Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Iberian Lynx in Andalucia

6th - 10th October 2010

Report by Julian Sykes with Leonie Parkes, Mike & Sue Pryor, Graham & Agi Turner, Peter Wheeler and Jill Winwood

Wednesday 6th Oct :- At Malaga Airport I picked up Peter and preceded to the Laguna de Fuentedepiedras to start our short break with 10,000+ Greater Flamingos!  Strangely we had a full complement of guests but the others were meeting us at the Complejo Los Pinos.  So Peter & I visited a couple of stops on the edge of this huge brackish lagoon and managed to find some very good birds including several Little Grebes, Great Crested Grebes, Grey Heron, lots of Shoveler and a few Mallard, 2 Marsh Harriers, Eurasian Kestrel, 4 Purple Gallinules, Moorhen, Coot, 2 Black tailed Godwits, single Lapwing, several Black winged Stilts, Lesser Black backed & Black headed Gulls.  The skies were full of hirundines with Barn Swallows being the most numerous, but also a few Sand Martins, Red rumped Swallows and Peter found a swift, which could well have been a Pallid Swift (very difficult to tell against the light).  We also found a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes, 10+ Yellow Wagtails, Zitting Cisticolas, Stonechats, Crested Lark plus a surprisingly late Pied Flycatcher.  A great start to the trip especially in the heat of the day and it was still very hot.  We continued on to Andujar with the journey being very quiet apart from a few Spotless Starlings en-route and a couple of Iberian Magpies as we got on to the Sierra de Andujar.  Late afternoon we arrived at the Complejo Los Pinos where Ramon the owner told us that Jill & Leonie had already got there and were in their rooms.  I sorted out the rest of our accommodation and went to meet the two ladies who had been enjoying a leisurely afternoon after their drive from Murcia.  While Peter & I were unpacking our gear we saw a few more Red-rumped Swallows amongst a larger flock of Barn Swallows and House Martins.  During this time the rest of the group arrived from Cordoba and it was great to see my very good friends Graham, Agi, Mike & Sue again after such a long time.  Keen to get out onto the reserve we agreed a meeting time and half an hour later we were driving through this fantastic landscape of natural Mediterranean forest. Whilst waiting for the minibus Graham found a Crested Tit and a few Iberian Magpies raucously called while moving through the Holm Oaks.  We drove straight through to the Rio Jandula site and stopped at the river watchpoint and stayed there until dusk. Although we didn’t see any Iberian Lynx we did get fabulous views of Red & Fallow Deer with the former well into rutting season and in full voice.  The birds were also fantastic with raptors including 2 adult and 1st year Golden Eagles, 4 distant Griffon Vultures and a female Sparrowhawk. We also briefly saw an Iberian Green Woodpecker, with Peter finding a Great Spotted Woodpecker, we watched a Kingfisher in the telescope, which was enjoyed by everyone as it fished in the river below us. Graham saw a Blackcap, a Grey Wagtail flew down the river, several Spotted Flycatchers hawked insects from their tree-top vantage points and a Spanish Terrapin was sat at the side of the river.  Near dusk we called time and drove slowly back to the accommodation in the hope of finding a Lynx at the side of the road. Once there we took a little time out to freshen up before meeting again at the hotel’s bar for pre-meal drinks.  It was a beautiful star-lit night and Jupiter was showing very well with its moons being clearly seen along with a few Common Pipistrelles flying around the buildings.  The evening meal was the usual feast with partridge pate, fresh tomatoes in olive oil & garlic and revuelto for starters followed by either Swordfish or thinly sliced Steak and then a dessert for those not already full, all washed down with copious amounts of red wine.  After the meal we returned to the rooms for a good night’s sleep and on the way back I found a few Moorish Geckos feeding on insects in the lamps.

Thursday 7th Oct :- It wasn’t the best of starts to our first day as the hotel wasn’t open for breakfast at the designated time, but Graham had heard the Tawny Owl in the night so at least we managed to add a new species to the list!  Eventually we got our breakfast and everyone was brilliant by getting through it and ready for leaving in good time – off we drove to Los Escoriales and beyond to the watchpoint at La Lancha.  The journey produced the usual brilliant views of Red & Fallow Deer plus a few Rabbits, which kept Peter happy.  At the watchpoint we joined the small group of Spanish observers and scanned the area only finding a few Iberian Magpies, Spotless Starlings, Red legged Partridge and Chaffinches.  Then after just 20 minutes Graham uttered the immortal words “Jules – on the road – Lynx” and sure enough there he was laying on the edge of the road in full view.  A mild panic ensued as we got the group on to it through my telescope but unfortunately it got up and walked into the undergrowth out of sight.  Peter hadn’t seen it but thankfully were it had gone meant there was a good chance it would reappear somewhere.  So for about 10 minutes we waited patiently before I re-found across the gully near another track.  We only managed to watch it again for a couple of minutes but it was amazing in the morning light and Peter managed to get some reasonable photos even at that distance.  It disappeared again and we waited for it to reappear but sadly it never did despite constant observation for most of the morning – however it had been an incredible sighting and fabulous for Leonie on her birthday.  The rest of the morning was spent in the area looking at birds and getting looks at Crested, Long tailed, Great & Blue Tits, Sardinian & Dartford Warblers, Blackbird and Woodpigeons.  Around 11am on this now warm morning the raptors started to thermal and we saw several Griffons and a couple of Black Vultures take to the skies.  Near midday we were getting restless so I suggested a walk down the hill to the mirador and picnic site, which was well received.  This proved to be a good move as we got great views of an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle, distant views of a Golden Eagle with lots more vultures, a Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher , a singing Woodlark and Leonie was lucky enough to find a 1st winter Pied Flycatcher.  After a few minutes at the mirador I volunteered to go back for the minibus, so set off back up the hill where I met up with Peter who was still looking for the Lynx.  Whilst chatting with him we had a immature Spanish Imperial Eagle go over, which was marvellous and he then found a Rock Bunting sat in a tree.  I collected the minibus and returned to pick everyone up before heading back to the Complejos Los Pinos.  On the way back we stopped to watch the ‘fighting bulls’ that were having a dust-up right next to the road.  Back at the hotel we immediately headed into the bar for our bocadillo lunch with cold drinks before going for a siesta until the late afternoon.

Friday 8th Oct :- It was a better start to the day with breakfast at the pre-arranged time, maybe this was a good omen?  After breakfast although this was rather superfluous as we were all still full from the previous evening’s meal we gathered at the vehicle.  So we again set off for La Lancha and like the previous day saw lots of Red & Fallow Deer and the birds included nice views of Woodlark and Rock Sparrow on the overhead wires along with Mistle Thrush, Red legged Partridge and Blackbirds.  At the watchpoint we met up with our new Spanish friend Rudolpho who was on his holidays from Galicia in the north.  We spread out looking for the ‘hoped-for’ sighting of Lynx but things initially were quiet.  However about 09:30 Sue called me over and asked what the birds were on the track and I replied “Red legged Partridge – keep an eye on them as it’s a favoured meal of Iberian Lynx” (somewhat tongue in cheek!).  Then just a couple of minutes later Suze says “There’s a Lynx on the track!!!”  It was incredible however we both saw it disappear behind a couple of bushes and while this was going on the others gathered nearby.  Thankfully the big cat reappeared and gave us an incredible extended view through the telescopes as it strolled up the track marking its scent and generally not bothering about our presence.  After a good five minutes of continuous observation it disappeared behind a mound in the track and was sadly not again re-found despite extensive searching.  We did though continue to search and during this time Sue and I saw a couple of Hawfinches fly through, Agi photographed a Rock Bunting, Graham got fabulous views of Iberian Magpies, we got great views of a female Dartford Warbler plus the usual suspects of Red Deer etc.  Just after eleven o’clock the raptors started to appear and we were treated to a fine display from an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle that was interacting with a small flock of Griffon Vultures circling over the far hillside.  It was now again getting quite hot so we drove the short distance down the hill to the Embalse de Jandula were we parked and walked to the dam wall.  Peter on advisement made his way into the nearby tunnel where he found and filmed Greater Mouse-eared, Whiskered & Schreiber’s Bats, which was fantastic.  Graham & I were lucky enough to see another immature Spanish Imperial Eagle and then we with Mike then saw several vultures including a few Black Vultures.  Whilst watching from the wall we also found a pair of Red billed Choughs, Crag Martin and White Wagtail, with lots of Cormorants and Grey Herons around the reservoir. Two Little Egrets flying through was unusual and this was followed by Leonie and Jill finding a lovely male Blue Rock Thrush sat on a pylon.  It was now lunchtime so we headed back up the hill to the picnic area were we ate our ‘bocadillos and fruit’ in the now very warm sunshine and the highlight of this was Peter and Mike seeing a Two tailed Pasha Butterfly plus we also saw Clouded Yellow, Cleopatra, Painted Lady and Small White.  It had been a fantastic morning but now we were ready for a rest back at the hotel so we slowly made our way back and enjoyed a siesta until later.

Saturday 9th Oct :- Today we were changing our venue for the Jandula River walk and after breakfast we met at the minibus where a Cetti’s Warbler was calling from the nearby bushes and a few Pipistrelle Bats were still flying around.  The weather according to the forecast didn’t look good and even though it wasn’t raining it did look threatening. We drove through to the dam wall seeing several Rabbits, Red & Fallow Deer along the river.  Here we spent 30 minutes watching from the bridge where we got very good looks at a Kingfisher catching fish in the river.  Also here we saw several Rock Sparrows sat on the overhead wires, Rock & Cirl Buntings, Iberian Magpies, Mike saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and an Iberian Green Woodpecker showed briefly.  Graham found a small flock of Goldfinches and we saw a pair of Grey Wagtails flying down the river – a very nice start to the day.  So we walked along the road adjacent to the river seeing Mallards, Grey Heron, a Greenfinch and Chiffchaff were new for the list and the sight of 100’s of Barn Swallows and House Martins migrating south was really impressive.  Sadly the weather slowly deteriorated and steady rain started to fall so I suggested we drive through to the Monastery (Virgen de la Cabeza), which dominates the Sierra de Andujar and have a coffee.  This was met with unanimous agreement so we walked back to the minibus and headed north into the heart of the reserve.  Here we enjoyed our coffee break and some of the group ventured into the monastery itself where a baptism was going on.  Unfortunately during this time the weather did not improve so we headed back to the Los Pinos stopping off first at the visitor centre to look at their wildlife and particularly Lynx information.  After this it was lunchtime which was taken in the Los Pinos restaurant and was followed by the obligatory siesta with the hope that the now heavy rain would stop by the time we arranged to meet later that afternoon.

Sunday 10th Oct :- Due to Mike & Sue having to be in Malaga for 10:30 we had to leave the Los Pinos before dawn, we managed to get away in good time having said our “goodbyes” to the rest the previous evening.  Being a Sunday the roads were very quiet and we made good progress and as we passed Cordoba we saw 100’s of White Storks in the roadside fields. Also en-route we saw a couple of Ravens, Crested Lark with a brief coffee stop producing a Southern Grey Shrike.  We reached Malaga right on time and dropped Mike & Sue at the new terminal building that now dominates Malaga Airport.  This now left Peter and I to visit the nearby reserve of Rio Guadalhorce, an excellent place on the edge of the Mediterranean.  We started at the river mouth where we found lots of gulls including a couple of Mediterranean with the big numbers of Black headed, Lesser Black backed & Yellow legged Gulls.  Gannets were fishing off-shore as were a few Sandwich Terns plus Balearic Shearwaters and at the mouth of the river we added Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper.  We then walked to the first hide where we took our time scanning the lagoon and trees surrounding it finding – a single Black necked Grebe, Little Grebes, Grey Heron, Little Egrets, Great Cormorants, Gadwall, Mallard, a single female Red Crested Pochard, Osprey, Marsh Harriers, a couple of Booted Eagles (both light & dark phase), Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk dashed through, Moorhen, Coot, Kingfisher, Goldfinches and a few Serins.  It had been very successful but Peter needed to see a White headed Duck and on advisement from a local we walked to a second hide which was meant to be better for wildfowl.  The walk was good as we added a Greenshank and another Common Sandpiper to the day total with a couple of Monk Parakeets flying round the adjacent apartment blocks.  At the next hide we almost immediately found 3 female White headed Ducks which were later up-staged by a handsome male (only joking ladies!).  The pool was excellent with now lots more Red Crested Pochards, Shoveler, Teal and Mallard but one of the highlight were the Spanish Terrapins, which were quite abundant on the pool and afforded very good views to Peter & I.  It was now time to leave as I had a very long drive north, so we made our way back to the minibus and returned to Malaga Airport. Here I said my “goodbyes” and left for my home in Oliva, in the knowledge of another very successful trip to Southern Spain.


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