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It is very difficult to see the Wolf', saidSeñor Mozo. Then, pointing to numerouspoints all over a large map of the area,he added 'he can be anywhere'! Ourchances of a Wolf sighting looked slim, yet,by the time of our first tours in March 2006,Naturetrek staff had paid 14 visits to theregion and had successfully encounteredWolves on all but one of those visits. Wehave been delighted that this success ratehas proved sustainable whilst visiting ingroups, with 90% of our tours to datehaving seen Wolf. We have also seen WildBoar and 16 species of birds of prey. Wolf-watching can, indeed, seem very difficultduring the long hours that need to be put into track down such a notoriously elusiveanimal, but we believe that on this tour youhave as good a chance as any of actuallyseeing a Wolf in Europe!The Cordillera Cantábrica and its outlyingranges hold the vast majority of Spain's2,500 to 3,000 Wolves and are thestronghold of the species in Europe. Thisis a population that has increasedmarkedly since an estimated all-time lowof just 500 individuals in 1970. Thedepopulation of Spain's rural regions, asSpaniards have increasingly migrated intothe cities, has benefited the Wolf, as has achanging attitude towards an animal thatwas once viciously persecuted.The particular area in which we have beenwatching Wolves in recent years, and onwhich we focus during this holiday, is aregion of rolling hills and broad valleyswhich affords excellent opportunities toscan wide areas of open land and whichmay easily be accessed via an extensivenetwork of metalled roads and gravelledforest tracks. It is a landscape that is partScotland, part New Forest; it is a rollingtapestry of conifer plantations, sprawlingoak woodlands, extensive heaths, ancientgrazing meadows enclosed bytumbledown dry stone walls, and dampgrassy hollows marked by elegant poplarstands. Much of the birdlife here is sharedwith such similar habitats in Britain. Birdsof prey are much in evidence, and includeRed Kites, Hen Harriers, Sparrowhawks,Common Buzzards, Kestrels, Merlins andeven the occasional Golden Eagle. Coniferforests are filled with Firecrests, Coal andCrested Tits, Jays and large and noisyflocks of Crossbills. The heaths holdWoodlarks, Stonechats and DartfordWarblers, whilst Ravens honk evocativelyas they pass overhead. Good numbers ofboth Red and Roe Deer (the prey of theWolf!) complete the picture. But, take alook around the traditional granite-builtvillages of the region and the CrestedLarks, Black Redstarts, Southern GreyShrikes, Spotless Starlings, RockSparrows, Serins, Cirl Buntings and RockBuntings soon confirm that you really arein southern Europe ... as, too, do the WildBoar that are common in this region.Looking for Wolves requires a great deal ofpersistence, patience and stealth. It alsorequires a lot of luck . not least with theweather! We will spend much of each day(certainly the first and last three or fourhours) touring the roads and tracksthroughout the hills and stopping forvariable periods at suitable viewpoints inorder to scan for Wolves, and any othermammals and also birds that we mayhappen to see. We may also go out afterdark to listen for Wolves. En route to and from the hills we will detourto a very special area of rolling agriculturalland. Here, low intensity farming ispractised specifically to encourage birdlife,especially the Great Bustard. The areaoffers a bleak yet charming landscape,almost from a bygone age, its undulatingplains stretching in all directions to thehorizon, a mosaic of stubble, plough andset-aside grasslands broken by wildwetlands and traditional old farmingvillages, often of mud construction andeach dominated by a giant church withstatutory Storks' nests adorning eachimposing bell-tower. Lavish antique 'pigeonhouses' and grain silos, both ornatelyfashioned from mud and clay tiles, furthercharacterise the landscape. Here, GreatBustards occur in vast numbers, severalhundred or more generally being easilyobserved within a single visit. We will alsolook for the flocks of Common Cranes andthe thousands of Greylag Geese and otherwaterfowl that winter here, together withMarsh and Hen Harriers, Merlins, Red Kitesand other raptors. Amongst a great manyother species that we will hope to see maybe Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouseand numerous larks, finches and buntings.So good is this site that it might even merita full day's excursion for anyone wishing fora break from the routine of our dailysearches for Wolves, for, as Señor Mozostressed, 'it is very difficult to see theWolf'. but a lot easier finding Bustards!Wolves & Bustards in Rural SpainA 5-day holiday to a little-known and very rural corner of northern Spain in search of Wolves in the hills, and Common Cranes and Great Bustards on the plains.Tuesday 23rd October - Saturday 27th October 2012 Cost: £695Saturday 27th October - Wednesday 31st October 2012 Cost: £695Tuesday 30th April - Saturday 4th May 2013 Cost: £795Friday 14th June - Tuesday 18th June 2013 Cost: £795Friday 20th September - Tuesday 24th September 2013 Cost: £795Monday 23rd December - Friday 27th December 2013 Cost: £895128Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryFRANCEPORTUGALSEVILLEBILBAOCORDILLERA CANT!BRICAVALLADOLIDMADRIDATLANTICOCEANMEDITERRANEANSEASPAINGreat BustardRural SpainWolfWolf country!'Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Valladolíd; transferto the hills.Day 2/4Daily programme ofWolf-tracking, and/orbirdwatching, excursions.Day 5Fly Stansted.Accommodation A simple but clean and comfortablevillage hotel (that doubles as thevillage inn); all rooms haveattached private bathrooms. Food All included in the price.GradingGrade A. Some easy walks, butmost of our Wolf-tracking/watchingis done by patiently scanning frompanoramic viewpoints. Focus Wolves, Great Bustards and otherbirds and mammals.LeaderGerald Broddelez, Byron Palaciosor Dave Pierce.Single room supplement£65.ExtensionA self-drive extension to the ParqueNatural Hoces del Rio Duratón forDupont's Larks and other steppespecies can be arranged onrequest.Web quick search: ESP19

Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking Information129Catalonia is an immensely proud andsemi-autonomous region of Spainwhich boasts its own culture andlanguage, age-old customs and festivals,a highly diverse landscape, andinternationally renowned culinarytraditions. Situated in the north-east of theIberian Peninsula, it has over six millioninhabitants and covers an area the size ofBelgium or Switzerland. The CatalonianPyrenees, part of that spectacularmountain barrier between France andSpain, dominate the entire north of theregion, stretching for more than 200kilometres from Val d'Aran, in the west, tothe headland of Cape Creus, in the east,where the last rocky spurs of thePyrenees, stripped bare by the wind andwaves, plunge into the Mediterranean. It isa dramatic land of snow-capped peaks,glacial lakes, wooded gorges andastonishing rock formations, and its floraand fauna is similarly rich. This 2-centre holiday, inspired by theeternal popularity of our long-runningSpanish and French Pyrenees tours,together with the enthusiasm andencouragement of the Catalans for us toshare some of their rich natural heritage, isbased for the first three nights in charmingaccommodation at the monastery of SantaMaria de Bellpuig, near les Avellanes.Nearby, tiny picturesque villages dot thelandscape, beloved of such species asBlue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, CirlBunting and Bonelli's Warbler, whilstsurrounding areas hold Wryneck, GoldenOriole, Melodious, Dartford and OrpheanWarblers and Ortolan Bunting. This is alsoa good base from which to search formore typical 'southern' and steppe birdssuch as Little Bustard, Crested and TheklaLark, Black Wheatear and Lesser Kestrel.A distinct flora will be evident here and wewill no doubt appreciate the colourfulabundance of such wayside flowers asmulleins, thistles, mallows, asphodels andJudas Trees.We next head north-east, leaving thetranquil surroundings of the monastery totransfer to our next base, a splendidmountain hotel high up in the Pyrenees.Our journey will take us through a varietyof habitats. The flora of the area is awonderful mix of Mediterranean, northernEuropean and Alpine. In the villages, SoftSnapdragon (Antirrhinum molle) grows onthe walls. Along the tracks grow Rosemary,Thyme, Lavender, Rock Soapwort(Saponaria ocymoides), Blue Apyllanthes(Aphyllanthes monspeliensis), Centaureaconifera, Clary (Salvia sclarea) and manyvetches, including the pungent Pitch Trefoil(Psoralea bituminosa). In delightfulmeadows many orchids are found,including Lesser and Greater Butterfly,Woodcock, Fly and Fragrant Orchid, aswell as both Sword-leaved and RedHelleborine. Birds of prey will be verymuch in evidence, and may includeGolden Eagle, together with WoodchatShrike, Hoopoe, Red Kite and Short-toed Eagle.Perhaps the highlight of our holiday will bea visit to the spectacular Parc Nationald'Aiguestortes, in the high Pyrenees. LandRover taxis take us up as far as the snow-line and within tantalising distance of themajestic summits. Here we are transportedinto a different world, botanically speaking,with true alpine flowers such as AlpinePasque Flower (Pulsatilla alpinassp.sulphurea), gentians, Snowbells and bothBirdseye and Entire-leaved Primroses(Primula farinosaand P. integrifolia)amongst a wealth of other interestingplants. Birds at this altitude may includeCitril Finch, Crested Tit, Crossbill, AlpineAccentor, Crag Martin, Alpine Swift andpossibly Black Woodpecker. We will also spend time around the little-visited eastern edge of the national park,enjoying a backdrop of tiny villages,flower-filled meadows and pinewoods.Later we will drive up to a mountain refugewhere a short uphill walk will take us to aspot with splendid mountain scenery.Along the way Black Woodpecker, Crested Tit, Ring Ouzel and Capercailliemay all be seen. On our final day we will set out to followone of the best rivers for Otters inCatalonia. Walking past meadows ofdaffodils, little-known mountain villagesand a landscape awash with hedgerowsand copses, we should see such birds asRed-backed Shrike, Golden Oriole, CirlBunting and Yellowhammer in abundance.After lunch we will retrace our steps alongthis very special valley and then head to amountain pass at over 2,000 metres wherethere will be another chance to see suchelusive alpine species as Rock Thrush,Alpine Chough, Water Pipit and evenAlpine Accentor. This region of Spain has something ofinterest for everyone. The flowers, birdsand butterflies are outstanding; not tomention the scenery, food and hospitality!Catalonia - The Eastern PyreneesAn 8-day holiday of birdwatching and botanical walks in the Catalonian Pyrenees.Wednesday 1st May - Wednesday 8th May Cost: £1,295TOULOUSE LES AVELLANESESPOTBARCELONA CATALONIA LLEIDA REUS TARRAGONA ANDORRA BILBAO MADRID PARC NATIONALD'AIGUESTORTESFRANCE SPAIN Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Barcelona; transferles Avellanes.Day 2/3Daily programme ofbirdwatching andbotanical walks in theCatalan Pyrenees.Day 4/7Espot.Day 8Fly UK.Accommodation Charming, family-run hotels servingexcellent local food, both withprivate facilities.Food All included in the price.GradingGrade A/B. Easy day walks only.Focus Birds, plants and other wildlife.LeadersJaume Zurita (ornithologist) andAndrew Cleave or Paul Harmes(botanist).Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsBarcelona city breaks, and otheroptions, available on request.Web quick search: ESP01Woodcock OrchidLesser KestrelMontrebie Gorge