Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Iberian Lynx in Andalucia

22nd - 26th January 2011

Report by Julian Sykes with Jane Lees, Geoff & Julia Regan

Saturday 22nd :- Having spent the night in Playa Flamenca Jane & I set off with Geoff & Julia from their home having seen a lovely male Black Redstart in their front garden. Since they lived near the converted saltpans of San Pedro de Pienitar we decided to go there before heading off to Andalucia. It was a glorious morning with quite a cool wind but ideal weather for birdwatching and an hour around this reserve produced a single winter plumage Spotted Redshank, Avocets, 10+ Black-necked Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Shelduck, Hoopoe and Crested Larks. We then set off inland towards Andalucia stopping for lunch en-route, it was a long journey but broken up with sightings of a pair of Stone Curlews mobbing a Common Buzzard, Geoff had a Wren at the lunch stop and Julia saw 6+ Red-legged Partridges amongst the acres and acres of olive groves we drove through. Once at the Complejo Los Pinos we got our rooms sorted out and in doing so 50+ Iberian Magpies joined us in the Holm Oaks nearby, it is an incredible place. A little tired from the journey we decided to meet at the complexes bar were we enjoyed a few drinks with tapas before another superb meal from this very special place.

Sunday 23rd :- The day started at 07:30 with breakfast of a most welcome natural orange juice, beverages and toast. Just after 8am we set off towards El Escoriales along the now very pitted road to this farm seeing a few Mistle Thrushes and Chaffinches. After here we drive down the heavily pitted metalled road to La Lancha where we stopped in my usual area overlooking this excellent area. Initially things were slow due to the very cold weather conditions but we did see a few Robins, Dartford Warbler and the ever-present Iberian Magpies. I found a few Red Deer and the Lynxes staple diet Rabbit but a little after 10am things started to hot up. Firstly the vultures started to appear with both Griffon & Black Vultures showing well as they flew over. Then we found a couple of Moufflon on the far hillside but moments later we had a fantastic encounter with an Iberian Lynx. It had wanted to cross the track but got disturbed by a trio of guys who were standing nearby. The lynx who was being harassed by Iberian Magpies turned round and headed up the hill showing very well despite being mostly rear-end views. It had been an unbelievable experience but then as we started tom calm down I picked up an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle flying through the valley. We’d had a brilliant morning and thoroughly enjoyed the Southern Grey Shrikes, Dartford & Sardinian Warblers, Crested & Long tailed Tits. We were still very cold despite the sun giving some warm so at midday we decided to return to the Los Pinos for our picnic lunch. I had said we should reconvene at 3pm giving us a chance to recharge our batteries before the evening session. So at 3pm we set off this time towards the Rio Jandula Iron Bridge seeing a few Red Deer on the way. Just after the bridge we turned off on a track to the Embalse de Encinarejo and parked at the end of the road. Here we took a short walk up to the dam looking at the lovely purple-flowered Storksbill and the Cormorants fishing on the reservoir. After this we walked along the edge of the Rio Jandula where I found a couple of Hawfinches plus Serins, Chaffinches, Iberian Magpies, Robins, Black Redstarts, Great, Blue & Long tailed Tits. We then spent an hour overlooking the Rio Jandula reserve where we saw more Red Deer, Jackdaws, Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe, Mallard and Crag Martins. The weather now had deteriorated so we decided to head back to the Complejo Los Pinos. After freshening up we convened at the hotel’s bar where we enjoyed a pre-evening meal drink where we did the daily log followed by another excellent meal. What a cracking first full day!!!.

Monday 24th :- Another 07:30 breakfast and this time we were joined by Jane who like us all was quite keen to see a Lynx.  So we set off and drove up through to Los Escoriales stopping en-route to watch 20+ Fallow Deer in the Holm Oak woodland.  We drove slowly down to La Lancha and parked in the same area as the previous day having en-route seen several Mistle & Song Thrushes, Chaffinches, Serin, Grey Wagtail and the incredibly common Iberian Magpie.  Like the previous day we stood and waited in anticipation of seeing the very elusive and rare Iberian Lynx in its natural domain.  Thankfully today was slightly warmer than the previous day with a calmer wind and sunnier conditions so making watching more pleasurable.  This was ‘backed up’ with the raptors as quite early there were Black & Griffon Vultures flying over and this was then followed by a juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle.  Small parties of Red Deer were seen on the hillside and a good number of Rabbits were feeding out in the open, which is a good sign for Lynx.  Then a little after 10 o’clock I spied an Iberian Lynx making its way up a near ridge but it disappeared under a small copse of trees.  The Magpies were making their usual disturbance around the animal and soon enough it decided to move on but only showed again briefly before dropping out of sight over the ridge. It had been two sightings in two days. We stayed in the area until lunchtime but didn’t get another view of the Lynx but we did see a Southern Grey Shrike, Kestrel, Dartford & Sardinian Warblers and Crested Tit.  We were going down to the Jandula Dam for lunch and just outside the deserted village of La Lancha we ate our picnics at the tables of the mirador.  During this time we saw an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle amongst a large group of Black & Griffon Vultures.  After lunch we dropped down to the dam wall where we parked and walked through to the tunnel in the mountain.  On the way I found an adult male Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart and several Crag Martins.  In the tunnel we looked for any bats but without success (they had obviously gone somewhere else to hibernate) but Julia did very well finding another Grey Wagtail and a Common Sandpiper while I was in the tunnel.  Eventually we returned to the vehicle and made our way back to the Lynx watching area we had been to earlier. We stayed there for another couple of hours searching for the Lynx but without any luck although Geoff did very well finding a lone Wild Boar, another new mammal to the list as well as a lovely Firecrest amongst a roving tit flock. It was turning out to be a beautiful afternoon so we returned to the Los Pinos and en-route I found a few Woodlarks and plenty of Mistle Thrushes in the  fields occupied by the famous Spanish Fighting Bulls.  Once back at the Los Pinos we dropped off Jane before the rest of us drove through to Encinarejo where again we had an easy walk along the river. It was a very good and easy walk and very enjoyable despite not seeing anything special although we did manage to find several Meadow Pipits, Iberian Green Woodpecker and even more Iberian Magpies.  Sadly we had to leave this tranquil area and return to the hotel were after freshening up we enjoyed a pre-meal drink followed by another fabulous feast at this wonderful location.

Tuesday 25th :- We woke to a wet and damp start to the day and after our usual 07:30 breakfast, Geoff, Julia and myself headed back out to La Lancha, having a very quiet journey.  At our usual watchpoint we pulled in and thankfully the rain had stopped so we were able to scan the area looking for Lynx but initially only finding a few Red Deer and plenty of Rabbits on the hill-sides.  It was again quite a cold morning with a fresh breeze but we were optimistic having seen a Lynx the previous two visits.  As it warmed up the raptors started to appear and Julia (who was sensibly sat in the vehicle) saw a couple of Black Vultures and a little later the 1st winter Spanish Imperial Eagle showed again flying through the valley.  I needed to answer the call of nature so walked down the track for some privacy but was alerted by a commotion from a few European Magpies.  I searched the area carefully completely forgetting my bladder and after about five minutes I found the (hoped for) Iberian Lynx slowly making its way down the near hillside and right towards me.  Geoff & Julia were still away up the road by the vehicle and completely out of sight, so I needed to get there attention.  I got to where I could see them and started waving madly but they didn’t notice so as a last resort I whistled, which turned out to be counter-productive.  It did get the attention of the couple but also another person looking out for Lynx in the other direction.  Sadly this gentleman ran along the track and right through where the animal was coming probably causing it to change direction as we never got another view of this gorgeous mammal, much to Geoff & Julia’s disappointment.  While we continued to search I found a phylloscopus warbler, which I initially assumed was just a chiffchaff.  However closer scrutiny revealed it had a very yellow vent and light yellow streaking on the upper breast with paler than normal lower breast & belly, making it certainly an Iberian Chiffchaff – a bird that normally winters further south in North Africa.  After about an hour we decided to abort our search and drive back to the Los Pinos to meet Jane and have our lunch.  This journey was a little more eventful with lots of Mistle Thrushes, Azure-winged (Iberian) Magpies and Chaffinches along the route.  Back at the accommodation we enjoyed our ‘bocadillos, fruit and drinks’ before all of us headed out again to the north of the Sierra de Andujar. We saw Red & Fallow Deer all along the main road but a large flock was found as we drove the track to Janquillo, also here Jane found a Common Buzzard and an Iberian Green Woodpecker plus we saw lots more Azure-winged Magpies.  We continued north seeing the park’s highest peak Barrios del Pinos at a grand height of 1290m, right to its limit on the edge of Castilla La Mancha.  Sadly the afternoon was wearing and we wanted a last try for an Iberian Lynx so we made our way back into the heart of the natural park. Where the habitat started to look good we stopped at regular intervals looking for this elusive cat but without any luck. Finally we stopped off at the Los Peregrinos watchpoint until the light was beginning to fade but unfortunately we had to satisfy ourselves with our previous views of Lynx. That night we enjoyed another fabulous meal in the hotel’s restaurant and was also treated by Ramon (the owner) to some drinks on the house, which was very generous indeed. Since Geoff, Julia and Jane had a very long drive back to Alicante we decided not to try for Lynx the next morning – a very wise decision.

Wednesday 26th :- This morning we enjoyed a ‘lay-in’ not having our breakfast until 9am and by 09:30 we were on the road to Andujar town and then beyond to Granada. En-route we saw a few Cattle Egrets, Crested Larks and a female Sparrowhawk before leaving me to collect my rental car from the airport and go our separate ways. Thank you very much to my 3 guests for making it a very enjoyable and fun trip, with some very memorable moments, which I will personally cherish.

 

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