Friday, 21 September 2012

Trip report Sierra de la Culebra August 2012

Trip Report Sierra de la Culebra 9th/13th August 2012.

Tonia & John at the Douro Gorge
subtitled "Even bee-eaters must die sometime".

Thursday 9th August.

The sunny, clear journey to Valladolid airport was a joy to travel with an excellent post-breeding flock of Bee-eaters to watch en route. With such clear sights of such pretty little birds still in our mind, it was a slight comedown to have Carrion Crow as the first bird of the trip, seen not long after Michael, Wendy and Tonia had arrived from their flight. This was soon added to with Black Kite being spotted on the airport tower, plus plenty of Common Buzzards and Swifts being quickly noted. As we drove into the grain belt, several Lesser Kestrels attracted our attention and everyone enjoyed the views of such gregarious birds..

The temperature of 33'C at our lunch stop at Villalpando (tortilla, beer and coffee) was a welcome change for Michael and Wendy in particular who were getting quite tired of the English "summer" and certainly they felt ready to appreciate the predicted beautiful sunshine of the following days to the full. For Tonia, who was visiting from Tasmania, the sunshine was not so much of an issue but we all agreed that  the promised good weather would make the hours of wolf-watching more manageable.  We watched House Sparrows and a Common Kestrel from our lunch table, whilst noticing a Pale-phased Booted Eagle and a Black Kite soaring above us as we set off towards Tapioles , perchance to see a resident, albeit shy, Little Owl. There was a very realistic piece of sacking shaped rather like a Little Owl in situ, but we did see Common Buzzard and a splendid little Northern Wheatear.

As we turned off the road to look for signs of Great Bustard, what at first we thought was Partridge sauntered across the track.  Upon closer inspection, it was a pair of Black-Bellied Sandgrouse who seemed unphased by our presence.  Great to see, along with Black Kite on the track plus several Wheatears, Magpie and Common Buzzard close by. There was a distant Marsh Harrier flying by with closer views of Crested Lark, Montague's Harrier and Raven with smaller creatures spotted including Clouded Yellow Butterfly, Swallowtail Butterfly and Dragonfly. We felt lucky indeed to see a Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard at a nearby pool drinking whilst Barn Swallows skimmed the top of the water as it was the hottest time of day during a very dry season and we could have been resigned to seeing very little avian life. As we watched this episode, we heard Ravens honking and spotted about twelve Great Bustards sheltering from the sun under some nearby trees.

At the Observaciones des Aves we again had excellent views of these special birds, the largest population outside Russia, as the Great Bustards were attempting to cope with the heat by opening their wing and tail feathers, mouths agape. Several Iberian Water Frogs were congregating in the depleted pool and we noticed their pink chins. Crested Lark was also an interesting bird to watch, along with Common Buzzard, female Lesser Kestrel, Raven and Fantailed Warbler. Wendy spotted an excellent Rock Sparrow, beautifully marked, sheltering amidst a small bush.

At the remaining water in the Villafafila reserve, birds gathered in concentrated numbers, namely Spotless Starling, Mallard, Coot, Greylag Goose, Lapwing, Avocet, Hoopoe, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Heron, young Black-headed Gull, Common Buzzard, Redshank, female Lesser Kestrel, Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Gadwall and Shelduck with a  Marsh Harrier watching the action from the rooftop. Tonia inspected what could possibly be a wolf track in the dust but we always err on the side of scepticism...until further evidence is found and it was!... in the form of wolf scat a little further along this productive track. What an excellent stop!

We spent some time at the atmospheric Otero de Sariegos with its artistic "graffiti", watching NorthernWheatear on the wires with Common Buzzard and Swifts in abundance.  Red-legged Partridge scuttled nearby our track as we returned to our vehicle to drive further on to holm oak habitat, to be overjoyed to spot  6 Great Bustards in the shade of a neighbouring tree.

Rumours of a kingfisher meant that there were a few people watching at the Rio Esla bridge, but although perfect kingfisher habitat, none was forthcoming this time and we were content to breathe in the relaxing atmosphere here  in Barn Swallow and Coot company. As we entered the centre of our wolf tracking area we delighted in about 20 Bee-eaters in late afternoon sunshine on the road to Ferreras de Arriba. After a  quick snackshop stop at Villardeciervos we all arrived at San Pedro, our home base for the 5 nights, to be greeted by Antonio, his wife Soco, friend Jaime and his sister, who were all waiting with interest  in the subdued lighting of the hotel foyer to meet our guests this tour, particularly Tonia, who had travelled from the antipodes to watch for wolves here in Culebra. Tonia's entrance into this reception, dark after the bright sunshine outside, was, shall we say, forceful and our hosts were quite surprised as she stormed through their little welcoming party to get to the light, like a moth flying out of the dark towards the flame! This little interlude, amongst several others, was to be recalled with great hilarity over the course of the next few days, and was certainly one of our more individual ways of introducing our guests to their hosts.

Perhaps we all needed some time to settle in now and so we decided to reconvene at 19:45 for our first wolfwatch, at La Pista.  And what a beautiful evening it was, from a smart Blackbird on the way out of the hotel road to the changing sunset creating several stunning tableaux  for Michael's camera to the sighting of Barn Swallows skimming close by, Fox, Roe Deer, a Red Deer hind, a male Hen Harrier, Wild Boar and the sights of several Red Deer Stags looking magnificent and ready for their prime in the rut the next month.  The presence of a ranger on the rocks served to highlight the strong possibility of wolf activity here. The whole area around La Piste was closely monitored by rangers throughout the summer as the likelihood of cubs emerging became stronger, and on this first occasion we watched hopefully , taking note of a Short-toed Eagle overhead. John and I were pleased to meet friend and fellow wolf enthusiast , Roberto Abadia Sanchez, again and it is always good to have plenty of keen eyes looking out over the wide territory. As the light faded, and the Nightjars started to chirr at about 22:15, we began to pack up but were drawn to a halt as we heard several howls from the woodland not far from us. These grew to a crescendo with the addition of 2 or 3 younger howls and lasted for several, goosebump- producing minutes, before leaving the air totally still and hushed. What a finale to our first night!

It was with broad smiles that we enjoyed our evening meal that night. Courgette soup, steak and salad was on the menu but I doubt we even noticed as the talk was all of the howls, and the close presence of Wolf.

Friday 10th August.

Such a beautiful dawn makes it worthwhile getting up and out by 07:10 and action started straightaway with a large Stag running across the hillside in front of us.  To the left were 2 Stags sparring up on their hind legs and as our eyes became accustomed we could easily see about 14 Stags standing motionless above the heather.  To the right was a delightful Roe Deer grazing the light grass and further up we had great fun watching the antics of young Roe Deer running, jumping, chasing...just full of the sheer joy of being alive. As Ravens croaked and flew above the omnipresent ranger, we had close views of Dunnock and Dartford Warbler.

Over breakfast, discussion flowed freely;  the Tuscan-type scenery as Michael reflected;  the quality of the Stags and how exciting the annual rut is;  the demise in the UK of such birds as the Dartford Warbler;  the peculiar way of eating cornflakes as exhibited by some of the other wolfwatchers this morning; and the itinerary for today, which included a morning stroll around this normally sleepy little village but which in August is very much alive, lived in by Spanish families who return to their family homes to escape the heat of this month further south.

At the village ford a White Wagtail was strutting  around with a Linnet in the overhanging tree and young Barn Swallows chattering on the aerials, whilst an Iberian Water Frog remained motionless and camouflaged by the side of the brook. A Black Redstart was seen in the gardens along with Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, female Blackcap and juvenile Pied Flycatcher. We heard  Wren and Greenfinch above the constant buzz of busy Bees.

The interesting sight of a Moth being parasitised  led us to the allotments where stunning Serins and Spotless Starlings were still flying around even though it was really a bit too hot for much bird activity Humming "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" we strode forth along some of the  tracks encircling the village enjoying  the butterflies which included White Admiral and Iberian Marbled White.  We spotted badger scat  and red deer tracks amongst the many crickets and grasshoppers and returned to the stream to spot a Psammodromus Lizard.

It was getting hot now and we all appreciated some time to be inside and prepare for our expedition to look for wolf evidence which we started at 14:30.  Immediately, our interest was alerted by the presence just above our village of 1 Black Vulture and 2 Griffon Vultures soaring accompanied by Booted Eagle and Short-toed Eagle.

At Boya, Tonia spotted recent wolf tracks at the entrance to the forestry track as Woodpigeon flew across our path. Still scanning any dusty part of the dehydrated paths, we found fox tracks and older wolf scat. The seemingly nondescript Grasshoppers changed instantly once disturbed as they took to the air with bright blue wings and we spent some considerable time in this haven for bees and butterflies, some of the best being the most understated eg a lovely little Banded Grayling on a heather bush. We were waxing lyrical about such gems and how fortunate we are to have the time to enjoy such relatively undiscovered beauty, when Tonia's voice called over asking John to identify her recent find, delicately described as.."Well John, it's one dried-out sloppy scat of some description!" I'm sure we can't wait to see her holiday snaps!

35'C still at 14:00 so the hint of a breeze was welcome although the sky was beginning to look more heavy and thundery as we turned off along the Roman Road, having seen Stonechat at the forestry nursery plus Great Spotted Woodpecker. Bee-eaters were flying over in a post-breeding display and we were all entranced by a confident Blue Darter Dragonfly at the waterhole. Scat of various ages was found along this road and the hot weather was not helping in ageing this material, but there was no doubting the freshness of the wolftracks in the dust. A large individual was definately using this route, regularly and recently. Badger tracks were noted too. We also had good views of Wheatear and a lovely young Pied Flycatcher in the little copse near the end of our walk. plus a probable Bonelli's Warbler. Our return walk gleaned young Dartford Warbler and Griffon Vulture.

Lunch of pinchos morenos, tortilla, beer and coffee was followed by an exploration of the Ferreras area where we were saddened to notice a dead Bee-eater on the road.  Thus followed a discussion...we were very good at discussions!... about the possible causes and the odds for such a death, hence our subtitle for the trip report.

In such dry conditions, any place where fresh water collects is worth a check and we were very interested to find very fresh wolf scat and  a wolf track equally fresh by a pond in the area, to add to the older scat already there, underlining the fact of the proximity of these wonderful predators.

Our evening wolfwatch began at 19:45 where we decided to watch the tracks we had walked earlier that day near Villardeciervos.  Our journey was slowed to accommodate 2 Red-legged Partridge with 3 youngsters who manically tried to flee the car by running in front of our route. We set up our scopes noting Swifts in flight and a Mistle Thrush, and were full of expectation. "Peep, Peeeeeeeeeeeep!!" A small white saloon car drove into view, releasing a lively little dog to bounce across the heather, followed by the driver of the aforementioned car.  The intrepid pair managed to catch the attention of the grazing cattle and their accompanying Mastins and with much hullaballoo the cattle were eventually herded into whereever the 'cattleherd' required but not until the light had gone along with the likelihood of any wolf activity here in the near future.

We packed up still in good humour appreciating the tremendous, silvery sunset which turned pink almost as we watched to the accompaniment of Crickets and Nightjars.  A Red Deer walked out onto the track easily within view and we watched, trying hard not to wish it a wolf. As we drove back to the main road, John did an emergency stop..."Snake!" As we jumped out, the Lataste's Viper hissed but remained stationary on the road and Michael was able to photograph this large reptile in detail.

It had been a full first day, and we were excited but tired as we enjoyed our meal of egg salad, pork fillet and the sweetest melon we had tasted for a while. Tonia and Wendy were ready to go to sleep but Michael, John and I decided to go out to the local church tower in search of Nightjars and Bats in flight. Well, we did not see the Nightjars, but we did get inviegled into the annual village 'Chocolate and Schnapps' celebration where a full cup of liquid, sweet, viscous chocolate was indeed needed to nullify the effect of the local firewater which had to be swallowed first. Local residents were certainly fired up to talk with us and regaled us with tales of wolf-hunting around the village in former days.All quite an experience, and difficult to explain to the other two just how it would have been wrong to refuse the offer of such interesting company and taste sensations until the early hours. The things we have to do in the name of international co-operation.

Saturday 11th August.

And a chillier 15'C it was too, so armed with fleeces we set up our scopes at La Pista to the persistent cheep of Chaffinch and an excellent sight of a grand Stag on the track. Plenty of Red and Roe deer plus a family party of 7 Wild Boar kept our interest plus a sedentary Black Vulture on the rocks by the copse...quite a significant bird to see loitering around this area.

We were fairly prompt to breakfast today as it was our excursion to the Douro Gorge  and we set off at 11:00 heartened by the sight of about 40 Bee-eaters swooping and calling over our hotel. Just out of Mahide we had a fruitful few yards, with two Woodchat Shrikes  and a female Montague's Harrier on the right of us, with Iberian Shrike, Buzzards, Kestrel and male Montague's Harrier to the left. As we drew closer to Alcanices we spotted a Black Kite in the distance and two acrobatic Red Kites at San Juan del Rebollar.
House Sparrow and Carrion Crow were our first birds in Portugal, not very exciting but it was soon to change, with clear close views of Montague's Harrier, two Griffon Vultures, Woodchat Shrikes and Spotless Starlings at Ifanes. The quaint tiled houses at Aldea Nova proved a contrast to the Spanish style of building, and we saw the village cobbler at his craft in his little workshop whilst Michael made some new friends. The House Martins,Crag Martins and Red-rumped Swallows were wheeling around the little chapel although we were transfixed by the close view of an Egyptian Vulture with its 7/8 foot wingspan just above us. Along with Rock Dove, Woodpigeon and Blackbird we were happy with the bird sightings as we went off to Miranda del Douro for lunch.

En route to Fariza after our lunchstop, we aimed to look at a little pond by the roadside but this was of course dried up.  However, it still garnered Goldfinch, Serin, Crested .Lark, Barn Swallow, Linnet,  House Sparrow, Woodchat Shrike, 2 Black Kites in display mode and an impressive Iberian Water Frog. As we turned off for Fariza, a lovely Bee-eater flew over, only to be upstaged by an impressive Golden Eagle in mid-display. We all enjoyed getting our scopes onto the Griffon Vulture chicks at the monastery site, whilst no scopes were needed for good views of the adults! Two Chough were enjoying the windy blasts and there were Woodchat Shrike in abundance around the site. Red and Black Kites were perfoming "twisty tails" movements above us as we drove slowly out of the area looking to left and right at Bee-eaters, Goldfinch, Montague's Harrier and Michael was happy to spot a Skylark. The annual hay festival was in full swing at Quintillana with the whole village turning out, plus a fair population of Black Kites. Upon entering Alcanices, we had Stonechat, Magpie and Turtle Dove, whilst further en route gave us Kestrels and Buzzard.

Griffon Vulture at Douro Gorge

Back at our hotel the mystery flapping in Tonia's room was identified as a lovely Red Underwing Moth; such a plain creature until its wings were opened and then it proved stunning. Plain or stunning, it was better out of Tonia's room so this was duly done.

It had been a lovely day and we were in good humour as we settled at La Pista for the evening wolfwatch, back in our fleeces again. We were able to follow the antics of our group of playful Roe deer as they were soon in view, and we totally enjoyed watching the group of Wild Boar well out in the open. The kaleidoscopic colour changes of the sky create their own magic in this beatuiful place and I know Michael and Tonia took several photographs of just this feature...although each picture would probably be accused of being touched up, so defined and breathtaking were the sunsets here this week. Crickets, then Nightjars, ...must be time for dinner, but wait...and as we listen, all wolfwatchers totally still in the encroaching darkness, there carries over to us the  sound of  several high pitched yelps followed by two howls of a lone wolf.  A long pause and then we realise there will be nothing more for us here tonight, and so we bid the wolves, who are definately there, a silent Goodnight and return to Antonio's dinner of courgette soup, tortilla and tomato followed by two puddings!! i.e homemade apple tart plus the melon we were so complimentary about yesterday!.

Sunday 12th August.

As we set up at La Pista at 07:10 John and Tonia caught sight of a Nightjar still hunting and we hear the rasping Dartford Warbler calling. We watch Roe Deer Doe and Hind grazing as the sun's rays stream through low lying mist onto the rough, arid pasture, creating a vista of long shadows and silhouette pines rising up as if from an arboreal Atlantis. Several Red and Roe Deer began to emerge into our sights as the mist lifted and at 08:10 Tonia was pleased to see two Dartford Warblers  and a Dunnock, getting good views in the scope of both of these little charmers.

A fellow wolfwatcher  came running along the track  Wolf!... at 09:10.  he had seen the predator bound across the piste only to disappear into the heather.  This creature was not seen any more that morning but served to heighten everyone's concentration and the air was full of expectancy  for the rest of the viewing time.

After breakfast, we watched a Songthrush around the outskirts of the village, before setting off for the Gallegos/Fleches road  The road between Mahide and Fleches was full of activity with two Griffon Vultures, Red Kite, Barn Swallows, Common Kestrel, Montague's Harrier, Woodchat Shrike and a Schreiber's Green Lizard across the road.

Photo: M. Hinks. "They all are made from the same mould!"
Along with many of the villages in August, there were festival preparations going on in Fleches and the normally quiet settlement had a definite buzz...or was that just in expectation of Michael? Certainly he seemed to have a winning way with some of the local ladies, who insisted he took their photos and they even gave him their name and phone number!  It lent new meaning to the phrase..."Oh  I've got a new bird!" whenever Michael dared to utter this.

The road by Gallegos  can always be relied upon to give up some lovely birds, and this month of August it still managed to show many Stonechats, Woodchat Shrikes, White Wagtail, Iberian Grey Shrikes, Northern Wheatear, Rock Sparrow and Rock Bunting, with an additional Red Damselfly hovering hopefully around the totally dehydrated pond. A snack of local  ham and cheese  was greatly enjoyed whilst watching Melodious Warbler, Red Kite and Goldfinch and we were in good spirits as we set off for Riomanzanas. The normally stunning views however were tarnished buy a recent forest fire, which had not happened three weeks earlier when John and I were going along the same route, and the whole basin of heathland was now blackened;  indeed it was still smoking and smelling. We all enjoyed experiencing the quaint village with its working population still living  in many cases in medieval conditions  and our stroll around the streets gave us a Stonechat whilst remarking upon the number of large blue Dragonflies around the stepping stones.

We were now ready for lunch and this was taken surrounded by photographs and videos of local wolf sightings in a friendly busy local bar. Overlooked by a Short-toed Eagle we returned to our hotel for a rest before setting off for an evening's wolfwatch at Boya in the peace of the woodland. A Weasel ran across the road and as two flocks of Spotless Starlings flew overhead we just got settled before a good sighting of a Roe Deer walking along the track ahead. Despite Tonia wearing her lucky wolf socks, a good view of a Wild Boar at 21:15 was the only other mammal sighting  that evening, although we all appreciated that the opportunity to sit in such a calm place was memorable in itself.  We enjoyed a lively dinner eating chicken noodle soup, hake and salad with our requested favourite, melon, for afters, and we retired to bed requesting Tonia to leave her lucky socks in the laundry basket for our next, and last, day to try for Wolf.

Monday 12th August.

We set off at 06:54 to watch at La Pista  spotting several Nightjars en route.  The air was cooler with low mist in the valleys and the clouds appearing alternately pink and orange.  The distant lights of Mombuey were still twinkling invitingly and we settled with a sense of intent. Michael regaled us all with his understanding of the highlights from the closing ceremony of the Olympics as he had viewed this last night, but in reality we were all intent on watching and almost willing a wolf to appear. We knew they were there....they knew we were there....then  at 07:25 on the track moves a is a Red Deer hind.  A beautiful creature, but just as we were consoling ourselves  Wolf!  At 07:30a large solo Wolf was spotted going between trees and along the railway track.As it goes below the heather line, John gathers us together with instructions to watch the track as it should come out there.  He sees it come out, walk across the track,stop and look over to us from about 60 metres away then turn its head and walk into the copse to the right of our well-watched track. "Did you see it? So close!!" But the irony of this is that the wolf was too close! Most of us, myself included, had not even considered the wolf would be so near and had been concentrating our viewing on a further copse while the magnificent creature had literally walked in front of us!  But we were still excited...the wolf had been there watching us! Furthermore, later investigation revealed tracks of this very wolf which had crossed the dusty path which served as our viewpoint, coming over from Fleches area, and then proceeded to cross the line and stalk along in front of us until it could disappear into the trees by the track. This whole episode fuelled our concentration if that had been necessary, and the remaining patches of low lying mist created even more atmosphere. No matter how much the Dartford Warbler postured and called scratchily, our focus was concentrated on more lupine matters now!  We saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker as the sun started to warm up at 09:00 and we were delighted to see a large family party of Wild Boar race across the heather at 09:20 with a Short-toed Eagle also in evidence. What a morning!! And it wasn't even breakfast-time yet!

We were fired up with enthusiasm as we set off after breakfast to try to locate Bluethroat.  We know the sites for this lovely little bird but seeing it is not easy in the height of August .  We spotted Jay and Stonechat, and then with patience and good eyes, we saw our Bluethroats.  One juvenile and 2/3 young birds, and Tonia in particular was delighted to have one more of her targets fulfilled.

Passing White Wagtail at Cional and noticing the low water levels at the embalse with aerobatic Crag Martins, we all enjoyed some time in the shops and medieval buildings of Puebla de Sanabria. No matter that Michael mistook the majestic castle for a cement works, a good time was had by all and our first White Stork was seen flying overhead. Watching Green Dragonflies, huge Pond Skaters and a Grey Wagtail on the Rio Tera  to the sound of Cetti's Warbler, two Iberian Wall Lizards were getting the benefit of the sunny rocks and did not seem inclined to move. Our time at Ribedelago produced House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Black Redstart, young Willow Warbler, White Wagtail, Linnet and Long-tailed Tit as we watched various stages of Trout in the river.  Wendy spotted a real beauty of an Iberian Water Frog surrounded by various Damselflies, Clouded Yellow, Fritilleries, Graylings and White Admiral Butterfly plus Iberian Wall Lizard,  Psammadromus and the real speciality of only this area, the Iberian Rock Lizard.  We investigated a shed snakeskin as we also looked at the variety of colours of Cricket in the stonewalls around the park whilst also admiring two Griffon Vultures on the brow of the hill. A suspected Peregrine Falcon picked up by Tonia then confirmed by John was exciting to follow and we were all able to see the Common Buzzard in the sky above us. After light refreshment in Sanabria, we returned for our last wolfwatch, catching good views of Common Kestrel at Mombuey and Black-shouldered Kite flying by our roadside. Amongst Stonechat, Woodchat Shrike and Bee-eater, we also noted Theckla's Lark on the road to Villardeciervos.

 Hopefully, we set off again at 20:00  in good time to set up our scopes at La Pista for our last wolfwatch of the tour. Apart from a Jay it was all very quiet until 20:30when a family party of Wild Boar came out on the track shadowed by a majestic Stag in the nearby heather. By 20:50, in clear, excellent light we were able to watch two large Wild Boar moving slowly through the same heather patch and we were enjoying this spectacle when "Wolf!".   This time we all got excellent views of a dark, large Wolf which sniffed the ground in the light, dry grass and then proceeded to move to the right for some distance, with measured pace, before disappearing from view in the taller heather, leaving us to celebrate and share the moment when three more people, Michael, Wendy and Tonia had joined the exclusive group of people who had seen Iberian Wolf totally in its wild habitat. After hours of patient scanning, during which time this group had never allowed themselves to become despondent, we had all had wonderful views of a collected, supreme individual. Feeling totally happy with the world now, we settled to fulfil our last half hour of decent light for this final wolfwatch, and Tonia was really appreciating using the scope to get views of the clear, red eye on a nearby Dartford Warbler while the others basked in the evening breeze, when she  nearly danced with excitement.  Tonia had in her scope the same Wolf and was able to direct us and follow its movement loping left until he lengthened his stride and set off at speed, as if "on a mission" was Tonia's feeling, to be lost to view in the long heather. However, ten minutes later, "He's on the track!". Again, not rushing, the 'shadow' as he had been dubbed, appeared on the piste and keeping close to the left side, walked up the track only to merge into the increasing gloom of the pine copse.

This time, we had to tear ourselves away as the light was beating us , but we were totally exhilarated by the quality and length of such views of an individual which Michael, Wendy and Tonia will always regard as 'their Wolf.'

Tuesday 14th August.

The journey from San Pedro to Valladolid airport is often full of  worthwhile sights and hence we always try to leave enough time  to be able to savour anything which presents itself en route. Today was no exception.
After warm farewells between our 3 happy clients and Antonio, Soco and Antonio  we set off in the morning sunshine, feasting our eyes on a Hind and Fawn crossing the road silhouetted against the sun near Villardeciervos, plus 8 Red Deer at Ferreras. The Rio Esla stop was time to reflect upon our eventful 6 days in Culebra whilst watching a wandering pilgrim, and several Mallards. At Villafafila, we were treated to the spectacle of about sixty Great Bustards in flight, along with two Black-bellied Sandgrouse also in flight.  Common Buzzard, and Kestrels were flying close by, plus an Iberian Shrike, Spotless Starlings, two Marsh Harriers and a female Montague's Harrier. Watching the interesting combination of a shepherd with sheep, dogs, donkey and a deckchair we also noticed another White Stork in a field near Villalpando, and amongst Kestrels, Buzzards, a Black Kite and a Montague's Harrier, our final bird of an eventful, full trip was a Black Kite hovering over the airport.  We left Michael, Wendy and Tonia at the airport with smiles and warm hugs and John and I both wish them well for all future travels, knowing that the memory of that 'shadow Wolf'  will be recalled many times with smiles and satisfaction.

Margaret H.

The three of us are sittiing in Lincoln looking out at the rain and talking about wolves. We have been 'on a high' ever since Monday night. We cannot thank you enough for a fabulous time and for all you showed us. Your company was brilliant and you worked so hard to find everything that we wanted to see. We loved the area and you have located the trip at an excellent hotel...So from three very grateful clients a big thank you for all your kindness, hospitality and friendship. You made the trip very special for all three of us and one that will remain in our memories for the rest of our lives    


 I am still raving to all who will listen about the wolf trip, and really had a great time. Thank you so much for making it all possible, and for your enthusiasm and eagerness to show us that special part of the world. It has certainly changed my perception of Spain....Thank you so much once again for making the trip so special and please pass on my thanks to those such as Antonio who helped make it so memorable 


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