Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Our Resident Otter

Our Resident Otter.

We really enjoyed watching and videoing this grand chap as he enjoyed his fishy meal in the lake by our home here in the Sierra de la Culebra on Sunday evening.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Our Christmas Video!


Merry Christmas! 

to all our friends,  Facebook 'likes'. and clients who have made this such a memorable year for us.

I hope you enjoy this video taken by John earlier today, 17th December. This magnificent animal...the wolf, not John!...was out hunting rabbits in this morning's stunning sunrise.

Wishing you all a happy and successful 2015, from John and Margaret.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Newsletter November 2014

Newsletter November 2014.

This has been a month of mists, rain and brilliantly clear days plus a little bit of snow nearby! All good conditions for our wildlife watching here in the Sierra de la Culebra. I start with a video taken at the bridge by the lake which several of you will know. It was here that last week John filmed an otter for several minutes as it sported with its catch.

Regarding wolves...both adults, sub-adults and this year's young have been seen on several occasions this month and they are looking resplendent in their full winter coats.On 4th November John was delighted to watch a group of 6 wolves including at least 2 being this year's young.  Sightings have continued throughout the month, with 3 wolves being watched for several minutes on 25th November at the same site. Some visitors with John also had a wolf running across the road causing an emergency stop in mid-morning misty conditions!

John and I really do believe that the increasing emergence of responsible eco-tourism and greater education about the Iberian Wolf must eventually result in a change of practice and bring greater prosperity to this area, but we are also realistic enough to know that this cannot happen quickly, or by antagonistic means.  I am pleased to pass on to you the very interesting news from Lobo Marley who purchased 2 shooting permits for wolf here in the Sierra de la Culebra with your donations. Now he has been so successful as to provoke interest from National Geographic who are hoping to accompany him in the hides and shoot with cameras, not guns. However, to do this they require permission from the local 'Junta'. who are responsible for the management of the reserve and they are not keen on such a presence. We shall keep you informed re this development and hope all parties can manage to work together to everyone's satisfaction..

I take some space in this newsletter to highlight issues of wolf colonisation throughout the world and its difficulties.  Living here in the Sierra de la Culebra, where communities have lived with the wolf in their midst for generations, farming practices although not totally in favour of the wolf by any means! utilize husbandry methods honed throughout the years to negate as far as possible the friction between wolves and livestock.Where these practices are followed, predation by wolves is not a huge issue, but where the wolf colonises into areas previously unused to their presence, there is need for flexibility and training to minimize confrontation.

The blockading of the Eiffel Tower by French farmers with their  sheep this week serves to accentuate the need for extra resources and education to be offered to people who feel that their livelihoods are being threatened and who will otherwise take the situation into their own,hands with disastrous consequences for the wolf.

"New breed of French protester: sheep

PARIS — Disgruntled farmers have brought their sheep to the Eiffel Tower to protest wolf attacks, and what they call the government's anti-farmer environmental policies.The woolly protesters munched grass near the Paris monument while their owners urged tougher measures against wolf attacks. The government says its existing plan on preventing attacks and compensating farmers is sufficient. Authorities also want to ensure protections for wolves.The march Thursday came as President Francois Hollande spoke at an environmental meeting about plans for cleaner energy and France's plans to host the U.N. Climate Change Conference next year.Protester Franck Dieny said government policies — which include large subsidies to agriculture — are less and less farmer-friendly and "don't recognize ... the role we play maintaining the landscape" that so many visitors to France appreciate."

Gray wolf travels 450 miles to Grand Canyon

For the first time in 70 years a lone gray wolf has been sighted in Arizona. The female wolf originated from the northern Rocky Mountains and has travelled at least 450 miles to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

“This wolf’s epic journey through at least three western states fits with what scientific studies have shown, namely that wolves could once again roam widely and that the Grand Canyon is one of the best places left for them,” said Michael Robinson from the Center for Biological Diversity.
Gray wolves face an uncertain future. Almost 100 years ago, in 1915, the federal US government conducted began culling wolves in the western United States, and by the early 1920s most of the wolves had been exterminated and the last one was sighted Arizona in the 1940s. The Gray wolf was added to the country’s Endangered  List and in the 1990s 66 wolves were brought to the Rocky Mountains.
As a result of this conservation work populations are increasing and the US Fish and  Wildlife Service are now, due to the success, are proposing to remove the species from the list. But this has concerned some conservationists as they say without the protection the species could be persecuted again.
news/2010_jan/arizona_gray_wolf“It’s heartening this animal has been confirmed as a wolf.” but I am very worried that if wolves are taken off the endangered species list she will be killed and wolf howls from the North Rim’s pine forest will never again echo in the Grand Canyon,” Robinson.
Earlier this month, the Center released a first-of-its-kind analysis identifying 359,000 square miles of additional wolf habitat in the lower 48 states that could significantly boost wolf recovery which include Northeast, West Coast and southern Rocky Mountains, as well as the Grand Canyon.
“There’s so much more room for wolves in the West if only we extend them a bit more tolerance,” Robinson said. “The Grand Canyon wolf is a prime example of what wolves can do if only we let them.”

 (Wildlife Extra)

The wet conditions here have made for some interesting tracks and just as an example, here are some tracks found by John this month; wolf and badger.

There is  an article about last September's Wolf Festival held here in Villardeciervos in the Winter edition of WolfPrint, the magazine published by the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, and we are already in discussion about the 2015 Festival,so watch this space!

Looking for Lynx.

Thank you to friend Jim for alerting us to this article in the October issue of Wildlife Extra News, about the attempts to preserve this rarest of wildcats We are also aware of the wonderful work being done in Extremadura too, and with this year's rabbit population being depleted, the need for close supervision and the continuation of the efficient breeding programme is paramount for the ultimate survival of this beautiful cat.

Iberian Lynx reintroduced to Portugal


The plan to reintroduce the rare Iberian lynx to the wild in Portugal has taken a giant step forward the country’s environment ministry has announced.
The lynx has been allocated 2,000 hectares in Mertola, 180km southeast of Lisbon to live, hunt and breed thanks to the land owners signing contracts with The Institute for Nature Conservation and Forestry (ICNF).
“It is a decisive step in the project, starting the definition of the geographic setting, working closely with the owners and managers, of the reintroduction site of the lynx in Portugal,” said Miguel Castro Neto, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Planning and Nature Conservation.
The agreement allows the lynx to live and, hopefully, thrive in a protected area, while the land owner will be able to attract tourists hoping to see one of the most endangered feline in the world.
The Iberian Lynx is the world's most threatened species of cat and is classed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Numbers have declined by more than 80 percent over the last 20 years.

Thanks also to Mike who has alerted me to this fantastic footage on YouTube of Iberian Lynx in the mountains of the Sierra de Morena, where indeed John and Mike enjoyed a successful Looking for Lynx tour in  November 2013 (trip report earlier in this blog). Certainly worth watching this determined female as she brings down a moufflon!

Food for thought in all these paragraphs,and thank you for reading thus far.Please continue to send me your information and comments,either via this blog,or by email at margaret@wildwolfexperience.com

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Newsletter October 2014

It's mushroom season here now, and locals are out in the forests collecting the delicious wild mushrooms which are then exported as a delicacy to gourmet restaurants in Italy, France and UK.  Mushrooms play a major part in the local economy here, and also in the local gastronomy. There are courses available  in the villages here to educate people about which mushrooms are safe to collect and the most desired variety, the Boletus, can sell for 28 Euros per kilo in Madrid!

The Boletus mushroom tastes a lot better than it looks!

Ignacio's photo.

Thank you friend and fellow wolf enthusiast Ignacio, for letting us share this wonderful photo of an osprey which was resident in nearby Sanabria during September and October this year.  It has now flown off for warmer climes, but not before giving Ignacio some fantastic views.

Watching for Wolves.

This month started off promisingly with views of 8 wolves( 2 groups of 4 wolves simultaneously) on the morning of the first of the month.  Joe, Romita and John watched them and John's video of this can be seen on our Facebook page for Wild Wolf Experience.

A few days later Gary and Colin were in the area hoping for wolf sightings and they enlisted John's help. They too counted themselves lucky with views of three wolves at 11:30 in the morning! They also enjoyed tracking and learning about the status of the wild Iberian wolf. No photos of their wolves, but a preying mantis proved more static and less camera shy!

The journey from Madrid airport was eventful for Jane and John with very good views of male and female great bustards,griffon vultures and red kites. The great bustards were a first for John and Jane who were incorporating a Watching for Wolves tour into a more general exploration of Northern Spain. After a brief interval to settle into their hotel room,we all met up for our first wolf watch together- and what a successful evening!

 As we set up our scopes, the stags were already sending out their rutting calls and could be seen clearly in a nearby field. It was not long before we were watching a large wild boar rooting around beneath trees in a ploughed area well within view. This was another first for John and Jane. But our attention was mainly focused on the large numbers of griffon vultures and several black vultures and ravens too.

Several of these huge birds were attempting to roost by balancing on some of the smallest pine trees,normally using the same tree, and others were feeding on a dead deer on the ground.However, at 19:45 the avian attitude changed in a second and they took to the air. Fifty great vultures acting almost as one bird and for why? Well it was the presence of wolf of course, and we watched spellbound as not one but four wolves approached the carcase time and time again as dusk fell, We could watch them for as long as the light allowed and then we packed up our equipment with hushed excitement, amazed at such a wonderful day of wildlife.

Some mornings were wet during the rest of Jane and John's tour but that didn't stop the intrepid wolf-watchers! A highlight of the tour was the visit to the Douro Gorge where short-toed eagle was to be spotted amongst several griffon vultures, red kite, common buzzard, red-billed chough and Iberian grey shrike.

Jane was able to see a Mastine dog at close quarters as a young dog proved surprisingly approachable.

Duncan's photo.

Both Jane, John and Duncan who arrived later this month for a Watching for Wolves tour, enjoyed close views of crag martins at the dam at Miranda do Douro and Duncan's views at the gorge included three golden eagles,plus griffon vultures, cirl bunting, Iberian grey shrike, Iberian green woodpecker and crested tit, a very special first for Duncan.  He also managed to see the Iberian water frogs by the clapper bridge and two smooth snakes at Aldeia Nova

We do not often see many people at our gorge viewpoints, but when we do meet people they invariably have a story to tell, and Duncan's visit was no exception. A French speaking lady was delighted to regale the history of her parents' courtship days in the gorge, when her Portuguese future father would swim across the gorge to charm his Spanish sweetheart, her eventual mother,and in true entrepreneurial spirit, he made his efforts worthwhile by simultaneously smuggling quantities of tobacco over the border whilst ostensibly courting his senorita.

The weather was more settled for Duncan's Watching for Wolves tour and during some excellent tracking and village walks, he found fresh wolf tracks and scat plus clear otter tracks.There were also several  sightings of rock bunting,

There were still some remnants of stag rutting calls during our wolf watches and we were lucky to see a large family party of about 11 wild boar travel through the heather and cross the firebreak one evening.

Roe deer were out aplenty this week too and John and Duncan could regularly check the progress of a male hen harrier in the valley.However, the most exciting sight during this tour was reserved for Duncan as he noticed the sudden appearance  of a wolf travelling from left to right across the track close to us. Within seconds it had disappeared behind a copse of trees and could have traveled anywhere in the heather there without being located, but it was Duncan's first wolf! We scoured the area with telescopes,knowing that it was there, but without any more success. That view was Duncan's very own, and very special too.

The skies here are wonderfully clear and we had a good time one evening with the Starwalk app trying to put names to the constellations filling this night sky.Upon looking down, there was further interest as we watched a fire salamander searching out a winter hibernating hole.

Duncan's photo.

Earlier in his tour, Duncan had enjoyed very clear views of 50/60 great bustard, plus lesser kestrel, common kestrel, common buzzard, red kite, spoonbill, marsh harrier, avocet and seven cranes newly arrived at Villafafila. At the Rio Esla bridge, where the water was surprisingly choppy, John and Duncan spotted a great white egret.

Duncan's photo.

Another month of super sightings, and who knows?...We may yet get a Hallowe'en wolf!

"Thank you very much for the great time I had. It truly was an experience to treasure.
I have learnt so much about wild wolves, mostly that there is so much more to understand.
Thanks, once again, for your company and shared knowledge."       Duncan.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Newsletter September 2014.

Newsletter September 2014.

What a busy, fun and successful month! And now,all of a sudden, it's autumn with the tremendous surround-sound of the stag rut, with the apples, pears and quince trees heavy with ripening fruit and the Fire Salamanders coming out to find a winter retreat.

Browsing for Bears Tours.

The very first few days of September, John, Robert and Sally were treated to wonderful views of 6 individual bears in Asturias, including a mother and her 3 cubs, the video of which can be viewed on our Wild Wolf Experience Facebook page. Above are some further examples of these compelling characters enjoying the autumn Alpine Buckthorn.

They also had plentiful wildcat sightings, videos of which can again be seen on our Facebook page.  I attach a video here of a wildcat they were able to watch whilst it was out hunting.

                                                                    The stunning scenery of Somiedo was at its autumnal best.

Later in the month, Bob and Myra were treated to tremendous vulture views here, plus 15/20 chamois and good sightings of wildcat.

The weather, notoriously fickle in this part of Spain, was indeed changeable for Bob and Myra's tour, but on their final night in Asturias, as dusk approached and further clouds threatened, a large, leggy dark male bear came out to eat. He was a delight for Bob and Myra to watch on this, the last night of their incredibly successful Wolf and Bear Tour.

"Thanks to John & Margaret's expertise we saw both wolf and bear along with a plethora of other mammals,birds and amphibians....It was an experience which we loved and one which we are glad not to have missed."                 Bob.

Watching for Wolves Tours.

Any glimpse of a wild wolf is exciting, but for Bob and Myra there was a special lupine treat in store. After a couple of days with the watches enlivened by some tremendous stags trying to cope with the urges of the rut ( again video of this on our Facebook page) under the light of a powerful moon, the morning of the 12th September wolf-watch gave totally exhilarating views as John, Bob and Myra watched 4 wolves playing, greeting, teasing each other and chasing for upwards of 30 minutes - absolutely incredible!

In the latter half of September the nights were drawing in and Linda, who arrived into Madrid 20th September for a week long Watching for Wolves tour, savoured the special atmosphere of the autumn wolf-watch,with its gradual crescendo of rutting stag sounds.  By the middle of her time here, wet weather had set in,but John was still out searching for signs of wolf,while Linda and I remained dry in our vehicle.  However, at 20:00, the rain eased off and we joined John to set up our scopes to watch.

(Linda's photo)
At 20:15,with thunder rolls,lightning flashes and under heavy grey skies lined a fiery red, a large wolf appeared on the firebreak.  He made his gender all too apparent by cocking his leg to urinate on a bush, then strolled unconcerned up the track.  At the top, he surveyed the area then moved directly into a nearby copse to be lost from view.

Wonderful! Linda was delighted to have  tracked, waited and eventually seen her first truly wild wolf in such a dramatic setting.

But with Linda, the  connections with wolves continued on Thursday,with the morning watch showing 3 wolves! While a lone wolf was to be seen on flat ground not far from the viewpoint, two wolves were also spotted by Linda walking down the track. Nonchalantly,one of these stopped briefly to drink from a pool on the firebreak before they both continued down to join the single wolf still waiting in the low heather on the right of the track. This was a wonderful view and what a start to the day! The evening watch, which started promisingly with 2 large wild boar rooting in a nearby ploughed field whilst 2 roe deer grazed behind them was equally exciting. As the light faded and we began to consider packing up, a mournful howl pierced straight through the rasps of the rutting stags, and the howling from 2 individual wolves continued for at least 15 minutes, as the darkness enveloped us increasingly. We merely stood, rapt, in silence as  against a backdrop of a stunning fiery sunset,

we were granted access to sounds which had remained unchanged for thousands of years, and the goosebumps ran down our spines.

Linda's nexr wolf encounter, still of dramatic ilk, occurred on her final morning wolf-watch when a solitary individual was to be seen amidst swirling mist as the sun rose over the mountains of the Sierra de la Cabrera. For several minutes, John and Linda could study this grand specimen as it first stood, then sauntered off over the top of the ridge. A wonderful finale to a most successful week of Watching for Wolves.

The Douro Gorge.

The beauty of this vast gorge, the natural border between Spain and Portugal, never fails to impress, and Bob, an amateur archaeologist, also enjoyed the link with his home in Northumberland,noting at Aldeiea Nova that  a Roman legion had camped there en route for Hadrian's Wall. Here John, Bob and Myra enjoyed excellent views of male,female and juvenile golden eagle - in total 6 different golden eagles were seen on this day-plus northern wheatear, many griffon vultures, kestrel, black kite, dunnock and several Iberian water frogs.  At San Vitero as they set off on their very successful cross border trip, they were able to watch a short-toed eagle catch a snake and proceed to eat it while still on the wing.

(Linda's photo)
Linda too, appreciated the contrast of culture evident immediately upon crossing the border, and didn't think too much road-rage would be caused by the typical traffic jam experienced in these villages.

Territorio Lobo- Festival of the Wolf. 5/7th September 2014 in Villardeciervos, Zamora, Spain.

The overwhelming impression of this 3 day festival was of positivity, and of the vision and vitality of the local 16 strong group, calling themselves Interior Legendario, who worked together to organise this festival to focus upon wolves and to take people free of charge on wolf watches. A large group of people,including our friends from Northumberland Andrew and Jane, were lucky to be on just such a watch on the Saturday morning. Modesty forbids me to say who first spotted the wolf, but indeed everyone was treated to an enthralling view of a fine example of this apex predator walking confidently down the firebreak, right in front of their viewpoint only 500 metres away.

Farming practices were of course mentioned both in a display and a lecture by the eminent Spanish biologist Carlos Sanz who lauded the Iberian wolf as a “joy on our natural inheritance which must be observed and maintained” but not enclosed within artificial boundaries. The use of Mastine dogs is of course widespread here in the Sierra de la Culebra, and the benefit of including a donkey amongst the flocks for both its exceptional hearing and kicking ability, was expounded. Carlos Sanz was representing “Project Wolf- Wild Life and Rural World” which spearheads work done by eleven groups active in Spain, Portugal, Estonia and Romania to look for solutions to enable co-existence between farmers and the wolf.

As well as the wildlife, the festival also hosted sporting activities organised by Zamoranatural.es which included kayaking on the Rio Tera and a challenging 67 km mountain bike trail, culminating in a gathering to enjoy the local dish of arroz a la Zamorana. 

Less active visitors could enjoy an illustrated talk about traditional architecture of the area by Esther Isabel Prada Llorente from the University of Alcala, or discuss the novel “Beatrice y la Loba” with the author Concha Lopez. It wouldn’t be a Spanish festival without excellent music and the Saturday night of live music did not disappoint. The Portuguese singer Malfalda Veiga sang her own compositions for the first time in Spain, with a very versatile backing group, followed by a synthesis of musical talent called El Naan, who could even create exciting sound out of a kitchen table! On the Friday night, visitors were treated to a night of astronomy with Joaquin Tapioles after enjoying a theatrical performance by Candido de Castro challenging the roles of the wolf in traditional storytelling, “Cuentes de Lobos” alongside a display of local pottery by ” Numa”

John with Carlos Sanz.

This weekend in September witnessed a wonderful occasion where locals worked in harmony to try to display the essence of this vibrant part of a colourful country, with the wolf always at the forefront. We are already fielding questions about “Next year…?”but at the moment are happy to have raised awareness and to have engendered discussion, whilst certainly helping the hamlet of Villardeciervos and its TerritorioLobo become a flagship for the continued survival of the Iberian Wolf in the wild.

I do not apologise for the lengthy Newsletter this month; it is but a resume of life in this area, where every day brings new sights and experiences and I am happy to be able to share some of them with you here.
Thank you Linda...we are together on a photo!


"Thank you both so much for looking after me so well and going the extra mile for me...still suffering 'wolf withdrawal' but looking at my photos helps!...Please give my thanks to Antonio for the wonderful food and wine."    Linda.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Stag at the Height of the Rut!

September/October is the time of the rut here in the Sierra de la Culebra and this stag is so full of energy and aggression!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Newsletter August 2014.

August is the month of fiesta here, where normally quiet villages echo with celebrations of dance, street markets and costume, and we have enjoyed celebrating with our Spanish neighbours this month. We have also celebrated some wonderful wolf sightings during our tours this month. Kerry actually notched up 7 individual wolves,including one cub,during her Watching for Wolves Tour in the first week of August. Views during this tour were lengthy and fascinating,showing the magnificent alpha male and his female, who were later on one occasion joined by three other pack members greeting each other in the fading evening light. Promisingly,sightings have not been limited to one particular pack area, so we are positive about sightings continuing at various locations.

Kerry also enjoyed her first views of golden eagle, griffon vulture, Egyptian vulture,Alpine swift, crag martin and crested lark during her visit to the Duoro Gorge, and her first hoopoe, short-toed eagle and booted eagle were seen close to  the hotel. The excitement carried on right up to the last morning with a good,clear view of wild boar on the journey back to the airport.

Robert and Sally were interested to experience the Sierra de la Culebra in high summer, having previously enjoyed a successful Watching for Wolves Tour in April 2013 (report earlier in this blog). The very first night of their summer tour Sally remarked upon a stag looking ill at ease on the hilltop rise,and immediately we got on to it, three wild boar hurtled across the low heather,aiming for the security of the nearby wood. Although they were travelling fast,it was a long,clear view of these secretive creatures, and a promising start. As dusk turned to darkness in the waning moon, two foxes settled down at the front of the firebreak to watch us pack up.

Robert and Sally's good luck continued the next morning with the appearance of one...and then another...wolf in lovely morning sunlight, probably travelling to lie up for the day by the nearby water. The video of this fantastic sight is featured on the blog  in the post previous to this.

Fresh scat and tracks from adult otter,young otter and wolf were clearly visible on our walks with Robert and Sally around Cional area,which also gave good views of stonechat,cormorant,Iberian grey shrike,bee-eaters gathering in post-breeding flocks, rock bunting, jay,white wagtail, spotted flycatcher and griffon vulture just near the hotel.

We were heartened to note the fresh regrowth at Aldeia Nova after last year's fire, and decided that  a few good heavy rain showers would soon get the green to colonise this area again. It has been interesting to see the terraced hillsides on this steep gorge, clearly visible after the devastation of the vegetation which had previously hidden these old pointers to a time gone by when workers would be tending vines on these almost vertical slopes. A honey buzzard flew close to our heads and there were also good sights of golden eagle, griffon vulture, crag martin and red-rumped swallow.

During the village walks in Flechas and Santa Cruz  Robert and Sally were able to see large Psammadromous lizard, oscellated lizard and spotted flycatcher plus marvel at the ancient sweet chestnut trees with their impressively patterned trunks of wide girth.

At the  ancient clapper bridge, Robert, Sally and John met a Spanish bird enthusiast who kindly showed them her summer home, and provided very welcome cool drinks after giving generously of her time to show the lovely walk by the remains of a series of watermills, where a wealth of birds were seen including hoopoe, serin, bee-eater and great tit plus Iberian water frog and tree frog. There was also genet evidence with multiple droppings in a latrine site.

Even on watches when mammal sightings are few,the wonderful sunrises and sunsets,and the calm of such moments, remain long in the memory.

We were delighted that our son Iain was able to join us,not only for the fiesta celebrations but also for some most productive wolf watching.One evening we were treated to a large wolf loping in relaxed manner up the hillside and out of view, only to be followed by a chance of a lifetime the next morning;  the opportunity to watch as three stags were transformed from grazing animals into  fleeing wolf prey,as in a split second they were literally racing for their lives with a large wolf running fully extended at their heels.We all got caught up in the excitement of this chase over low heather, with unbroken visibility, until all four ran over the hilltop and out of view...but what an occasion!

The swallows and housemartins are gathering on the wires,wings fluttering and their general restlessness heralding their imminent departure for another year and rural life will settle again- I presume!- after the August fiesta season.I finish this newsletter with happy memories of a wonderful August enjoying exciting wolf sightings with friends and family.

"Thank you for a wonderful trip and some amazing views of the wolves and other wildlife!"

  Kerry Aug. 2014.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

2 Wolves on the hunt in Sierra de la Culebra.

Here is a  video taken by John here in the Sierra de la Culebra, at 09:30 on the morning of 27th August 2014. Note the big male. Sorry for the quality but the camera was being hand held at the time.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Newsletter July 2014

Wild Wolf Experience Newsletter July 2014.

"We said we felt immersed in it when there and the images are still strong back here.
Especially wolves loping and wolf on a rock.
No-one here quite understands just what it feels like to see that."

Peter & Kate .   July 2014.


Watching for Wolves tours.

July has been busy with two Watching for Wolves tours, firstly with Peter and Kate from UK and then Daniel from New Zealand, followed by a combined Wolf/Bear tour with Maryanne and Johnny, also from New Zealand. I also mention Mark from UK who was pleased we could arrange a Watching for Wolves tour at short notice in June, and who got several new species of bird during his stay here with us in Sierra de la Culebra, despite not having the best of weather.

Peter and Kate thoroughly appreciated the relaxing ambience of the Sierra de la Culebra which was balanced nicely with the excitement of tracking and eventually seeing first one wolf, spotted by Peter in the increasing dusk, then the next day following the progress of two wolves as they raced along the track and through the heather in the better light of morning. The thrill of watching wolves in motion was not the only good aspect for Peter and Kate during their extended Watching for Wolves tour, as one evening we were all treated to an interesting view as  one wolf continued to bask on a sun-soaked rock for a short while, after another wolf got up to leave having completed a mutual grooming session.

An expert on African safari-style wildlife watching, Daniel soon realised that the Iberian wolf was not a predictable creature whilst patrolling and hunting its vast territory. So the tension built up during our wolf watches, to climax with Daniel personally spotting a wolf along a distant track.  We were all delighted for Daniel,who certainly grew to savour the mystique of this wonderful creature of the wild.

Maryanne and Johnny have just completed their Watching for Wolves tour, having enjoyed excellent long views of wolf loping through the heather with the morning sunrise highlighting the wonderful summer pelt. On one occasion this individual stopped to study us for upwards of two minutes, before moving across the width of our view, tongue lolling in the increasing temperature, to lie up in a nearby copse for the day, hopefully undisturbed. Maryanne and Johnny enjoyed several sightings of "their" wolf, nicknamed Warren by them, aka Warren Beatty...this wolf was so often stopping as if to let us admire him!

A popular visit on our wolf tour is to the magnificent Douro Gorge, and this month we have enjoyed good sights of black stork, Egyptian and griffon vultures, golden eagle, blue rock thrush,crag martin, Alpine swift and rock bunting to name but a few. Many of these were "firsts"for our clients who were also swept up in the majestic beauty of Northern Portugal. Peter will remember the dogs patiently awaiting the arrival of the bread van in the quaint village of Aldeia Nova to get their expected titbits,and Maryanne had fun testing out the ancient clapper bridge en route.

Many fine birds were noted during our walks around the atmospheric villages of Sierra de la Culebra too, noting how the locals live with and accept the wolves in their midst. Daniel found the whole feel of this area a memorable experience.We have enjoyed the hospitality of Fernando at Santa Cruz, especially Peter who was treated to free beer just for being a fellow yachtsman!


 On one occasion in this fascinating village, a lady
invited Maryanne and Johnny into her beautiful home,and proudly showed them around, again offering refreshments.  Having just been escorted out of the area by an over-inquisitive/friendly red deer at Flechas earlier that day, Maryanne and Johnny certainly felt that they were making an impression on the locals. While enjoying ,literally ,the fruits of the forest at San Pedro, namely the burgeoning cherry trees, Kate and Peter noted several bee-eaters,
red and black kite, booted and short-toed eagle, and honey buzzards. The resplendent sweet chestnut trees are in full bloom now and they provided welcome shade as we watched the Montague's and hen harriers. An evening walk around the lake just as dusk was falling proved exciting for Peter and Kate, and we saw fresh wolf tracks along with close encounters with nightjars.

We also were mesmerised momentarily by some eyes focused on us through the heather as we returned to our car and it just could have been.... A lovely little touch as we walked back in the dark was the light offered along the way by several glow worms; such nondescript little creatures are totally unnoticed during the day, but emit a clear, single light when darkness falls.

Mark was able to get excellent views of Great Bustard at Villafafila, despite it being the hottest time of day. The strong heat made it difficult for John and Mark to locate these huge birds which can.drop down to ground level so quickly and so effectively, but eventually one was tracked down, and indeed John and Mark were treated to good views of this large bird on the ground and then lifting straight into the air. The style of lifting into flight was a surprise to Mark as considering their great size they do not seem to require great energy for an almost vertical takeoff.

Both tours, with Mark and then with Peter and Kate, enjoyed good views of black-winged stilt and avocets, before stopping off at Otero de Sariegos to watch the colonies of lesser kestrels nesting in the old dovecotes.

We have also been delighted to welcome Ros and Terry back to the area after their initial visit last year  (Watching for Wolves tour Set/Oct 2013 on this blog ) and they found so many new places to explore,along with excellent wolf views, that they did not accomplish all they aimed to do in their time here this summer. Just have to come back again then! It was also good that John was able to help Fernando and Mila  find their first wolf.  Mila is the daughter of our wonderful hosts, Roland and Mercedes, in Andujar for the lynx tours, and John was delighted to get them a good long sighting of their first wolf after only 1 hour of watching!

Last week again, John had another amazing encounter with this female wolf in her summer coat, very close to our village.

Looking for Lynx.

Earlier this year John had two  Looking for Lynx tours and he was pleased he could provide Guy and Carol, arriving in February from UK, and  Brian from Denmark in April, with excellent views. Guy and Carol were privileged to view the mating between two lynx, after previously hearing the strident calls from the large male patrolling his area.

Brian was delighted to see a sight he had waited a long time for...the stunning and rare feline in her natural surroundings.

 Both tours also gave wonderful views of Spanish Imperial eagle, black vultures, Spanish ibex, moufflon and Eurasian otter.

Wolf Print Magazine. (UK WCT)

It is good to read about the donation of £2,000 from the UK Wolf Conservation Trust to Grupo Lobo who operate very close to us.  The article in the Summer edition of Wolf Print detailing their work with wolves and the community in Northern Portugal uses this one of John's photographs, taken here in the Sierra de la Culebra.

Clients mentioned in this month's report come from as far apart as  Denmark, UK and New Zealand, united by a common purpose and John and I are delighted to have shared such wonderful wildlife moments with them.

"We thoroughly enjoyed our experience...It was great seeing "Warren"and such a wonderful sighting of him...Do pass on our thanks to John who  is so knowledgeable about the wolves, birds and bears...Antonio did an amazing job and we loved his food."  Maryanne and Johnny Aug 2014.

"Thank you both so much for a wonderful experience in La Sierra de la Culebra and beyond. It really was more than either of us had imagined it could be. We could not have been in better guiding and organising hands and have  learned so much."        Peter & Kate. July 2014.