Monday, 3 October 2016

Review; Summer 2016.

The summer of 2016 has been stupendous in so many ways for us here at Wild Wolf Experience.  We have had our busiest summer yet encompassing successful lynx, bear and wolf tours. As well as meeting several newcomers to Wild Wolf Experience,we welcomed back Eddie and Tina for another wolf/birding week, Pernilla and Mikael for a wolf/bear tour after their successful Looking for Lynx tour two years ago, Keith and Rosemary who enjoyed a fabulous Looking for Lynx tour with us this year after seeing wolf with Wild Wolf Experience some years ago, and Linda who has just completed her third successful Watching for Wolves tour with us. John and I appreciate the contacts and friendships that build up through such return visits and we thank you for your confidence in us.  We always do our utmost to provide our clients with memorable wildlife experiences during all three of our tours.

Migrants were arriving and clearly displaying throughout April with first sightings of Montague's harrier on 4th and bee-eaters on 24th April.

Geoff and Anne, our first clients from the 
Channel Islands, were straight into the action on 6th April with super views of over 200 great bustards at Villafafila, plus goldcrest, Iberian chiff-chaff, black-winged stilt, avocet, shoveller, lesser kestrel, short-toed and booted eagles, black and red kites, Montague's and marsh harriers, serin and stonechat - all before lunch on the first day!

We spent that evening locating red and roe deer in the telescopes to the accompaniment of cuckoo and scop's owl.

A change of viewing site owing to misty conditions on the morning of 7th April was very fortunate for John and Geoff as their second site allowed them both to watch three wolves, albeit some distance away, for about 15 ,minutes, beginning at 08:45.  Further tracking revealed some very fresh wolfscat close by.  Unfortunately Anne wasn't there to  see these three predators and although she made sure not to miss one minute of the next watches, the wolves were proving elusive...until Geoff and Anne's determination was rewarded on the morning of 9th April with the stunning sight at 07:45 of three wolves chasing six deer right across the valley.  What a treat to watch! But this was not the final lupine encounter for Geoff and Anne.  Despite encroaching rainclouds, they were out with John in the early morning of 11th April and were again excited to be able to watch three wolves from 07:30 until 07:50 until bad visibility from heavy showers hampered any further sightings.

Notable birds seen during some very pleasant walks around the quaint villages and on tracks through the park include skylark, woodlark, crested lark, siskin, rock bunting, Dartford warbler, great tit, blue tit, coal tit, longtailed tit, crested tit, robin, blackcap, nuthatch, firecrest, peregrine falcon,hoopoe, red-rumped swallow, short-toed treecreeper and Iberian grey shrike while mammals other than wolf were Iberian hare, red deer, roe deer and fox against stunning sunsets.  A walk between Villardeciervos and Cional garnered some clearly recent tracks of wolf, otter, wild boar and deer.

The river Duero was in full flood when Geoff, Anne and John enjoyed a day visit to the magnificent gorge, appreciating good views of Egyptian vulture, griffon vulture, black stork,red-billed chough,blue rock thrush,sub-Alpine warbler and a superb golden eagle display.  It was a treat to sample the serene atmosphere at the old clapper bridge which reaches over a river at present awash with delicate white flowers. This place will feature highly amongst the memories Geoff and Anne take away with them. 

"Now that we are back home and have gathered our thoughts we must congratulate John and yourself on organising such a wonderful experience for us. We really enjoyed all of the spectacular wild life that we saw and the visits to the little villages were very interesting. Being able to sample local foods at lunchtime was very good since it was something that would not have been possible without John’s help. The trip down the Douro gorge was spectacular and, once again the organisation and scheduling of the birds was admirable. The hotel was very well situated for the various observation sites and provided comfortable accommodation and enjoyable dining
Thank you once again for making our trip so enjoyable and we look forward to seeing you again in the future.
                       Anne and Geoff . April 2016."

Further memories were created with Geoff and Anne during what we thought was going to be a quiet wolfwatch on the evening of 9th April. The obvious tense behaviour of four stags alert in the heather before racing full pelt into the relative safety of the forest, alerted our attention and at 21:00 we stiffened as the sound of a lone wolf howling reached our ears.  A little later, there was a response from nearer to our viewpoint, this being howls from several wolves which were repeated from further afield as dusk enveloped the valley. Such an evening indeed creates lifelong memories.

At Villafafila,Joe and Sharon too saw the great bustards, plus cattle egret, spoonbill, corn bunting ,wheatear, shelduck and coot with bee-eater and blue rockthrush at Rio Esla. Migrants were starting to arrive each day here in the Sierra de la Culebra and by the end of April Joe and Sharon were treated to many displaying species, including hoopoe, Bonelli's warbler, Dartford and sub-Alpine warbler, crossbill, cuckoo, short-toed treecreeper, nuthatch, black redstart and alpine swift.

After this Watching for Wolves tour Joe and Sharon set off to spend a few days in the interesting and picturesque town of Salamanca, only two hours from here, thereby finishing off what .proved to be a fascinating Spanish holiday.

The pattern of migrant arrivals continued during Eddie and Tina's tour and on the very first morning they enjoyed spotting sparrowhawk, Eurasian cuckoo, black kite, red kite, booted and short-toed eagles, buzzard, common kestrel, and stonechat plus the arrival of swifts flying round the hotel. Golden oriole was seen on three consecutive days 13th and 14th May, as was Bonelli's warbler.

A chilly 13th May also gave up Iberian green woodpecker,jay, woodlark, black kite and nightingale while whitethroat, great spotted woodpecker, Dartford warbler,bee-eater and sub-Alpine warbler could be added to Eddie's list by the end of 14th May. Some over attentive bees did not dampen the spirits during a walk at Cabanas de Aliste where along with good sightings of golden oriole, two golden eagles were seen soaring overhead only 30 metres above us. All this after a morning watching thirteen wild boar. On the day visit to Portugal and the Douro gorge, John, Eddie and Tina were able to watch Egyptian vulture on the nest,griffon vulture,crag martin and alpine swift in a day full of viewing opportunities.                                                                                                                                                                                              Everyone was impressed at John's ability to photograph  Alpine swift on the wing.

A feature of Kim and Nick's Watching for Wolves tour was the close view and photographic opportunity of a large male wild boar, quite an experience for all! We have certainly had good views of wild boar this summer.

This is the time of year here when the wild flower meadows are at their best and Kim and Nick enjoyed the relaxation and diversification of flora and fauna in such unspoilt areas.

On the morning of 24th June, John and Janet were treated to good views of a lone wolf walking across a ploughed field in the distance. Enough to whet their appetites for even better views! Keen birders, during their 4 night Watching for Wolves tour they notched up well over 100 bird species!

Deepak and Olivia arrived on 29th June and Olivia in particular was determined to see her first wolf. Determination is part but not all of wolf sightings of course, but we were pleased that she was rewarded with a good, clear view of a pale-pelted wolf loping along the track before diverting through the low heather at 08:00 on 30th June. On that successful morning watch, they also saw red deer, roe deer and wild boar.

The unseasonable intense heat of this August 2016 made sightings difficult as the wolves were keeping further into the shade of the forest for longer, but as September evolved a more autumnal feel to the air in morning and evening greatly increased the opportunity for good sightings, and what a successful month September has been for the wolf watchers with us! The cubs have emerged from the various dens and Linda, on her third Watching for Wolves tour with us, saw wolf on five of her seven days here, starting with the first morning.

Some striking sunsets and sunrises provide perfect photo opportunities in this most photogenic part of  Spain and Linda enjoyed making the most of this with her photographic skills.  Along with friends Terry and Ros, John and Linda enjoyed a wonderful morning boat trip courtesy of, where the morning mist cleared and rutting red deer and peregrine falcon were among the wildife sights enjoyed as they visited inlets and bays otherwise inaccessible by car or foot.
 Linda also enjoyed a visit to Sanabria where the imposing castle and stunning lakeside views skirted by a dramatic skyline of mountain peaks, all combine to make one feel very small in an area of such presence and atmosphere.

August/September is also a very promising time for bear sightings and our first Browsing for Bears tour during these months was with Pernilla and Mikael from Sweden,

followed by Neil and Maureen from Scotland. As well as excellent bear sightings,the agility of the chamois could be seen on almost vertical slopes.

 Close views of griffon vulture against such a magnificent backdrop were tremendous!

The weather is always a determining factor in this mountainous area of Spain, but this September viewing conditions proved excellent and our tours enjoyed wonderful views of bears, as detailed on our website.Coming from the Highlands of Scotland, Neil appreciated the stunning mountainous views, feeling like a home from home.

Both tours were able to watch several individual bears for a good length of time feeding on the Alpine buckthorn berries on the mountain slopes.

Earlier in the year, during May, John took Karen and Elaine to Asturias on the first part of their combined Bear/Wolf tour and in Asturias the weather was less welcoming.

Luckily both Karen and Elaine were prepared for all conditions and their perseverance paid dividends with excellent sightings of six individual bears , followed by good views of wolf and wild boar during their time here in the Sierra de la Culebra.

John was lucky to escape the dreadful rainstorms we experienced here in the Sierra de la Culebra in the week beginning 13th April and he also counted himself fortunate then to welcome Keith and Rosemary - wolf-watchers with us in 2013 - to begin their Looking for Lynx tour in the sunshine of the Sierra de Andujar. John, Keith and Rosemary enjoyed good views of wild boar,blue rock thrush, Spanish ibex, Sardinian warbler and moufflon on 15th April, their first full day, plus greater mouse-eared and Daubentin's bats.

Three magnificent Spanish imperial eagles started 16th April off well and they went on to watch bee-eater, griffon vulture, black vulture, woodchat shrike, Iberian grey shrike, cuckoo, hoopoe, corn bunting and fallow deer until the evening watch gave Keith and Rosemary their first views of Iberian lynx.  An adult and a semi-adult could be seen walking along the ridge of the hillside to the accompanying calls of the azure-winged magpies. A large fire salamander was a treat to see on the morning of 17th April but the main event of the day which outshone some wonderful imperial eagle displays, was their view of a large Iberian lynx which John first spotted whilst scouting around further down the hill.  He ran up to Keith and Rosemary and they managed to get to where this magnificent specimen was sauntering toward the bridge of the hill, marking territory as it went along. 

A stunning and satisfying finale to a fabulous tour in a beautiful area of Spain. We were delighted that Keith and Rosemary chose to travel with Wild Wolf Experience again, and enjoyed renewing their acquaintance with such a fulfilling tour.

"Hi Margaret and John

Firstly a very big thank you to John for making our trip to Andujar so memorable.  What a stunning area, excellent game viewing and very comfortable accommodation.  I can't believe we were so lucky to see such a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles.  We really appreciate John's expertise and look forward to seeing his photos and videos.        

                                                 Rosemary.  April 2016."

So, a summer of success and great tour experiences, with the only thing lacking being the monthly Newsletters.  However, now that the new website is up and running, thanks to the expertise and patience of Matthew Drake of My Silver Tree, I am happy to respond to the various requests for the monthly Newsletter to be reinstated here, and I look forward to reporting at the end of October on this blog once again. For more up to date happenings, please keep checking the "Latest News " section of the website and of course, our Wild Wolf Experience Facebook page for some fantastic photos and videos all taken by John in the area he loves.

Margaret. October 2016.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

New Website!

This is just one of the photos which feature in our new website published today! The work involved with this new site has been the major reason for the non-appearance of my monthly Newsletters since March 2016, and thank you for your patience. I am very excited about this new site, asd it means that instead of waiting until the newsletter appearance each month, I can post sightings and other news items as they happen!

I hope you get a chance to look at the new site and I would welcome your opinions about it. With thanks to Matthew Drake of My Silver Tree for all his work in creating the new website...I hope you agree it is clear and easy to follow. I look forward to hearing your views,

All best wishes,


Thursday, 31 March 2016

Newsletter March 2016.

There are wolves at the end of that rainbow!

Our March tours began straightaway with the arrival of Tim and Ann on 1st March, and both of them were soon engrossed in watching large flocks of great bustards in flight and on parade on the ground, plus a beautiful marsh harrier at Villafafila. Such fascinating avian sights were followed by good otter views en route.  All this before they even reached the hotel!

The next morning (2nd March) dawned misty but it cleared in time for Tim and Ann to appreciate the views from the highest point in the Sierra de la Culebra, namely Pena Mira. Both on their walk up to this fabulous viewpoint and on further walks that morning, fresh wolf scat was found plus some tracks.

This red-rumped swallow seen by Ann,Tim and John at Boya was reported by John and it holds the record for the earliest recorded sighting of this species in Zamora this year, so well done for spotting this early arrival!


March is an exciting month indeed as each week brings yet more migrants into our area and Tim and Ann were our first people with us this year to see the newly-returned Egyptian vultures (three of them) during their day visit to the the Douro Gorge on 3rd March.

Spending a pleasant, sunny day there, Tim, Ann and John enjoyed good views of golden eagles perched on a rock, crag martins and house martins, rock bunting, serin and good close views of griffon vultures.The evening wolfwatch that night gave us good views of red deer but the highlights were a fleeting glimpse of a wild boar crossing the road ahead of our car and a chirpy young Iberian hare which raced along the road in our headlights for several metres, interrupting its familiar speedy loping with an incredibly high jump twisting its rear end with aplomb before landing and bringing truth to the phrase " to hit the ground running."
Ann and Tim at the river which is the border between Spain and Portugal.

Dear Margaret and John,

Thank you so much for giving us such an amazing experience of life in Sierra de Culebra.  We had such a good time....  What we loved was being outdoors in such beautiful and remote surroundings , walking in the hills and valleys and learning what life is like in that area.
We saw some wonderful birds too, and of course the little Iberian hare was an added bonus!
                                                                             Ann and Tim. March 2016.

Black vulture was seen by all as they made their way back to Madrid, a wonderful capital city and a notable contrast to the old villages explored merely a few hours earlier where the livestock housed below heat the living quarters above, and where the pace of life could be from generations ago not just a few hours away.

Cuckoo calls and skylark sounds are commonplace now at the end of the month,but our first call of the common cuckoo was heard on the morning of March 18th, whilst I was able to hear the unusual, insistent spring call of the great spotted cuckoo on the morning of 22nd March here in Cional.

Colin and Mike from Scotland are becoming members of the Returning Regulars Club, and John and I always enjoy their company and companionship.  Arriving on 18th, both Colin and Mike saw a group of 4 wolves at long distance as they raced through the heather ( the wolves, not Colin and Mike!) on their first day  and once again their appetite was whetted for yet better, closer views. They decided to take John's advice and for the next few days concentrated at a site where the vista is not so panoramic, but if granted a view of wolf, it could be closer. Friends Roberto, Jose and Inaki had seen wolves here on 20th March, but Colin's and Mike's determination and patience was tested almost to surrender point.  However, they were rewarded, at 07:02 on their last morning watch en route to Madrid airport, with good, clear views of a lone wolf loping across a nearby field.

"We had a great time as we always do in Culebra. It's always fine margins which adds to the excitement. If we hadn’t happened to be looking in the right direction ... or if we had arrived ...30 seconds later…. But that’s part of  the fun of it.

I hope you keep enjoying your Spanish lives. We appreciate your enthusiasm and your generosity with all that fabulous knowledge you have built up over the years. Its truly inspiring what you do but I’m quite sure its not always sunshine and wolves. We could see the hard work that lies behind it all." 
                                                                                        Colin. March 2016.

During a cold, Easter weekend, such tales of "it ain't over until..." were parried about as Gavin joined us to try to see wolves.  Through cold winds, heavy rain and general chilly air, Gavin kept on looking and his positivity is to be commended. And it reaped rewards! Having tried to see wolf in other parts of the world, Gavin was treated here to a long sighting of three wolves interacting from 08:30/09:30 on his final wolfwatch on the morning of March 28th, again, like Colin and Mike, just before packing up and setting off back to Madrid airport!
Seen them! It was worth it!


John's videos of these three wolves also show the weather conditions on the Easter Monday morning, but John and Gavin were more than delighted with the rewards of their efforts. 


Previous to this sighting, Gavin and John had spotted good examples of wolf tracks and fresh scat, and the increasing number of summer migrants appearing meant that Gavin managed to see several very interesting bird species which included black vulture, griffon vulture, azure-winged magpie, great white egret, hen harrier, marsh harrier, lesser kestrel, corn bunting, rock bunting, avocet, shelduck, shoveller, short-toed treecreeper, hoopoe, corn bunting, firecrest, nuthatch, red kite, black kite, short-toed eagle,

skylark, black-winged kite, rock sparrow, Dartford warbler, golden eagle, blue rock thrush, Alpine swift, crag martin, red-billed chough, sand martin, house martin plus about 400 great bustards.  These are merely a selection! 

During times tracking,John and Gavin also spotted red deer, roe deer, Iberian water frog, fox, Iberian hare and two voles crossing the road in our headlights as we returned to enjoy dinner with other enthusiasts at our hotel.

Here we have John's video of a lively firecrest spotted when out tracking with Gavin.


The journey back to the airport gave Gavin and John excellent views of black-winged stilt and gull-billed tern plus large numbers of ardent great bustards in full lek, as seen here in John's video.

I shall finish this March Newsletter with another of John's videos from this month, simply because it is a beautiful scene of a white stork wading in the river by our nearby clapper bridge amidst spring blossom, hopefully finding a frog or two!


Margaret. ( All photos and videos taken in the wild by John during this month March 2016.)

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Newsletter February 2016

Newsletter February 2016.

February has given us some wonderful blue skies and cold clear days, as can be seen in this video of young red deer on a very frosty early February morning.


However, there was warmth in the sunshine during daylight hours and John and I were surprised to see an Iberian wall lizard out sunning on our stone walls as early as February 4th. The relative warmth of that day also brought out various caterpillars and millipedes.  Our first wolves of the month were seen on the morning of February 6th; watch them as they feed on a recently dead red deer.

 The closest lupine encounter this month was on 13th February at 17:30 as John was battling against a strong head wind while attempting to walk our dog Sheeba, just outside our village of Cional.  A roe deer sped across the road just in front of John in obvious panic, and John didn't need to look far to see the reason - a lone wolf on the prowl and loping across the sandy soil into the heather 200 metres away.

On the first morning of Roger and Silvia's tour, indeed on the car journey from the airport to our base here in the Sierra de la Culebra, John was able to show them both several great bustards and they were all delighted to watch otter during a stop en route. The next day (17th) gave everyone a good view of Iberian hare and then two foxes during the morning watch, plus large numbers of red deer stags and hinds at all watches.At one time we were all able to watch three red deer with two roe deer also in our scopes,thereby clearly highlighting the differences between these two species.

Scenes such as this almond blossom against a clear blue sky

gave Roger and Silvia some clear but cold morning wolfwatches

where they spotted badger tracks recently made in the morning's snowfall.

Roger and Silvia were ready to warm up by the log fire each breakfast time back at the hotel!

This month of February has given us interesting morning bird song and we have welcomed back several migrants already.  Crossbills were seen on 11th February and Roger and Silvia also enjoyed seeing them on 18th February along with rock bunting,great spotted woodpecker, Iberian green woodpecker and short-toed treecreeper mostly seen while walking some of the tracks. They also heard a nuthatch and indeed, from Roger's clear description of an encounter in the wood just behind the hotel, it is very likely that he was watching a wildcat on the morning of 20th February.

"John was such a star looking after us so well.
Thank you so much for a wonderful experience." 
                                                                Roger and Silvia.Feb 2016.

During their trip to the Douro gorge, John, Roger and Silvia were interested to see house martins as well as the more familiar crag martins, at the dam at Miranda de Douro, along with Iberian grey shrike and stonechat also seen on that day(19th February).Larger birds seen during their visit to the gorge sites included common buzzard, griffin vultures at close quarters and a spectacular sight of two golden eagles,a male and a female,with the male performing several displaying dives to entrance his potential mate. 

Another interesting raptor spotted during Roger and Silvia's final watch on the morning of 20th February, was a peregrine falcon perched on the crag behind us.

No-one recognised this apha male as John chose a very relevant costume for the Carnaval weekend at Villanueva del Valrojo in early February! During the day many people enjoyed the sound of the traditional piper playing in Otra Cosa.


Alan and Jacqueline thoroughly enjoyed close views of many great bustards both on land and in flight as they travelled from Madrid to our base here in the Sierra de la Culebra.  They also saw shoveller, grey heron, great egret and little egret plus marsh harrier; not a bad start to their tour!


It was dark by the time we were driving along the road to the hotel, but it was exciting to catch the shine of deer eyes in the dark, plus a young Iberian hare which ran alongside the car for several yards and was clearly visible in the headlights. Despite their first day (26th February) being decidedly wet, Alan and Jacqueline were very lucky to see several interesting bird species at close quarters while walking around some of the quaint,working villages near their hotel. These bird sightings included our first hoopoe of 2016,  with snow falling,

, video

Iberian grey shrike,



white stork,

rock bunting, Iberian chiff-chaff, serin, siskin, common buzzard, raven, white wagtail, grey wagtail, black redstart, red kite and a memorable sight of a sparrowhawk taking off with its freshly captured prey, possibly an unfortunate chaffinch. 

During that evening's cold wolfwatch, we took notice of a grand stag who posed proudly as if totally aware of his beauty and his incredible headgear until, just as dusk was falling, Jacqueline wondered what the moving, large dark shape was caught in her telescope.  It was a wild boar and we were all able to watch  as this large male trotted fairly rapidly through the short, yellowing grasses, to be eventually lost owing to poor light and heavier undergrowth.

The next morning started well with good views of marsh harrier and indeed a wolf was seen, albeit fleetingly, by the ranger on the evening's wolfwatch. Ravens were able to be seen and heard along with good views of red deer and three roe deer.

This proved to be a wonderful day along the Douro gorge with excellent views of blue rock thrush at the dam at Miranda. 


The golden eagle pair were still involved in display flights... a joy to watch at such close quarters During this video taken by John you can see the golden eagle twisting its head from side to side before speeding down out of sight in a dramatic display dive. Such a great day of memorable moments finished off that evening with good views of black-shouldered kite both in flight and roosting.


The journey back to Madrid airport on 29th February gave Jacqueline superb views of three black vultures which provided a cyclical satisfaction to the whole tour; on the original trip away from Madrid airport 5 days ago, Jacqueline had missed seeing black vulture which John and Alan noticed. This time, no-one missed out on a good view of such an impressive bird.

"I just wanted to thank you again for a wonderful weekend, I hope we can do it again sometime"
                                                       Alan and Jacqueline. Feb2016


 ( All photos and videos taken by John during this month of February 2016 in the Sierra de la Culebra)