Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Christmas Greetings!

Christmas Greetings!

Everyone is busy at this time of year, but I hope you can find time to view this previously unseen video from one of John's successful pieces of filming this month. It is a fascinating piece, showing the wariness of one of the two wild wolves in particular, even when hungry and faced with the real prospect of food!

We have enjoyed seeing and filming wolves every month of this year, and hope that we can continue to share these wonderful Wild Wolf Experiences with you throughout 2016.

                                        Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, 23 November 2015

A Wintery Wolf Scene.

This morning was a beautiful crisp,clear frosty morning and John was lucky to film this magnificent alpha male wolf for several minutes as it crossed an area of low grassland on the hunt! This wolf looks to be in magnificent condition with a full winter coat. A very large example of Iberian Grey Wolf...fantastic!

 Well worth the early, cool start this morning, 23rd November.        Margaret, 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Newsletter October 2015

Newsletter October 2015

Bright days of sunshine and blue skies have been punctuated by some lengthy periods of heavy rain and mist this month, so we were delighted when the rain stopped and the sun broke through on the afternoon of 6th October as Jane stepped off the train from Madrid at the picturesque station of Puebla de Sanabria. Throughout her time with us the sun shone and it was perfect walking and viewing weather and Jane enjoyed watching the magnificent stags in particular.  It was ironic that the one morning, 9th, that Jane decided to stay abed was the very morning when John and Wil were able to watch a wolf for upwards of 1 1/2 hours from 09:30 to 11:00 but as we all know sometimes to your cost, you've got to be there to see anything there!

Richard and Ros had their first wolf-watch on the morning of 17th October and a lot of activity could be seen and heard from their viewpoint as they began to accustom themselves to telescopes and the terrain. About forty red deer were active in the valley with stags bellowing their message of supremacy through the early morning mist and three roe deer were spotted too. This timeless autumn activity was repeated during the evening watch where we enjoyed watching young stags sparring in between bouts of wet weather.

A walk around the village brought evidence of wild boar rooting and wolf scat was seen on the outskirts. Birds spotted included red kite, common buzzard, jay, robin and nuthatch. The next day, further village walks were explored in rather wet conditions and Richard, Ros and John were interested to watch the circling of eight griffon vultures.

The trunks of the ancient sweet chestnut trees were a study in texture.

Dartford warbler was both seen and heard and the weather did not really improve, merely settling into a damp mist for our evening wolf-watch. It certainly lent an even greater sense of timelessness as we listened to the primeval sounds of the rutting stags around us; sounds which have echoed across these valleys since time immemorial. However, there was visual excitement too as at 19:40 we all managed to watch four large wild boar,looking very dark in these conditions,parrying playfully together for several minutes. They were clearly visible despite the poor light and it was exciting to watch them running, then stopping,locking heads for a few seconds, then jumping and scurrying further along the track.

A good view of black-winged kite, one of three this tour,started off a superb day for bird viewing on 19th October where so many species new to Richard and Ros were seen I can only pick out a few. Richard has the full list of what amounted to 30+ new birds for them.

By the Rio Esla there were stunning views of an obliging kingfisher, plus gadwall and great white egret and when John, Richard and Ros moved on to Villafafila they were treated to fabulous views of hundreds of elegant cranes and of course, the tremendous great bustards. Both species were closely observed feeding and in flight.

This great bustard was enjoying a good scratch!

Griffon vulture, hen harrier, marsh harrier, raven, red kite and black kite were amongst other fabulous birds spotted today in clearer conditions. However, the evening wolf-watch was once again very wet and although we were able to watch red deer for a while, these were difficult viewing conditions. But, difficult viewing conditions meant ideal conditions for salamander spotting and a tremendous day culminated with Richard, Ros, John and I closely watching a large fire salamander as it made its characteristic earnest strides towards a nearby wall, a potential source for winter seclusion.

A perfect specimen, we were able to observe the red dorsal line running between the yellow patches as it endeavored to find a hole in the wall large enough for this sizable example of a fabulous little amphibian.

En route to Portugal, Richard and Ros were appreciative of the welcome at the pottery workshop where Ros watched some pots being made with skill and accuracy.

The visit to the stunning Douro gorge gave up views of two golden eagles and plenty of griffon vultures against breathtaking backdrops, but even more exciting was the find en route of a kill with a large Mastine present accompanied/pestered byover a hundred griffon vultures and 20+ red kites, hovering around for their portion of the red meat. I have already featured some wonderful photographs and video from this encounter on our Wild Wolf Experience Facebook page and I urge you to look at these; they are  truly amazing!

I make no apologies for attaching another photo and a different video of this memorable scene witnessed here in the Sierra de la Culebra.

At the end of the month we welcomed Eva back with her partner Matt. Eva had seen wolf with us before in January 2015 but this was to be Matt's first attempt. In changeable weather conditions, we tried morning and night, and after three days we had seen several red deer, roe deer and some distant wild boar, but the wolf presence was eluding us.  However, as a real climax to their visit, in the last ten minutes of reasonable light on their last evening's wolf watch,

Matt whispered that he could see not one but two wolves!

In fact, three wolves were seen that evening and we were delighted at such a finish when both Eva and Matt had never missed a watch despite fairly strong downpours  John was able to video these three wolves and I attach two of his videos above.The wolf at the top of this Newsletter is also from this view, being the darker, third wolf  seen.. What a wonderful finish to the month!

"Dear Margaret and John

....We really enjoyed our wild wolf experience... and the tours of the regional villages which we found absolutely fascinating.  Thank you also for your company and the stimulating conversations.

Very best

Ros + Richard"

(All photos and videos taken in this Newsletter were taken by John here in the Sierra de la Culebra. All taken in the wild.)


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Newsletter September 2015

Newsletter September 2015

I write this newsletter surrounded by the sights and sounds of autumn here in the Sierra de la Culebra; fruit has ripened well and the slightly fractious stags of August are now fully into their rut with the bellowing to be heard echoing through the valleys from dusk till dawn and beyond.

Our first tour of the month started on the first of the month and Paul and Zoe soon became adept at viewing through telescopes so that after a few hours of focusing on crows and then a fox with excitement, there were less mis-identifications and indeed on their second evening, both Paul and Zoe were able to enjoy good views of several wild boar flicking their  tails as they rooted in the short, light grass.
We also saw several red deer with young and one roe deer during that watch; scenes which were repeated with greater numbers the next morning.  By the evening of 3rd September, the presence of one  black and fifteen griffon vultures signified carrion of some sort, so our hopes were high for the morning watch. The next morning's mist cleared to reveal both species of vulture waiting with intent. The magnificent sight of about 35 red deer running apace in the same direction was certainly enough to signify something was afoot - and sure enough Paul, Zoe and John were able to watch three wolves come down onto the rocks, raising concern among the vultures, and then travel the various tracks until lost amongst the pine trees that skirt the river valley. All in all, an excellent sighting lasting about 12 minutes- and Paul and Zoe were justifiably delighted. After seeing fresh scat and tracks the day before close to this viewpoint, they had now seen "their " wolves!

There were some very interesting birds around the village for Paul and Zoe to spot on their walks, which included short-toed eagle, lesser spotted woodpecker, spotted flycatcher, pied flycatcher and serin around the hotel tracks with rock bunting, Iberian grey shrike,

stonechat, Eurasian kestrel, nuthatch, short-toed treecreeper and crossbill all seen in the vicinity of the village, plus a mismatched pair of antlers!
Photo taken by Zoe.

During visits to neighbouring villages on 3rd September,Paul and Zoe enjoyed watching  this obliging hoopoe,

as well as seeing black-winged kite, crested lark, Northern wheatear, common buzzard and a lovely pair of hen harriers whilst the trip to the Douro gorge reaped wonderful sights of golden eagle, booted eagle, Egyptian vulture, red kite, Dartford warbler, house martin and crag martin to pick out only a few examples, plus an American crayfish - unfortunately more common than ever now, by the clapper bridge.

Red billed chough was heard but not seen on this occasion.

Luckily Paul and Zoe's timetable allowed them a morning walk before they left to explore other areas of Northern Spain, and they were rewarded with good views of black-eared wheatear and Iberian water frog.

Zoe took a photograph of a red deer of which she is rightly proud. Thank you Zoe, for sharing your photos with all our Wild Wolf Experience Facebook friends earlier this month.

              "We had such a special few days with you -  thank you".       Paul.Sept 2015.

As we drove to the hotel with Mike and Meg on 6th September, we all were excited to see a short-toed eagle with a snake in its talons flying just above us. The evening watch allowed Mike and Meg to get accustomed to telescope viewing by focusing on close views of stag, roe deer and five wild boar!

The evening watch of 7th September was atmospherically overcharged when as early as 20:30 a lone wolf was seen. The presence of a stag confidently grazing nearby persuaded some of us that the wolf was gone, but Mike persisted with his viewing and at 20:45 the wolf reappeared allowing us to follow its progress through varied heather and scrub-land until lost from sight in an undulation.

The next morning was terrific at the same
viewpoint with one wolf seen at the corner of the wood, one other wolf spotted by Meg loping across the field behind us and another wolf crossed right in front of us merely 250 metres away! We seemed to be surrounded by wolves going about their business! All this to the background of restless stags fighting and roaring further off. Throughout much of this watch Mike, Meg and John could also watch the dramatic mobbing of a persistent sparrowhawk by several crows.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Subsequent watches were less eventful, giving us wild boar sightings and plenty of red deer, but how wonderful to have seen the wolves here so clearly in such a special atmospheric setting. Mike was very happy to write his sighting on the board that evening.

During daytime tracking activities and walks around some of the quaint villages in this area - places that still are living, working villages although they seem to be relics from a former century - Mike and Meg were lucky to see new species which included pied flycatcher, spotted flycatcher and  lesser spotted  woodpecker by the village cemetery plus great tit, blue tit,

chaffinch, black redstart, Iberian grey shrike, robin, Dartford warbler,

booted eagle, black vulture,black kite and also a Lataste's viper sunning itself by the village allotments.

Honey buzzard was seen at Folgoso on 8th September and a visit to Villafafila on 9th offered up some wonderful sights of about 30 great bustards, plus hen harrier, marsh harrier, lesser kestrel, cormorant, mallard, kingfisher and common sandpiper.  Mike,Meg and John enjoyed watching two otters at the Rio Esla.

We have again enjoyed the company of former clients now regular visitors and friends Terry and Ros on many occasions this month and John and Terry were amazed to be able to look down on raven, griffon vulture,

short-toed eagle and chamois amidst the stunning Somiedo scenery during 12th/15th September where the prime target was Cantabrian brown bear.  One morning a large, dark female bear, possibly with one cub could be seen ambling across open ground but she had almost unbelievably disappeared from view by the time Terry was able to scour the hillside with his telescope.  However, Terry seemed to make other four-legged friends during those days packed with super walking in surprisingly settled weather.

Later in September John was delighted to be able to show Terry, Ros and Linda Eurasian otter en route to Villafafila. It has been lovely this month to have Linda with us again for her second successful Watching for Wolves tour and as well as enjoying the antics of the otter, they spent time watching kingfisher, purple heron, grey heron, gadwall, mallard, coot and moorhen, plus several hundred house-martins gathering pre-migration. The intrepid party of John, Linda, Terry and Ros all enjoyed excellent views of about 60 great bustards, plus lesser kestrel, common buzzard, Montague's harrier and marsh harrier.

Linda's tour started in earnest straight after her Madrid collection with clear views of two black vultures and several red and black kites. This pattern of interesting bird sightings continued throughout the week with black vulture,

griffon vulture, raven, red-rumped swallow and Iberian green woodpecker near Riomanzanas and tremendous views of golden eagle at the Douro Gorge. on 22nd September, plus four azure-winged magpies and a kingfisher at the ancient clapper bridge.

But of course wolves were Linda's main focus, hoping to repeat her success of last year. On the morning of 18th September, one day before Linda arrived, three wolves were seen at 09:00 sniffing the air as stags were fighting and roaring some distance away,and on her first wolf-watch on the evening of 19th, we enjoyed excellent views of wild boar,and watched the drama between a hopeful stag pursuing a not-so-interested hind, but no wolves. Red deer were of course very evident this week at the height of the rut and we have all been treated to some lively episodes involving stags chasing hinds, stags chasing stags and stags attacking random trees and bushes.
Over the first couple of days, Linda and John found several examples of fresh wolf scat, even locating some good wolf tracks despite this month's very dry conditions.

On the evening of Monday 21st, Linda told us, " Well, it was the Tuesday morning last year when I had my first wolf of the tour." So no pressure there then!! However, almost as if scripted, the next morning Tuesday 22nd, Linda and John found themselves watching three wolves in wonderful sunshine, loping along the trails to be eventually lost to sight in the pine copse by the water source. It was back to the same viewpoint that evening when at 20:15 the large,dark male wolf made an appearance coming out from the river bank and progressing through the heather to the brow of the hill.

Linda saw four wolves the next morning 23rd and was able to watch the interaction between them as the early morning mist cleared with the rising of the sun which augured another fabulous day.

So a week for Linda of wolves, renewing old friendships and making new ones, revisiting some familiar territory while exploring plenty of new areas.

Photo by Linda
The final bird noted was a light-phased booted eagle spotted on the way back to Madrid airport on the afternoon of 26th September, meaning that Linda had seen three species of eagle during her week...plus wolves on three occasions too of course!

"Thank you again for a wonderful time; I am already pining for San Pedro.....John's enthusiasm and love of wildlife especially wolves really shines through and makes every day a great experience - I can't wait for next year!"  Linda September 2015.

This September of "mists and mellow fruitfulness" ( apologies to Keats) has been a busy month packed with wonderful wolf sightings and John and I have had a super time sharing these with friends and clients alike.

This newsletter must merely be a digest of some of the more memorable times...too many to recount in detail here...but I hope you have enjoyed my way of sharing these here with you too.


  ( All photos taken by John during September 2015 except the two credited to Linda and Zoe.)

Friday, 4 September 2015

Newsletter August 2015

August is fiesta time in the villages of Sierra de la Culebra where previously empty houses become once again family homes as all generations enjoy meeting old friends and celebrating together in each village's individual fashion.

It was also the month of the Festival Territorio Lobo which was a success and the very interesting programme is detailed below.

During much of the festival John and Dave were busy in Somiedo looking for bears ( more details further into this Newsletter),  but we were able to be joined on the evening of 8th August by many people from the festival, when Dave got onto 4 wolves coming out of the forest .  We watched, and were happy to share with all the people, the sight of these wolves mouthing and playing before separating; one wolf to the left and then moving with intent into deeper heather, and the other three disappearing amongst the dark pines.

Certainly Saturday 8th August was a successful day for Dave, as he spent the morning in Somiedo watching 5 bears, then arrived back in Sierra de la Culebra in time to find 4 wolves, after spotting a viperine snake swimming in a water tank during an afternoon stroll! What a productive day!

The earlier part of Dave's tour in Somiedo was hampered by poor visibility, but John and Dave persisted and were treated to good views of the elegant chamois plus a stoat on their first watch on 6th August.

Young Woodchat Shrike

 Red-backed shrike was a notable bird during watches and walks in difficult misty weather, but the highlight of this Bear tour was the final morning of Saturday 8th August when the thick mist lifted as John and Dave resolutely set up at their viewpoint, to be rewarded by fantastic views of five individual bears.

A mother and her two cubs were feeding and climbing trees and another two were also to be seen inspecting the Alpine buckthorn crop on the other side of the valley. A golden eagle could be seen displaying its golden ball dive before resting on a rock and a large flock of upwards of thirty red-billed chough flew across the valley uttering their charismatic call while giving an impressive aerobatic display.  Another bird seen during the bear tour was Egyptian vulture.

Previous to this Saturday 8th August with its excellent combination of wolf and bear on the same day, Dave had enjoyed a tantalizingly fleeting glimpse of a wolf at 21:30 on Wednesday 5th August, which, although only a short episode, managed to give Dave some appreciation of the size and power of this apex predator and served to whet his appetite for future views.

 Certainly Dave showed admirable determination during all wolf and bear watches, never relaxing his view and intent on scouring every minute of available time; an attitude which reaped its rewards with Dave's wonderful sightings of both species during his week with us.

Interesting bird sightings for Dave in Sierra de la Culebra started on the road from Madrid with a clear view of a griffon vulture and there were many more of these for Dave to spot during the day trip to the Douro Gorge where John and Dave were delighted to see the young Egyptian vulture roosting.

Other interesting sights here included golden oriole, crag martin, crested lark and a kingfisher at the old clapper bridge. Short-toed eagle, booted eagle, lesser kestrels and Montague's and hen harriers were seen at Villafafila where Dave and John were pleased to view c40/50 great bustards, along with purple heron, bee-eater,kingfisher, short-toed treecreeper and red-legged partridge en route.

An excellent view of a hunting Montague's harrier close to the road heralded a day of interesting local birds on Tuesday 4th August as a walk around the village area garnered bee-eater, Dartford warbler, common and black redstart, short-toed treecreeper, serin, blackcap, jay, nuthatch, goldfinch, pied flycatcher, Iberian grey shrike, woodchat shrike, stonechat, Bonelli's warbler, booted eagle, short-toed eagle and black and red kite to list but a selection.

A fox was seen when travelling in the car to Villardeciervos after spending some time watching Iberian water frogs


Dave and John saw wild boar on several occasions during these tours including one time on Wednesday 5th August when Dave must have been standing very still to watch two wild boar because he looked down to see an inquisitive dunnock at his feet! The next morning the total wild boar count was seven and Dave's early return to Madrid airport (02:00!!) on Monday 10th August afforded John and Dave a lovely view of a hedgehog by the hotel and a large wild boar at Boya.

Our next clients for a Watching for Wolf Tour were Jim and Jayne who loved the tranquility of the village and enjoyed a good view of serin early on in their walks around the gardens and plots which are so rich in bird-life. However ...lucky or what?..the highlight of the day was to be the fantastic sight at 21:00 of four wolves arriving onto the firebreak- from where?- and travelling up over the rise. Later in the same evening, we were able to watch a fine dog fox for quite some time but that could not compete with the thrill and excitement engendered by those four wolves and on Jim and Jayne's first day!

After this peak was reached early on in the tour, Jim and Jayne scoured from a couple of promising viewpoints and were able to admire plenty of red deer beginning to rid their antlers of the velvet covering by butting and rubbing against any tree which happened to be available. The night of 15th August gave us good views of two large wild boar grazing in dry, yellowing grassland - a perfect backdrop to enable us to see these shy creatures clearly.The evening finished with a nightjar flying up in front of the vehicle.

While noticing wolf tracks and fresh scat on the Saturday morning, Jim and Jayne also had good views of booted eagle, short-toed eagle, male Montague's harrier, stonechat, woodchat shrike and bee-eater along with red squirrel and Iberian water frog.

On 16th August John spotted goshawk and he was delighted to see four peregrine falcons on the morning of 27th August along with hen harrier.  The same week John also noted two black storks in flight over the moors.

During two watches near the end of August, John was able to show Tim a view of wild boar from a distance on the first evening of Friday 28th August and then on the following night, a very large strong wild boar, probably weighing in at circa 80 kilos, feeding not far from their view, plus the interesting sight of a large red deer stag rolling in the low heather. We all know about that itch on the back that is impossible to reach! The same atmospheric night, John and Tim listened to a nearby pack of wolves howl...and under a full moon too!  This barn owl was out hunting in the moonlight as John returned from one of those "goosebumps" wolf-watch evenings.

Earlier that day the weather had been atrocious with thunderstorms, lightning and the rest, but poor weather conditions did not stop John from videoing two out of the three wolves seen that morning. .

The first video shows a large male wolf racing across the field while the smaller wolf in the second video is distracted by the second of two cars passing by closely. Perhaps the second car encounter is responsible for the deviation of this wolf from the straight line run by the first, larger wolf a few seconds before.

Continuing with this theme of our Spanish predators and cars, I attach this photograph sent to us by friends Nuria and Xavi who had been conscious of some disturbance outside their campervan while parked in Somiedo earlier this month.  When getting out the next morning they discovered these bear claw marks etched into the side of their pristine van, which has been used to carry beehives and honey in the past. This could have been a little too much of a close encounter and I am sure their insurance claim will cause some interest!

"We just wanted to say a very big thank you to you both we really enjoyed our time with you . We loved the wolf watching and felt very lucky to have seen all the wildlife that we saw, we also enjoyed meeting all your spanish friends and the lovely people   you introduced us to at the bars and restaurants where we had our lunches. It was a perfect few days ending to a fab holiday . We will keep up with activities via your blog and e mail. Once again thanks a lot we thoroughly enjoyed it." Jim & Jayne.

Margaret    ( All photos and videos taken by John during August 2015,with the exception of the bear claw photo,taken by Nuria and Xavi.)