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News in brief: France, Sweden, Spain, the Azores & Italy

Black-crowned Night-heron

Black-crowned Night-heron

In France …

Dragonflies & Birds of the Camargue
Avian highlights on our 8-day ‘Dragonflies & Birds of the Camargue’ holiday in July included Moustached Warbler, a flock of 250 Spoonbills, thousands of Greater Flamingoes, sustained and close views of Squacco and Black-crowned Night-herons, a large flock of summer plumage Curlew Sandpipers, Nightingales and Melodious Warblers. Amongst the raptors seen were Black Kites (every day) and other raptors included regular sightings of Short-toed Eagles, a couple of Montagu’s Harriers, Hobby, Peregrine and a flock of about 40 Lesser Kestrels; 141 bird species were recorded during the trip. Lesser Emperor, Green-eyed Hawker, 4 species of skimmer, Copper Demoiselle, Mediterranean Bluet, Spotted and Banded Darters and the rare Pronged Clubtail were among the special dragonflies seen, with 30 species recorded in total. Wild flowers, Wild Boar, butterflies and other insect-life were among the other wildlife enjoyed, all within an hour’s drive of our group’s hotel, and most involving minimal driving!

Our next 8-day Dragonflies & Birds of the Camargue holiday departs Wednesday 5th July 2017. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.

The Vercors in Summer
Our base in Lans en Vercors, in south-east France is delightful in summer. Our general wildlife tour to the region in July did very well for mammals with good sightings of Roe Deer, Chamois, Alpine Ibex and Alpine Marmot. Our group also managed fleeting glimpses, in deteriorating light, of European Beaver. On the plant front several helleborine and vanilla orchid species were enjoyed, but the highlight was seeing a number of Ghost Orchids in a shaded woodland setting. Birds were becoming less active by the time of our trip, but among the special species seen were Nightjar, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Red-footed Falcon, and Montagu’s Harrier. Our tour leaders ran moth-traps on two nights, catching a good range of species, including Druick’s Plusia, Small Elephant Hawk-moth and Bordered Straw. In the field, some 80 different species of butterfly were recorded, with Carline Skipper and Large Tortoiseshell the highlights.

Our next 8-day The Vercors in Summer holiday departs Wednesday 12th July 2017. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Butterflies & Moths of the Vercors
Our second holiday to the Vercors in July focuses on butterflies and moths. At our group’s comfortable hotel in La Chapelle en Vercors, nightly moth-traps produced a fine range of macro species including Goat Moth, Rosy Footman, July Highflier, Sycamore, Grey Arches, Beautiful Brocade, Clancy’s Rustic, Langmaid’s Yellow Underwing and a fair number of micros, expertly identified by one of the group members. During the day, our group visited locations from 500 to 1,900 metres above sea level. This provided them with the opportunity to maximise the number of potential butterfly species they might find. Among them, Yellow Spotted and Large Ringlets, Geranium and Mountain Argus, Sloe and White-letter Hairstreaks, various Clouded Yellows, Reverdin’s Blue, Sooty and Scarce Coppers and Darwin’s Heath. In all, 89 species were recorded.

Our next 8-day France: Butterflies & Moths of the Vercors holiday departs Wednesday 19th July 2017. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.
 

In Sweden …

Highlights on our 8-day Sweden’s Upland Birds holiday in May included Pygmy and Ural Owls, Black and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, along with the sound of Thrush Nightingale, roding Woodcock and Cuckoo – and this all on the first evening! As the trip progressed, our group enjoyed watching Common Cranes with young, Whooper Swans on nests, White-tailed and Golden Eagles, Eagle Owl, Ural Owl chicks being ringed, nesting Gyr Falcon, lekking Great Snipe, nesting Dotterell, Golden Plover, singing Lapland Buntings, confiding Red-necked Phalaropes, Slavonian Grebes, Little Gull, Bluethroat, Siberian Jay, Rock Ptarmigan, Ring Ouzel, Taiga Bean Geese, Osprey, Waffles, singing Corncrake, Common Rosefinch, Wryneck, Spotted Redshank and singing Blyth's Reed Warbler. Numerous Reindeer and playful Beavers added to the wildlife interest.
 
Our next 8-day Sweden’s Upland Birds holiday departs Wednesday 24th May 2017. Please call Kerrie Porteous on 01962 733051 or email kerrie@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


In Spain …

Our holiday along Spain’s famous Camino de Santiago route in September rewarded clients with a great week of walking, culture and wildlife. Every day our group enjoyed gentle walks (of about 8 kilometres) through amazing scenery, stopping to visit a few unmissable Romanesque monuments along the ancient pilgrims’ route to Santiago, while never losing sight of the birds, butterflies and flowers along the way. Highlights of the holiday included great views of Lammergeier, a Wallcreeper which posed for its enthusiastic audience for almost 15 minutes, 700+ Griffon Vultures at a feeding station, a couple of Great Bustards, raptors galore, Two-tailed Pasha, Marmots and a Wildcat. Lovely weather and Melanie’s cooking at Casa Sarasa added to the many wildlife and cultural pleasures of the trip.

Our next 8-day Spain’s Camino de Santiago & its Natural History holiday departs Sunday 17th September 2017. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


In Italy …

Abruzzo in Autumn
The Abruzzo National Park in the central Apennines of Italy offers fascinating wildlife throughout the year. Clients on our ‘Abruzzo in Autumn’ trip in September watched a young Marsican Brown Bear feasting on Rhamnus berries, Wild Boar scrumping apples and Red Deer roaring, and they also had great views of Abruzzo Chamois. Cyclamen, Autumn Crocus and Sternbergia were among the botanical highlights, accompanied by a good range of butterflies and birds. Special moments from our spring tour to the park included great views of a male Bear for early risers, large family groups of Boar, more wonderful views of Chamois and deer, 28 species of orchid plus carpets of mountain flowers and a good number of endemic species, not to mention Crossbills, Wryneck and Red Squirrels round the hotel.
 
Our next 8-day
Abruzzo in Autumn holiday departs Thursday 7th September 2017. Our next spring tour to the park departs Thursday 18th May 2017. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Sicily in Autumn
Clients on our holiday to Sicily in September enjoyed the wonderful rural situation of their accommodation – they saw Golden Orioles, Subalpine Warblers and Bee-eaters on pre-breakfast walks! Waterbirds put on a spectacular show, with Marsh Sandpipers, Red-necked Phalarope, Temminck’s Stints (amongst flocks of Little Stints) and Marbled Ducks all seen well. Short-toed Larks, Blue Rock Thrushes, an adult Dotterel just 30 metres away, and flocks of 72+ Stone Curlews on the Magnisi Peninsula were particularly memorable. Add to this spectacular views from the top of Mount Etna and an unforgettable evening enjoying the cultural delights of the historic city of Ortigia and it was a superb holiday for all!

Our next 7-day Sicily in Autumn holiday departs Monday 18th September 2017. Please call Dave Shute on 01962 733051 or email davidshute@naturetrek.co.uk for further details. 

In the Azores …

Our 'Whales & Dolphins of the Azores' holiday in August focuses on the cetaceans present in the deep waters off the volcanic island of Pico. Of the great whales, our group was treated to countless Sperm Whale sightings (including several calves — one appearing right alongside the boat!) and two close-up Fin Whale sightings (likely the same individual). The supporting cast included five species of dolphin swimming alongside the boat: Bottlenose, Short-beaked Common, Atlantic Spotted, Striped and Risso’s, most of which put on boisterous and acrobatic displays! They also enjoyed close views of Loggerhead Turtle, Cory's Shearwater and Common Tern. Meanwhile, a land trip provided the chance to see a nesting shearwater chick, the unique volcanic vineyards (a World Heritage Site), a collapsed lava tube, Portugal's highest mountain peak (Mount Pico), and the relic laurel and juniper trees that grow on higher ground. During their time exploring the island our group also saw the Azores subspecies of Yellow-legged Gull and Azores Chaffinch, two Bulwer’s Petrels and a vagrant Glossy Ibis.

Our next 6-day Whales & Dolphins of the Azores holiday departs Tuesday 22nd August 2017. Please call Dan Free on 01962 733051 or email dan@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.