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Spain Lynx Quest - March 2014 Trip Report

John Muddeman
27/03/2014 22:10:25

A summary of my recent tour covering Andújar and Doñana to successfully look for the exquisite and endangered Iberian Lynx.

Posted in: Flora, Amphibians, Birds, Mammals, Endangered Wildlife and Habitats | Andalusia | Mainland Spain, Southern Spain, Central Spain


This was my second tour using this excellent combination A male Iberian Lynx - Lynx pardinus © John MuddemanA male Iberian Lynx
Lynx pardinus
© John Muddeman
of Andújar plus Doñana in a 6 night search for the exquisite and endangered Iberian Lynx. Following numerous visits, both during and outside tours, both areas are very well known to me, but the combination allows not only a significantly greater chance of seeing the lynx in one of their two remaining strongholds, but also of seeing a wider variety of Spain’s remarkable wildlife too. Furthermore, using local guides driving specially licensed vehicles to access several parts of the core part of the species’ range in the Doñana area further increases chances for seeing this, and indeed other special species, which are either harder or impossible to come by in Andújar.

To our delight, an early spring arrived while we were on tour, with the cool, wet and sometimes windy conditions characterising much of this winter rapidly giving way to beautifully settled weather, and a very warm almost balmy feel by the end. The very green colours of the landscape were starting to blend locally given the appearance of large numbers of the earliest tiny flowers, with yellows and whites predominating. This was not just thanks to the swathes of wild chamomile carpeting Hoop-petticoat Narcissus in Andújar - Narcissus bulbocodium © John MuddemanHoop-petticoat Narcissus in Andújar
Narcissus bulbocodium
© John Muddeman
damp seepage lines and the older firebreaks which criss-cross the extensive dehesa, or the fields of a tiny wild mustard, or roadsides painted with the glaring yellow Bermuda buttercup, but also at the smaller scale with the delightful flower-heads of the white papery daffodil in Doñana or golden-yellow bells of hoop-petticoat narcissi in both Andújar and Doñana, or the tiny nodding heads of the creamy Angel’s Tears in Andújar, all of which were at their peak.

Disappointingly, the wild rabbit population in Andújar suffered a major setback last year with a new strain of viral haemorrhagic disease (rVHD) sweeping through the population and reducing it to almost an all time minimum. Indeed, we were amazed to see so few during our few days here, despite emergency plans having been in place in order to help artificially boost numbers and so provide food for the lynx, and it was no surprise that many groups since the New Year in particular had drawn blanks during their stays. However, this is no zoo and all forms part of the fun of looking for the rarest species of feline in the world! And as usual, there was plenty more to enjoy during our watches.

Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra © John MuddemanFire Salamander
Salamandra salamandra
© John Muddeman
Though both are abundant, red deer are much more visible than fallow deer in general, and despite finding just one fine Spanish ibex, on the very first evening, we enjoyed a couple of views of the surprisingly well patterned mouflon, including a close group of females, and several observations in broad daylight of the numerous wild boar present, including one group with tiny stripy piglets rooting their way through the scrub. The light rain on our return on the first night also worked in our favour when a driver in front beckoned us to stop in order to avoid a superb orange and yellow spotted fire salamander crossing the road, and a lovely natterjack toad shortly ahead rounded off a superb start!

The birds were good, as ever, despite requiring a little more work than normal in the generally cool and breezy conditions experienced in these mountains. Spanish imperial and golden eagles are present in surprising numbers, the area supports a healthy Herd of female Mouflon - Ovis orientalis © John MuddemanHerd of female Mouflon
Ovis orientalis
© John Muddeman
northern goshawk population, and other special touches include a few of Iberia’s increasing number of endemic species, including noisy Iberian green woodpecker, large flocks of rowdy Iberian magpies and another poor songster, the Iberian grey shrike! Other raptors included regular passing cinereous and griffon vultures, while gorgeous blue rock thrushes, red-billed choughs and Eurasian crag martins delighted down by the more impressive of two dams we visited. Hawfinches, short-toed treecreepers, a European crested tit, the first of a few Eurasian hoopoes and numerous European serins reinforced that we really were in the far S of Europe. Early spring was also visible in the appearance of a flock of three red-rumped swallows wheeling low overhead on our second evening, and two large flocks of migrant black kites circling up before heading N along the deep main valley.

The very flat delta terrain of Doñana Doñana sunset from El Rocío © John MuddemanDoñana sunset from El Rocío© John Muddeman provides a very marked contrast to the steep rolling rocky valleys and low mountains of Andújar, and the patchwork of habitats including the fringe of extensive near monoculture of the introduced stone pine forest, plus native mixed-species forest, monte blanco scrub and the ecotone down into the grassy and sedge-dominated seasonal saltmarsh almost emphasises that Doñana is in reality an odd place in general for the Iberian lynx! The areas of old cork oak dominated forest with shallow stream lines, or algaidas as they known here, rich in ferns and willows, form a rich part of this intricate mix and are also home to many species. The amount of open water in the whole of the marsh complex is also very variable within and between years, with the winter here having been unusually dry, in contrast to most of the peninsula. However, the extensive flooded area in front of El Rocío was nearly full and in consequence, simply alive with birds, particularly wildfowl and waders, and the artificially flooded areas Bluethroat - Luscinia cyanecula © John MuddemanMale white-spotted Bluethroat
Luscinia cyanecula
© John Muddeman
around the Cerrado Garrido Information Centre and the reservoir at the Dehesa de Abajo were also packed with interest.

It’s hard to pick out highlights with so many good things, but several short-toed snake eagles, single pale and dark morph booted eagles, delightful lesser kestrels and black-winged kites, all along the N edge of the marsh, plus the only peregrine of the trip stood out among the raptors. Ian found his own very first great bittern, while greater flamingos, glossy ibis and Eurasian spoonbills were abundant, hundreds of northern pintail, three ferruginous ducks and a few red-crested pochards, gaudy purple swamp hens and graceful black-winged stilts were etched indelibly on our minds. A singing Iberian chiffchaff, several brilliantly coloured male ‘Iberian’ yellow wagtails and buzzing sand martins heading over the vast open marshes where a single singing lesser short-toed lark delighted in display flight as it wheeled overhead were further heralds of spring. Several Bluethroats at very close range emerging periodically from the reedmace beds in El Rocío itself either winter visitors or migrants too, while one singing showed it was probably not going to be around for long...

But undoubtedly, the real highlight of An Iberian Lynx - Lynx pardinus © John MuddemanDardo, a mature male Iberian Lynx
Lynx pardinus
© John Muddeman
course was the extended series of views of Dardo, a superb adult male Iberian lynx named by the scientists working here on the species, while we were on another of those cross-country drives. Lying in the grass in the shade of a dwarf fan palm, he stood up and then walked across in front, tail twitching, and into taller vegetation, scent spraying as he went. After crossing a dip, he then nonchalantly walked out before going into scrub where we couldn’t follow him, so we stopped ahead, where we thought he would reappear, and waited... Once we thought that it was over, we advanced a bit only to refind him sat out in the middle of an open meadow in full view in the warm evening light! And for around 30 minutes we watched him looking around and then finally walking off to genuinely disappear for the last time. Truly magical and I can’t wait to get back twice in October as planned!


BIRDS - AVES
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus © John MuddemanGlossy Ibis adult and immature
Plegadis falcinellus
© John Muddeman

Greylag Goose Anser anser
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Gadwall Anas strepera
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris Great Egret - Egretta alba © John MuddemanGreat Egret
Egretta alba
© John Muddeman

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Great [White] Egret Ardea alba
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Black-winged/-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
Red Kite Milvus milvus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Cinereous/Monk/Black Vulture Aegypius monachus
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
[Western] Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Hen/Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Griffon Vulture - Gyps fulvus © John MuddemanRecently gorged Griffon Vulture!
Gyps fulvus
© John Muddeman

Common/Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian/Common Coot Fulica atra
Common Crane Grus grus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Short-eared Owl - Asio flammeus © John MuddemanShort-eared Owl
Asio flammeus
© John Muddeman

Little Stint Calidris minuta
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon Columba livia
[Common] Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Tawny Owl Strix aluco
Short-eared Owl Otus flammeus
Little Owl Athene noctua
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Iberian Green Woodpecker Picus sharpei
Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Iberian Magpie Cyanopica cooki
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Common Asphodel - Asphodelus aestivus © John MuddemanCommon Asphodel
Asphodelus aestivus
© John Muddeman

Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Northern/Common Raven Corvus corax
[European] Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus
Great Tit Parus major
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Sand Martin / Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
[Common] House Martin Delichon urbicum
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae
Woodlark Lullula arborea
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus Halimium - Halimium © John MuddemanHalimium of the monte blanco
Halimium
© John Muddeman

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
[Winter] Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Bluethroat Luscinia cyanecula
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
European/Common Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia Palacio del Rey Doñana © John MuddemanPalacio del Rey courtyard, Doñana© John Muddeman
Dunnock / Hedge Accentor Prunella modularis
Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
European Serin Serinus serinus
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

MAMMALS - MAMMALIA
European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Wood/Long-tailed Field Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus
Iberian Lynx Felis pardina
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
small bat spp
Eurasian Wild Boar Sus scrofa Paperwhite - Narcissus papyraceus © John MuddemanThe beautiful Paperwhite
Narcissus papyraceus
© John Muddeman

Red Deer Cervus elaphus
Fallow Deer Dama dama
Spanish Ibex Capra pyrenaica
Mouflon Ovis orientalis

REPTILES - REPTILIA
Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica
Iberian Wall Lizard Podarcis hispanica

AMPHIBIANS - AMPHIBIA
Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra
Natterjack Toad Bufo calamita
Stripeless/Mediterranean Tree Frog Hyla meridionalis
Iberian Water Frog Pelophylax perezi

BUTTERFLIES - LEPIDOPTERA
[Common] Swallowtail Papilio machaon
Large White Pieris brassicae
Small White Pieris rapae
Western Dappled White Euchloe crameri
Clouded Yellow Colias crocea
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni Asphodel Longhorn - Agapanthus asphodeli © John MuddemanAsphodel Longhorn
Agapanthus asphodeli
© John Muddeman

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
Spanish Brown Argus Aricia cramera
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

MOTHS - LEPIDOPTERA
Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum

DAMSELFLIES & DRAGONFLIES - ODONATA
Vagrant Emperor Anax ephippiger

OTHER SELECTED INSECTS - INSECTA
Water Boatman Heteroptera
Paper Wasp Polistes sp.
Solitary Bee sp.
Asphodel Longhorn beetle Agapanthus asphodeli


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Come & join me on the Spain Lynx Quest!


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