Monday, 26 June 2017

Newsletter May 2017.

Newsletter May 2017.
The category "owlflyantlion" seems to cover every eventuality for this impressive creature seen in Asturias this month
















The month started very well with 2 wolves on 1st May on the first evening watch of Richard and Winnie's wolf part of their combined wolf/bear tour. In diminishing dusk light on May 1st near the end of the evening's wolf watch, John saw two wolves on the distant hillside and managed to get one in the scope as it moved along the track to go off into the neighbouring field. This sighting set the tone for Richard and Winnie's tour as superb sightings of both target species and more besides were enjoyed generally in very good weather for visibility and tracking.


Richard and Winnie's journey to the Sierra de la Culebra from Asturias airport had already offered up two species of eagle, two species of kite, Montague's harrier, kestrel, buzzard, white stork and red-rumped swallow en route. During the wolf watches  this first week of May there were plenty of  opportunities to view red and roe deer, red fox and the birds were displaying throughout. 


video

 A displaying dunnock was a regular sight during the watches along with hen harrier, Montague's harrier, Bonelli's warbler, sub-Alpine warbler, Dartford warbler, bee-eater, linnet, rock bunting, Iberian green woodpecker, stonechat, cuckoo, swift, blackcap, coal tit, great tit, golden oriole and nightingale.


video



Winnie saw her first nightingale this week, during a walk around the lake at Cional, thanks to John's skill in locating such a secretive bird. Time spent tracking garnered good tracks which included wolf, red fox, otter, badger, wild boar. During a walk everyone was delighted to see an Iberian hare running along the track ahead of them, again near Cional. The Iberian frogs were vocal as well as visible and the Iberian wall lizards could be seen on several occasions. Blue rock thrush was seen during a lovely visit to the Rio Esla.

Then on 5th May it was time for John to travel up to Asturias with Richard and Winnie for the bear part of their very successful combined tour, and this was immediately followed by a bear tour with Steve and Karen and then another one with Eddie and Tina who were to sample our Browsing for Bears tour this year after enjoying Watching for Wolves tours for the previous two years. For ease of reporting I shall put the result of all these three tours together; all three were very successful in their wildlife views and experiences.

video

As Steve and Karen were scanning during a bear watch, John noticed a change in the behaviour of the herd of chamois which had previously been grazing on the mountainside.  Scanning to the left of them, he could hardly believe his eyes, and Steve and Karen could hardly believe their ears, when he whispered "Wolf!" and all three of them could watch the lone wolf as it stalked the chamois until they hurtled downhill leaving the wolf to climb up the mountainside and over the rocky summit.  This is such a special sight as wolves in Asturias are notoriously difficult to find!

Steve and Karen appreciated this wolf sighting and then later in the tour they were lucky again when during a walk they were able to see a golden striped salamander, once again not on your everyday list of creatures to be seen here.



This short-legged species is endemic to North-west Spain and northern Portugal and is predominantly crepuscular or indeed nocturnal so this was a rare sight indeed.  For food, it captures small arthopods with its sticky tongue and requires a good supply of these plus very unpolluted water to ensure survival.

Steve and Karen also saw Spanish capercaillie understandably which delighted them. Normally very reclusive, the Spanish capercaillie was also seen by Eddie and Tina the following week, which was again a special treat.

video


For Richard and Winnie, a special wildlife moment was their excellent view of a pine marten as it ran across the road in front of them on 7th May. This was one day after some tremendous views of wild boar family parties with John capturing excellent video of the young wild boar piglets suckling as the mother grazes. John was able to catch this view on the video shown above.

video

Bear sightings in this early part of May were incredible as you will see from the attached videos which John was able to take during the tours. In the above video we have a huge male bear sniffing the air and the ground in his spring search for a female.

video

And here in the above video is indeed a female in the same area whose main priority is of course to protect her cub from the predatory male bear. Wonderful wildlife filming here from John!

video

In the video above, taken during Eddie and Tina's tour, look out for the chamois which appears at the end of the filming, incredibly close to the large male bear! Eddie and Tina were very pleased to get such good views of a peregrine and three young, which are featured on John's video below.

video



Birds seen during the tours included peregrine with three chicks, golden eagle, sparrowhawk, griffon vulture, common buzzard, common kestrel, honey buzzard, stonechat, rufous-tailed rock thrush, rock bunting, Spanish capercaillie, Iberian green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, grey wagtails breeding, blackcap, song thrush, nuthatch, short-toed treecreeper, dipper, mistle thrush and chiffchaff. Red squirrel put in a welcome appearance during Eddie and Tina's tour. Eddie and Tina also enjoyed an early morning observation of displaying hen harriers in the hills above their hotel  where tree pipits were seen performing their typical parachuting display.
Thanks to Eddie and Tina for this photo of a white spotted sable seen on their tour this month

















Back in the Sierra de la Culebra later in May a visitor was creating much interest. John saw a red-footed falcon on 26th May as we were driving along to San Vitero. A first for us in this area which always brings up new exciting sightings and experiences. And the sightings continued successfully from the very first day of the month to the very last with John watching Iberian hare, red deer, roe deer, red fox and a pine marten very close by during his final watch of May on 31st. A fulfilling and exciting month packed from the very first to the very last!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Newsletter April 2017.

Newsletter April 2017.  


The first days of April saw John in the Sierra de Andujar with John, Janet, Frank and Andrew, looking for Iberian lynx. A paucity of rabbits meant that lynx had not been seen for several weeks and the possible sighting that John had was but fleeting, but as keen birders and naturalists, there was never any moment or watch without its excitement.






So much was spotted during the tour that I am grateful to John and Janet for allowing me to reproduce their list, rather than write all these down. 




Iberian Lynx Watching
In
Sierra Morena
30th April 2017 to 3rd March 2017


30th
31st
1st
2nd
3rd



Iberian Lynx




?


Rabbit

X
X
X
X
X

Iberian Hare




1


Red Fox




1


Red Deer

X
X
X
X
X

Fallow Deer



X
X
X

Iberian Ibex



1



Wild Boar


X

X


Mouflon



X
X
X

Greater Mouse Eared Bat


X
X



Daubenton’s Bat



X










11 species










Mallard


X

X


Red Legged Partridge

X
X
X
X
X

White Stork

2



X

Black Stork



3



Cattle Egret

1



20+

Cormorant


X

X


Black Kite

200+



1

Red Kite

1





Osprey


1




Black Vulture

1
1




Griffon Vulture

X
X
X
X
X

Short-toed Eagle



2
2


Sparrowhawk

2





Goshawk

1
1




Common Buzzard

1

1



Golden Eagle



1



Spanish Imperial Eagle

2
2
1



Booted Eagle

4


1


Kestrel

X
X
X
X
X

Green Sandpiper


1









Yellow Legged Gull
X





Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon
X
X
X
X
X

Stock Dove



X


Woodpigeon
X
X
X
X
X

Collared Dove
X
X
X
X
X

Common Cuckoo
X
X
X
X
X

Little Owl
2

2
2-3
1

Scops Owl


1H
1H


European Bee-eater
3+
9

9
25+

Hoopoe
X
X
X
X
X

Iberian Green Woodpecker
X
X
X
X
X

Great Spotted Woodpecker

2

H


Crested Lark
X


X
X

Woodlark



H


Crag Martin


X
X


Swallow
X
X
X
X
X

House Martin
X
X
X
X
X

Red-Rumped Swallow
X
X
X
X
X

White Wagtail
X
X

X


Grey Wagtail

1




Meadow Pipit

1


H

Wren

X

X
X

Robin

X




Nightingale


X
3


Black Redstart


X



European Stonechat

X

X


Blue Rock Thrush

X
X
X


Blackbird
X
X
X
X
X

Mistle Thrush
X
X
X
X
X

Cetti’s Warbler

X

X


Dartford Warbler


X
X


Western Orphean Warbler



1


Sardinian Warbler
X
X
X
X
X

Subalpine Warbler



1


Blackcap

X
X
X


Willow Warbler



X


Western Bonelli’s Warbler


1



Chiffchaff
X
X
X
X


Pied Flycatcher



1m


Long Tailed Tit
X
X
X
X
X

Blue Tit
X
X
X
X
X

Great Tit
X
X
X
X
X

Nuthatch

X

X
X




Short Toed Treecreeper

X




Southern Grey Shrike
X
X
X
X


Woodchat Shrike


X
X


Golden Oriole




H

Chough

X
X
X


Magpie
X
X
X
X
X

Azure Winged Magpie
X
X
X
X
X

Jay
X
X
X
X
X

Jackdaw
X


X


Carrion Crow
X

X



Raven

8


3

Spotless Starling
X
X
X
X
X

House Sparrow
X
X
X
X
X

Rock Sparrow

1




Chaffinch
X
X
X
X
X

European Serin
X
X
X
X
X

Greenfinch
X

X
X
X

Goldfinch

X
X
X
X

Linnet

1
X
1


Rock Bunting

1

1


Corn Bunting
X
X
X
X
X

Cirl Bunting



H
H







79 species








Iberian Pond Frog

X




Wall Lizard






Ocellated Lizard


X
X


Spanish Psammodromus


1



Ladder snake


1



European Pond Terrapin


X



Spanish Pond Terrapin



1








7 species








Clouded Yellow
X
X
X
X
X

Brimstone






Orange Tip
X
X
X
X


Portuguese Dappled White

X
X
X


Small White



X


Red Admiral


X



Painted Lady
X





Small Copper


X






Brown Argus

X
X



Lang’s Short-tailed Blue


X



Small Heath
X

X
X


Spanish Festoon

X

X


Swallowtail

X
X









13 species








Orchis champagneuxii


X



Ophrys tenthrebinifera


X

















It

It was a pleasure for John to be with John and Janet again who had enjoyed a successful Watching for Wolves tour with us in 2016 and along with Frank and Andrew, the group boasted some depth of knowledge.


video

At one point during a watch at the dam, two short-toed eagles, three black storks and a Spanish ibex could be seen in one view! 




The weather was excellent throughout and afforded everyone fantastic views of Imperial eagle from the first night. 

video


Watches were often accompanied by Dartford and Sardinian warblers  with goshawk, black vulture, red-rumped swallow, hoopoe and a daily little owl showing well throughout the tour. A false alarm from Andrew did not produce the hoped-for lynx sighting but everyone got onto red deer because of this. 


video

Wild boar were spotted on two days of the tour with this family party providing particularly pleasing views.









 This is the best time of year to be here to experience the orchids and wild flower meadows.







On the last day there were good views of mouflon.















video

A fabulous ocellated lizard made its way across the road in front of everyone one evening in the glorious Sierra de Andujar.

The day after the Looking for Lynx tour John collected Story and her mum Ruth who had flown in from the USA solely for a Watching for Wolves tour. Once again John enjoyed the company of dedicated and knowledgeable enthusiasts.  Ruth and Story's Watching for Wolves tour sightings started straightaway with a black vulture above them on the road out of Madrid.


White stork returning to its nest atop the church at Otero de Sariego. Photo: Story Warren.







A stop off at Villafafila meant that John, Ruth and Story were treated to approximately 150 great bustards, some in full lekking mode, with red kite, raven and a superb booted eagle atop a dovecote, plus lesser kestrel at Otero de Sariego .Cormorant and otter were seen at the Rio Esla.


video


Ruth and Story's first wolf watch on the evening of 4th April was interesting with red and roe deer able to be watched clearly through the telescopes. The next morning Ruth, Story and John were excited by the skittish behaviour of the many red deer, as these creatures often serve as a barometer for wolf presence.


Photo: Story Warren
 The deer were rushing 
around in a type of panic which later subsided with a few left to play fight. Roe deer came into view plus good clear views of coal tit and two red kites. Ruth and Story found some excellent  wolf, deer, wild boar and badger tracks during their tracking that day plus fresh wolf scat, and a highlight of the day was a stunning sub-adult golden eagle flying just above them,carrying unidentified prey, along the Boya/Cional road.


Traditional farming methods happening just outside Ruth and Story's hotel.

The evening wolf-watch of 5th April began with a perky red fox popping up and down, in sight then out of sight, plus stags and roe deer and Story located a party of five wild boar in the decreasing evening light so we shared that view until darkness stopped our searching. Earlier that evening Ruth had also been fascinated by her find of several pine processionary moth caterpillars moving together in their line along the track looking extremely snake-like as is the intention.

There were two foxes at the viewing site the next morning and plenty of red deer plus some roe deer. One red deer could be identified several times during the tour because at that stage it had only lost one antler.

The date of Friday April 7th 2017 will remain highlighted in Ruth and Story's calendar as the day of their first Iberian wolf.But not just one, rather three individuals over the course of this day's wolf watches. At first, everyone at the morning watch was concentrating on a very large wild boar with its persistent foraging for food but John spotted a large wolf inside the wood.  A short stand-off occurred between the wild boar and the wolf before the wild boar went on its way and the wolf moved off to the right.
During the evening watch  another wolf, probably a female, was spotted in the heather fairly close to our watching site as it trotted in beautiful evening sunlight resolutely towards the edge of the wood. The heather there was low and we could all watch its progress through the vegetation, up onto the track and eventually to disappear into the darker depths of the trees. Relaxed smiles were on everyone's faces but our sightings for that night were not finished yet! Not long after this sighting we were all watching the large form of the dark male wolf in the gloom of the pine wood as it moved in measured steady pace between the tree. What a day!



In between these amazing wolf encounters John, Story and Ruth had enjoyed a fabulous trip to the Douro Gorge where they watched a spectacular display of a golden eagle mobbing a griffon vulture, tumbling down into the gorge only to regain aerial composure and return to the horizon to display to an interested female.

Egyptian Vulture. Photo; Story Warren.

The gorge also afforded everyone very close views of three Egyptian vultures, hoopoe with its crest erect, red-billed chough on three occasions with one particular pair flying very close by giving their characteristic "chow" call, red-rumped swallow, lovely views of crag martin, white stork, booted eagle, short-toed eagle, blue rock thrush, Iberian shrike, woodchat shrike and Moorish gecko. The following video shows one of the several griffon vultures with young on the crags at the gorge.



Ruth and Story were able to photograph a large, ocellated lizard and some Iberian water frogs plus black kite during explorations in the Gallegos area and then they moved on to enjoy the very pretty villages with fruit trees in full bloom. A most interesting walk behind these seemingly calm hamlets meant a hissing encounter for John, Ruth and Story with a Lataste's viper!


Ruth wrote the following testimonial about their Watching for Wolves tour and we are happy that our work here can elicit such good feelings and memories.

"For anyone who longs to really get away to experience nature, exotic wildlife and birds, culture at its oldest and finest, and some of the nicest people in the world, this is the trip to take. My daughter and I were treated to a custom exploration of the land of wolves in Spain, with morning and evening “stakeouts” to try to view wolves, and afternoon adventures to neighboring villages and Portugal. We did see wolves! And we met the local rangers, and learned much about how the Iberian wolf survives alongside humans and livestock in Northern Spain.  The sights were beautiful everywhere we went.  We have never seen so many enormous birds: Bustards, golden eagles, Egyptian vultures, white storks and more.  John is an expert birder and naturalist. The local people are welcoming, happy, and loud! The Remesal Hotel where we stayed was just lovely, and breakfast and dinner were delicious local foods.  John and Margaret are the best hosts ever, and we miss them already."   

During Easter week John and I went to Zamora to watch the film Cantabrico which is lauded as a " deep look into the hidden secrets of a wonderful place of the world." It demonstrates the beauty in all seasons of the Iberian peninsula and its variety of wildlife, with some particularly harrowing but mesmerizing footage of a pack of Iberian wolves bringing down a feisty stag.




At this time too John spotted a first for us in this area; an avocet wading and swimming in the lake at Cional.

The 20/23rd April saw the International Congress on " Wolf Management and Conservation in North America and Europe; An Unresolved Conflict." hosted at Puebla de Sanabria and John attended the whole congress.  He felt privileged to be the guide chosen to take Dr. David Mech amongst  others out on a wolf watch on the morning of Saturday 22nd April. The course was well attended and different viewpoints were aired and discussed in a constructive atmosphere.  As well as David Mech, there was an impressive field of speakers from around the globe and space limits me as I highlight only a few ; Dr Shannon Barber-Meyer, ( USA), Dr. Djuro Huber, ( Croatia), Dr. Juan Carlos Blanco Gutierrez (Spain),  Dr. Andrea Amici (Italy),Dr. Francisco Petrucci-Fonsecca ( Portugal) and Dr. Jose Angel Arranz Sanz (Spain).

Another busy month and I have enjoyed sharing these experiences with you here. Already as I publish this, John is experiencing great success with our Browsing for Bears tours in Asturias and I shall be highlighting some of the fantastic videos and photos from these tours in the next newsletter....already looking forward to it!


(With thanks to John and Janet for the use of their list and to Story for the use of three of her photos.)


Margaret. May 11. 2017.