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Kingdom of the Iberian Lynx - Trip report – January 5th – 12th 2012

Here you can read the trip report from a wildlife safari in the South of Spain (Andalucía) visiting Coto de Doñana (coto Donana) and Andújar Nature Park (Sierra Morena).

Mammal Highlights: 4 different Iberian Lynx, Spanish Ibex, Moufflon, Fallow and Reed Deer this last one roring, Iberian Hare, Greater Mouse-eared bat.

Bird Highlights: Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck, Pallid Harrier, Ruddy Shelduck, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Vulture, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Spanish Sparrow, Short-eared Owls hunting in day time and many more.

Participants: Annelise J., Len W. and Rudolf B.

Guide: Cristian Jensen

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Short-eared Owl (Asio flameus). © Cristian Jensen

Itinerary by days

Short-eared Owls (Asio flameus). Notice the second Owl. Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus), Barn Owl (Tyto alba alba), Red Deer (Cephus elaphus), Azure Winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana), and Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus). © Cristian Jensen

Day 1 - January 5th - Arrival - Sevilla and Doñana

Len arrived at airport of Seville at the estimated time. Annelise and I were waiting already there. Rudolf will meet us later during the week in Sierra Morena, just to see the Lynx and he will do again the same tour, the week after.
We headed towards Doñana, were we placed our luggage in the hotel and immediately after we started birding in the near marshes of el Rocio. Hundreds of Flamingoes, White storks, Shoveler, Common teal, Lapwings, Spoonbills, Black-tailed Godwits were seen. We drove to another spot, where we found Otter scats and while we were watching a Stonechat, the owner of the scats passed across the road few meters from us. We did not see it but a French couple close to us saw it. We could see the wet footprints on the cement and the track that had left. We drove to a spot, where we could enjoy the Azure-winged Magpies close by together with Hoopoes, Dartfort Warbler, and the extremely common Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts and Robins. In one of the lagoons visited we found a surprise: a hybrid Ferruginous Duck x Common Pochard. That was an interesting plumage to study.
We decided to go to the hotel and get some rest before a delicious dinner. At the back door of our hotel a huge amount of Cattle Egrets decided to roost in some islands, Annelise was very happy to see such a concentration.

Day 2 - Doñana, Rocio Marshes, Valverde Center, Dehesa de Abajo

We started the morning birding in el Rocio marshes (just 10 meters from the hotel). We were surprised to hear the roar of the Red Deer. January is extremely late; normally they will have the mating time in September - October but the hot temperatures during all autumn and the lack of rain has delay the season for these animals. Glossy Ibis, Penduline Tits, Bluethroat, Graylag Geese were seen and admired with a beautiful light. In Doñana is placed the biggest wintering population of these geese with over 10.000 birds.
A Little Bittern decided to overwinter here and flew past in front of us. Marsh Harrier wondered over the reeds, trying to catch some of the snipe, and Little Ringed Plovers – another extremely rare wintering species.
After breakfast we headed towards the eastern parts of the Park, but just before another rare wintering species a few House Martins were seen in the sky. Our first stop produced hundred of Night Herons followed by… a young Pallid Harrier - mega rarity in Spain - then Ruddy Shelduck, Marbled Teals, Great White Egrets, Red-crested Pochard, Crested Coot, Purple Swamp-hens, Squacco Herons, Booted Eagles, Black Storks, and many Spanish Sparrows that didn’t allow us to see them properly until later on. We had our Picnic by a lagoon while we watching the Crested Coot and we could hear the peculiar call.
Later on we drove through the rice fields were we saw thousands of waders: Dunlins, Little Stints, Kentish, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Golden Plovers, Green and Common Sandpipers been watched by a Peregrine Falcon – huge adult animal, likely to be a female from the north of Europe. Some Yellow Wagtails were added to the list of rare wintering species.
We found a tractor plowing the rice fields, where thousands and thousands of birds were having a fest: Lesser Black-backed gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls, White storks, Great White Egrets, Little Egrets, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egrets, Green Sandpiper, Lapwings, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits. The field was covered in birds and as just the tractor was passing a rain of birds just dropped behind, to catch any insects, frogs, fish, crayfish that was left in the open.
We drove a little more and for our surprise we found a roosting Barn Owl in the Tamarisks together with some Spanish Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Bluethroat, and Chiffchaffs.
Then we saw an owl hunting in the distance!!! We set the telescope… A Short-eared Owl!!! And then another one, and another one, and another one. Like this, up to 17 birds. But very likely that there were many more. It was getting late so we started to drive home and in the way a young Short-toed Eagle!!!! It shut be in sub-Saharan Africa!!!! They eat snakes and the snakes in winter they hibernate!! The hot temperatures have maintained the reptiles awake, so this animal has decided to avoid having to migrate thousands of kilometers.
It was getting dark, so we stop for a couple of Lesser Kestrels and then back to the hotel.
Beautiful dinner… I love GARLIC

Day 3 - Doñana

The White-headed Duck was requested by Len and Annelise, been a lifer for both so we drove to a remote lagoon were we saw a good bunch of them , up to 65 birds I counted. In the area were Avocets, Bar-tailed Godwits, Marbled Teal, Little Gulls, Caspian Terns, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Black Storks, Booted Eagles, Red Kites, Lesser short-toed Larks, Calandra Larks, Stone Curlews, Black-necked Grebes, Ospreys, the elegant Slender-billed gulls, Short-toed Treecreper, among others. The drive was rather long so we left the area not before too long.

Day 4 - Transfer to Sierra Morena

Today was the transfer to Sierra Morena where the last big population of Iberian Lynx is left. So after breakfast we drove just doing some comfort stops and to see some beautiful Black-shouldered Kites.
We arrived to the mountains and the first mammals started to appear. Red Dear, Rabbits – main prey of the Iberian Lynx. We waited but no luck with the cat. Iberian Lynx is one of the rarest species of cats in the world, with just over 200 individuals.

Day 5 and 6 - Sierra Morena, Andujar

We woke up before sunrise and came after down. We visited several spots but no luck with mister whiskers. Anyway we saw lots of different animals Moufflon, Fallow Deer, Spanish Ibex, Greater mouse-eared bad, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Black Vulture, Goshawk, Hawfinch, and heard the Eagle, Little and Tawny Owls. NO LUCK…YET. Even dough we found some very fresh scats in the morning and we were at -4ºC and they were not frozen yet, so they had to be from 1 or 2 hours ago. Len had a photo from the photo-trap that he had set with the back and tail of one of them.

Day 7 - Sierra Morena, Andujar

Our last day. Pressure was considerable. Rudolf has joined us, now I’m confident that we will see it. I’m always lucky with him. We waited and walk in new places where I had seen them before. Only fresh footprints from few hours before.
We drove to one of the previous places where it had been seen during the week and we waited there the rest of the day. Then some Magpies went bananas… There it was!!! No one, TWO!!! They were about 40meters away, so quite close. I found them in the scope and passed it to Annelise. She had seen them. Good!! But, where are Len and Rudolf!!! Oh nooo!! Len was away, eating by the minibus!! No idea where Rudolf was. I didn’t want to shout, so I piiiishhhht. Len didn’t react, he couldn’t hear me. So I tried to get his attention but he was too busy having a fest with the picnic. Finally I managed to get his attention but also from the 2 Lynx that were in mating season and the male was following the female and the female in such an intimate moment didn’t want any noise so they had left down a hill out of our vision. Great!! I had scared the animals away! We waited and waited! And then another lynx came across to my view. Just the rear quarters as it went into a bush. Nobody else saw it… but we had now one moving to the left, so it had to show at some point!! There it was, I found it again and put it in both scopes. It was marking the territory by defecating; give us good views for some seconds! They are quick, not like me that I need the Newspaper!! Rudy didn’t have his scope set so I try to give a rough idea where it was. By then, it was gone, but it came across another place set up the scopes for Len and Annelise. Rudy couldn’t find until last second and saw the tail going into the bush!! At least everybody had seen it and Ruddy will go on the next tour with me and he will have then more chances. We drove and we could hear one! Far away! We kept driving and there it was!!!IT WAS 7 METERS AWAY FROM US. Everybody stop breathing in the minibus!!!! I could hear Rudy’s heart, and his head going crazy because he didn’t have the camera with him. It was getting dark! I took one photo, but I didn’t use the flash to not scare the animal away.
We happily drove back to the hotel, had some dinner followed by whisky.

Day 8 - January 12th - Transfer Airport

Len’s flight was early so we didn’t have time for anything that day. I drove to the airport and we sadly said goodbye. Ruddy stayed a little longer with his car and tried to take some photos. Annelise and I stayed in hotel in Seville. Her flight was next morning.

Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardina)© Cristian Jensen. Sorry for the photo, but it was the only one I could take this time

Mammal list

  • Iberian Lynx Lynx pardina. We saw 4 individuals - 1 male and 3 females
  • Fox Vulpes vulpes. 1 dead animal at the road and 1 alive in Andujar
  • Red Deer Cervus elaphus. Plenty seen. Roring and fighting
  • Fallow Deer Dama dama. We saw about 50 individuals. Males and females
  • Spanish Ibex Capra pyrenaica. 3 females seen
  • Moufflon Ovis orientalis. About 50 indivuduals. Males and femles.
  • Otter Lutra lutra. Scats in Doñana and two possible animals agains the light and very distant in Andujar.
  • Spanish Hare Lepus granatensis. 3 animals.
  • Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus. Rather common in Andujar.
  • Greater Mouse-eared Bat Myotis myotis. One Animal in a tunnel.
  • Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus. In Doñana we saw several small bats putative to this species
  • Wild Cat Felix silvestris. Possible foot prints in Andujar very far away from any inhabitat place
  • Wild boar Sus scrofa. Only traks.
  • Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris. Several Pine cones been eaten by them.
  • Beach Marten Martes foina. Several excrements on a road.
  • Weasal Mustela nivalis. Possible excrements found from this species

Bird List - All birds contacted at least by two people - 150 species

  • Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
  • Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
  • Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
  • Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
  • Little Egret Egretta garzetta
  • Great Egret Egretta alba
  • Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
  • Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
  • Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
  • Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
  • Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
  • Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
  • White Stork Ciconia ciconia
  • Black Stork Ciconia nigra
  • Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
  • Greylag Goose Anser anser
  • Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
  • Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
  • Gadwall Anas strepera
  • Common Teal Anas crecca
  • Northern Pintail Anas acuta
  • Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
  • Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris
  • Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
  • Ferruginous Duck x Common Pochard Aythya nyroca x A.ferina
  • Common Pochard Aythya ferina
  • White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala
  • Black Vulture Aegypius monachus
  • Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
  • Osprey Pandion haliaetus
  • Red Kite Milvus milvus
  • Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
  • Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
  • Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
  • Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti
  • Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
  • Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
  • Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
  • Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
  • Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
  • Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
  • Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
  • Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
  • Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
  • Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
  • Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
  • Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa
  • Common Crane Grus grus
  • Common Coot Fulica atra
  • Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata
  • Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
  • Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
  • Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
  • Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
  • Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
  • European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria
  • Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
  • Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
  • Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
  • Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
  • Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
  • Dunlin Calidris alpina
  • Little Stint Calidris minuta
  • Sanderling Calidris alba
  • Common Redshank Tringa totanus
  • Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
  • Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
  • Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
  • Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
  • Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
  • Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
  • Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
  • Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
  • Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
  • Little Gull Larus minutus
  • Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
  • Slender-billed Gull Larus genei
  • Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
  • Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
  • Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
  • Feral Pigeon Columba livia feral
  • Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
  • Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
  • Barn Owl Tyto alba
  • Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo
  • Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus
  • Little Owl Athene noctua
  • Tawny Owl Strix aluco
  • Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
  • Hoopoe Upupa epops
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
  • Green Woodpecker Picus viridis
  • Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra
  • Skylark Alauda arvensis
  • Woodlark Lullula arborea
  • Crested Lark Galerida cristata
  • Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
  • Eurasian Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris
  • Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
  • Northern House Martin Delichon urbica
  • Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
  • White Wagtail Motacilla alba
  • Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
  • Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
  • Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
  • Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
  • Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
  • Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
  • Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
  • Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata
  • Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
  • Common Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
  • Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
  • Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
  • European Robin Erithacus rubecula
  • Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
  • Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
  • Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
  • Blackbird Turdus merula
  • Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
  • Eurasian Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus
  • Crested Tit Parus cristatus
  • European Blue Tit Parus caeruleus
  • Great Tit Parus major
  • Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea caesia
  • Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
  • Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
  • Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
  • Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
  • Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana
  • Northern Raven Corvus corax
  • Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula
  • Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
  • House Sparrow Passer domesticus
  • Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
  • Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
  • Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
  • Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
  • Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild
  • Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
  • European Serin Serinus serinus
  • European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
  • European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
  • Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina
  • Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
  • Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra
  • Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
  • Rock Bunting Emberiza cia


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