Tour Dates: Wednesday 2nd – Monday 7th September 2020 (Santander to Santander)
Tour Price: £1,399pp plus ferry
Estimated Ferry Price: Portsmouth to Santander approx. £250 return
Deposit: £400 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £50 – £100
Minimum Number: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people
Mammals: European Wildcat with a good chance of Iberian Wolf and an outside chance of Brown Bear
Birds: Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor, Yellow-billed Chough, European Honey Buzzard, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Egyptian Vulture plus a good selection of passage migrants.
This tour is based in the beautiful Cantabrian Mountains and associated foothills of the Picos de Europa National Park. The purpose of the tour is to try and see European Wildcat and Iberian Wolf. During the daytime when mammal activity is low we will spend time looking for some of the speciality birds to be found in this area, in particular the beautiful Wallcreeper. We will take the ferry across the Bay of Biscay as our mode of transport to Northern Spain. Dependent on the sailing times, we could also see a good selection of whales prior to the start of the tour in Spain with, Fin, Sperm and some of the rare beaked whales like Cuvier’s Beaked Whale.
For many years, seeing mammals like Wildcat and Wolf in Europe has always been one of the toughest challenges. However, in the last few years, thanks to the specialist knowledge and dedication of our local guides, it has become a lot easier! Late summer is the best time to find the European Wildcat, when newly cut meadows allow excellent hunting opportunities for Wildcats. Likewise, this is also a good time to see Wolves as this is when family groups can be located. During late summer, we should enjoy perfect weather in the mountains, with pleasant temperatures throughout and at least some sunshine with good light conditions for observation and photography, both in the early hours of the morning and during the late afternoon or early evening.
It is a beautiful landscape in which to observe these mammals and at this time of year, groups of Iberian Wolves are busy feeding their young in the vicinity of the den and Wild Cats are actively hunting in the newly cut meadows. Viewing distances for Wildcats can be as close as 75 – 100M and therefore perfect for those keen on photography and it is not unusual to see a number of individuals in a single day! Wolf viewing tends to be at a greater distance, but is still an exciting experience with animals usually in the region of 300-400M.
ACCOMMODATION: 5 nights in Spain
A mid quality hotel in the heart of wildcat habitat
5 nights near Boca de Huergano
Meals: Full board
DAY 1: Arrival Santander
We will arrive during the early evening and then take the 3 hour transfer to our hotel. Overnight Boca de Huergano
DAYS 2 – 3: Remain in local area
The next two days will take a similar format with the first and last parts of each day spent focused on trying to get good views of the two key mammal species (Wolf and Wildcat) and the rest of the day will be spent birding around the local area where we will look for species such as Honey Buzzard, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Egyptian Vuture and more. Whilst we wait and scan for our target species, we will also have the opportunity to watch other interesting mammals such as the Chamois, Wild Boar, Red Deer and Roe Deer. Overnight Boca de Huergano
DAY 4: Picos de Europa
Today, we head in search of Alpine birds and take the cable car from Fuente De to the high mountain tops. We will spend the morning walking and exploring the area searching for the alpine specialities such as Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Wallcreeper and maybe White-winged Snowfinch. We will spend the afternoon searching for Wildcats again, close to the hotel. Overnight Boca de Huergano
DAY 5: Flexible day
Today will be flexible dependent on our success with the mammals.
We will explore the local area looking for birds and then focus again on mammals during the key times of day.
Overnight Boca de Huergano
DAY 6: Departure
Dependent on sailing times, we may be able to spend our last morning enjoying last views of Wildcat before transferring to the ferry port at Santander where the tour concludes.
Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides
Leaders: Chris Townend & local guides where needed
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, bottled water, entrance fees, ground transport and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International ferry, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £140
Transport: Minivan or Minibus dependent on group size
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate (for Wolves)
When searching for Wildcats, much of our time in a vehicle. The walking is easy going with short leisurely walks on open forest trails. The walk in the Picos is also relatively flat after the cable car journey. However, there may be a need to walk up steep hills for viewing wolves.
Climate: Variable from quite cold in the mornings to pleasantly warm during the day with a chance of rain.
Tour Start Point: Portsmouth ferry port, UK
Tour End Point: Portsmouth ferry port, UK