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Monday, 3 July 2017

Watching Wolves in Spain

The sky had started to turn into a wonderful vermillion glow, it was getting late and time for us to leave our road and rest for the night.
We were in the North of Castilla y León and very close to our destination, this is where we would start our search for the Iberian Wolf.


Rested and ready, the new day unfolding in front of us, our lesser travelled road takes us through stunning countryside, we pass underneath huge concrete pillars holding Spains impressive motorway system high above us (business as usual) but down here it is like a forgotten World, unchanged with time, people still take the time to see who is passing as they toil in their plots, perhaps they worry about the coming change! Like us passing through!


A stone and slate bridge crosses a meandering river, the water level low for the time of year, there has been no rain for some time. Interestingly it's March and we should have expected colder weather not the 23degrees plus, maybe everything is changing, it certainly causes conversations with the local people.


High on our vantage point, we can see for miles! With our telescope, we scan the countryside, a little further along the track others are doing the same.


Beautiful Dartford Warblers perch in the surrounding trees with their brazen song, they are so untroubled in this environment, other than a few of us hoping to see an Iberian Wolf there is nothing but peace.


In a small group of trees, Nuthatches seek insects, already feeding their first broods.
Spring has come early this year.

To understand more about the Iberian Wolf, we make a visit to the excellent interpretation center at Robledo, south of Puebla De Sanabria in Zamora province.






Behind the heather a Watching Wolf.


What a beautiful creature


Iberian Wolf,  (Canis lupus signatus)  stands proudly on the hillside.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iberian_wolf

Once again it is time for us to move on, the road from here is the beginning of our journey home, what will tomorrow's travel bring?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The wild Arribes del Duero in Portugal and Spain

We had driven north from Vila Velha de Ródão with its towering cliffs known as the Portas do Ródão, where we had spent the night. The following morning we drove to Castelo Branco, and once again crossed the border into Spain, the sky blue, heat haze disfiguring the road as we passed through the Sierra de Gata, our destination La Alberca, high in the Sierra de la Peña de Francia, located
70 Kilometres South of Salamanca and also in the province of Salamanca in Castilla Y Leon.
The road is torturous, the air was cooler as we passed through the pine forest, gaining height, eventually the switchback bends delivered us into La Alberca.  



We awoke early the following morning, refreshed and ready to explore the town and breakfasted on an incredible local bread stuffed with Chorizo sausage.


After breakfast, we once again set out on another zigzagging road, this one spiralling us ever high towards the summit of Peña de Francia.


The views from the top of Peña de Francia, at 5666feet, 1727mtrs are far reaching.


Presumably, this sculptured window is a characterization of Simón Vela and his travels from
Santiago de Compostela via Salamanca to find the Peña de Francia.
It may just be Don Quixote!


Due to its height, the Peña de Francia is home to Alpine Accentors whose breeding grounds are usually above 1800mtrs.


They like barren areas and feed on Insects and seeds. It was certainly barren up there and I guess their main food source would have to be insects as there was barely a blade of grass.


Later in the day, we passed through Ciudad Rodrigo and into the arribes, the local name for the complex of Duero river gorges. Once again these canyons form the border between Portugal and Spain for close to 120 kilometres, and like the Rio Tajo gorges, they harbour important populations
of cliff-nesting birds.    


In both the above Photographs you can see the road that we had travelled, to access the canyon.


At the river level we used one of the giant dams to cross the border back into Portugal, so again you see Portugal on the left and Spain on the right. Swifts, Red Rumped and Barn Swallows hawk over the still water.


Positioned on top of an elevated outcrop, waiting to observe Vultures flying through the gorge, it was a surprise to see this Wren, so high!


The Griffon Vultures look Great in the late afternoon sunshine.


They just soared past just below our viewpoint.


Some of them starting to moult.


The following morning we were back early, just in time to catch a pair of Egyptian Vultures.


As the pair of Egyptian Vultures passed down the gorge the Griffon Vultures start to launch from their roost.



Some off the Griffons wait on the rocks for the early morning air to warm, before launching themselves off the cliff face.


We made slow progress, following as close as possible to the gorge, we were still in Portugal and Spain rising up across the water.


At times the roads and tracks had become so rutted and impossible to travel along we had to hike to the canyon.


Whilst walking we found This lovely Provence Hairstreak butterfly.


Two minutes later we found a Green Hairstreak.

The end of another great visit!

From here we would be travelling further North in Castilla y  León to start our search for the elusive
Iberian Wolf.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Birdwatching along the Tajo International




With the Portuguese hilltop town of Marvão high above us, our road turned left and we soon passed seamlessly into Spain, heading towards Valencia de Alcántara, Shortly after this remote town we once again turn left, this time a very minor road towards Cedillo. 


 We are now in the International Tajo, no sign of a river or cliffs,
 just the rolling Dehesa and scrub warblers.
We bear right and the road winds down towards the Tajo River, the international border splitting Spain and Portugal, the river forms the border for some 40 Kilometres. 
Here the green-clad cliffs are home to Black Storks, Egyptian Vultures, Black and Griffon Vultures, Golden and Bonelli's Eagles, Short-Toed Eagles Black Kites and Booted Eagles are also seen with many other cliff and rock species.
We will follow the river upstream to Alcantara through a wonderfully remote landscape,
full of nature.


Portugal to the right and Spain on the left, the Rio Tajo centre stage.


Black Kites hunt along the green cliffs.


A key species for our visit was the Blue Rock Thrush.


Perfect timing as the male birds were all seeking partners and very visible as they sing and defend their territories.

Our road continues through small deserted villages towards a tributary of the Tajo, the Rio Salzar.


Black Vulture "what a bird" so massive!


Black stork, what a day!


Unbelievably the Black Stork and Black Vulture are circling together on the thermal.
Just look at the size of the Vulture compared to the Stork.


At this time of year, Short-Toed Eagles seem nearly common.


A pair of Crag Martin's, beautifully camouflaged, take a rest from their nest building.


On the cliff face, we can watch their nest building progress.


The Emabalse de Alcántara is an important breeding ground for the Black Stork, during our visit we were lucky to see two females arriving at the nesting site, the males had already returned.




Reunited on their nest, "yes that is a CCTV camera," all the nests here are given maximum protection.


Egyptian Vultures are also nesting close by.


Synchronised flying by a pair of Egyptian Vultures!


Meanwhile, the resident Griffon Vultures look on.


High above the river, we find acres of wild flowers and Red Deer.


A hunting Spanish Imperial Eagle.

What a fantastic area to visit.

For us, the road heads North, we will return!