Saturday, 10 December 2016

Newsletter November 2016

November / December 2016 Newsletter.

November continued with such glorious clear blue skies and excellent visibility with wolf and wildlife sightings offered in these conditions, beginning with wolf on 1st November  and ending satisfyingly cyclical, with more impressive wolf videos taken by John on 31st November. I know many of you have enjoyed these sightings posted by John on the Wild Wolf Experience Facebook page more or less as they happen. Above is a photo of an alpha male carrying the head of a deer in its mouth, taken by John during November here in the Sierra de la Culebra.

 I also attach below a video taken this month by John of a female Iberian wolf carrying food from a kill.

We did experience a wet spell of cold and misty weather for a few days in late November which just happened to coincide with Martyn and Rab's Watching for Wolves tour. They exchanged a wet Heathrow for a scenic snowy Asturias which degenerated into heavy rain for their journey down from Asturias to the Sierra de la Culebra on 24th November.

Their first morning wolf watch was cold but thankfully a little drier and everyone was able to watch some impressive stags plus several red kites, roe deer, crossbill and a peregrine drying out on a rock. 

In the same area John, Martyn and Rab were able to locate several very fresh wolf tracks.

The presence of many griffon vultures and 30/40 red kites observed during the evening of 25th provoked interest but while watching intently only red deer were seen, plus a fleeting wild boar running past the deer in the encroaching dusk. Such wet conditions do not deter the otter and Martyn and John had a brief distant view of an otter but were unable to pick up the animal again during a day full of good sights.

Otter tracks.
Rab was able to join John and Martyn in a longer view of a kingfisher whilst also seen that day were crag martin, great white egret, pochard, wigeon, gadwall, mallard and little grebe, while the morning's earlier watch had offered up seven red deer, crested tit, short-toed treecreeper, blue tit, great tit, coal tit and Iberian chiff-chaff.

On the evening of a wet 26th November, Martyn in particular was feeling a little despondent, with only one full day left of the tour and having just dropped and broken his binoculars, plus his home football team of Tottenham Hotspur had lost to Chelsea, so a tonic was required...but who could have imagined such a fabulous final day?

The morning of 27th dawned clearer and brighter and John, Martyn and Rab were not long into their wolf watch when John spotted a male wolf moving along the front of the forest then Rab got onto it. Martyn could not place it but ten minutes later John then spotted a female going along the same track and this time thankfully Martyn and Rab both had good views for several minutes. After a most enjoyable trip over the magnificent Douro Gorge into Portugal where golden eagle was spotted flying over the ridge along with good close sightings of numerous griffon vultures, the evening wolf watch offered John, Martyn and Rab tremendous views of the female  wolf this time running very fast through the short heather possibly chasing a hare or rabbit only to  settle in the heather to recover, giving excellent stationary views for everyone.

John was lucky enough to be in place just after the alpha male had made a successful kill, probably  a wild boar, and in this video we can watch the growing young cub of from this year vying for some of this food, and the interplay between the alpha male and the youngster.

We are nearing the end of our busiest year yet here at Wild Wolf Experience and John and I can reflect on so many satisfying moments sharing the richness of this area with so many of you throughout 2016.  We wish you all a very happy Christmas and a happy, healthy 2017.

Margaret. Dec 2016.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Newsletter October 2016

Newsletter October 2016

October colours are resplendent in the sharp autumn light.  We have enjoyed some lengthy wolf sightings in the variety of weather conditions this autumn month traditionally offers us, in mist, rain, but overall in clear sunshine without heat haze or undue vegetation interference.  John is now regularly putting his videos and photos directly onto the Wild Wolf Experience Facebook page almost as they happen and I know many of you really appreciate this.

Our first Watching for Wolves tour of October welcomed Adam and Pamela to the Sierra de la Culebra - one of the few parts of the world not previously visited by this well-traveled couple!  However, in all their travels, grey wolf had eluded them hence this tour.  Fresh wolf scat was seen on their first afternoon on 16th October and further evidence of being in wolf territory was noticed in other areas during tracking over the next two days.  Tracks of any species other than the hooves of wild boar and deer were very difficult to locate owing to the incredibly hard, dry ground.  During the tour, John concentrated on one area of wolf territory, hoping that Adam and Pamela's quest could be fulfilled here in the Sierra de la Culebra.  Several grand stags were seen with strong looking hinds in tow, plus clear views of wild boar rooting in the nearby fields. Roe deer barks were also heard.  The presence of black and griffon vulture provided a signal that a kill may be in the woods and we could all spend time watching three hen harriers gracefully quartering over the heather along with spotting rock bunting, Iberian green woodpecker, and a lively Iberian hare along the road.

 A large ladder snake was out sunning at Cional as Adam, Pamela and John were walking around the lake and this was topped by an encounter with a Lataste's viper the next day, where no-one wanted to get too close!

But for the first five wolf watches the wolf was not showing and excitement/tension/even resignation began to feature in our conversations. But on a clear Wednesday morning, October 19th, Adam and Pamela saw their target; a species which proved so elusive at other venues.  A large Iberian wolf suddenly came into Adam's view as it sniffed and sauntered across a ploughed field, then trotted away along the forest track, stopping occasionally to sniff the air or even to lie down, before going into the nearby wood. But what a fabulously clear and lengthy sight! This was certainly a memorable and exciting day for Adam and Pamela as they were treated to another good wolf sighting that evening of Wednesday 19th, when an individual emerged at 19:15 and we were all able to watch it for 45 minutes.  Adam and Pamela's final wolf watch, on the morning of 20th October, provided shorter views of a lone wolf deeper into the forest, but what wonderful wolf watches! Adam and Pamela could return to their homes and family with mission certainly well accomplished!

The next day, 21st October, brought Graeme and Rhona back to the Sierra de la Culebra after their visit during May/June 2015. Their first wildlife sighting this year was certainly a dramatic one as they found themselves very close to a large Lataste's viper down our well!

Wet and foggy conditions did not deter Graeme and Rhona and certainly the wolf tracks they found the next day were fresh, which was very exciting. At 10:00 on the morning of 23rd October we were all able to follow an alpha female wolf which had obviously just fed, as it moved slowly along the forest track to be lost amongst the pines until Rhona spotted it again further out to the heather.  Both Graeme and Rhona were delighted to improve upon their more fleeting view from last year's visit, and were determined to keep looking at every opportunity the inclement weather afforded. We were also interested on one occasion to observe a large black vulture for quite a long stretch of time as it lurched about ungainly on the ground by the pine tree.

This attitude lasted until the very final moment of their last wolf watch, on the evening of 25th October. In the encroaching dusk Rhona's attention was drawn to a shape emerging onto our track from the pines which skirt the track edge, and it was a wolf! The dark shape moved soundlessly across the track to become lost in the darkness of the wooded hillside, but what a fitting finale to Graeme and Rhona's series of wolf watches with us!

A day visit to the Douro Gorge gave us two golden eagles, griffon vultures and crag martins with three azure-winged magpies in woodland on the journey back.  Tuesday 25th October was a better day for walking with bright sunshine and no rain or fog and the lake walk at Cional offered up some wonderful sights of Dartford warbler, Iberian green woodpecker, stonechat, grey heron, Iberian chiff-chaff, grey wagtail, kingfisher, blue tit, grebe, cormorant, black redstart, red kite and goshawk. 

As Graeme and Rhona returned to Hitchin, Chris was flying in from Alice Springs, Australia for his Watching for Wolves tour. A visit to Villafafila gave Chris good views of 50+ great bustards - a first on his first morning! Also seen here were shelduck, shoveller, tufted duck, teal, gadwall, wood sandpiper, lapwing, red kite, hen harrier and marsh harrier.  On his first full day in the Sierra de la Culebra, Chris was able to see very fresh wolf scat in a promising area where red kites, griffon and black vultures were much in evidence.  John was able to video this black vulture sunning and preening itself on a treetop

They also were able to record this American mink  jumping from rock to rock at Cional lake.

But the best was yet to come! It was soon after scopes were set up during the evening wolf watch of 28th October that John noticed a female wolf trotting along a track. As Chris enjoyed this, his first lupine view, the wolf turned to walk through the heather which afforded them even better views.  This female wolf seemed to be moving with a purpose until Chris and John noticed a change in her pace and body language.  After slowing to a walk her ears went against her head and her tail began to wag enthusiastically as she greeted her two cubs who emerged from the side of the heather.  From then on, throughout the remaining daylight-to-dusk- viewing time John and Chris could watch the interaction between these three pack members. Please check out our Wild Wolf Experience Facebook page for the excellent video of this event. What an amazing opportunity and Chris felt this result truly justified his long journey to get here.

The next day saw temperatures rise to 24'C and John and Chris spent much of the time tracking around the local villages where locals were making use of the pleasant weather to prepare their firewood for the oncoming winter. Fresh wolf tracks were seen, along with blue tit, great tit, dunnock, Iberian water frogs and yet another Lataste's viper, which was aiming to make use of this warm weather, just like the locals. In this photograph you can see the piles of firewood behind Chris, ready for sorting in time for less welcoming temperatures!

The trip to the Douro gorge gave Chris and John excellent golden eagle and griffon vulture sightings along with crag martins, but Chris was particularly delighted to see his first woodlark plus Sardinian warbler. The evening wolf watch meant that Chris had his first view of wild boar which was seen moving along the nearby firebreak and then heading off through the low heather, and John saw a badger later that night.  So  various interesting species, including red fox and several good views of red deer, had been seen throughout that day and this pattern just didn't seem to stop! On the way to the airport Chris was delighted to spend some time watching two otters and one American mink plus some extremely close views of great bustards in flight, on his truly memorable return journey.

So an eventful month busy as ever and John has been delighted to share such a variety of wildlife sightings with clients throughout October. From the video of wolf seen by John  on the 1st October to the otters and mink with Chris on the 31st, there has been an amazing array of experiences to share this month in this area of Spain so rich in its biodiversity.

Margaret . ( All photos and videos in this blog entry were taken in the Sierra de la Culebra in the wild by John during October 2016)

Monday, 3 October 2016

Review; Summer 2016.

The summer of 2016 has been stupendous in so many ways for us here at Wild Wolf Experience.  We have had our busiest summer yet encompassing successful lynx, bear and wolf tours. As well as meeting several newcomers to Wild Wolf Experience,we welcomed back Eddie and Tina for another wolf/birding week, Pernilla and Mikael for a wolf/bear tour after their successful Looking for Lynx tour two years ago, Keith and Rosemary who enjoyed a fabulous Looking for Lynx tour with us this year after seeing wolf with Wild Wolf Experience some years ago, and Linda who has just completed her third successful Watching for Wolves tour with us. John and I appreciate the contacts and friendships that build up through such return visits and we thank you for your confidence in us.  We always do our utmost to provide our clients with memorable wildlife experiences during all three of our tours.

Migrants were arriving and clearly displaying throughout April with first sightings of Montague's harrier on 4th and bee-eaters on 24th April.

Geoff and Anne, our first clients from the 
Channel Islands, were straight into the action on 6th April with super views of over 200 great bustards at Villafafila, plus goldcrest, Iberian chiff-chaff, black-winged stilt, avocet, shoveller, lesser kestrel, short-toed and booted eagles, black and red kites, Montague's and marsh harriers, serin and stonechat - all before lunch on the first day!

We spent that evening locating red and roe deer in the telescopes to the accompaniment of cuckoo and scop's owl.

A change of viewing site owing to misty conditions on the morning of 7th April was very fortunate for John and Geoff as their second site allowed them both to watch three wolves, albeit some distance away, for about 15 ,minutes, beginning at 08:45.  Further tracking revealed some very fresh wolfscat close by.  Unfortunately Anne wasn't there to  see these three predators and although she made sure not to miss one minute of the next watches, the wolves were proving elusive...until Geoff and Anne's determination was rewarded on the morning of 9th April with the stunning sight at 07:45 of three wolves chasing six deer right across the valley.  What a treat to watch! But this was not the final lupine encounter for Geoff and Anne.  Despite encroaching rainclouds, they were out with John in the early morning of 11th April and were again excited to be able to watch three wolves from 07:30 until 07:50 until bad visibility from heavy showers hampered any further sightings.

Notable birds seen during some very pleasant walks around the quaint villages and on tracks through the park include skylark, woodlark, crested lark, siskin, rock bunting, Dartford warbler, great tit, blue tit, coal tit, longtailed tit, crested tit, robin, blackcap, nuthatch, firecrest, peregrine falcon,hoopoe, red-rumped swallow, short-toed treecreeper and Iberian grey shrike while mammals other than wolf were Iberian hare, red deer, roe deer and fox against stunning sunsets.  A walk between Villardeciervos and Cional garnered some clearly recent tracks of wolf, otter, wild boar and deer.

The river Duero was in full flood when Geoff, Anne and John enjoyed a day visit to the magnificent gorge, appreciating good views of Egyptian vulture, griffon vulture, black stork,red-billed chough,blue rock thrush,sub-Alpine warbler and a superb golden eagle display.  It was a treat to sample the serene atmosphere at the old clapper bridge which reaches over a river at present awash with delicate white flowers. This place will feature highly amongst the memories Geoff and Anne take away with them. 

"Now that we are back home and have gathered our thoughts we must congratulate John and yourself on organising such a wonderful experience for us. We really enjoyed all of the spectacular wild life that we saw and the visits to the little villages were very interesting. Being able to sample local foods at lunchtime was very good since it was something that would not have been possible without John’s help. The trip down the Douro gorge was spectacular and, once again the organisation and scheduling of the birds was admirable. The hotel was very well situated for the various observation sites and provided comfortable accommodation and enjoyable dining
Thank you once again for making our trip so enjoyable and we look forward to seeing you again in the future.
                       Anne and Geoff . April 2016."

Further memories were created with Geoff and Anne during what we thought was going to be a quiet wolfwatch on the evening of 9th April. The obvious tense behaviour of four stags alert in the heather before racing full pelt into the relative safety of the forest, alerted our attention and at 21:00 we stiffened as the sound of a lone wolf howling reached our ears.  A little later, there was a response from nearer to our viewpoint, this being howls from several wolves which were repeated from further afield as dusk enveloped the valley. Such an evening indeed creates lifelong memories.

At Villafafila,Joe and Sharon too saw the great bustards, plus cattle egret, spoonbill, corn bunting ,wheatear, shelduck and coot with bee-eater and blue rockthrush at Rio Esla. Migrants were starting to arrive each day here in the Sierra de la Culebra and by the end of April Joe and Sharon were treated to many displaying species, including hoopoe, Bonelli's warbler, Dartford and sub-Alpine warbler, crossbill, cuckoo, short-toed treecreeper, nuthatch, black redstart and alpine swift.

After this Watching for Wolves tour Joe and Sharon set off to spend a few days in the interesting and picturesque town of Salamanca, only two hours from here, thereby finishing off what .proved to be a fascinating Spanish holiday.

The pattern of migrant arrivals continued during Eddie and Tina's tour and on the very first morning they enjoyed spotting sparrowhawk, Eurasian cuckoo, black kite, red kite, booted and short-toed eagles, buzzard, common kestrel, and stonechat plus the arrival of swifts flying round the hotel. Golden oriole was seen on three consecutive days 13th and 14th May, as was Bonelli's warbler.

A chilly 13th May also gave up Iberian green woodpecker,jay, woodlark, black kite and nightingale while whitethroat, great spotted woodpecker, Dartford warbler,bee-eater and sub-Alpine warbler could be added to Eddie's list by the end of 14th May. Some over attentive bees did not dampen the spirits during a walk at Cabanas de Aliste where along with good sightings of golden oriole, two golden eagles were seen soaring overhead only 30 metres above us. All this after a morning watching thirteen wild boar. On the day visit to Portugal and the Douro gorge, John, Eddie and Tina were able to watch Egyptian vulture on the nest,griffon vulture,crag martin and alpine swift in a day full of viewing opportunities.                                                                                                                                                                                              Everyone was impressed at John's ability to photograph  Alpine swift on the wing.

A feature of Kim and Nick's Watching for Wolves tour was the close view and photographic opportunity of a large male wild boar, quite an experience for all! We have certainly had good views of wild boar this summer.

This is the time of year here when the wild flower meadows are at their best and Kim and Nick enjoyed the relaxation and diversification of flora and fauna in such unspoilt areas.

On the morning of 24th June, John and Janet were treated to good views of a lone wolf walking across a ploughed field in the distance. Enough to whet their appetites for even better views! Keen birders, during their 4 night Watching for Wolves tour they notched up well over 100 bird species!

Deepak and Olivia arrived on 29th June and Olivia in particular was determined to see her first wolf. Determination is part but not all of wolf sightings of course, but we were pleased that she was rewarded with a good, clear view of a pale-pelted wolf loping along the track before diverting through the low heather at 08:00 on 30th June. On that successful morning watch, they also saw red deer, roe deer and wild boar.

The unseasonable intense heat of this August 2016 made sightings difficult as the wolves were keeping further into the shade of the forest for longer, but as September evolved a more autumnal feel to the air in morning and evening greatly increased the opportunity for good sightings, and what a successful month September has been for the wolf watchers with us! The cubs have emerged from the various dens and Linda, on her third Watching for Wolves tour with us, saw wolf on five of her seven days here, starting with the first morning.

Some striking sunsets and sunrises provide perfect photo opportunities in this most photogenic part of  Spain and Linda enjoyed making the most of this with her photographic skills.  Along with friends Terry and Ros, John and Linda enjoyed a wonderful morning boat trip courtesy of, where the morning mist cleared and rutting red deer and peregrine falcon were among the wildife sights enjoyed as they visited inlets and bays otherwise inaccessible by car or foot.
 Linda also enjoyed a visit to Sanabria where the imposing castle and stunning lakeside views skirted by a dramatic skyline of mountain peaks, all combine to make one feel very small in an area of such presence and atmosphere.

August/September is also a very promising time for bear sightings and our first Browsing for Bears tour during these months was with Pernilla and Mikael from Sweden,

followed by Neil and Maureen from Scotland. As well as excellent bear sightings,the agility of the chamois could be seen on almost vertical slopes.

 Close views of griffon vulture against such a magnificent backdrop were tremendous!

The weather is always a determining factor in this mountainous area of Spain, but this September viewing conditions proved excellent and our tours enjoyed wonderful views of bears, as detailed on our website.Coming from the Highlands of Scotland, Neil appreciated the stunning mountainous views, feeling like a home from home.

Both tours were able to watch several individual bears for a good length of time feeding on the Alpine buckthorn berries on the mountain slopes.

Earlier in the year, during May, John took Karen and Elaine to Asturias on the first part of their combined Bear/Wolf tour and in Asturias the weather was less welcoming.

Luckily both Karen and Elaine were prepared for all conditions and their perseverance paid dividends with excellent sightings of six individual bears , followed by good views of wolf and wild boar during their time here in the Sierra de la Culebra.

John was lucky to escape the dreadful rainstorms we experienced here in the Sierra de la Culebra in the week beginning 13th April and he also counted himself fortunate then to welcome Keith and Rosemary - wolf-watchers with us in 2013 - to begin their Looking for Lynx tour in the sunshine of the Sierra de Andujar. John, Keith and Rosemary enjoyed good views of wild boar,blue rock thrush, Spanish ibex, Sardinian warbler and moufflon on 15th April, their first full day, plus greater mouse-eared and Daubentin's bats.

Three magnificent Spanish imperial eagles started 16th April off well and they went on to watch bee-eater, griffon vulture, black vulture, woodchat shrike, Iberian grey shrike, cuckoo, hoopoe, corn bunting and fallow deer until the evening watch gave Keith and Rosemary their first views of Iberian lynx.  An adult and a semi-adult could be seen walking along the ridge of the hillside to the accompanying calls of the azure-winged magpies. A large fire salamander was a treat to see on the morning of 17th April but the main event of the day which outshone some wonderful imperial eagle displays, was their view of a large Iberian lynx which John first spotted whilst scouting around further down the hill.  He ran up to Keith and Rosemary and they managed to get to where this magnificent specimen was sauntering toward the bridge of the hill, marking territory as it went along. 

A stunning and satisfying finale to a fabulous tour in a beautiful area of Spain. We were delighted that Keith and Rosemary chose to travel with Wild Wolf Experience again, and enjoyed renewing their acquaintance with such a fulfilling tour.

"Hi Margaret and John

Firstly a very big thank you to John for making our trip to Andujar so memorable.  What a stunning area, excellent game viewing and very comfortable accommodation.  I can't believe we were so lucky to see such a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles.  We really appreciate John's expertise and look forward to seeing his photos and videos.        

                                                 Rosemary.  April 2016."

So, a summer of success and great tour experiences, with the only thing lacking being the monthly Newsletters.  However, now that the new website is up and running, thanks to the expertise and patience of Matthew Drake of My Silver Tree, I am happy to respond to the various requests for the monthly Newsletter to be reinstated here, and I look forward to reporting at the end of October on this blog once again. For more up to date happenings, please keep checking the "Latest News " section of the website and of course, our Wild Wolf Experience Facebook page for some fantastic photos and videos all taken by John in the area he loves.

Margaret. October 2016.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

New Website!

This is just one of the photos which feature in our new website published today! The work involved with this new site has been the major reason for the non-appearance of my monthly Newsletters since March 2016, and thank you for your patience. I am very excited about this new site, asd it means that instead of waiting until the newsletter appearance each month, I can post sightings and other news items as they happen!

I hope you get a chance to look at the new site and I would welcome your opinions about it. With thanks to Matthew Drake of My Silver Tree for all his work in creating the new website...I hope you agree it is clear and easy to follow. I look forward to hearing your views,

All best wishes,


Thursday, 31 March 2016

Newsletter March 2016.

There are wolves at the end of that rainbow!

Our March tours began straightaway with the arrival of Tim and Ann on 1st March, and both of them were soon engrossed in watching large flocks of great bustards in flight and on parade on the ground, plus a beautiful marsh harrier at Villafafila. Such fascinating avian sights were followed by good otter views en route.  All this before they even reached the hotel!

The next morning (2nd March) dawned misty but it cleared in time for Tim and Ann to appreciate the views from the highest point in the Sierra de la Culebra, namely Pena Mira. Both on their walk up to this fabulous viewpoint and on further walks that morning, fresh wolf scat was found plus some tracks.

This red-rumped swallow seen by Ann,Tim and John at Boya was reported by John and it holds the record for the earliest recorded sighting of this species in Zamora this year, so well done for spotting this early arrival!

March is an exciting month indeed as each week brings yet more migrants into our area and Tim and Ann were our first people with us this year to see the newly-returned Egyptian vultures (three of them) during their day visit to the the Douro Gorge on 3rd March.

Spending a pleasant, sunny day there, Tim, Ann and John enjoyed good views of golden eagles perched on a rock, crag martins and house martins, rock bunting, serin and good close views of griffon vultures.The evening wolfwatch that night gave us good views of red deer but the highlights were a fleeting glimpse of a wild boar crossing the road ahead of our car and a chirpy young Iberian hare which raced along the road in our headlights for several metres, interrupting its familiar speedy loping with an incredibly high jump twisting its rear end with aplomb before landing and bringing truth to the phrase " to hit the ground running."
Ann and Tim at the river which is the border between Spain and Portugal.

Dear Margaret and John,

Thank you so much for giving us such an amazing experience of life in Sierra de Culebra.  We had such a good time....  What we loved was being outdoors in such beautiful and remote surroundings , walking in the hills and valleys and learning what life is like in that area.
We saw some wonderful birds too, and of course the little Iberian hare was an added bonus!
                                                                             Ann and Tim. March 2016.

Black vulture was seen by all as they made their way back to Madrid, a wonderful capital city and a notable contrast to the old villages explored merely a few hours earlier where the livestock housed below heat the living quarters above, and where the pace of life could be from generations ago not just a few hours away.

Cuckoo calls and skylark sounds are commonplace now at the end of the month,but our first call of the common cuckoo was heard on the morning of March 18th, whilst I was able to hear the unusual, insistent spring call of the great spotted cuckoo on the morning of 22nd March here in Cional.

Colin and Mike from Scotland are becoming members of the Returning Regulars Club, and John and I always enjoy their company and companionship.  Arriving on 18th, both Colin and Mike saw a group of 4 wolves at long distance as they raced through the heather ( the wolves, not Colin and Mike!) on their first day  and once again their appetite was whetted for yet better, closer views. They decided to take John's advice and for the next few days concentrated at a site where the vista is not so panoramic, but if granted a view of wolf, it could be closer. Friends Roberto, Jose and Inaki had seen wolves here on 20th March, but Colin's and Mike's determination and patience was tested almost to surrender point.  However, they were rewarded, at 07:02 on their last morning watch en route to Madrid airport, with good, clear views of a lone wolf loping across a nearby field.

"We had a great time as we always do in Culebra. It's always fine margins which adds to the excitement. If we hadn’t happened to be looking in the right direction ... or if we had arrived ...30 seconds later…. But that’s part of  the fun of it.

I hope you keep enjoying your Spanish lives. We appreciate your enthusiasm and your generosity with all that fabulous knowledge you have built up over the years. Its truly inspiring what you do but I’m quite sure its not always sunshine and wolves. We could see the hard work that lies behind it all." 
                                                                                        Colin. March 2016.

During a cold, Easter weekend, such tales of "it ain't over until..." were parried about as Gavin joined us to try to see wolves.  Through cold winds, heavy rain and general chilly air, Gavin kept on looking and his positivity is to be commended. And it reaped rewards! Having tried to see wolf in other parts of the world, Gavin was treated here to a long sighting of three wolves interacting from 08:30/09:30 on his final wolfwatch on the morning of March 28th, again, like Colin and Mike, just before packing up and setting off back to Madrid airport!
Seen them! It was worth it!

John's videos of these three wolves also show the weather conditions on the Easter Monday morning, but John and Gavin were more than delighted with the rewards of their efforts. 

Previous to this sighting, Gavin and John had spotted good examples of wolf tracks and fresh scat, and the increasing number of summer migrants appearing meant that Gavin managed to see several very interesting bird species which included black vulture, griffon vulture, azure-winged magpie, great white egret, hen harrier, marsh harrier, lesser kestrel, corn bunting, rock bunting, avocet, shelduck, shoveller, short-toed treecreeper, hoopoe, corn bunting, firecrest, nuthatch, red kite, black kite, short-toed eagle,

skylark, black-winged kite, rock sparrow, Dartford warbler, golden eagle, blue rock thrush, Alpine swift, crag martin, red-billed chough, sand martin, house martin plus about 400 great bustards.  These are merely a selection! 

During times tracking,John and Gavin also spotted red deer, roe deer, Iberian water frog, fox, Iberian hare and two voles crossing the road in our headlights as we returned to enjoy dinner with other enthusiasts at our hotel.

Here we have John's video of a lively firecrest spotted when out tracking with Gavin.

The journey back to the airport gave Gavin and John excellent views of black-winged stilt and gull-billed tern plus large numbers of ardent great bustards in full lek, as seen here in John's video.

I shall finish this March Newsletter with another of John's videos from this month, simply because it is a beautiful scene of a white stork wading in the river by our nearby clapper bridge amidst spring blossom, hopefully finding a frog or two!

Margaret. ( All photos and videos taken in the wild by John during this month March 2016.)

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Newsletter February 2016

Newsletter February 2016.

February has given us some wonderful blue skies and cold clear days, as can be seen in this video of young red deer on a very frosty early February morning.

However, there was warmth in the sunshine during daylight hours and John and I were surprised to see an Iberian wall lizard out sunning on our stone walls as early as February 4th. The relative warmth of that day also brought out various caterpillars and millipedes.  Our first wolves of the month were seen on the morning of February 6th; watch them as they feed on a recently dead red deer.

 The closest lupine encounter this month was on 13th February at 17:30 as John was battling against a strong head wind while attempting to walk our dog Sheeba, just outside our village of Cional.  A roe deer sped across the road just in front of John in obvious panic, and John didn't need to look far to see the reason - a lone wolf on the prowl and loping across the sandy soil into the heather 200 metres away.

On the first morning of Roger and Silvia's tour, indeed on the car journey from the airport to our base here in the Sierra de la Culebra, John was able to show them both several great bustards and they were all delighted to watch otter during a stop en route. The next day (17th) gave everyone a good view of Iberian hare and then two foxes during the morning watch, plus large numbers of red deer stags and hinds at all watches.At one time we were all able to watch three red deer with two roe deer also in our scopes,thereby clearly highlighting the differences between these two species.

Scenes such as this almond blossom against a clear blue sky

gave Roger and Silvia some clear but cold morning wolfwatches

where they spotted badger tracks recently made in the morning's snowfall.

Roger and Silvia were ready to warm up by the log fire each breakfast time back at the hotel!

This month of February has given us interesting morning bird song and we have welcomed back several migrants already.  Crossbills were seen on 11th February and Roger and Silvia also enjoyed seeing them on 18th February along with rock bunting,great spotted woodpecker, Iberian green woodpecker and short-toed treecreeper mostly seen while walking some of the tracks. They also heard a nuthatch and indeed, from Roger's clear description of an encounter in the wood just behind the hotel, it is very likely that he was watching a wildcat on the morning of 20th February.

"John was such a star looking after us so well.
Thank you so much for a wonderful experience." 
                                                                Roger and Silvia.Feb 2016.

During their trip to the Douro gorge, John, Roger and Silvia were interested to see house martins as well as the more familiar crag martins, at the dam at Miranda de Douro, along with Iberian grey shrike and stonechat also seen on that day(19th February).Larger birds seen during their visit to the gorge sites included common buzzard, griffin vultures at close quarters and a spectacular sight of two golden eagles,a male and a female,with the male performing several displaying dives to entrance his potential mate. 

Another interesting raptor spotted during Roger and Silvia's final watch on the morning of 20th February, was a peregrine falcon perched on the crag behind us.

No-one recognised this apha male as John chose a very relevant costume for the Carnaval weekend at Villanueva del Valrojo in early February! During the day many people enjoyed the sound of the traditional piper playing in Otra Cosa.

Alan and Jacqueline thoroughly enjoyed close views of many great bustards both on land and in flight as they travelled from Madrid to our base here in the Sierra de la Culebra.  They also saw shoveller, grey heron, great egret and little egret plus marsh harrier; not a bad start to their tour!

It was dark by the time we were driving along the road to the hotel, but it was exciting to catch the shine of deer eyes in the dark, plus a young Iberian hare which ran alongside the car for several yards and was clearly visible in the headlights. Despite their first day (26th February) being decidedly wet, Alan and Jacqueline were very lucky to see several interesting bird species at close quarters while walking around some of the quaint,working villages near their hotel. These bird sightings included our first hoopoe of 2016,  with snow falling,


Iberian grey shrike,


white stork,

rock bunting, Iberian chiff-chaff, serin, siskin, common buzzard, raven, white wagtail, grey wagtail, black redstart, red kite and a memorable sight of a sparrowhawk taking off with its freshly captured prey, possibly an unfortunate chaffinch. 

During that evening's cold wolfwatch, we took notice of a grand stag who posed proudly as if totally aware of his beauty and his incredible headgear until, just as dusk was falling, Jacqueline wondered what the moving, large dark shape was caught in her telescope.  It was a wild boar and we were all able to watch  as this large male trotted fairly rapidly through the short, yellowing grasses, to be eventually lost owing to poor light and heavier undergrowth.

The next morning started well with good views of marsh harrier and indeed a wolf was seen, albeit fleetingly, by the ranger on the evening's wolfwatch. Ravens were able to be seen and heard along with good views of red deer and three roe deer.

This proved to be a wonderful day along the Douro gorge with excellent views of blue rock thrush at the dam at Miranda. 

The golden eagle pair were still involved in display flights... a joy to watch at such close quarters During this video taken by John you can see the golden eagle twisting its head from side to side before speeding down out of sight in a dramatic display dive. Such a great day of memorable moments finished off that evening with good views of black-shouldered kite both in flight and roosting.

The journey back to Madrid airport on 29th February gave Jacqueline superb views of three black vultures which provided a cyclical satisfaction to the whole tour; on the original trip away from Madrid airport 5 days ago, Jacqueline had missed seeing black vulture which John and Alan noticed. This time, no-one missed out on a good view of such an impressive bird.

"I just wanted to thank you again for a wonderful weekend, I hope we can do it again sometime"
                                                       Alan and Jacqueline. Feb2016


 ( All photos and videos taken by John during this month of February 2016 in the Sierra de la Culebra)