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.)

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