Thursday, 3 August 2017

Newsletter June/July 2017

Newsletter June/July 2017.

The sweltering heat experienced during these summer months could have made wolf sightings even more difficult but on the contrary we have enjoyed some fantastic views recently, many of which John has put on the Facebook page almost as they happen!

Our first wolf sighting of June/July was on Monday 5th July with John spotting a wolf in the heather after noting the panic behaviour of two roe deer. The same viewpoint gave up excellent wolf views the next day, 6th June. Former clients and now firm friends, Ros and Terry, came to their adopted second home, the Sierra de la Culebra, mid-June for a month and the wolf sightings they enjoyed were indeed tremendous too. One large dark male wolf standing sniffing the air and then trotting across a freshly-cut field, his dark silhouette standing out against the yellow stubble, was a wonderful sight midway through their stay and this was capped by another good view of wolf plus five wild boar on their penultimate night in this area they have so grown to enjoy.

John with friends Ros and Terry.

The heat built up to temperatures in the upper thirties for Lynn's Watching for Wolves tour. Lynn was fascinated to experience this unique area of Spain as she works with grey wolves in captive situations in UK. Smoke from some tremendously damaging and indeed fatal forest fires in Portugal actually hampered viewing for our first wolf watch on 19th June but all the other watches were in much clearer conditions. I have recently been sent an article from The Telegraph quoting the convoluted argument being put forward by some French farmers that wolves are to blame for the forest fires in France this week; it professes via quite a circuitous route to eventually reach this conclusion. Even the most unbiased reader would surely think reason was being unduly stretched to blame this already much maligned species with the damage from such events which happen each year in such tinder-try, baking hot areas of forested Europe, with or without wolves.

During the wolf watches Lynn could enjoy good views of Egyptian vulture, many griffon vultures,  black kite, common buzzard, Montague's harrier, turtle dove, rock bunting, bee-eater and booted eagle.

Lynn found the walks around the local villages fascinating as she could experience the way the communities here live alongside this apex predator. Several wild boar were seen during the morning and evening watches along with regular red and roe deer sightings and Lynn also saw Iberian hare, rabbit, red fox and Iberian wall lizard.

At 08:45 on 23rd June Lynn got her scope onto a light-coloured shape, spotted fleetingly as it loped through the undergrowth.  Sightings of a light-coloured wolf, corroborated by video, in the same area as Linda's had been seen, suggest that she possibly had indeed seen her first wild Iberian wolf.

Vlad arrived from New South Wales, Australia and almost as his aircraft dropped down to land, so did the temperatures and there were some cold early morning watches for Vlad and John during the first half of his Watching for Wolves tour. But the cooler times reaped success with some excellent sightings of three wolves interacting for over 45 minutes on the morning of 30th June.

Good views of black vulture, Dartford warbler, bee-eater and dunnock all contributed to make this morning special.

That Friday was also memorable owing to the co-incidence of two Vladimirs discussing the respective merits of Czech beers in their native language while standing in the churchyard at Villardeciervos, as our client Vlad became acquainted with Vlad the village priest! Quite a surreal moment, and topped by a very special opportunity to photograph the local multiple storks' nests from the top of the church bell tower!

The previous day Vlad - our client not the priest -  had enjoyed his first ever sightings of great bustard, about 20 in total, along with booted eagle, lesser kestrel, marsh harrier, short-toed eagle and black kite plus the distressing sight of one mink inspecting and trying to protect the body of another mink which had obviously been recently run over by a vehicle. Rather bad luck in an area so empty of traffic.

Vlad enjoyed a pleasant hike in the hills around the local villages, spotting booted eagle and raven but generally just appreciating the ambiance of the whole area he had traveled so far to experience. During an atmospheric evening watch on 1st July, Vlad and John spent some time concentrating on a stag which seemed to indicate that wolf was present. After standing stock still staring at some ground ahead, the stag then turned, whereupon John noticed a wolf beginning to gain pace in the heather where the stag had been originally focusing. The stag needed no further prompting as it hurtled off into deeper undergrowth.

Wolf was seen by Vlad and John at 08:00 the next morning 2nd July and this was an excellent start of a full day with the visit over the border to Portugal offering sights of alpine swift, red-billed chough, griffin vulture and crag martin to name but a few, against stunning scenery. During some interesting day hikes, Vlad recorded this fresh wolf-scat and found an excellent wolf track by a pool where Iberian water frogs could be seen and heard.

The wolf sightings just kept happening - right up to the weekend watch on the last weekend of July with Tinette and her family from the Netherlands who were all able to enjoy their first views of Iberian wolf on three occasions during their first watch with John on 29th July.  As well as excellent wolf views they also were treated to good sightings of large wild boar, several red deer, bee-eater, black kite and Dartford warbler plus a close view of red squirrel

John and I enjoyed a wonderful time relaxing with family too during July when the calm atmosphere of this special part of Spain helped my daughter Eva complete her Master's dissertation and her twin brother Iain continued his run of exceptional good wildlife viewing with a fantastic morning watching a wolf stalk, chase and kill a roe deer in an unforgettable wildlife episode. Here the wolf can be seen dragging the prey.

The next morning we could watch the wolf returning to its kill to feed and then carry it away.

Interesting wildlife sights abound in this area every month. On 29th July, while walking near Linarejos after an excellent lunch, John and I were delighted to video this young gallipato, a type of salamander which is greatly under threat in several areas of Spain owing to the invasive presence of the American crayfish.  We appreciated the time spent watching this fascinating creature in a crystal clear pool hidden away in a secluded part of this peaceful valley and I am happy to share such a lucky view with you all here.

Friends from the Basque region, Ixi and Jon, arrived for the final weekend in July and could only manage one wolf watch which was interesting but without wolf. However their return journey delivered astounding views of a lone wolf against a stunning night skyand they were able to snap some shots from their car window one of which I reproduce below. Wherever you go, at whatever time of day or night, it is always an interesting journey here in the Sierra de la Culebra!


A lucky snapshot from the car window! Thanks to Ixi and Jon.

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