THE SOMERSET BIRDER
 
Home

 

 

 

 

Sierra Morena, Spain. 12-18 February 2012

Trip Report: James Packer

Other Participants: Emma Packer, Roger Musgrove, Brian Gibbs

All photos copyright James Packer or Brian Gibbs where indicated (BDG)

The main aim of this trip was to attempt to see Iberian Lynx. We were well aware that there was a high possibility that we may fail, but coupled with the chance of seeing some good birds, this was a risk that we were prepared to take. We were inspired to visit the area by others trip reports, so thanks to all those who took the time to provide information that we used to plan this short trip.

The result was that we saw three different Iberian Lynx from distances ranging from about 3 metres to no more than 40 metres. We spent four days looking for them constantly and we consider ourselves to have been extremely lucky (or very skilled, probably the former!). Before our visit, the last two groups to stay at Villa Matilde for a week each apparently failed to see any Lynx.

Iberian Lynx

It's important that anyone reading this realises just how important the Iberian Lynx are. They are rare; very rare. They are now found in only two areas of Spain, the Coto Donana and the Sierra Morena. Donana is notoriously difficult to enter and there are only thought to be about 24-33 adults here and therefore the better option to see them is the Sierra Morena where the remaining global population exists. This isn't quite as optimistic as it sounds as the remaining population numbered only about 60-110 adults in the Sierra Morena in 2008. This makes a global population of Iberian Lynx numbering about 143 adults. It doesn't take a genius to realise that this is not good news, and this species is now defined as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, which means that this species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild (more recent data suggests that the population between 2008 and 2012 has increased a little bit, due to recent conservation efforts but this has not affected the status).

The main problem for the Iberian Lynx is that they feed almost entirely on Rabbits, and therefore the effects of Myxomatosis and Rabbit VHD on the Rabbit population also affects their predators, especially one that doesn't eat much else! Combine a decline in Rabbits with habitat fragmentation and deterioration, pressure from hunting and an increase in roads and traffic and a magnificent animal becomes tainted with a threat of global extinction.

To put this into perspective, the last feline to become extinct was the Sabre-toothed Tiger. To see Iberian Lynx become extinct would be 'unacceptable'. When, or if, you've seen one, you'll realise just how unacceptable this actually is.

Accommodation

During our time in the Sierra Morena we stayed at Villa Matilde (http://www.villamatilde.org). We can not recommend staying here highly enough, it's excellent. The villa is ideally situated for Lynx watchers, and Lynx have sometimes been seen in the garden! The villa is surrounded by pine forest, which certainly had no shortage of Lynx scat. There were signs of Wild Boar around the villa, and the garden had Azure-winged Magpie, Crossbill, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Hawfinch, Crested Tit and a pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles displayed right over the villa. The owners Merche and Roland were very knowledgeable and great hosts. Their cooking was superb, especially for vegetarians that can sometimes be hard to please in Spain!

In Malaga we used the Malaga Airport Campanile (http://www.campanile-malaga.es/en/index.aspx), which was perfect for an airport stay.

Itinerary

12 Feb 2012 - Evening flight to Malaga arriving at Villa Matilde at midnight.

13 Feb 2012 - La Lancha track in morning and evening with visit to dam, food shopping in Andujar and lunch at Rio Jandula in between.

14 Feb 2012 - La Lancha track in morning and evening with Rio Jandula in between.

15 Feb 2012 - Rio Jandula in morning, La Lancha in evening.

16 Feb 2012 - La Lancha track in morning, Rio Jandula dam in evening.

17 Feb 2012 - Drive to Malaga via Laguna de Zonar and Laguna de Fuente de Piedre.

18 Feb 2012 - Morning flight back to Bristol.

Where and how we saw Iberian Lynx

There are two main places that most people look for Lynx, these being the La Lancha track and the track along the Rio Jandula. The excellent map here shows how to find these sites. We spent days scanning at and between these sites and all three of the Lynx we saw appeared when we were least expecting it. Two were seen when driving up to La Lancha and one was seen on the road at one of the La Lancha watchpoints as we were about to pack up and go back to the villa. The Google map below shows these locations, however Lynx appear to rarely do the same thing twice, and therefore it is very difficult to predict where they will appear. You just need to be out in the field looking, and don't forget to look close. Eventually I gave up scanning distant hillsides with a telescope, instead choosing to walk up the road and peer into roadside bushes! I reckon each would be just as (un)likely to result in a Lynx encounter.


View Iberian Lynx Sightings in a larger map 


This Iberian Lynx was watched for at least an hour. We left it asleep in the sun! It's a very old male called Cerrajero.
This is one of the largest Iberian Lynx in the Sierra Morena, he weighs about 19kgs. There's a couple of videos of him below:

 

Other Mammals

Garden Dormouse - one seen from the La Lancha track in the evening.
Spanish Ibex - Three near the La Lancha dam.
Rabbit
Iberian Hare
Red Deer
Fallow Deer
Iberian Moufflon - groups of up to 10 La Lancha
Wild Boar - lots of signs around Villa Matilde but we didn't see any!

Birds

Locations:
LL=La Lancha area, including dam
RJ=Rio Jandula area, including dam
LFP=Laguna de Fuente de Piedre
LZ=Laguna de Zonar

 

Common Shelduck
One or two LFP

Wigeon

Gadwall

Teal

Mallard

Shoveler

Pochard

Tufted Duck

White-headed Duck
About 20 LZ

Red-legged Partridge
Very common Sierra Morena

Common Quail
One near the visitors centre LFP

Little Grebe

Great Crested Grebe

Black-necked Grebe
Just two, LZ

Cormorant

Night Heron
One immature RJ throughout

Cattle Egret
Small number near Cordoba

Great White Egret
One RJ on 16th

Grey Heron

White Stork
About 20 near Cordoba

Greater Flamingo
Large numbers LFP


Lesser Flamingos, Laguna de Fuente de Piedra

Lesser Flamingo
Two easily visible from the visitors centre LFP on 17th

Black Kite
About 10 LZ


Griffon Vulture, middle of nowhere

Griffon Vulture
Abundant Sierra Morena


Black Vutture,
La Lancha

Black Vulture
Up to three together Sierra Morena, mainly from LL

Marsh Harrier
About 5 LZ

Goshawk
Several sightings Sierra Morena, including a male perched on a pylon near Villa Matilde

Common Buzzard


Imperial Eagle,
La Lancha track (BDG)

Spanish Imperial Eagle
Sightings most days in Sierra Morena, usually of two together and a displaying pair over Villa Matilde 

Golden Eagle
Less frequently seen than Imperial, again usually in pairs

Booted Eagle
One from LL 

Common Kestrel

Water Rail
One LFP
 

Moorhen

Purple Gallinule
Two LFP on Cantarranas lagoon

Common Coot


Common Cranes
with Laguna de Fuente de Piedra in the background

Common Crane
About 50-100 LFP

Black-winged Stilt

Avocet
Single LFP

Ringed Plover

Kentish Plover

Golden Plover

Lapwing

Sanderling

Little Stint

Temminck's Stint
Single LFP near visitors centre

Dunlin

Ruff

Common Snipe

Woodcock
Three observed around Sierra Morena

Black-tailed Godwit

Greenshank

Green Sandpiper
One RJ

Little Gull
One first winter LFP on Cantarranas lagoon

Black-headed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Yellow-legged Gull

Rock Dove

Stock Dove

Woodpigeon

Collared Dove

Great Spotted Cuckoo
One RJ near the dam on 15th

Little Owl

Tawny Owl
One calling LL

Long-eared Owl
At least two calling males LL

Kingfisher

Hoopoe


Wintering Wryneck at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra

Wryneck
One near the visitors centre LFP

Iberian Green Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Crested Lark

Thekla Lark
One or two in cattle fields along LL track

Woodlark

Sand Martin

Crag Martin

Barn Swallow

House Martin

Meadow Pipit

Yellow Wagtail
Small numbers LFP

Grey Wagtail

White Wagtail

Wren

Dunnock

Robin


Bluethroat
at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra

Bluethroat
Single female at LFP


Black Redstart, Laguna de Fuente de Piedra

Black Redstart

Stonechat

Blue Rock Thrush

Blackbird

Song Thrush

Mistle Thrush

Cetti's Warbler

Blackcap


Sardinian Warbler, Rio Jandula (BDG)

Sardinian Warbler

Dartford Warbler
Fairly common Sierra Morena

Chiffchaff

Goldcrest

Firecrest
Very common Sierra Morena

Long-tailed Tit

Blue Tit

Great Tit

Crested Tit
Frequent at Villa Matilde

Nuthatch


Short-toed Treecreeper,
Rio Jandula (BDG)

Short-toed Treecreeper
C
ommon Sierra Morena, especially Villa Matilde and RJ

Southern Grey Shrike

Jay


Azure-winged Magpie,
Rio Jandula

Azure-winged Magpie
Very common Sierra Morena

Magpie

Chough
At least one pair LL

Jackdaw

Raven

Spotless Starling

House Sparrow

Rock Sparrow
One or two at several sites in Sierra Morena, particularly RJ dam

Serin

Greenfinch

Goldfinch

Linnet

Crossbill

Bullfinch

Hawfinch

Cirl Bunting

Rock Bunting
Only two seen, Sierra Morena

Corn Bunting

 

 

 
All site content, including photos © James Packer
www.000webhost.com