golden eagle being mobbed by kestrels while enjoying two stunning sites on the Douro gorge. Other birds seen while at the Gorge sites included red-billed chough and griffon vulture. All in all, Bill and Joan returned to Porto airport with some superb memories and the feeling that so much had been achieved in the week's tour.

The next day John and I were reunited with Alan and Jacqueline who had enjoyed a Watching for Wolves tour during a previous February, and now they were about to enjoy some tremendous wolf sightings in much warmer weather. On their first night's wolf watch a family party of 12 wild boar came well into view; a sight which had eluded Bill and Joan the week before. Along with some nightjars very close by, this was an auspicious start to Alan and Jacqueline's Watching for Wolves tour. Indeed the sights exceeded expectations as the following morning, Alan and Jacqueline could watch seven wolves from 07:45 until everyone decided they should leave for some breakfast at 11;00! Two red kites hovered around expectantly also throughout the morning watch giving some impressive views. A red fox was also occasionally to be seen, but this was one creature keeping a low profile that morning. During the day, lots of griffon vultures could be seen and John noted up to three Western Bonelli's warblers, while Alan and Jacqueline were able to see, and smell evidence of pine martin along with badger,wild boar, fox, roe and red deer tracks. To cap off an impressive first full day of the tour, Jacqueline saw two wolves cutting across the track that evening. The tour continued in this exciting vein, with wolves being watched for upwards of four hours on occasion;

Alan and Jacqueline could delight in seeing the pups playing, watch the interaction between the pack hierarchy right up to the final watch when everyone could get onto two individuals moving about the valley which had offered up so many good views that tour for Alan and Jacqueline.As well as seeing the wolves, on two occasions everyone could hear the howls as the alpha male gathered the pack around for the evening's hunting, and the sense of readiness that surrounded them all is very evident in their behaviour. Black and griffon vultures were present much of the time, at times up to 180 griffon vultures circling around overhead, with ravens and red kites in evidence too. On a lovely warm day, Alan, Jacqueline and John enjoyed looking around some of the old villages where oscillated lizard and Iberian water frog were seen, plus a viperine snake in the river at Rio Onor. Also noted were grey wagtail, white wagtail, great crested grebe, dipper, short-toed tree-creeper, Iberian grey shrike and red-rumped swallow during the daytime activities.

Yet another successful tour full of stupendous sightings in this most rich area for interesting wildlife watching.

The weather had changed by the time we greeted Darren and Sarah from Porto airport in November and the forecast was not promising. However, they were delighted to listen to the howl of a lone wolf on their first watch that evening of day 1, hauntingly carried over the mist towards the vantage point. on this very wet and misty evening, everyone counted themselves lucky to see an Iberian shrike an, grey heron and red kite, and Sarah was delighted to be able to study an Iberian hare as it ran across in front  of the Landrover then John was able to get the Darren and Sarah onto it as it sheltered in the grassy verge.

The next day dawned brighter and during the morning wolf watch. Darren, Sarah and John were able to watch  a lone wolf as it trotted down a track. A hen harrier was also spotted along with red and roe deer. Later in the day all three could watch the spectacle of a red kite mobbing a griffon vulture, along with sights of common buzzard, crested tit, great tit, coal tit and great crested grebe.

The third day of the tour reverted to the more changeable weather, but despite these conditions, John, Darren and Sarah were able to watch three wolves on the morning watch and finish off the day with good views of two individuals during the evening wolf watch. Well done John in such inclement conditions! During the day, John Darren and Sarah delighted in watching several hundred cranes and large numbers of great bustards at Villafafila plus red kite and marsh harrier. En route to Villafafila, a stopover by the Rio Esla  gave views of grey heron, griffon vulture, black vulture, great white egret, little egret, little grebe, cormorant, crag martin, mallard, coot, marsh harrier, raven and Sarah spotted an otter close by!

The forecast for the final day of Darren and Sarah's tour was not promising but the early morning light was good and so it was in very clear conditions with sunshine highlighting the autumn colours, that John, Darren and Sarah were treated to views of three wolves as they moved across the tracks and weaved amongst the heather. What a finale to a tour where John had found some truly memorable wildlife moments for Darren and Sarah whose upbeat determination paid dividends with such sounds and sightings to remember for a long time.

The first watch for Matt and Liz was in even worse weather, with torrential rain making the prospect of any wildlife sighting seem remote. Fresh wolfscat had been spotted close to the vantage point,  and Iberian grey shrike and Jays were spotted, plus a couple of red and two roe deer, but visibility soon became impossible.. But rather than give up, John decided to go off road  and further along the valley, both John and Matt saw a movement to the right. Upon closer inspection, from the inside of the Landrover as the rain was still torrential, they could watch a lone wolf about 300 metres away in a clearing in the valley below. The wolf stopped and turned, interested to see the Landrover, before sloping away across the clear ground to aim for shelter among the heather and bracken. Totally unexpected and hence so totally in the character of wolf watching! The evening watch gave us brambling,stonechat and meadow pipit.

The next day John, Matt and Liz braved the weather conditions again and were duly rewarded with a truly memorable experience; a wolf howling. This tremendous experience was bettered later in the week when on the evening of the third day wolves could be heard howling from three different points in the valley and John, Matt and Liz felt privileged to hear this age-old communication. The viewing conditions may have been misty, but the valley offered up something truly precious for Matt, Liz and John as they just stood and absorbed. Over the tour, more howling was heard by Matt and Liz, both on the same second evening when a lone wolf offered up a howl, and on the very last night of the tour, when the conditions had not lent themselves to easy viewing, but just as John, Matt and Liz were packing up, there began a howl which opened out into the whole pack in howl; higher- pitched, sharp howling from the younger members pf the pack and the individual howl pitches from each of the other members, all in one cacophony of primeval sound. This was indeed a wonderful finale to a superb tour, with good results owing to everyone's determination and spotting ability.

Wolf sightings during this extended Watching for Wolves tour continued from the lone wolf on the first wet watch, through the good views of three wolves on the morning of the third day followed by two individual sightings on that same evening. On the following morning watch Liz spotted one of what was eventually four wolves in the heather and John was able to video their undisturbed movement through this area where their camouflage truly aids their ability just to move and disappear from view.

 By day 5 of this tour where the weather had been a challenge on most of the watches, Matt was becoming fluent in two of the most heard words in Spanish that week, namely " Hola!" and "Agua." However that day was to offer to Matt and Liz views to be remembered for a lifetime. In the morning Liz saw  a movement she identified correctly as a wolf coming out of the forest and John got onto this plus three more followed!That evening, after a tremendous day at the Douro Gorge which I shall mention later in this blog report, Matt, Liz and John finished their day off with superb views of seven wolves eating a recent kill and everyone could observe the body language, pack interaction until the lack of good light meant such tremendous sights could no longer be watched. But forever in the memory!

Daytime activities within the reserve gave up plenty of very fresh tracks and scat which Matt found very photogenic, and a useful total of bird species considering the time of year and the weather conditions. Birds spotted within the Sierra de la Culebra included great tit, coal tit, blue tit, black redstart, firecrest, dunnock, stonechat, robin, tree sparrow, raven, griffon vulture, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, dartford warbler, great spotted woodpecker, short-toed treecreeper, cirl bunting, rock bunting, serin, while the visit to the Douro Gorge in clear blue skies enabled Matt, Liz and John to watch  woodlark singing and pecking on the ground, along with a kettle of 29 red kites, two golden eagles with one of them displaying, and 30 griffin vultures at close quarters.

Matt spotted a natterjack toad, which was extremely well camouflaged on the rocky pathway. It was good to see the crag martins performing their aeronautical acrobatics by the dam site too.

On a dull misty cold day 4 of the tour, where the evening watch gave good views of fox and a charmingly trusting mouse, but was otherwise quiet, Matt and Liz had an excellent day at Villafafila with John, plus a useful stopover at the Rio Esla. This peaceful place had plenty to spy including three great white egrets, cormorant and  curlew.

Added to the other birds spotted that day, it was an interesting and satisfying day's viewing considering the weather conditions. Birds noted included crane, great bustard, pintail, rock sparrow, goldfinches, blue rock thrush, hen harrier, gadwall, mallard, wigeon, teal, shelduck, shoveller, greylag geese, lapwing, green sandpiper, ruff, yellow-legged gull, corn bunting, skylark, crested lark, linnet and a possible lesser white-fronted goose.

It is now the end of our tours for 2018 and it has been such a varied and successful year! John and I would like to thank all of those who have put their faith in Wild Wolf Experience to give them some truly memorable wildlife moments. We have enjoyed meeting new people on bear, lynx and wolf tours and have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the company of those of you who return for further experiences, knowing that wildlife is never repetitive and always has a further ultimate to offer. We look forward to sharing further wonderful times throughout 2019 either via John's Wild Wolf Experience Facebook page or through my blog reports. I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous 2019.

Margaret. Nov. 2018.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Newsletter May/ June/ July 2018

Newsletter May/June/ July 2018.

May has been a tremendous month for wildlife sightings and I know many of you have enjoyed John's Facebook postings this month in particular, beginning with super wolf views on the very first morning of May,

Early in May we welcomed Diana and Colin who had travelled the world and had many exciting adventures to tell us about, but had never seen wolf in the wild. All that was to change during their time with us in the Sierra de la Culebra when Diana, Colin and John were quietly watching red and roe deer on a Friday morning when first one wolf came into view, and then another, and another, in the heather and on the tracks; in total nine wolves were in view performing varying activities after a night's hunting. The heavily pregnant female  kept herself more distant from the rest of the pack and walked slowly down the track to the nearby river, possibly the last sighting of this alpha female before the birth of her cubs. The rest of the pack were busy sniffing, trotting and generally playing around between themselves before moving off into the deep vegetation to settle down for the day. This was a very special birthday present for Diana and made 11th May 2018 a day to be remembered for a very long time.

Previous to this fantastic sight Colin and Diana had become accustomed to using the telescopes and were enjoying picking out red and roe deer, red kite, Montague's harrier, sub-alpine warbler, several circling griffon vultures and a superb dog fox. A pine marten ran out in front of the Landrover on the way to the viewpoint; this was a special treat. Diana and Colin also enjoyed seeing the oil beetles which are numerous at this time of year, and they appreciated being able to watch the white storks on their nests so close to their room.

During the daytime activities, plenty of wolf scat and several tracks were found, including badger tracks, and everyone liked the Iberian water frogs, some of which seemed quite content to pose at the water's edge rather than hop into the muddy depths with a plop!

Wolves were well in view for the first three days of the Watching for Wolves tour taken by Karen, Austin and Caro who from the first watch were treated to spectacular sights of six wolves for upwards of thirty minutes in good evening light.  The pack members were frolicking and relaxing after having eaten from their recent kill. Such interaction , watched without any disturbance to these truly wild creatures, was joy to observe. Also that evening John, Caro, Karen and Austin could follow two playful foxes as they gambolled around the beehives. There were plenty of red and roe deer too to focus upon...indeed a night of stunning sights to start this tour.

The next morning our lucky trio were treated to close sights of red deer very near to the verge as John drove to the same viewpoint for this dawn watch, hardly daring for a better or equal sight to last night's experience. Caro spotted a rock bunting in her telescope but the main attraction was seen by all; three wolves were jousting, chasing and generally full of joy in the spring sunshine, and they were able to be watched for about 90 minutes.

As each got increasingly more adept with the scopes, Karen spotted a wolf during the evening watch and then it emerged that they could watch not one, but four, wolves, again in good light and in playful mood.

The next morning John decided to have a change of venue for the watching, and this move paid dividends as John, Austin, Karen and Caro saw the fascinating play-off between a fox and a wolf where the fox was spooked by the appearance of the wolf. Although the wolf momentarily disappeared from view, it soon came back within sight and John was able to video this fine specimen, albeit losing a bit of the winter pelt in time for the summer coat. Again at this viewpoint there were plenty of red deer to watch.

Wolf scat and tracks were seen during the day's tracking and Caro spotted a rock bunting again. The morning after this walk Caro pointed out a stonechat as she became perfectly at ease with looking through a telescope. Orange Tip and Small Blue butterflies were out amongst the wildflower meadows and a real treat was to see and hear a woodlark.

The day visit to Portugal as part of their extended tour garnered some wonderful views of Bonelli's eagle, booted eagle, griffon vulture, red kite, black kite, Alpine swift, cuckoo, ravens, several red-billed chough and three golden orioles in very warm conditions.

The golden eagle sitting on a rock during the entire wolf watch on Wednesday morning was a new bird for Austin, Caro and Karen and the short-toed eagle seen the next day at the Rio Esla brought their total eagle count to 4...golden, short-toed, Bonelli's and booted.

The bee-eaters were special to watch at their nesting site, and everyone also noted mallard, goldfinch, grey heron, little egret, chough, raven, black kite and red kite.

That evening a large wild boar was a special sight for our three clients who also saw pine marten, fox, red deer and roe deer.On our way back to the hotel for dinner we all witnessed a near miss between a car and a large red deer which was running across the road in front of this car which had not seemed to notice it in the dark, night-time conditions. It is not safe to drive at speed along these road so open to wildlife and accidents happen frequently between cars and deer or wild boar. But fortunately there was no collision and all parties breathed a sigh of relief.

The 'flaming June' experienced by many in UK did not make it to Northern Spain where many of the days were decidedly cool and wet. But such adverse condtions did not affect the bear views enjoyed by Walter and Susie on their Browsing for Bears tour with John in Asturias. 

They were able to watch four different individuals over the course of the tour, one being a large male who was patrolling his area in search for females. Indeed one just such female managed to keep a distance from this huge male by concentrating her search for food in a ravine just acoss the valley from the male. This female also had two of her last year's cubs still with her and their safety was her priority. This is not always an easy task with predatory males and also when the cubs themselves are so inquisitive.Walter, Susie and John watched as the two cubs interacted with some fearsome Mastines which came close.

As well as the tremendous bear views to enjoy and reminisce about, Walter and Susie left with superb memories of pine marten seen on the road, very good fox sightings and lots of chamois with kids.

Another successful Browsing for Bears tour!

The weather did not inprove for the next two Watching for Wolves tours back in Sierra de la Culebra later in June, and Julie and Alex, then Phil, Leslie, Jan and Barbara  made the best of the drier spells in their search for one of Europe's most elusive of predators, the Iberian wild wolf. And such refusal to give in to pretty awful weather paid dividends as Phil, Leslie, Jan and Barbara had wolf on three separate occasions, including some very good views of wolf as it walked along a track giving plenty of opportunity for good long watches. As Leslie mentioned to John that she thought she had a wolf standing on rocks in the far distance silhouetted against the grey sky atop a far-off hill, the rest of the group could be forgivien for being sceptical, but it really was a wolf which Julie had caught in her scope with tremendous accuracy! A classic pose standing on the rocky hilltop, this was a fabulous view and all credit to Julie for finding it.

Time spent at the Rio Esla garnered very good views of night heron, plus grey heron, short-toed eagle, little egret, wryneck, cuckoo, booted eagle, rufous-tailed rock thrush, blue rock thrush, Dartford warbler, sub-Alpine warbler, bee-eaters, sparrowhawk, black kites and a fleeting glimpse of otter. All enjoyed the time spent at Villfafila getting good views of great bustard and lesser kestrels. They also watched  Montague's harrier for several minutes plus the sky-dancing display of a male hen harrier.

Cock linnet and wren were also seen and heard in full song.

Iberian frog was seen during tracking activities along with crested tit, Bonelli's warbler and melodious warbler...all of these being treats to be able to find and watch.

Other species seen during the days' activities included red squirrel, oscillated lizard, Iberian hare, red and roe deer, wild boar, and a fox hunting voles. Good wolf tracks were seen throughout the tour. At the Douro Gorge, everyone basked in superb views of Egyptian vulture and griffon vulture as they soared against the grey clouded sky, not a typical June sky here, but extremely atmospheric.

For our final tour of July we were delighted to welcome Jill from Melbourne, Australia who made the epic journey to Asturias airport purely in the hope of spotting wolf in the wild, a species which had so far eluded her.  The first evening watch was interesting with fox, ravens and nightjar out in the warm evening air, but we were all delighted when the next morning wolf watch Jill was treated to a sight of her first wild wolf, a large Iberian wolf  which appeared just across a field not long after a roe buck and two stags had  crossed a path nearby.

John and Jill were able to watch this rewarding sight for up to five minutes before it moved into the heather to be lost from sight. The excellent view of a large wild boar, again a first for Jill, was a high point in the evening watch; such a super first day for Jill made her lengthy journey worthwhile. Good views of red and roe deer abounded plus some excellent sightings of griffon and Egyptian vultures, more creatures Jill had wished to see if possible, made both the watches and the daytime tracking and exploring very rewarding, plus good views of black kite, Alpine swift, crag martin, common kestrel and hoopoe; all adding to Jill's enjoyment of this very special area.

However on Jill's last moring wolfwatch, she was treated to a wonderful sight which will be in Jill's memory for a long time.On open light-coloured grass and therefore showing clearly they watched a large Iberian wolf as it loped across the small clearing.  Then later another wolf appeared on a further track and could be seen walking up the left side of this track for several minutes as the video above shows. The first and final full days of Jill's Watching for Wolves tour had been exceptional for her, and provided Jill with enduring memories and a feeling of satisfaction to have seen this wonderful large predator go about its movements without disruption. A truly memorable tour  and well worth the time Jill spent in various airports around the globe before she eventually arrived in Asturias, Oviedo!

Thankfully not a wildfire, just one of our spectacular Culebra sunsets.

As ever, John has given his utmost during these summer months whatever the weather, to provide each and every one who is with us on a Wild Wolf Experience tour with wonderful wildlife memories, and he never fails to impress with his spotting and identification skills. We are already looking forward to sharing more memorable wildlife moments via this blog in September.

Margaret.  August 2018.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Newsletter April 2018

Newsletter April 2018.

The stormy weather slipped through into April from such a wintry end of March and Spring seemed to have missed most of Europe out. The normally pleasant weather conditions typical of Andujar during this month were replaced by heavy rain and wind storms which made wildlife viewing almost impossible. Despite such difficulties, time was spent locating Daubenton's, Greater Mouse-eared and Schreiber's bats roosting in a cave and in a welcome break in the poor weather, John was able to video this Spanish ibex for our clients Mike and Meredith who had travelled from Pennsylvania. 


  Fallow and red deer were also spotted plus moufflon.

A chance of an Iberian lynx sighting was uppermost on their itinerary but the constant rain and wind storms in their first two days seemed determined to hamper these efforts.  However on the third day the storms abated and calmer weather meant that John, Mike and Meredith set out for a morning lynx watch full of optimism. The views just kept on getting better and better, beginning with a solo, male Iberian lynx walking up a track in clear view, to everyone's congratulations after such disappointing weather conditions.

But this was just the beginning and the trio went on to watch some tremendous views of a female Iberian lynx at rest, at one time with tiny cubs probably just out of the den for the first time. In the following video taken by John the female arises from repose, stretches and sets off to hunt after a well-earned rest

Bird sightings were impressive despite the weather, beginning with a lovely, little owl sitting on a rock on the first evening and being spotted there every day of the tour. Certainly the changeable weather conditions provided some excellent photographic opportunities as with this shot at sunrise after a heavy shower had subsided.

During the tour watches Mike spotted a singing Sardinian warbler and Meredith noticed a golden oriole, also in full throat. All three were treated to magnificent views of Spanish Imperial eagles calling and flying low over the valley, plus golden and short-toed eagles.

Black vulture could also be seen plus the fabulous sight of griffon vulture soaring just above head height. Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Eurasian kestrel were also seen, and I list here merely a selection of sightings recorded by John, Mike and Meredith; raven, azure-winged magpie, hoopoe, Iberian green woodpecker, red-billed chough, mistle thrush, cattle egret, nuthatch, spotless starling, bee-eater, crag martin, house martin, red-rumped swallow, barn swallow, rock bunting, common cuckoo, white wagtail, grey wagtail, red-legged partridge and a glimpse of kingfisher on the peaceful Rio Jandular.

Wild boar sightings were plentiful from day three when the weather allowed John, Mike and Meredith good views of this family party of wild boar, with piglets running in the welcome sunshine.

A flock of magpies were also active showing their symbiotic relationship with the wild boar.

Mike and Meredith  were able to return to Pennsylvania with excellent memories of their superb .sightings of the Iberian lynx, acknowledging that it had been well worth the journey.

The tranquillity of the Sierra de la Culebra was the perfect antidote to  the stresses and demands of a busy life in UK for Vanessa and straightaway on the first morning Vanessa and John were getting good views of crested tit and cuckoo, a bird so rarely seen or heard now in England, The proliferation of pine processionary moth caterpillars provide a plentiful food source for cuckoos here. Red and roe deer were out in good numbers too. During the tracking activities on the first day Vanessa saw clear, recent wolftracks and scat along with views and sounds of black redstart, booted eagle, white stork, crested lark, wheatear, siskin, goldfinch, black kite and red kite plus getting as close as is advisable to some mastines guarding the sheep. The second day Vanessa was able to follow the movements of a large number of red deer including a light-coloured hind. Birds spotted and enjoyed included rock bunting, coal tit, woodlark, stonechat, Bonelli's warbler, stonechat and booted eagle. On the Monday morning John and Vanessa took time out to locate a nightingale  - Vanessa's first - and the obliging bird sang and displayed admirably, along with Dartford warbler.

The trip to Villafafila offered tremendous views of great bustard both in flight and lekking, plus bee-eater, griffon vulture, honey buzzard, red kite, black kite, and marsh harrier while a stop over at the serene Rio Esla garnered wonderful views of two otters plus great white egret, purple heron and raven.

The tour seemed to come to an end just far too soon and Vanessa made her way to the hotel room to pack, intriguingly armed with a strong pair of bolt-cutters. The journey back to Asturias airport was stunning as ever and we trust that a little piece of the Culebra calmess now resides in Somerset!

Wolf sightings continued right up until the last watch of the month during which time John was fortunate enough to film this amazing footage of seven wolves preparing for and subsequerntly hunting a small party of red deer. I finish this month's newsletter with a small piece of this amazing video.

Margaret . May 2018.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Newsletter January, February, March 2018.

Newsletter January, February, March 2018.

The photo says it all! 

It has been a cold, snowy start to the year here in the Sierra de la Culebra, as indeed in many other parts of Europe, and the storks must have wondered just what they had come back to.

                                                                                                                                                              We have welcomed a greater number of species to our bird table this winter; this is especially rewarding because garden birds are not usually fed in these parts, so there is a natural reticence to feed from hanging devices which blow in the wind. However, the wintry conditions gave us a chance to see great tit, blue tit, brambling, woodlark, serin, chaffinch and sparrow feeding on our birdtable with great spotted woodpecker landing on our apple tree to feed.


John encountered a frosty roe deer one morning in February near our home.

We spent some time watching a large dog otter swimming and fishing in clear morning light; certainly no heat haze to contend with here!

Paul did not have the best of weather conditions when he arranged some guiding with John and certainly thick mist hampered viewing but on Monday 12th February the mist cleared and Paul and John seized the opportunity for some better viewing chances, with great success! In the valley the wolf came to devour a red deer killed earlier, and Paul was able to see his first wolf, after trying in several other countries. It fed for a long time and John and Paul watched until it slipped into the surrounding heather. That morning Paul had also been able to see eight roe deer and two foxes so a memorable morning indeed. The evening watch also brought success as John and Paul watched a different wolf move slowly along a track, stopping momentarily to look back, then moving on in unhurried, undisturbed fashion.. Such a wonderful day for Paul, and opportunity well taken as the mists folded in the next day and viewing was tricky once more.

The weather forecast was very promising for the week when Sam and Becky were joining us for their extended Watching for Wolves tour and although cold, the days were clear and generally sunny; just perfect viewing conditions. The first couple of wolf watches were useful exercises in locating red deer through the telescopes and this proved useful for the wolfwatch on the evening of day two, Wednesday 21st March, when a wolf appeared within a few minutes of John, Sam and Becky setting up their scopes and all three were able to see this magnificent creature.

It was a superb watch that evening as two separate wolves were able to be watched at different times throughout the dusk and the wolf was still there when it was obviously time to pack up the scopes as the light had faded for that evening. As well as the wolves, we had our first sighting for this year of short-toed eagle and black kite during the watch, along with several griffon vultures, red kite and red and roe deer. During the day Sam and Becky had enjoyed finding fresh tracks and scat and now the real thing had appeared with this excellent evening of wolf views.

Sam and Becky also encountered an antidote to wolf predation as used in the Sierra de la Culebra generally with success, namely the large Spanish Mastine, who seemed hungry when introduced to our clients!

Eurasian otter proved elusive on this occasion, but Sam and Becky's patience was rewarded with excellent views of two golden eagles, several black kites and red kites, ten great white egrets and a little egret, plus about 300 cormorants. All this was en route to Villafafila where the great bustards were putting on their amazing lekking display, whiskers blowing out in the wind. Marsh harrier was also noted.

A keen photographer, Becky was delighted with her results from the Douro Gorge, with griffon vultures and Egyptian vultures plus golden eagles presenting excellent opportunities.

Becky also discovered a new talent - pottery - as our friends in the local pottery shop let Becky make her own pot, without too much help from the experts!

Signs of Spring are here, with the arrival of the cuckoo this week, and the welcome sight of butterflies during Sam and Becky's tour. John caught a comma and a peacock on camera.

               "Just wanted to thank you both for such a wonderful trip! It is such a lovely area and we enjoyed everything, even the cold!"

                                                         Becky March 2018.

The final days of March have indeed been extremely cold with snow squalls over this Easter weekend, but the weather never deters John from being out every possible day to track and watch for the wolves in the Sierra de la Culebra thereby ensuring a comprehensive knowledge of their movements and possible sightings for all our clients. I am delighted to share with you this superb video taken by John this week here near our home, where the wild Iberian wolves roam freely and where we are occasionally lucky enough to be granted such insights into their natural behaviour.

Margaret. March 2018.