SPANISH MAMMALS ALBUM

 

September 2017

The three main mammal targets, Cantabrian Brown Bear, Wildcat and Wolf all gave notable performances for Lance's group in northern Spain. The weather all week was pleasantly warm without the scorching temperatures which had beset the region a few weeks earlier. This meant mammals were more conspicuous, and the group saw a total of three Cantabrian Brown Bears, a pack of eight Wolves and two Wildcats. Birds also appeared on a daily basis and the group enjoyed two very close Wallcreepers, an immature Lammergeier, a migrant Melodious Warbler and four Bluethroats which were still frequenting their hilltop breeding sites. Red-backed Shrikes and Honey Buzzards were more common than on previous tours as were Rock Buntings, but Griffon Vultures were slightly down despite over 20 being noted most days.

 

Our second Wildcat was watched for over half an hour, during which time it caught and ate a rodent.

After a half an hour off road journey using four-wheel drive landcruisers, we arrived at a hilltop vantage point where we were delighted to locate a pack of eight wolves. Three youngsters played and squabbled throughout our stay, whilst the adults kept a watchful eye for any dangers. The territory of this pack straddled the mid-distance ridge, with most animals favouring the small sandy open area left of centre in the photograph.

Early morning on the first day looking for bears.

Pola de Somiedo nestles in a very scenic valley, here viewed from a look-out on the road to Perlunes

The stark landscape of the Picos de Europa hold many montane species. The group discovered several Alpine Accentors with some birds seen right at the trackside, whilst both Alpine and Red-billed Chough flew closely overhead. Pride of place however went to an immature Lammergeier which circled low down giving extremely close views, and it even landed for a short while on a nearby rocky bluff. As if all this wasn't enough, a preening Wallcreeper kept us entertained for more than 10 minutes. 

Enjoying a coffee at the Collada de Aralla 

 

 

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September 2016

Beautiful weather, a bit of effort and a decent amount of luck combined on this year's first tour to produce some truly outstanding sightings. Everyone saw all the key mammals, and some even added Badger and close views of a family of Wild Boar on an evening walk. Bird highlights included Lammergeier, Snow Finch and Alpine Accentor, while three Wallcreepers will live in the memory for a long time. Thanks to Bob Martin for allowing us to use his lovely photographs.

 

 

 

We only saw one Cantabrian Brown Bear this year, a lovely adolescent female we believe. She was very grizzly!

 

Bear habitat in Somiedo.

 

 

Did the leaders look worried before the Wallcreeper appeared? Nah...

 

Jumping for joy! Wallcreeper was the avian highlight of the trip for many.

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn on top of a hill in the Picos, surrounded by impressive peaks and full of anticipation of a wolf sighting. We saw three adolescents and one adult.

 

 

 

4x4's took us into the mountains to look for wolves, but will still had to walk to the near hill top to watch them.

 

Lammergeier was perhaps the most unexpected sighting of the week. This sub-adult had probably wandered from the Pyrenees to find a territory.

 

 

 

Iberian Chiffchaffs present an identification challenge in the autumn. This individual is still in juvenile plumage, with much grey on the head.

 

Griffon Vultures are seen daily throughout.

 

This immature Golden Eagle was one of two that we saw during the week.

 

Crag Martins were nesting at Somiendo.

 

A nice oportunity to study the plumage of a Crag Martin when it is not flying.

 

Cantabrian Chamois are rather warmer in colour than those from the Pyrenees.

 

Booted Eagles were more numerous this year than on previous trips.

 

Bold Alpine Choughs appear from nowhere as soon as the lunch packed are opened.

 

A beautiful portrait of an adult Alpine Accentor above Fuente De.

 

We saw two or three Wildcats briefly, but had to wait until the last morning before getting fantastic views.

 

Our last mammal tick of the week was a rather unfortunate Montane Water Vole. I'm sure it was still moving when we first saw it!

 

 

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September 2015

This year everything was stacked against us. It had been a particularly hot and sunny summer, ripening the autumn fruit early. The bears had had their fill, and had retreated back into the forest. The previous cold winter, with two metres of snow in the Picos, caused many wolves to abandon their breeding attempt, and those that did faced heavy pressure from hunters and farmers.

Nevertheless, with the help of our superb local guides and some great spotting by the group, we managed to see a big male Cantabrian Brown Bear, a second smaller individual, and a family of Iberian Wolves, including two adults and at least one cub. It was a good year for Wild Cats, with up to three individuals seen at once, hunting in the hay meadows.

Here is a selection of photographs taken by co-leader, Mark Newsome.

 

Watching for Wolves......

 

This young Wolf was lured to the open hay meadows by the irresistible smell of countless rodents!

 

 

 

 

The Wild Cats are drawn into the open in the late summer by the chance of an easy meal.

 

 

 

 

Wasp Spider

 

Has anyone ever had better views of Wallcreeper than this? One lady told us she thought it was going to creep over her boot!

 

 

Red-billed Choughs are common on this itinerary

 

 

Watching for bears....

 

A big adult male Cantabrian Brown Bear gets the trip off to a nice start.

 

Iberian Chiffchaffs are still singing at the the time of our visit.

 

Griffon Vultures are seen from day one

 

The woods are quiet in September, but this Crested Tit provided one highlight.

 

It's not just birds that are split these days. The Cantabrian Chamois is a newly recognised species, having a redder coat than Pyrenees animals in the summer.

 

A Blackcap pinches a few blackberries before the bears find them!

 

Alpine Choughs are tame in the high mountains of the Picos.

 

Alpine Accentors are also rather approachable.

 

 

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September 2014

This September we took our first two groups on our Northern Spain Mammals trip. Everyone saw the target species of Cantabrian Brown Bear, Iberian Wolf and Wildcat, plus a host of other goodies such as Wallcreeper and Alpine Accentor. Here are a few of our photographs from the two trips.

 

Dawn in the Picos de Europa, watching a pack of wolves. These gave good but distant views, too distant to photograph. On our second week we watched a pack down to just 100 metres, but no-one dared move for risk of spooking them, so no pictures I'm afraid.

 

Later in the day we watched this beautiful Wildcat hunting. Over the two trips we saw no fewer than eight individuals. (Photo by tour participant Mervyn Griffin)

 

This Seoane's Viper was a nice find in the Picos too.

 

Our first group, still looking cheerful after a pre-dawn start to watch wolves!

 

The cable car allows easy access to the alpine zone at Fuente De

 

A sunny day in the alpine zone above Fuente De, watching a Wallcreeper.

 

.....and here it is, a stunning adult Wallcreeper!

 

This bird, which we think is a juvenile (note the relatively short bill) was seen by our first group.

 

Griffon Vultures at Fuente De. We also saw Lammergeier here this time.

 

The local chamois have recently been afforded species status and are known as Cantabrian Chamois.

 

Alpine Chough at Fuente De.

 

Just a Dunnock? No, a juvenile Alpine Accentor.

 

.... and the adult Alpine Accentor.

 

Parc Natural de Somiendo , where we were taken to look for Cantabrian Brown Bears.

 

Some of our group watching a female Cantabrian Brown Bear with her three cubs. Magical.

 

The female.... (Photo by tour participant Mervyn Griffin)

 

.... and one of the cubs.

 

Here she is again, after spending the morning feeding on hazelnuts. (Photo by tour participant Mervyn Griffin)

 

 A distinctive Wasp Spider at Somiedo.

 

This beautiful Wildcat was photographed by our local guide Alex.

 

And finally, another shot of that Wallcreeper, this time by local guide Alex.

 

 

Please note: The above photographs were taken on previous trips. Itineraries change from time to time and therefore you cannot rely on these photographs as being an exact representation of what can be expected on a future tour. For details of the each tour, you should refer to the brochure write-up.

 

 

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