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News in brief: Germany, Ireland, France, Madeira & the Azores

Globeflowers (Ingrid Patmore)

Globeflowers, Bavarian Alps (Ingrid Patmore)

In Germany ...
Despite the unseasonably cold, rainy weather on our 8-day ‘The Bavarian Alps’ tour in late May/early June, our group spent a most enjoyable week amongst beautiful mountain scenery and a wealth of wildlife. Among the botanical highlights were Bird’s-eye Primroses, Alpine Snowbells, Spring, Bladder and Clusius' Gentians, swathes of Globeflowers and Pristine Lady’s Slipper, Fly, Bird’s-nest and Coral Root Orchids. Avian highlights included Golden Eagle and Crag Martin, while Red Squirrels were seen in Salzburg, and Chamois and Marmots in the mountains. Our group also visited the beautiful city of Salzburg as well as Eagle’s nest, Hitler’s infamous mountain retreat. One of the great bonuses of this holiday is the ability to see so much of interest, both in terms of wildlife and culture, and all without travelling more than 200 miles during the whole tour!

Our next 8-day The Bavarian Alps holiday departs Monday 5th June 2017. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email for further details.

In the Republic of Ireland ...

Our 4-day botanical holiday to ‘The Burren' in May enjoyed fine weather and an abundance of special plants. Bloody Crane's-Bill (Geranium sanguineum), Spring Gentian (Gentiana verna) and plentiful mats of Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) were seen at every turn as well as Mountain Everlasting (Antennaria dioica) and Burnet Rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia). Other rarer and interesting plants included several specimens of Irish Orchid (Neotinea maculata), Irish Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza occidentalis) and Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera) to name just a few. Irish Saxifrage (Saxifraga rosaceae) and Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) sheltering in a deep gryke were both seen at Black Head. Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifrage hypnoides) was seen on two days in different locations. This small corner of County Clare contains about 48% of the native vascular plants of Britain and Ireland. Combine the amazing, rare and abundant, showy flora with surreal karst landscape including its ancient monuments and varying habitats, as well as good company and delicious food, and one has, what can only be described as heaven on earth!

Our next 4-day The Burren holiday departs on Tue 23rd May 2017. Please call Dave Shute on 01962 733051 or email for further information.

In France ...

Highlights on our 8-day holiday in May to the Cévennes, in the south-east corner of the Massif Central, included drifts of the red and yellow Elder-flowered Orchid and a bank of Monkey, Lady and Military Orchids, Meadow Saxifrage, air rich with the scent of Piorno Broom and a meadow of Poet's Narcissi. Birding highlights included a trio of Honey Buzzards, a feeding frenzy of Griffon Vultures (attended by a fox!), an elegant Montagu's Harrier, Crag Martins, Serins and Black Redstarts, regular sightings of Red-backed Shrike and the constant sound of Nightingale. This holiday offers a week of great wildlife, great company and great scenery – of Mount Aigoual and distant views even of the Pyrenees in a beautiful yet relatively undiscovered area of France.

Our next 8-day France - The Cévennes holiday departs Wednesday 17th May 2017. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email for further details.

Risso's Dolphin (Ed Drewitt)

Risso's Dolphin (Ed Drewitt)

In the Azores ...

Our new  9-day ‘Great Whales of the Azores’ holiday, based on the island of Pico in the eastern Azores, goes in search of the Blue Whales which pass through these waters on migration each spring. Highlights included good views of 2 Blue Whales and 3 Fin Whales, the world’s largest and second largest mammals respectively. Both of these great whale species were seen within 20 metres of our group’s boat, and on another day our group was treated to the sight of 6 Sperm Whales! Other cetacean highlights included Bottlenose, Risso’s and Short-beaked Common Dolphins – the latter seen shooting out of the water at vast speeds and with tremendous energy. 13 Loggerhead Turtles, many Portuguese Man o' Wars and flocks of over 400 Cory's Shearwaters (many on one day seen diving to feed on krill) were among the other wildlife enjoyed.

Our next 9-day Great Whales of the Azores holiday departs Saturday 6th May 2017. Please call Dan Free on 01962 733051 or email for further details.

In Madeira ...

Highlights on our June ‘Dolphins & Whales of Madeira’ holiday included the sight of hundreds of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, tens of Common Dolphins still present in Madeira’s waters before they migrate north for the summer, three families of (60 in total) Short-finned Pilot Whales, small groups of Bottlenose Dolphins and a Bryde's Whale! Our group also enjoyed seeing Portuguese Man O' War, sleeping Loggerhead Turtles and seabirds during their time at sea (14 hours across four boat trips). Cory's and Manx Shearwaters, Bulwer's Petrels and a petrel that was identified as either a Zino's or a Desertas Petrel. The holiday includes one day on land during which the group saw a range of butterflies including Macaronesian Red Admiral and Madeiran Grayling which were feeding on colourful flowers in bright sunshine. In the island’s ancient laurel forest our group were treated to views of endemic Madeiran Firecrests which appeared amongst the trees and mist. Our group enjoyed hot sunshine and calm seas, as well as some tasty Madeiran cuisine during their stay on this beautiful island.

Our next 5-day Dolphins & Whales of Madeira holiday departs Thursday 1st June 2017. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email for further details.