Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Iberian Wolf in North West Spain

Culebra ViewWe are visiting one of the remotest areas of Spain, the 'Sierra de Culebra'. Our primary objective will be to locate one of Europe's rarest mammals - Iberian Wolf, and this reserve holds a major percentage of Spain's total population of 2500 - 3000 individuals. Yet despite a sizable population wolves are very difficult to see being a naturally shy and distrusting species following decades of persecution from man. Time will be spent stood quietly waiting & watching for this very elusive mammal mainly at dawn and dusk when they are at their most active and likely to reveal themselves. However while we are there we should be also be looking to find Wild Boar, Fox, Red & Roe Deer The rest of the time will be spent visiting the surrounding areas, especially Villafafila and it's adjacent low-intensive agricultural lands that has Spain's largest concentration of Great Bustard.

The Rio Duero forms the border between Spain & Portugal as it carves a winding course through steep sided valleys, home to many breeding raptor species. In summary this tour will provide ample time in which to enjoy the rich wildlife of the area, but it is our quest for the Iberian Wolf that will be our ultimate goal. Our accommodation is in the heart of the sierra and perfectly positioned for easy access to the best wolf watching areas, and not only is it a fantastic place to stay but the owner has worked very closely with the local rangers and has up-to-the-minute information on the wolves and their where-abouts.

Red KiteDay 1:- After your arrival into Madrid Airport,  you shall be met by your guide and we shall quickly load up our mini-van and drive straight through to our superb accommodation in the heartland of the Sierra de Culebra. After lunch and a relax we will head out into the surrounding reserve for walk amongst the extensive conifer forests looking for Crossbills, Firecrest, Crested, Coal & Long tailed Tits, and on the adjacent heath we should find Woodlarks, Crested Larks, Stonechats, Dartford Warblers, Cirl & Rock Buntings. Raptor's should feature strongly with good numbers of Red Kites, Common Buzzards, and Kestrels, with Short toed Eagle, Hen Harrier and Peregrine always a possibility. Towards the end of the day we shall make our first (of many) attempts to find the Iberian Wolf, which in reality takes a lot of patience and luck, however we will be in one of the best positions to encounter one, due to our hostes local and invaluable knowledge. During our time watching and waiting we should also see other mammals including Fox, Wild Boar, Red & Roe Deer, some of the Wolf's known prey. Our hotel is a newly renovated barn and steading that has maintained it's traditional exterior with an extremely comfortable interior. The en-suite rooms are very warm, bright and clean, with superb vistas over a large garden with local trees and bushes ideal for attracting migrant and breeding passerines. The restaurant offers fantastic three-course dinners each evening  generally soup or salad, a meat or fish dish (vegetarians can be catered for) with local vegetables, followed by delightful sweet, all washed down with a local 'Vino Tinto'. This exquisite base for four nights will be one of the highlights of the holiday as the owner relays tales and shows photographs of wolves he has seen personally whole working with the local ranger service.

Iberian WolfDays 2 - 5:-  For the next four days we will be spending some of the time searching for the Iberian Wolves that reside on the reserve as this is the time when they are most active during daylight hours. The Sierra de Culebra forms part of the Cordillera Cantábrica, which hold's most of Spain’s 2500 - 3000 wolves, a marked and welcome increase since an estimated lows of the 1970's. An interesting story of environmental success due to a population decrease by man leaving for the less rural settings of towns & cities. Although a good deal of our time will be spent looking for our major target we shall also be spending a lot of time birdwatching around the forest and beyond. Not too far away is an area of specifically developed, low-intensity agricultural land which holds Spain's highest density of Great Bustard with realistic chances of seeing literally 100's during a daily visit.

VillafafilaAt this time of year they should be still doing their magnificent 'foam-bath' display a spectacle that will remain in your memory for many years. Other species to be found on these undulating steppes could include Black bellied Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Rock & Tree Sparrows, Lesser Kestrel, White Storks and Common Cranes, plus big numbers of larks, finches and sparrows. Migrant birds might also be in evidence with a chance of an early returning Montagu's Harrier or a northward moving trip of Dotterel. Another fantastic area to be visited will be the lagoons of Villafafila with it's waders and wildfowl, with this being an inland staging post it could produce the odd Spanish scarcity amongst the commoner waterbirds. With all this potential prey around there is a healthy population of Marsh & Hen Harriers, with Merlin and Peregrine patrolling the wetlands on a regular basis. If time allows we may also make an excursion south to the Rio Duero, which forms the border between Spain & Portugal.

Rio DueroThis deep-sided river is another excellent place for birds with the possibility of a late Black Stork, Griffon Vultures, Golden & Bonelli's Eagles, Blue Rock Thrush, Southern Grey Shrike, Crag Martins, Grey Wagtail, Spotless Starlings and Raven. We shall also be visiting the lakes of Sanabria, particularly the mountain top reservoir of Laguna de los Peces, which at the right time of year can be very good for the locally scarce Iberian Rock Lizard as well as Water Pipit, Ortolan Bunting and Rufous tailed Rock Thrush. There is now also a new visitor centre dedicated to the Iberian Wolf and we shall be visiting here to give people a chance to gather information on the on-going conservation of this endangered mammal.

Day 6:- Depending on the time of the return flight we may not have a chance for an excursion looking for wolf but the return route to Madrid may produce a surprise along the way.

You are of course free to opt in or out of any of our early morning or late afternoon/night excursions, however your chances of seeing an Iberian Wolf will be lessened should you decide not to join the group during our short break.

NB The itinerary shown above is only representative and not all the species mentioned will be available at certain times of year. If beyond Iberian Wolf you have any specific targets please contact us to ensure your visit will coincide with the best chances of seeing these specific animals.

Our accommodation is in the heart of the sierra and perfectly positioned for easy access to the best wolf watching areas, and not only is it a fantastic place to stay but the owner has worked very closely with the local rangers and has up-to-the-minute information on the wolves and their where-abouts. They have made every effort to maintain a “natural style”to blend in with the surroundings. As an old & beautifully converted Roman Staging Post, this hotel makes for an ideal setting.

What's been said...

Just a note to thank you for the marvellous time that we had with you at San Pedro. We are now safely home after a very good journey, Glenys is at work today. I've just been out with dogs and saw,  among others, a Snipe, Wheatear and a Goosander. Have you seen the winning photograph in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competion. It's in all our newspapers today of an Iberian Wolf jumping a gate, the photographer says that he spent many hours trying to get the shot, I bet he did! The newspaper doesn't say where the photograph was taken. Once again many thanks, both Glenys and I think that our Spanish trip was the best holiday we've ever had and our time at CTR Veniata was the highlight of it all. I  got your e-mail today about the Iberian Lynx in Andalucia trip. Sounds very good however I think that we are a bit tied up in Jan. Hope that all is well with you. Will e-mail again if any more news.

Rob & Glenys Zawada

Just to say a huge "thank you" for helping to make our recent trip so enjoyable and memorable. Both Tony and I had a really great time. I can't believe we packed so much in to 3 days, it seemed much longer than that!! Do hope you got home safely. It was such a long drive for you, especially when we went via the Picos! Not exactly a direct route for you but very well appreciated by us all. Hope to see you again.

Gill & Tony Fellus

I didn't really get the chance at the airport yesterday to thank you for , what was definitely, the best holiday ever. I kept looking skywards today only to see crows and magpies, boring. Your dedication to keeping  everyone  informed and happy was way beyond most people's expectations. Now that's the formal bit out of the way. Highlights....... the Golden Eagles, vultures, Black-shouldered Kite and Dartford Warblers. Thank you for the pics, it was brilliant to see them again and I will get down to some painting, promise. So to conclude, I have one last comment on my 'fantastic few days' SUPERB!!!

Sally Buckland

Thank you very much for the trip last week, despite being non birdwatchers we both enjoyed it, we managed to learn something and we had fun too. I sent my list off to my amazonian bird specialist friend in Canada and he was very impressed, he thinks I might be showing signs of becoming a bird watcher, but I'm trying to quash those rumors!. Good luck with your future wolf spotting.

S. Strachan

Just to say a big thank you from Caroline and I, we had a blast and most importantly, added wolf!!. Thanks again mate, superb place, birds, WOLVES! and company.

A & C Carroll

Thank you for a great break to N W Spain. I had a great time, and I hope all your other trips there go well. Looking forward to be seeing you next year.

G Trigg

Caroline and I really enjoyed the trip and you didn’t seem grouchy at all.  We thought it was a really nice group of people – everybody was a lot of fun and easy to get along with.

D & C Brunton

Just got home and many thanks for a fantastic 4 days looking for wolf, I will of course post something on Bird Forum asap. Take care and see you next year.

G & A Turner


Cost £1050
Based on sharing a twin/double room.

Single Supplement - None
Deposit - £200
Maximum Group Size - 6

Price Includes:

  • 5 nights accommodation with en-suite facilities
  • All meals
  • All transport costs
  • Wolf watching permission
  • Information pack
  • Daily check list
  • Use of field guides & maps

Price does not Include:

  • Flights to Madrid
  • Extra food/drink to normal meal times
  • Travel & contents insurance
  • Items of personal nature
  • Tips/gratuities

Flights are not included in the prices quoted, however we are more than happy to help with finding suitable flights.

Train Travel - Train travel possible

5th - 10th May 2017

(see icon guide)

Highlights -

  • Chance of seeing one of Iberia's endangered predators
  • Golden Eagle, Black Vulture, Honey Buzzard, Montagu's Harrier
  • Fabulous endemic reptiles and amphibians
  • Big flocks of Great Bustards
  • Beautiful Roman accommodation in a sleepy hamlet

Target Species:

  • Iberian Wolf
  • Wild Boar
  • Red Deer
  • Roe Deer
  • Red Squirrel
  • Southwestern Water Vole
  • Iberian Hare
  • Black Stork
  • Black Vulture
  • Egyptian Vulture
  • Black shouldered Kite
  • Black Kite
  • Hen Harrier
  • Montagu's Harrier
  • Golden Eagle
  • Short toed Eagle
  • Booted Eagle
  • Lesser Kestrel
  • Great Bustard
  • Little Bustard
  • Blk bellied Sandgrouse
  • Scop's Owl
  • Tawny Owl
  • European Nightjar
  • Calandra Lark
  • Thakla Lark
  • Water Pipit
  • Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
  • Sub-alpine Warbler
  • Western Orphean Warbler
  • Dartford Warbler
  • Melodious Warbler
  • Iberian Chiffchaff
  • Western Bonelli’s Warbler
  • Rock Bunting
  • Schreiber's Green Lizard
  • Iberian Rock Lizard
  • Bocage's Wall Lizard
  • Marbled Newt


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