Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Iberian Lynx in Andalucia

6th - 10th December 2009

Friday December 6th :- I had a arranged this recce come short break with a friend of mine that was very keen to see an Iberian Lynx, and I wanted her thoughts on this tour. So we met at Alicante Airport and drove down to Andalucia in afternoon seeing a couple of Booted Eagles en-route, but not much else unfortunately. Got to the Sierra de Andujar with about an hour's light left so we headed on down to the local (closest to the hotel) Iberian Lynx watchpoint where I enjoyed views of Red Deer, Iberian Magpies, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Kingfisher and loads of Cormorants flying in to roost in the area.

Saturday December 7th :- After a lazy start we headed out there again and saw 100's of Iberian Magpies, a few Hawfinches, Sparrowhawk, several Iberian Green & Great Spotted Woodpeckers, several Nuthatches, Crested, Long tailed, Coal, Blue & Great Tits, Rock Bunting, another Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Grey & White Wagtails, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Spotless Starlings, Blackbird, Crag Martins, Mallard, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Woodlark, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Black Redstarts. However the highlight of the morning was getting fabulous views of an Otter as it hunted for fish in the river just below where we were. Returned to the hotel for a sandwich and a quick power nap before heading out again this time to another area, which is good for Iberian Lynx and the unthinkable happened. En-route we saw many Red Deer, Black Vulture, Short toed Treecreeper, Red legged Partridge, Red billed Chough, another Sparrowhawk, Blue Rock Thrush, Mistle Thrushes and lots more Iberian Magpies. However the major disappointment was learning that a group of Spanish observers were watching a Lynx while we were a little further down the hill and out of siight of it. They never even mentioned it until I went to talk to them - how gutted were we!!!.

Sunday 8th December :- Second day in the Sierra de Andujar and after another interesting night I was up early making sure things were in place before I left at 8am. We drove straight to the watchpoint at Los Escoriales and found a few observers already there, en-route we had done very well finding a Red Fox and a party of Fallow Deer. At the watchpoint things turned disappointing as the bad weather and fog made looking for Lynx almost impossible. So I left and continued down the hill to the Embalse de Jandula where we spent some time finding a gorgeous Firecrest, Rock Bunting, Black Redstart, Robin and lots of Cormorants in the reservoir. We left and returned to the Lynx watchpoint but the conditions were still poor so I made the decision to leave go back to the hotel and have some lunch and a siesta as we were feeling incredibly tired - what a mistake. So did this and by 2pm I was back out and the weather seemed to be improving, so returned towards Los Escoriales but instead of going straight to the watchpoint we decided to take a detour to the Los Alancones Mirador. This was good as I passed through some of the most pristine dehesa I have seen being roamed by the magnificent fighting bulls. Here also we found plenty of birds including Little Owl, several Hoopoes, Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Common Buzzard, White Wagtails, Stonechats, Mistle & Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Sardinian Warbler and Chiffchaffs. Eventually we got to La Lancha and spoke to the few people there they had seen nothing as yet, my heart sank. However after half an hour one guy said "I have a Lynx but it's a bit distant", I got on to the Iberian Lynx and it was far off and difficult to discern as it lay on top of a rock. However after five minutes it stood up and through the telescope looked magnifent standinging there in all it's glory. It jumped down from the rock and padded away slowly unfortunately in the wrong direction and was soon lost to sight. Still it was a fantastic experience and a privilage to see. We all waited until dusk but there were no more sightings, we will be back there tomorrow - probably all day!!!.

Monday 9th December :- The morning was a disappointment as thick fog spoilt any chance of finding a Lynx but a walk along the River Jandula produced several Hawfinches, Great Spotted & Iberian Green Woodpeckers, Kingfisher, Cetti's Warbler, Nuthatches, Iberian Magpies (actually these are everywhere), Short toed Treecreeper and plenty of other woodland species. We returned to the hotel for lunch and a relax while hoping for the mist to dispurse, which it did by 1:30pm. So we headed back up to Los Escoriales and met a few people at the watchpoint but they hadn't seen much. Quite soon after getting there a Black Vulture started the ball rolling and this was followed by a close Griffon Vulture and then a brilliant 1st winter Golden Eagle. Sergi then spotted an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle that pretty much soared right over our heads - absolutely incredible. Our spirits were high and we were determined to find a Lynx. We continued to search and Sally left the group to stand and watch another area, turned round and there about 100m away on the metalled track was an Iberian Lynx staring right of here. She couldn't believe her eyes and shouted to us and we both saw it looking at us. It then dropped off the road and down into the undergrowth so the other Spanish observers joined us and we tried to find it again. Sure enough I picked it up a bit further away and managed a quick photo before it again disappeared, however it again re-appeared and showed well to all but now about 400m away but still fantastically through the telescope. Eventually it disappeared although we suspect it just laid low until dusk as the attendant Magpies were still creating around that area. During this sequence another couple of Black Vultures flew close by being mobbed by a Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. The day closed with a spectacular sunset over the mountains as we returned to the hotel. It had been quite an incredible afternoon.

Tuesday 9th December :- Sadly today we had to leave for Alicante and with the flights being so early it meant we didn't have a chance to look one last time for Iberian Lynx. The drive back north was fairly uneventful apart from the usual roadside species. However en-route Sally told me her thoughts on the short break and how thrilled and priveliged she felt to have seen this wonderful mammal. I knew exactly what she meant!


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