Spain

"Big Four" Mammals Tour

Brown Bears, Wolves, Wild Cats, Iberian Lynx and plenty of great birds

Despite being only a couple of hours by plane from the UK, Spain is home to some very different birds and animals including four special mammals: Brown Bear, Wolf, Wild Cat and Iberian Lynx.

On this tour, we will be working with expert local guides and are genuinely hopeful of finding all of these, as well as an impressive list of speciality birds.

Starting in Northern Spain, we spend several days exploring the beautiful Cantabrian Mountains including the Somiedo National Park. Our trip is deliberately timed to maximise on the chances of finding bears, wolves and cats and by working with local experts, we are genuinely hopeful of finding all three species.

Other mammals we could see include Iberian Ibex, Pyrenean Chamois and Wild Boar and should our mammal watching prove successful, we may visit the Picos de Europa mountains to look for Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor and Griffon Vulture, with the possibility of also finding Golden, Booted and Short-toed Eagles and even the majestic Lammergeier.

We will then head south to explore a patchwork of cereal fields and shallow lakes on Spain's central plain where we hope to find Great and Little Bustards, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Calandra Lark as well as White-headed Duck, Western Swamphen and Moustached Warbler.

Our holiday will then conclude with two full days dedicated to looking for Iberian Lynx and we will have access to some private farms where there are good populations of these rare felines.

This area also has some fantastic new birds and we stand great chances of also finding Spanish Imperial Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Black (Cinerous) Vulture, Black Stork and Iberian Magpie before reluctantly heading home.

Tour Dates & Prices

Tour Highlights

  • Early autumn trip looking for many of Spain's speciality mammals and birds
  • Six days in North Spain for Brown Bear, Wolf and Wild Cat
  • Birds in this region could include Wallcreeper, Lammergeier and Alpine Accentor
  • Explore La Mancha for White-headed Duck, Great and Little Bustards, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Calandra Lark and Moustached Warbler
  • Continue south and explore private estates for Iberian Lynx
  • Look for Spanish Imperial Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Black Vulture, Black Stork and Iberian Magpie
  • Expertly led by English-speaking Spanish wildlife specialist Fernando Enrique Navarrete assisting by expert local guides

Outline Itinerary

  • Arrive in Northern Spain. Transfer to Pola de Somiedo. Evening excursion to look for Brown Bear.

  • Morning and evening excursions looking for Brown Bears.

  • Early morning excursion for bears. Transfer to Riaño. Evening excursion looking for Wolf and Wild Cat.

  • Excursions looking for Wolf and Wild Cat with local birding when not looking for animals. If mammals are seen well on day 5 then we may visit the higher mountains for Wallcreeper etc

  • Depart for La Mancha. Late afternoon birding excursion if time allows.

  • Birding excursion in La Mancha.

  • Morning birding excursion in La Mancha. Drive to Baños de la Encina. Late afternoon excursion to look for Iberian Lynx.

  • Morning and evening excursions looking for Lynx and other birds and wildlife with break in the middle of the day.

  • Morning wildlife excursion then drive to Malaga airport where the tour concludes.

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
JMM_8314
Wild Cat, Northern Spain c/o WildWatch Spain

Although Spain is only a short flight from the UK, the wildlife is very different to the British Isles and on this new and exciting tour, we plan to target four special mammals, Brown Bear, Wolf, Wild Cat and Iberian Lynx and working with expert local guides in all the regions we intend to visit, we hope to find them all.

We also plan to spend some time looking for birds with the possibilities including Black (Cinerous) Vulture, Great and Little Bustard, Black-belled and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, White-headed and Marbled Ducks, Wallcreeper, Moustached Warbler and Iberian Magpie.

Our trip will begin in the beautiful Cantabrian Mountains of Northern Spain.  Initially based in the Somiedo National Park, we will concentrate on finding Brown Bears which in the late summer are already fattening up for the winter on a diet of Hazelnuts and berries. The early mornings and evenings are the best time to look for them and patience and good optical equipment are both required.

We will then move east to the mountain village of Riaño which is considered one of the best places in Europe to look for family packs of Wolves. At the end of summer, the cubs are typically still reasonably close to their dens and are, therefore, easier to locate than later in the year when they roam more widely.

The valley meadows not far from our hotel are also home to Wild Cats, which hunt rodents in the early mornings and late afternoons, and in the surrounding countryside we hope to find Black, Iberian Green and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, as well as Iberian Grey Shrike, Iberian Chiffchaff, Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow.

Other mammals we could find include Iberian Ibex, Pyrenean Chamois and Wild Boar and if our mammal watching has proved successful, we will head into the Picos de Europa mountains on one day to look for Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor, Griffon Vulture and Alpine Choughs. There are also opportunities to look for Golden, Booted and Short-toed Eagles and even occasionally the Lammergeier.

After five full days in the mountains, we will head south to La Mancha. It is a longish journey but this region is very different being part of Spain’s vast central plain. Scattered amongst the cereal fields and vines are a patchwork of shallow lakes and we will spend a day exploring this interesting habitat looking for a range of birds we will not have encountered so far. Out on the plains, we will look for Great and Little Bustards, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Calandra Lark and Stone Curlew, whilst we will hope to see White-headed Duck, Moustached Warbler, Western Swamphen, Greater Flamingo and Zitting Cisticola in nearby wetlands.

For the final part of our tour, we will base ourselves near the small town of Andujar where our emphasis will switch back to mammals and working with local experts, we will begin our quest for the final mammal mega of our trip, the Iberian Lynx. We plan to have two full days in the area (plus a late afternoon and early morning) with part of our time being spent on private fincas (farms) where there are known populations of Lynx.

Whilst our main emphasis will be on trying to locate this endangered feline, there should also be time to see a good variety of birds with possibilities including Spanish Imperial Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Black (Cinerous) Vulture, Black Stork and Iberian Magpie.

After a final morning, we will reluctantly leave for Malaga where our tour will conclude in the afternoon at the airport.

Please note:  it is important to appreciate that we will be spending long periods scanning for wildlife on some parts of this trip.  There will be some early starts and late finishes so we intend to follow the Spanish habit of taking a siesta during the heat of the day, although on some days there will be optional local birding offered.

Potential Mammals (selected species only)

European Red Squirrel, Broom Hare, Wildcat, Iberian Lynx, Wolf, Red Fox, Brown Bear, Wild Boar, Red Deer, Western Roe Deer, Iberian Ibex, Pyrenean Chamois.

Potential Birds (selected species only)

Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Western Swamphen, Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Stone Curlew, Black Stork, White Stork, Black-winged Kite, Bearded Vulture/Lammergeier, Egyptain Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Black (Cinerous) Vulture, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Booted Eagle, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Iberian Grey Shrike, Iberian Magpie, Alpine Chough, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Thekla's Lark, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Moustached Warbler, Wallcreeper, Bluethroat, Common Rock Thrush, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Alpine Accentor, Citril Finch, Rock Bunting.

Day 1

Arrival in Northern Spain.  Transfer to Pola de Somiedo. Evening excursion to look for Brown Bear.  

Days 2-3

Morning and evening excursions typically of about 5 hours each (07:00-12:00 and 18:00-22:00) looking for Brown Bears with local birding/siesta in early-mid afternoon.

Day 4

Early morning excursion for bears.  Transfer to Riaño.  Evening excursion looking for Wolf and Wild Cat.

Days 5-6

Morning and evening excursions typically of about 5 hours each (07:00-12:00 and 18:00-22:00) looking for Wolf and Wild Cat with local birding when not looking for animals.  

If the animals are seen well on day 5 then we may visit the higher mountains for Wallcreeper and other birds and animals.

Day 7

Depart for La Mancha. Late afternoon birding excursion if time allows.  

Day 8

Birding excursion in La Mancha.

Day 9

Morning birding excursion in La Mancha. Drive to Baños de la Encina.  Late afternoon excursion to look for Iberian Lynx.

Days 10-11

Morning and evening excursions looking for Lynx and other birds and wildlife with break in the middle of the day.

Day 12

Morning wildlife excursion then drive to Malaga airport where the tour concludes.

NB: the exact itinerary will be subject to weather, local conditions and local permissions.

Group Size

Maximum of eight participants and one WildWings leader plus local guides

Accommodation

Eleven nights accommodation in Spain, staying in rural and small town hotels.

We spend the first 6 nights in the mountains of Northern Spain (spending three nights at two different rural hotels). From there, we travel to La Mancha for a 2-night stay, before concluding with three nights near Andujar.

All rooms have private facilities.

Meals

All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with a light lunch on Day 1 (subject to flight times) and concluding with lunch on Day 12.

Breakfasts and evening meals will be at the hotels. Lunches are likely to be a mixture of picnics and light cafe lunches.

Walking

Our walks will be mixed with some short (eg when watching for targets from various viewpoints) but there may be other occasions when we have optional long walks which may be uphill. Depending on our success with our main targets in Northern Spain we may go higher into the mountains to look for Wallcreeper and other birds.

Wear comfortable walking shoes or lightweight boots, with sturdy corrugated soles for grip.

Weather

The weather in the north of Spain is likely to be pleasant but if we go high into the mountains it is likely to be cool and there are chances of rain so it will be important to bring some warm and weatherproof clothing.

Extremadura in late autumn is typically warm and sunny. It can be chilly first thing, however, with the occasional ground frost possible at this season.

Flights

Despite the end of many pandemic restrictions, it is still proving extremely difficult to predict future flight prices and schedules. As a result, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.

To keep the process as simple as possible, we are working very closely with a dedicated agent at Travel Counsellors, Sacha Barbato, who is essentially now our “in house” flight consultant.

Sacha will be able to advise you which flights we are recommending for each holiday, and he will be able to book these for you.

Ground Transport

By minibus.

    Tour Gallery

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