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John's 2011 spring wildlife holidays

John Muddeman
21/01/2011 12:25:40

Come and discover the exciting range of birds, mammals, butterflies, dragonflies and other wildlife in Spain and C & E Europe on John's spring tours.

Posted in: Flora, Butterflies and Moths, Dragonflies and Damselflies, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, Mammals | Aragon, Extremadura | Northern Spain, Western Spain, Non-Iberian

Dear All European Roller2 - Coracius garrulus © John MuddemanEuropean Roller Coracias garrulus© John Muddeman

After a very busy Christmas and New Year period, combined with a moribund computer, I've finally been spurred into writing given a few requests for 1 or 2-day trips in Madrid, Segovia and Extremadura over the next few months.

But in order to start ‘catching up’ I would first like to thank you for your support in 2010 and also wish everyone a very happy, healthy and hopefully prosperous 2011!

Extremadura My spring kicks off with a trip to this fantastic part of SW Spain, and as this is already confirmed with a small group, I am greatly looking forward to showing them some the terrific range of wildlife which can Early Spider Ophrys  - Ophrys sphegodes incubacea © John MuddemanEarly Spider Ophrys
Ophrys s. incubacea
© John Muddeman
be enjoyed here in spring. While birds dominate, and the larger species such as Cinereous, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Spanish Imperial, Short-toed and Bonelli’s Eagles, Montagu’s Harriers, Black and White Storks and Great Bustards usually figure very highly, this is also supported by a wide range of other often enigmatic southern species, including Little Bustards, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, European Roller, European Bee-eater and Eurasian Hoopoe, amongst many others. In addition the spring flowers should be in bloom and include a fine array of orchids, including gems such as various ‘Bee’ Ophrys and larger species such as Naked Man Orchid. Hopefully a smattering of butterflies should delight the eye too, including Spanish Festoon, Provence Orange-tip or perhaps even a reencounter with Chapman’s Green Hairstreak on the cards.

Belarus Azure Tit - Cyanistes cyanus © John MuddemanAzure Tit Cyanistes cyanus© Balázs Szigeti/Ecotours Wildlife Holidays An exciting new destination for us in rural E Europe. While a wide variety of birds are again the main focal point, including the ‘star’ attraction of the stunning Azure Tit (but amongst many others), there should be a fine variety of other wildlife too, though we’ll need to get there to really see what it offers! Largely unknown at present to Westerners, the country contains some magnificent wetlands, rivers and forests, not surprisingly with correspondingly good birds and mammals to boot Great Grey Owl - Strix nebulosa © John MuddemanGreat Grey Owl Strix nebulosa© Ádám Selmeczi Kovács/
Ecotours Wildlife Holidays
. With Black Stork, Whooper Swan, Smew, White-tailed, Greater and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Hazel Grouse, Corncrake, Great Snipe, Terek Sandpiper, White-winged Tern, Great Grey and Pygmy Owls, Grey-headed and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers, Citrine Wagtail, Thrush Nightingale, Bluethroat, River and Barred Warblers, Red-breasted and Collared Flycatchers, Common Rosefinch and Ortolan Bunting all very possible, and to name just a few, the range is large and very enticing! Our tour includes the large Sporovo Reserve, which while not exactly being well known in the West, holds a staggering 90% of the world population of Aquatic Warbler! There are also chances of mammals too, including Wild Boar, Elk and even a remote chance of European Bison or something rarer, while other wildlife could include the Common Tree-frog, Fire-bellied Toad, Map Butterfly, Pearly-bordered Fritillary or even the Northern White-faced Darter dragonfly, to keep us more than occupied!

Eastern Austria An old Great Bustard male - Otis tarda © John MuddemanGreat Bustard male Otis tarda© John Muddemanfavourite of mine this one, and an excellent introduction to C European wildlife. Centred around the Seewinkel National Park and Lake Neusiedl, in the E of the country, the rather flat surroundings may come as something of a surprise, but the mosaic of arable fields, woodlands and scattered steppic lakes surrounded by true steppe grasslands are home to a host of species, from stately Great Bustards and ever-impressive White-tailed Eagles, through a wide range of other special species, including Eurasian Dotterel - Charadrius morinellus © John MuddemanEurasian Dotterel
Charadrius morinellus
© John Muddeman
Eastern Imperial Eagle, Saker, Great Egret, Great Bittern, Ferruginous Duck, Golden Oriole, Syrian Woodpecker, Bluethroat, Penduline Tit, Collared Flycatcher and a range of warblers, including Icterine, Savi’s, River and Barred. This is also still at the end of the migration season, the flowers are diverse and there are usually plenty of butterflies and dragonflies at one or two special spots. Naturally, no visit to the country would be without a visit to the mountains, including its suite of high-altitude breeders, including Alpine Chough, Ring Ouzel, Water Pipit and Lesser Redpoll, plus Alpine Chamois. With two options possible, the one we choose is dependent on the weather, but both are good, as was confirmed by a trip of vagrant Dotterel at our alternative site last year!

Duke of Burgundy - Hemaeris lucida © John MuddemanDuke of Burgundy Hamaeris lucina© John Muddeman Spanish Pyrenees Another old favourite and at a great time for combining birds, flowers and butterflies. From the hot lowlands up to the high passes, we explore a range of habitats characteristic of the mountain range, particularly in search of some of its key species, including Lammergeier, Wallcreeper and Citril Finch, but along with a number of others, including a range of other gems Narcissus-flowered Anemone - Anemone narcissiflora © John MuddemanNarcissus-flowered Anemone
Anemone narcissiflora
© John Muddeman
possible including Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, European Honey-buzzard, Black and Red Kites, Golden and Short-toed Eagles, Eurasian Eagle-owl, Black Woodpecker, Rock and Ortolan Buntings, or even the diminutive, but exquisite Firecrest. The plants on display vary every year, according to if it’s an early, normal or late season, but one site we never fail to visit is one of just a handful in Spain for the extraordinary Lady’s Slipper Orchid, usually at its peak at this time. Other orchids range from Lizard and Lady Orchids in the lower areas to Elder-flowered and Frog Orchids in the higher pastures. Butterflies are teeming in some years, ranging from exquisite blues and tricky fritillaries, to the gaudy Cleopatra and impressive Scarce Swallowtail, so there’s something for everyone!

Upper Val d'Herens, Switzerland © John MuddemanUpper Val d'Herens, Switzerland© John MuddemanSwitzerland Another mountain trip, but this time to C Europe. This is an all-round trip again, concentrating on birds, but with abundant flowers and butterflies amongst some fabulous ‘chocolate-box’ scenery. Staying in the Val d’Herens in the French-speaking SW means we are in the heart of an area where subsidies compensate to maintain ancient management methods including hand-cutting of the species-rich flower meadows, particularly diverse in Alpine Ibex kids - Capra ibex2 © John MuddemanAlpine Ibex kids Capra ibex© John Muddemanbutterflies and naturally also good for birds, too. But it also means we can drop quickly down to the Rhone valley, with almost Mediterranean conditions and where we look for a few species such as Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and Melodious Warbler, a recent colonist to the area, in marked contrast to the White-winged Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough and Water Pipits of the high tops! With Wallcreeper regular in a favoured gorge, Rock Ptarmigan on heathery valley slopes and very god chances of Alpine Ibex and Alpine Marmot too, this is a great introduction to the Alps at a superb time of year.

TAILOR-MADE, 'ANYTIME' TOURS And please remember Provence Hairstreak - Tomares ballus © John MuddemanProvence Hairstreak Tomares ballus© John Muddeman that should you want any sort of tailor-made option for a natural history tour to Spain, from a half-day to a couple of weeks, and whether travelling alone, with family or as a group, then we are always open to enquiries to see if we can provide you with a guide, and make arrangements on the ground where necessary. Please feel free to just drop John, Teresa or Mike a line to see how we can help. Please note that these links take you to the bottom of our personal pages where you'll see another link direct to our respective emails.

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