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!


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