Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Iberian Lynx in Andalucia

23rd - 27th January 2010

Saturday January 23rd :- I met Geoff, Bob & Carol at Malaga Airport on time and soon enough we were heading along the motorway towards Fuente de Piedra. Unfortunately the gorgeous sunshine of the previous day had been replaced by dark clouds and rain, which got steadily worse as we got inland. By the time we reached the Lagunas de Fuente de Piedra it was pretty bleak but there were some bright spots, which made things look promising, so we wnet for an early lunch at a local cafe. By the time we had finished the rain had stopped but it still looked threatening however we drove around the side of the lake looking for the large flamingo flock. At the car park we found 100+ Common Cranes in the fields, plus 2 Sardinian Warblers, Crested Larks, Goldfinches, Spotless Starlings and an Iberian Hare and lots of Rabbits. We walked to the watchpoint and set up our 'scopes' and found a good number of Greater Flamingos but not the hoped for Lesser Flamingo, which I had seen the day before. Also here we found Grey Herons, Cattle Egrets, Shoveler, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Black winged Stilts, Lapwings, Black headed & Lesser Black backed Gulls. So we decided to try the second viewpoint but by now the rains had started again however we persevered. Unfortunately by the time we got there it was dire and very difficult to make anything out on the lagoon despite seeing that there were clearly more flamigos in view. So we abandoned our quest and set off for the Sierra de Andujar since it was still a good 2 hour journey from Fuente de Piedra. En-route we had some success with Bob seeing a small group of Golden Plover, along with a flock of Shelduck, Common Buzzards, Kestrels and a Corn Bunting. The 'bird of the day' though did go to a Black shouldered Kite I saw as we sped along the motorway, so we turned round at the next junction and got very good views of this gorgeous raptor from the side of the road. Eventually (after a grocery stop) we got to the Los Pinos Hotel complex in the heart of the Sierra de Andujar and the weather hadn't improved much. So it was decided we would have a relax around the grounds instead of trying to get to the Lynx watchpoint before dusk. This brief walk was quite productive with lots of Iberian Magpies, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crag Martins, Chaffinches, Serins, Crested, Great & Blue Tits. That evening we enjoyed a fabulous meal in the restaurant and discussed our chances of seeing a Lynx the next day.

Sunday January 24th :- We set off in anticipation after breakfast and drove up through El Escoriales and then on to the road to the Jandula Reservoir. On the way we saw our first Red & Fallow Deer plus a couple of Mistle Thrushes, a nice flock of Iberian Magpies and lots of Chaffinches. At the watchpoint (and being a weekend) there were plenty of watchers gathered including several people I knew from previous visits. As I was talking to a Spanish couple I knew, Marta said she had found an Iberian Lynx and the usual panick ensued. Bob and I were lucky enough to get a sighting through the telescope but Geoff & Carol had been away looking from another area and sadly missed it. However we knew there was one around and soon after the same individual was refound and great scope views were had by all as it made it's way slowly up the hill and out of sight. It had been a dream start to the short break a very good Lynx sighting within the first hour!. The rest of the morning and most of the afternoon we spent in this area diligently searching for another Lynx but without success, however we did get some marvellous views of Spanish Imperial & Golden Eagles. At one point we had an immature Spanish Imperial Eagle & immature Golden Eagle, chasing each other through a group of Black & Griffon Vultures. Other things of interest included more Red & Fallow Deer, several Iberian Green Woodpeckers, Crested, Long tailed, Great & Blue Tits, Woodlark, Firecrest and Red billed Choughs. Mid -afternoon we decided to have a change of scenery and stretch the legs so we continued down the track to the reservoir wall where we wandered around looking for a Wallcreeper that had been seen there a week or so previously. Sadly there was no sign of the Wallcreeper but we did find a pair of Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, Grey Wagtail, Black Redstarts, Cormorant, Grey Heron and more (this time adult) Spanish Imperial & Golden Eagles. We then drove back to the spot for another look to see if we could see any more Lynx, and gave ourselves till 5pm as it was now getting quite cold. Incredibly just as we were about to leave Geoff found an Iberian Lynx cross the path he was fortunately watching, which he saw for about 10 seconds before disappearing out of sight. Brilliant - we continued to watch to see if it re-appeared for several minutes and again we got ready to leave, only to be called back by the only remaining Spaniards as they had found another (different) big male Lynx on the path. We got incredibly good views of this animal through the telescope as it padded along the track scent marking at certain points. Geoff even managed to get some video footage which can be seen here. It had been an incredible day with 3 Iberian Lynxes, 5 Spanish Imperial Eagles, 3 Golden Eagles, 100+ Griffon Vultures & 20+ Black Vultures.

Monday January 25th :- A slightly disappointing day compared to the previous one but it would have been hard to compete with the day before's experiences. Everyone wanted more Lynx sightings so it made sense to do the same thing as the day before, which is exactly what we did. However today we didn't get any views of a Lynx dispite careful searching but during the course for the day we did see - a single Moufflon (wild mountain sheep), Red & Fallow Deer, Imperial Spanish Eagle, Golden Eagle, Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Little Owl, Blue Rock Thrush, Hoopoe, Mistle & Song Thrush, Sardinian & Dartford Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Iberian Magpie, Red billed Chough and around the hotel we saw Crossbill, Hawfinch, Serin, Crested Tit plus the commoner woodland species. That night during the excellent 4 course evening meal we met up with a group of Spanish Lynx watchers and they told us that they had seen an Iberian Lynx where we had been, just as the light was fading.

Tuesday January 26th :- Today was a little misty and some light rain but we persevered again with the same viewpoint near El Escoriales. We had discused a 'game plan' for the day trying to maximise our chances of seeing a Lynx and also seeing some new areas. I decided since the Spanish group had seena Lynx that evening there was a reasonable chance of it being still around the same place the next morning. So a little earlier than usual we left for the original watching site. About one hour into the search we had found a couple of Moufflon and lots of Red Deer bet then Carol spied an Iberian Lynx on the hillside but sadly it soon disappeared with only Geoff managing to get a look at it. So we concentrated our efforts on that area and half an hour later Bob refound it at the top of the hill sat on a rock. We all managed to get pretty good telescope views before the attendant Magpies forced it to move out of sight. Our plan had worked!. Near lunchtime we returned to the hotel for lunch and a short break while the weather improved. After this we headed out to another Lynx & Otter watching site along the River Jandula but the recent rains had swelled the river and our chances of finding an Otter were now slim. In fact the whole walk was spoilt as several parties of foresters were cutting trees and burning the felled ones making it difficult to see anything for the smoke. We did persevere and spent some time looking out from the Lynx watchpoint where we saw Red & Fallow Deer, immature Golden Eagle, Black & Griffin Vultures, Grey Heron, White Wagtail, Hawfinch, Crested & Long tailed Tit, Hoopoe and lots of Woodpigeons. After here we opted for a cultural jaunt so we drove up to the Santuario Virgen de la Cabeza were we had a coffee and Carol spent some time looking around the impressive hill-top church. Around the grounds we saw Hawfinch, Crested Larks, Serins and Black Redstarts. We then started the drive back to the hotel and decided to stop along the road where a Lynx had crossed the road in front of me to see if we could find any. We spent about an hour with no luck but we did see a Sparrowhawk and adult Golden Eagle over the far ridge. Then as we were driving back to the hotel we briefly saw an Iberian Lynx at the side of the road just before it disappeared into the undergrowth. So ending our final day with another two sightings of the Lynx, making a total of five animals seen on two of the three full days in the Sierra de Andujar.

Wednesday January 27th :- It was a gorgeous sunny morning and after an easy breakfast we set off back towards Malaga on route we saw 2 Ravens, Common Buzzards and a few Crested Larks. We had decided to return to the Lagunas de Fuente de Piedre to see if we could locate the Lesser Flamingo for Geoff who was very keen to see it. Sadly as we got closer to the coast the weather deteriorated somewhat but we managed to miss most of the rains. The drive round the lake produced 100+ Common Cranes at the side of the road and on some smaller pools we found Coot, Shovelers, Teal, Mallard, Black winged Stilts and a Ringed Plover. At the main lagoon we scanned the 1000+ Greater Flamingos and Geoff found the Lesser Flamingo in the distance. Very sadly it disappeared behind an island but there was no mistaking is crimson coloration and smaller size even at that distance. It then started to rain so it was back into the car and we continued on towards Malaga, and at the coast we spent a short time at the Rio Guardalhorce Nature Reserve, which is right on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. There were striong winds blowing and the gulls were heading north in their droves, with literally 100's of Western Yellow legged, Lesser Black backed & Black headed Gulls. Careful searching produced a few Mediteranean's Gulls and a single Audouin's Gull, plus out to sea lots of Balearic Shearwaters and Gannets were taking advantage of the stormy conditions. I had a long drive north so I left Geoff, Carol & Bob at the airport 3 hours before their flight was due to leave, which I believe Geoff used to his advantage writing his own report featured here including the video footage of the Iberian Lynx.

 

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