Saturday 21 December 2013

Watching for Wolves tour 21st/27th October 2013.

Watching for Wolves tour 21/27 October 2013.

Dusk was falling as John,Ian and Helen departed Madrid airport at 17:30 and after a refreshment stop at Villalpando, they made their way to arrive at the hotel by 21:30 to settle into their room complete with accompaniment of tawny owl calls before relaxing over a dinner of soup, cutlets with local tomatoes followed by apples from the orchard.The local tempranillo was also appreciated and we were all ready for sleep by 23:15.

The "mist and mizzle"weather conditions on the first wolf watch of the tour (22nd October) degenerated into full scale torrential rain and although it had cleared a little by mid-day, these were the conditions that prevailed throughout much of this week. John,Ian and Helen visited several good watch points on this first attempt in order to find a clear vistas,

and they did get good views of Red Kite,Dunnock, Dartford Warbler, Raven, Iberian Grey Shrike, Crossbill and a large Stag at Villardeciervos, but conditions just proved too wet for many of the watches to provide clear views. Despite difficult weather conditions however, Ian and Helen enjoyed some good,long views of family parties of Wild Boar...up to ten on one Red and Roe Deer on several occasions.

 We were also excited to find recent wolf tracks in the mud behind our place of watch at the pista, leading up the bankside to an obvious wolf latrine site on the way up to Pena Mira.The wolves  were there, just thick mist and torrential rain to overcome in order to see them! And that moment came,on the morning of Ian's 50th birthday, 25th October.  John got Ian onto his first Wolf to make this a birthday he would never forget!

At 09:20 this large predator emerged from the thick mist which swirled atmospherically along the valley at la pista, and indeed, as Ian watched, it turned its head towards Ian, clearly displaying the distinct cheek markings of the Iberian Wolf. After pausing to consummate that moment when two species meet and make eye contact,the wolf straightened up and slowly moved off, allowing the mist to swallow up any further hope of a longer view this morning.

The first walk of the week gave Ian and Helen two new birds, Cirl Bunting and Rock Bunting, plus we enjoyed watching a male Black cap feeding on the elderberries in the garden of our hotel. Within the confines of our base at San Pedro we also saw Black Redstart, Serin, Robin, Tree Sparrow and Jay whilst at Cional we had some impressive views of Longtailed Tit, Blue Tit,Crested Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Rock Bunting, Firecrest, Blackcap, Goldfinch, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, and Great Crested Grebe plus wolf scat and wild boar tracks.

Wednesday 23rd October dawned with strong rain as per usual this week,but it looked a little clearer over towards our destination of the Douro Gorge in Portugal.  Although we enjoyed watching Stonechat en route, we were surprised at the lack of Griffon Vultures at Fariza but stupendous views of Golden Eagle flying and diving around our viewpoint more than compensated.  This was Helen's first Golden Eagle-and what views they were! Over a tasty dinner of carrot soup, pork in orange and lemon mousse, we appreciated Ian's excellent photographs of this magnificent raptor in flight.

On Thursday 24th October the morning rain resembled stair-rods and the wolf watch was curtailed.  This meant however, that more time was now available to devote to the reserve of Villafafila, where thankfully, it was clearer and drier.  Not just 2, or 5, or 10, but circa 70 Great Bustards were there for Ian and Helen to enjoy, both at rest and in magnificent flock flight. Lovely! We also saw Marsh Harrier and Green Sandpiper.

An elegant Great White Egret was watched at the atmospheric site of the Rio Esla bridge and we spent some time watching the reactions of a couple of  pilgrims who seemed to be having their patience tried to the utmost by another of their ilk who seemed to have latched onto them and who was insisting on singing enthusiastically and constantly as they tried to wend their way along this particular route of the Camino de Santiago. We returned to an evening watch where the highlight was 10 Wild Boar. Antonio had prepared another lovely dinner of local specialities;  tonight it was eggs and morcilla followed by merluza and stewed apple.

The journey back to Madrid airport was one of the few trips when no windscreen wipers were needed as the weather was much better today (27th October) and indeed has been excellent ever since! Several Red Kites and Common Buzzards were in flight in these drier conditions; this route is never boring! Certainly Ian and Helen had seen a lot despite the weather,with many of the sights being new species for them both. .And Ian had his birthday Wolf!


Thursday 28 November 2013

Watching for Wolves Tour 29th September/4th October 2013.

Watching for Wolves Sept/Oct 2013.

Sunday September 29th.

John and I met Ros and Terry at Villardeciervos in the afternoon and over coffee we discussed our hopes, plans and arrangements for this week's tour.  We mentioned that we would hope to get some good views of the majestic stags which were in the full throes of their rut, when we were "treated" to a rather closer view than we would have liked as a visiting hunter was loading the back of his shiny SUV with the trophy of a grand stag's head shot that morning.  He was uncommunicative as we looked at this magnificent beast...I refer to the stag and most certainly not the hunter!.. and he quickly paid his bar bill and left.

After settling into our hotel situated deeper still in the heart of wolf country,  we appreciated a short break before getting ready for our first wolf watch under leaden skies.This was primarily to get our bearings at this most promising of sites this year, la pista,and as such was time well spent.  By the end of the watch, Terry in particular could locate potential viewing spots in preparation for some good views we hoped.

Wolf Watches.

We were extremely unlucky with the weather for most of the wolf watches this week, as heavy rain certainly hampered our chances of good sightings. The first morning watch on Monday 30th September was interesting as we spotted a Red Squirrel to the right of the track, but the rain was really the victor for most of our watches.  The evening watch on that first full day was in clearer, drier conditions as we watched below heavy, threatening clouds.  Thankfully there was no mist, but also no sun! However we were able to watch several fine Stags that night, including a large Stag and Hind out on the track.Just as the light,such as it was,began to diminish at approximately 20:20, we could just make out a family party of adults, sub-adults and young Wild Boar which were rooting around in the low fields on the adjacent hillside. Terry was delighted with this as he had always wanted to see Wild Boar in their natural habitat and we intimated that we would hope to get him closer views.  Little did we suspect just how close those views were to be later in the week. During an evening watch later that week we spotted a family party of Wild Boar trotting and exploring down the firebreak track.

We were all delighted to watch them and our delight turned to amazement, which in turn developed into one of those moments when no-one dared breathe or move a muscle, during this wildlife encounter which will remain with all four of us for the rest of our lives.  Reaching the end of the firebreak track, we assumed the Wild Boar entourage would veer off into the neighbouring

copse.  But, to our total surprise,they climbed up the embankment, crossed the railway line in single file and stepped into the bracken and blackberry bushes right in front of us.  We could hear them moving closer and could see the bushes being disturbed when suddenly the leader burst into view within 3 paces of us!This leader only then acknowledged us with a slightly startled grunt and trotted sharply across our path to the opposite bank side.  The remaining wild boars, obviously by now fully cogniscent of our presence, went just a little further through the bushes and then followed their family leader across the track and up the other bankside. Check out the photos on this blog under the October heading  "And they just kept coming closer!" for all of the photos of this amazing wildlife encounter.

After this experience we could allow ourselves to breathe and move again, and share our excitement at such a close encounter. Later that same watch we  were able to give Terry his first  sight of an Iberian Grey Wolf albeit quite some distance away as this large predator moved in a straight line across the cropped fields on the far hillside. Terry could see the distinctive  movement  and single-minded purpose of this great predator as he was able to get onto it with his binoculars.  We were also delighted that Antonio senior and friend Jaime were with us for this first wolf sight of the tour. This wonderful evening ended for us with a beautiful double rainbow over the distant mountaintops.

Over the week, the weather improved and consequently,so did the sightings.  These culminated in an astounding morning with the full pack of 9 Wolves (5 adults and 4 young )in view for over an hour, greeting, playing and then we watched seven of them separate from the rest to lope off in a line across the valley. Time just flew by as Ros, Terry and John were treated to some of the best views here in wonderful morning light.

Rural Walks.

Our walk around our village of San Pedro was undertaken amidst heavy rainstorms, but we still could see Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher and Robin whilst hearing a Nuthatch.The lichen-covered oak copses gave shelter where  several clear Wild Boar and Deer tracks could be seen at Boya, plus wolfscat, and at the Villardeciervos pond there were dragonflies plus Iberian Grey Shrike, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler.

The Boya/Cional road gave a wonderful display of two Golden Eagles being mobbed by a Common Buzzard with Carrion Crow and three young Hobbies also taking to the air in this rare moment of drier weather.  A large Red Deer Stag roared as he stood proudly on a ridge nearby and we also had good views of an Iberian Green Woodpecker.

At Flechas, John saw,and Ros and Terry heard,  an enormous Wild Boar whilst walking behind the village. Both here and at Riomanzanas, Ros and Terry appreciated the chance to talk with the local people and they enjoyed learning about the local's reliance on subsistence farming/gardening.  The residents of these villages have a pretty low carbon footprint I suspect.

After exploring the architecture of the charming medieval market town of Puebla de Sanabria whose castle is well positioned to dominate the whole area, John, Ros and Terry enjoyed lunch at the scenic village of Ribeldelago, having taken time to study the monument to those unfortunate victims of the dam burst.  The names listed testify to whole families,indeed a whole community, wiped out in the tumult.  This is a beautiful area and luckily the clearer weather that afternoon allowed Ros and Terry to appreciate the quality of the scenery here plus admiring several Griffon Vultures and a Golden Eagle.

The highlight of the trip to the Douro gorge was at Fariza where despite the fact that the main viewpoint was under several inches of water, Ros and Terry were able to get good, close views of several Griffon Vultures perched on rocks close by.

Both John and I take our hats off to Ros and Terry who maintained a totally positive attitude throughout the days of torrential rain, and how pleased we were when that optimism was rewarded with the excellent Wolf and Wild Boar encounters, plus a couple of final days of good weather! Terry and Ros enjoyed the company at our hotel base, and were complimentary about every meal,however we all particularly appreciated the evening when friend Jaime took over the kitchen and Terry, Ros, John and I plus Antonio(s) were his guests for a lovely meal of tasty food and Spanish hospitality, all offered in the relaxed manner which I hope typifies the whole Wild Wolf Experience for Ros and Terry.


"We talk all the time about our time with you and how we enjoyed it - despite the weather.  We completely fell in love with the North and the area of Sierra de la Culebra. We were impressed with your knowledge and experience and hope we may meet again next year....Thank you both for a fantastic wild wolf experience.  We appreciate how lucky we were to see 8/9 wolves on the move...Best wishes and good viewing!"   Ros.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Wolves,Cranes and Great Bustards.

Wolves, Cranes and Great Bustards.

A great weekend with 3 wolves seen here in the Sierra de la Culebra and a short drive to Villafafila to see the arrival of the wintering cranes, plus the resident Great Bustards.

 Also saw a magnificent Golden Eagle along with thousands of wintering wildfowl and a fantastic display of aerobatics by a male Peregrine Falcon stooping unsuccessfully into a flock of Lapwings,but showing its mastery of the air. Good numbers of Marsh Harriers quartering the lagoons and upwards of 30 Red Kites. Here in Culebra as well as the wolves, we watched a fabulous 16 point Red Stag with a harem of hinds and a Golden Eagle hunting low over the valley at la pista.

 Wonderful in every season!


Friday 15 November 2013

Win a WWE Watching for Wolves Tour!

 Watching for Wolves Tour....Prize Draw!

Stop Press...John and I are offering one  standard 5 night/6 day Watching for Wolves tour as a major prize in the December Draw organized by Rewilding Europe. Details are below, but please visit for further details.

Watching for Wolves tour.  

We could  provide you with a 5 night/6 day holiday in this area of Spain   As well as focusing on the Iberian Grey Wolf, we also will be actively looking for red deer, roe deer, red fox, wild boar, otter,  possibly wildcat, Iberian hare ,pine marten and depending on the weather a variety of reptiles and Schreiber’s green lizard, oscillated lizard, fire salamander, tree frog . There is a wealth of birdlife in the area with up to 14 species of raptor.  The tour also includes a visit to Lagunas de Villafafila, a vast area famed for holding the largest population of Great Bustards outside Russia. Other specialities of the reserve are black-bellied sandgrouse and large numbers of raptors. The surrounding hills and forests of our village base hold interesting species such as , crested tit, firecrest,  black redstart, short-toed treecreeper, rock bunting, cirl bunting, serin,  crossbill, Dartford warbler, Iberian grey shrike, griffon and black vulture, golden eagle, to name but a few!
The hotel is set in a small village in the heart of the forest from where you can walk straight out along numerous trails and tracks. As well as wolf watching, we visit local traditional villages and sample the culture of this unique backwater of rural Spain. On one day, we cross the border into Portugal and visit the mighty Douro gorge. a haven for vultures and eagles. 

We work around your preferred times so we do not have set tour dates;  this means that that each tour is arranged to best fit your personal arrangements. John and I pride ourselves on providing individually tailored tours, and we are your contacts and guides throughout all your arrangements and your tour.  We are not merely acting as agents, using hired guides.

The tour on offer includes all land travel in fully air-conditioned vehicle, pick-up and drop-off at Puebla de Sanabria railway station which runs direct trains from Madrid Chamartin station every day,  en-suite accommodation in a rural hotel , breakfast, light lunch and 3 course evening meal with drinks, morning and evening  watches at the most promising locations, days tracking and searching the area for signs of our target species, day trips to places of local birding and wildlife interest , plus the services of John and myself as your guides throughout the whole tour(s). There are no hidden “extras!”.

Good luck, and we hope to see  you next year when you claim your prize!


Wednesday 13 November 2013

Watching for Wolves tour 23rd/28th September 2013.

Watching for Wolves Tour 23rd/28th September 2013.

On a sunny  Monday morning 23rd September, John met Jo and Angus at Madrid Airport. They had enjoyed a couple of night's city life, but  were now ready for the main purpose of their visit to look for the Iberian Grey Wolf.  The journey to our base in the Sierra de la Culebra allowed for a substantial amount of time to be spent at the excellent reserve of Villafafila, where Jo and Angus were treated to very good views of several Great Bustards

plus Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Wheatear, Crested Lark, Greylag Goose, Green Sandpiper, Rock Sparrow and Raven. Everyone was interested in the former dovecotes which now serve the excellent purpose of  providing important breeding sites for Lesser Kestrels and lend a peculiarly oriental flavour to the surrounding landscape.  Lesser Kestrels were plentiful as Jo, Angus and John explored the deserted former village of Otero de Sariegos.

After settling into their hotel, it was time for the first wolf watching session of this tour.  The valley of la Pista was peaceful with only the occasional stag roar, and we were able to get our bearings for future watches whilst following 2 Stags with accompanying Hinds.

Dinner that evening had a truly local touch; it was cauliflower soup, Ternera de Aliste with Antonio's tomatoes, followed by a yoghurt dessert, plus of course the local tempranillo vino tinto. We always enjoy the home cooking with local produce that Antonio(s)serves us;  on this tour a favourite was the scrambled eggs with morcilla, followed by Secreto Pork and Antonio's lovely Lemon Mousse.

The wolf watch the next morning(Tuesday 24th September) was again at la pista and surpassed all expectations of Jo and Angus as in clear morning light they spent quite some time following 4 Wolves including one lying down yet still visible.  What a start! Also seen during this morning's watch was Short-toed Eagle, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, 5 Nightjars, up to 10 Wild Boar, Roe Deer and several large Stags.

During the evening wolf watch, Angus followed a Griffon Vulture to see it roost with others of its kind by the firebreak track. A Hobby also flew across this track and we were interested in a young Stag running through the heather, but were unable to locate any lupine cause.

Other wolf watches this tour treated Jo and Angus to wonderful opportunities to watch wolves interact with Stags, Hinds and each other.They were able to watch the different reactions of Stags, Hinds and Roe Deer when Wolf was around, and to follow them along the zig-zag track, running through the low heather only to be tantilisingly lost to view in higher vegetation, and perhaps in the most memorable moment when the cubs greeted their returning mother with licking and playful body language.  In addition to the species already mentioned, our watches also gave us Fox, Crossbill and a pretty convincing Steve Coogan lookalike.


The 'celebrity' spotting theme seemed to continue throughout this tour as a very good likeness of Super Mario was pushing a wheelbarrow in the traditional Portuguese village of Aldeiea Nova.  Here the ladies go about their daily business in their traditional black garb, giving us a welcoming greeting as ever. We had seen at least 4 Red Kites around San Vitero on our way here, and as we headed down to our first gorge stop in a very peasant 31'C we were relieved not to be swathed in the heavy black tights and scarves which seem to be de rigeur here. The site at Aldeiea Nova was stark after the huge fire which had raged over both sides of this part of the gorge earlier this summer and the scarred land was laid bare and devastated. We look forward to charting the reconstructive powers of Nature over the coming months here.

We noticed the traditional Aliste donkeys near the clapper bridge en route to Fariza. plus a pale-phased Booted Eagle.  At the stunning Fariza viewpoint where Jo saw Dali-esque features in the crags, we spent some time observing the colony of Griffon Vultures soaring in the air and roosting on the cliffs below and opposite us.The almonds were dropping from the trees just inviting us to taste them, so we obliged and enjoyed such delicate tastes which totally complemented the wonderful natural aromas reaching us from the herbs and bushes around us.

Village life in the Sierra de la Culebra.

During our stroll around our base village of San Pedro after breakfast on Tuesday 24th September, we were delighted to notice Serin, Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher amongst the birds in the surrounding woodland, plus 3 Griffon Vultures and a Black Vulture soaring above.

A short trip to Boya later that day was very rewarding with fresh wolfscat and tracks easily visible. Iberian Water Frogs hopped away from our feet into their pond sanctuary and we disturbed a Grey Heron by the water's edge.

Everyone enjoyed the picturesque walk towards Pena Mira behind the village of Flechas, and Jo was delighted with her photographic evidence of a grand Stag at pretty close quarters. I am grateful to Jo for allowing me to use her photos as well as our own on this report, as my aged and normally sturdy Panasonic Lumix was proving a little temperamental, so "Thank You Jo!"

Villages such as Flechas and Riomanzanas show us a way of life unchanged for several decades and Jo and Angus also appreciated the walk behind Codesal, almost in the tracks of the wolves they had so enjoyed watching this tour. As well as clear, fresh wolf tracks, they also saw Stonechat, Peregrine Falcon, Hen Harrier and amazing views of a Hobby chasing insects.

Windscreen wipers at top speed for  all of the journey back to Madrid airport could not dampen the spirits of Jo and Angus as they returned from their successful and eventful Watching for Wolves Tour. No urgent plans for a Yellowstone trip needed any more - at least not for wolves- as everyone reflected upon the wonderful opportunities enjoyed this week to watch the pack at chase, at rest and at play.


"Thanks for a great week and for looking after us so well...and showing us lobos!"    Jo.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Cat in the Bag!

Seen yesterday morning at the end of our Looking for Lynx tour, a fitting climax to an excellent time with good views of Spanish Ibex, Eurasian Otter and Spanish Imperial Eagle to name but a few. Full Trip report later this month.

Monday 4 November 2013

Guadarrama Wolves

Thanks to Ros and Terry who have forwarded to us this article from their local newspaper "CoastRider" 22/10/13, detailing the successful settlement of a wolf pack in the Guadarrama national park less than 90 km from Madrid.  We hope the sympathetic attitude of the authorities continues.


Thursday 31 October 2013

Real life Hallowe'en in Sierra de la Culebra.!

Visiting Sierra de la Culebra this month, friend Wil found some things that go bump in the night using his stealth camera. (2 Wolves and a Wild Boar)

Happy Hallowe'en!!

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Watching for Wolves Tour 17th/22nd September 2013.

Watching for Wolves 17th/21st September.

Tuesday 17th September.

Carren, Jean,Irene and Anne are four ladies who were determined to give 100% when looking for wolves whilst also devoting the same amount to having a jolly good time together. They arrived full of praise for the John Lennon Airport at Liverpool and also very happy with the Easyjet team who had flown them into Madrid. They met John and arrived at the hotel in  good time to settle in to their rooms and enjoy their first evening meal here. As bed-time approached, we had the unusual sight of the normally inscrutable Antonio senior being asked to fill Anne's hot water bottle, (ambient temperature 21'C) which was lovingly ensconced in a furry cover.  Such a device Antonio had never met before, but he was ready each night after that to fill Anne's "hot rabbit" to the brim!

Wolf Watches.

Early morning mist, although beautiful, did limit viewing possibilities in the first half of the tour.  The stag rut was getting to a climax however, and every watch brought stunning views of these proud creatures, with their roars and barks resounding through the valleys even when mist impeded good views. On the first evening watch, 18th September, we were excited to locate the source of so much vulture interest. We watched at 20:00, several GriffonVultures and a Raven feeding,until the Black Vultures came in to get rid of the rest. The full moon became easily visible by 20:15 in an almost violet sky as we watched these birds, so graceful in flight yet so ungainly on land, to the background of roaring stags. At 20:45  seven Wild Boar were grazing in the light grass and 5 minutes later two more Wild Boar ran across the track.  Nightjars and crickets had begun their evening wall of sound as the diminishing light meant that we had to leave this scenario.

The next morning (Thursday 19th September) Wolf was seen fleetingly but we couldn't all get onto it. Irene pointed out Wild Boar to us all. plus a beautiful Stag.By this evening, when our watch produced nothing bigger than an Iberian Hare, a little despondency was beginning to creep in, voiced at dinner by Carren's ironic toast to the "Spanish Buggerall".

Friday evening's watch changed all that negativity however.As we settled at la pista by 19:00 noting Crossbill on the wire and the inquisitive Dartford Warbler nearby, most of us managed a view of a solo Wolf moving intently across the fields on the horizon at 20:15.  As some of us were concentrating on four Wild Boar rooting about some distance away at 20:40, we were also delighted to see three young Wolves and two adults in playful mode on the distant hill fields. From that watch on, good views were more frequent, with an excellent opportunity beginning at 09:20 the next morning (21st September) to watch a pale-pelted adult Wolf interact with several Red Deer.  We were focused on the deer in the light grass when suddenly one deer went "Boyng" (Carren's words) and  three others were showing signs of being startled. No wonder, because a large Wolf came out onto the track!

The changing skies on both the morning and evening watches were something for us all to enjoy.

Up to the very last minute, on the last wolfwatch of the tour, everyone was watching as the deer performed this "pronging" action as if to demonstrate its fitness to any predator, while a Stag remained totally transfixed amongst running hinds. We watched as they were being chased by a Wolf and we all were able to follow this thrilling episode for some time.  We left la pista after this last wolfwatch of the tour in high spirits after several excellent views and glimpses into the natural life and behaviour of this apex predator, the Iberian Wolf.

Tracking for Signs.

Of course, although watching for wolves is the main purpose of our time on tour, there is always much to do in between watches, and on the very first day we noted some fresh wolf scat positioned on top of some older foxscat at the crossroads of a path during a walk around our base village of San Pedro.  The portly bumblebees were busy on the ivy and blackberry bushes, along with a huge blue/black flying insect which Carren later identified, thanks to Irene's photographic skills, as a Violet Carpenter Bee, aka Mijas Bee.(xylocopa violacea). We could identify White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Rock Bunting much more readily and our searching in the skies led us to notice five GriffonVultures soaring around San Pedro...a number which increased to about seventy by the end of our walk.  Iberian Wall Lizard and Iberian Water Frog were seen, plus Clouded Yellow, Mountain Clouded Yellow and Rock Grayling butterflies. The blue, and occasionally the red, Grasshoppers were displaying their colours before our feet as we walked the paths around the village, noting  Red and Roe Deer tracks, and Carren attempted to handle a large Cricket until it bit her...which is probably what that Spanish person had been trying to tell her!

It being a Wednesday, the "Sausage and Cheese-with-a-little-bit-of-fruit-Man" was visiting the village and he was keen to regale us with tales of his sights on his travels around the byways in Sierra de la Culebra.  He was also very happy to share his produce with us and it meant that Jean was able to buy her holiday bananas: a bit of a tradition amongst these ladies I understand.

Later that day we did find a Praying Mantis at Boya and it was a pleasure to watch it watching us. In the same area we noticed wolf tracks in the sandy part of the firebreak going up the hill in a typically direct, straight line. Lunch at the Remesal that day was preceded by some wolfscat evidence along the Roman Road and some pretty close views of the Mastins there. Luckily for us they were intent upon relaxing in the forest shade away from the midday sun.

"Surely not THAT big!", Irene is amazed.

Village Visits.

Carren, Jean, Irene and Anne loved visiting the traditional villages of Flechas and Riomanzanas, noting a young Stonechat, Black Redstart, Rock Bunting, Iberian Grey Shrike and Common Kestrel at the first village stop of Flechas where Anne climbed up the bell-tower to see if she would be eligible for the role of bell ringer, but soon realised she was about 30 years too young. Irene noticed the strong smell of recent Wild Boar activity during our walk behind the village, where we spotted Escher's Blue, Meadow Brown and Fritillary Butterflies.

As we left Flechas for Riomanzanas, four Red-legged Partridges scuttled over the road. Soon after this we stopped to survey the vast area of uninhabited countryside from a lay-by viewpoint, appreciating the time to drink in the peace and quiet of this rural idyll.

Crossing the ford at Riomanzanas with Marguerita insisting we look at the village swimming pool facilities, we disturbed a Smooth Snake which subsequently swam across into some nearby reed. Marguerita was in mischievious mood and we all found the visit to Riomanzanas entertaining, although we kept a safe distance away from the river as our resident hostess seemed intent on making one of us find out about the swimming pool from closer quarters!

Returning to our hotel after a tasty plato combinato at Otra Cosa, we had more good views of Short-toed Eagle perched on a nearby telegraph pole.

After spotting Griffon Vultures and Spotless Starlings en route, we spent quite some time looking at the variety of Iberian Water Frogs in the depleted pool at Codesal. This muddy area also gave us good evidence of Wild Boar wallowing sites.

The time spent in Portugal is always fun and as we set off to Alcanices we saw several Common Buzzards and Crested Lark,  before having a short stop to look at the pottery at Moveros.  Soon after this we had excellent views of two Griffon Vultures, plus Iberian Grey Shrike and Spotless Starlings.The sharp-eyed amongst us saw the Schreiber's Green Lizard as it streaked across the road, and soon after we almost had to perform an emergency stop to avoid an Iberian Wall Lizard. Looking at the scene of devastation after the huge fire on both sides of the gorge at Aldeiea Nova we saw Crag Martins, Jay and marveled at the ingenuity of the Wood Ants as they moved their nests. The residents of the village of Aldeiea Nova were happy to talk to us about their lifestyle, living totally from their produce, and even the 15 year old donkey played a major part;  eating the weeds, pulling the plough and fertilising the ground!

 This donkey, like any valuable piece of equipment, was well cared for and appreciated. Everyone was able to watch the roosting Griffon Vultures through their scopes or binoculars and it was thrilling to look down on these magnificent masters of the air as they floated on to jostle ungainly for a resting place on the crags around Fariza.  We were also delighted to see Honey Buzzard, plus Crag Martin and Skipper butterfly. For some of us, the enduring memory of that visit will be Carren's exploding whale account,but hopefully, we will also remember our feelings when we were in a place where the beauty and atmosphere has remained constant  for centuries, watching the similarly unchanged daily ritual of these huge vultures, themselves relics of ages long ago.

The return journey to Madrid airport was  topped with excellent Great Bustard, Marsh Harrier and Red Kite sightings at Villafafila, so all in all a glorious climax to this tour!

Margaret .  25.10.13.

  "Fantastic location,stunning scenery, great hotel,good food, excellent trips between wolf watches, very generous with your time and knowledge, small groups give an exclusive feel,good lunch stops,I enjoyed all the parts from local history and culture to bird-spotting...thanks again-it was a great holiday , and wolves!"

"I loved the area...beautiful scenery,peace and tranquillity...loved the rustic hotel and the totally unspoilt village, also Antonio 1 and Antonio 2 who looked after us so well. As well as the wolves, it was lovely to the opportunity to see such a variety of other wildlife and birds in their native habitat, also fantastic sunrises and sunsets. Much enjoyed our trips out to other areas and being able to see the totally unspoilt rural villages of the area.Thanks again for all your time and effort to give us a good and varied holiday."