Clearly, the highlight of my/Mikee Hoit/Will Soar's weekend in the Sierra du Andujar (Andalcuia, Spain) was our brilliant encounters with Iberian Lynx, about which I have already blogged. But the remit of the weekend (and thus of its inclusion in my forthcoming travel guide to European wildlife-watching experiences) was much wider. Andujar is simply an excellent place to watch wildlife. We had a number of targets, and - largely dispensing with sleep - pretty much saw them all amidst some mighty fine scenery.
The main mammalian highlight was bats. The tunnel immediately west of Jandula dam held 3-4 species: Greater Mouse-eared, probable Lesser Mouse-eared, Schreiber's and Daubenton's. Peering up at cracks in the tunnel roof was great fun.
Ungulates were the non-feline stars, with a decent group of pre-dawn Moufflon opposite the 'comedero de los toros', a short way along the heavily potholed La Lancha road and a distant group of Spanish Ibex on the western cliff face immediately south of Jandula dam.
My favourite bird experience of the trip, however, was Crag Martin at Jandula dam. I have never seen so many at a single site. At times the sky was full of them. My photos of the wall below reveal 128 at least perched: there were probably a fair few more than that scattered around.
We were a little stymied for reptiles, as we weren't usually in the right habitat when the sun deigned to appear. Nevertheless, we managed two decent lizards (a juvenile Large Psammodramus and several "Vaucher's" Wall Lizards; both ticks, taxonomy permitting) and several of the globally threatened Spanish Slider, a terrapin.
Plantwise, my hopes for an odd Ophrys orchid were dashed. Flowering wild rosemary was glorious; so too lavender. Throw in ample lupins, numerous tiny Jonquil daffodils, and this gorgeous little thing (currently unidentified) and you have loads of flora to accompany Andujar's outstanding fauna. What a weekend! Definitely among Europe's best...
Amphibians were fun, although we failed to find either salamanders or newts, so it was 'merely' frogs and toads. Natterjack Toads were encountered in most places, usually on the road, but we also tracked down a pond near the Encinerejo dam where several males were holding territory, with one having succeeded in persuading a female to mate.
A few Woodlark were singing, including pre-dawn, and one bird showed very nicely indeed.
At dusk there were 30+ Mouse-eared Bat spp. flying along the dam wall at Encinerejo, with several noisy, long-tailed European Free-tailed Bats, a presumed Serotine, and several pipistelle spp. overhead.
Stripeless Tree Frogs were complete stars. We had three in one pond along the Encinerejo trail and heard others, plus many were calling at Los Pinos, our hotel (which kindly offered me free lodging).
Not herps, I know, but while we are talking of water, these crayfish (yet to be identified) were worth a mention. We found them in a pond below the Encinerejo dam and further south in the river by the road bridge.
There was plenty of birdlife to see. In the skies, Griffon and Cinereous Vultures were reasonably common, and we encountered perhaps 5-6 different Iberian Imperial Eagle, five Golden Eagle and a Booted Eagle.
Iberian Water Frogs were calling very noisily along the Encinerejo trail, but mostly from a pond on the opposite side of the river. Over on our side, we encountered two very distinct individuals (one big and spotty, one small and stripy). Nice creatures.
My only new terrestrial mammal (Lynx aside) was Iberian Hare, which we saw along the road south of Los PInos towards Andujar, during the day. No photographs though. No images either of the herd of 20-odd Wild Boar seen at night at one of the picnic sites along the Encinarejo trail. Other mammals bumped into included European Hedgehog and Wood Mouse. Fallow and, particularly, Red Deer were common everywhere. One Red Deer stag had managed to evade the deer fences and was running free on the road, trotting ahead of us for several km until we manage to overtake it.
Typical Iberian fare such as Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpie, Serin and Sardinian Warbler were all common. Rock Buntings hung out in a few suitable places, as did Red-billed Chough, Black Redstart and Blue Rock Thrush. Iberian Green Woodpecker was ostensibly a tick (we only saw two, and relatively poorly, but heard scores). Hawfinches were gloriously common.
I even managed a few passable flight shots.