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.

Wolf Watching Winner!

 Wolf Watching Winner!

Olav was the lucky winner of a Watching for Wolves tour when his entry was picked out in the December draw organised by Rewilding Europe. He arrived into Puebla de Sanabria from Norway and thoroughly enjoyed his time, meeting enthusiasts from all over the globe in the friendly hotel deep in the heart of wolf country.

The weather was dreadful but despite this, Olav saw many new species, and discovered myriads of photo opportunities. I thank Olav for allowing us to show some of his photos from this tour for all of us to enjoy.