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News in brief: Spain, the Isles of Scilly, France, India & Scotland


Extremadura

Extremadura

In Spain …
Extremadura boasts some imposing and impressive landscapes, from vast plains and mountains to wooded pastures and meadows swathed in wild flowers, and our April ‘Extremadura in Spring – Birdwatching for Beginners’ holiday to the region enjoyed the best of the area’s wildlife as it burst into life after the long winter (write tour leaders Simon Tonkin and Niki Williamson). ‘Beginners’ soon became ‘Improvers’ and ‘Connoisseurs’ as we took our time to enjoy foam-bathing and croaking Great and Little Bustards, posing Little Bitterns, glamorous European Rollers and Bee-eaters, and bustling Lesser Kestrel colonies. Three gorgeous species of vulture (Griffon, Cinereous and Egyptian) were soon within our sights, as well as many other raptors. We even got to watch a Spanish Imperial Eagle fend off all-comers in a spectacular aerial battle! Friendships were forged under blue skies and over fine wines. We left Extremadura with fond memories of plains full of lark song, and equipped with the knowledge to identify them all!

Our next 7-day Extremadura in Spring – Birdwatching for Beginners holiday departs Monday 25th March 2019. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Scilly Islese

Scilly Isles

In the Scilly Isles …
Clients on our April/May ‘Wild Flowers & Gardens of the Isles of Scilly’ holiday enjoyed days of glorious sunshine and stunningly beautiful sea views, including sparkling turquoise seas and white sandy beaches (writes tour leader Dawn Nelson). This year, due to the very late season with snow in March (any snow is a rare occurrence in Scilly), the islands were not quite as colourful as usual. However, we had a wide range of places and plants to enjoy. Highlights included walls covered in Deltoid-leaved Dewplant (Oscularia deltoides) backed by stripy Aloe zebrine; banks of the architectural leaves of Bear’s-breech (Acanthus mollis) interspersed with mounds of Giant Herb-Robert (Geranium maderense) with large mauve flowers and stems fuzzy with deep purple hairs. The dainty and often rare native plants were flowering too. We examined Sea Mouse-ear (Cerastium diffusum), Orange bird’s-foot (Ornithopus pinnatus) and the intricate fruits on Toothed Medick (Medicago polymorpha). Other sightings included a Laughing Gull, Grey Seals and Great Northern Divers. Add to this a variety of restaurants featuring local seafood and other local products, as well as good company, it was a great way to spend the week.

Our next 8-day Wild Flowers & Gardens of the Isles of Scilly holiday departs Wednesday 8th May 2019. Please call Alison Steel on 01962 733051 or email alisonsteel@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Flamingos

Flamingos

In France …
Our 2-centre ‘Provence in Spring/at Easter’ tour in March enjoyed stunning sunshine and warm conditions both in the north of the region (at Sault) and in the south whilst exploring the Camargue (writes tour leader Meil McMahon). The traditional family-run hotel – our base for the first four nights of the trip – provided a wonderful base from which to enjoy the region’s gorges, hills, forests and lavender fields, and Antoine (the proprietor and chef) spoilt us with his full range of cuisine and hospitality. At our second base – a well-appointed hotel on the outskirts of Arles – proprietors Bruno and Marie-Jo made us feel very welcome, and we set out each day from there to visit the marshes and fields of the Camargue and the stony plain of Le Crau. The relatively late spring meant that the botanists had to work a little harder than usual this year but, with perseverance, we recorded an excellent list of plants and flowers. Avian highlights included Lammergeier, Egyptian and Cinereous Vultures, Common (Rufous-tailed) Rock Thrush, Citril Finch and an array of waterbirds, with the herons and Greater Flamingoes arguably taking centre stage. Glamour birds included Hoopoe, European Roller and European Bee-eaters. Mammals are not normally a feature of this tour but the Wild Boar that jumped into the water and swam across a lagoon in front of us was pretty exciting and we saw plenty of Coypu and a couple of Roe Deer. Plentiful butterflies included Southern Festoon, Cleopatra, two species of swallowtail and good numbers of regional and Mediterranean specialities. Although early in the season, the warm sunshine brought forth nine species of dragonfly/damselfly.

Our next 8-day Provence in Spring holiday departs Thursday 18th April 2019. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Tiger

Tiger

In India …
Our ‘India – Tiger Marathon’ holiday visits all four of Madhya Pradesh’s Tiger Reserves and, on our March tour, we had thrilling sightings – Tigers on almost every excursion, starting on the very first game drive (writes tour leader Dhanya Venkatesh). In total, the tour recorded 10 Tiger sightings (plus 7 Tigers on the Ranthambore extension), 4 Leopards, 2 Jungle Cats and 2 Asian Palm Civets as well as over 190 species of birds. One very memorable moment of the tour was when we heard mating Tigers in the bush; the sound was spine-chilling. Pench as always proved to be a great place for both Leopards and Wild Dogs. Kanha blessed us with the sighting of its legendary Tiger named Munna, which was a real treat, and in Bandavgarh a well-known Tigress in the Magadhi Zone gave us all some good views. However, it was Panna that stole the show with great sightings of a female Tiger cub on both our drives there. For those on the Ranthambore extension, Tigers were seen on four out of our five game-drives, adding up to a total of 7 Tigers.

Our next 13-day India – Tiger Marathon holiday departs Thursday 8th November 2018. Please call Rajan Jolly on 01962 733051 or email rajan@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Black Grouse

Black Grouse

In Scotland …
Our ‘The Cairngorms – Birds & Mammals’ photography tour in April successfully photographed several of the most iconic and elusive birds and mammals of the Scottish highlands, including Mountain Hare, Red Squirrel, Ptarmigan, Black and Red Grouse and Pine Marten (writes tour leader Robert Harvey). Snowfall on the first two days provided stunning backdrops to our photographs. Many tour participants rated the close views of Mountain Hare on a snow-covered hillside as a highlight of the trip, along with the extraordinary mating display of Black Grouse at their remote lekking ground. Our mountain walk to a high snow-covered corrie (glacial hollow) was challenging but well-rewarded as we photographed a pair of Ptarmigan just starting their transition from white winter to mottled summer plumage.

Our next 6-day The Cairngorms – Birds & Mammals (Photography) holiday departs Monday 1st April 2019. Please call Kerrie Porteous on 01962 733051 or email kerrie@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.