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.