For the first five nights, we are based close to the mountain village of Riaño, 175 km West of Bilbao and one of the best places in Europe for observing family groups of Wolves. We visit at the end of the summer, when the cubs generally remain close to their ‘den’ and are easier to locate than later in the year when they start to roam more widely. While in valley meadows not far from our hotel, we will also search for Wildcats, as they hunt rodents in the early mornings and evenings.
Later in the week, we move West to Somiedo National Park where, with local knowledge, we hope to find Brown Bears fattening up for the winter on berries and hazelnuts.
Our early morning and evening watches for wolves and bears in this part of Spain will require patience, time and good optics but the rewards will undoubtedly live long in the memory! A number of other interesting mammals inhabit the mountains, and we may also see Iberian Ibex, Pyrenean Chamois, Wild Boar and both Red and Roe Deer.
During the middle part of each day, we will have plenty of time to locate the special birds of the region. From our first hotel, in the picturesque village of Boca de Huérgano, we can stroll to a fast-flowing river which is home to Dippers and Grey Wagtails with the riverside trees holding Iberian Chiffchaff, as well as both Middle Spotted and Iberian Green Woodpeckers. Rock Sparrows, Ortolan, Rock and Cirl Buntings, along with both Red-backed and Iberian Grey Shrikes, inhabit the more open areas, with Firecrest, Crested Tit and Black Woodpecker to watch for in the woods.
On one day we will travel into the Picos de Europa mountains, where the scenery is awe-inspiring. Here, we will hope to enjoy Wallcreepers, Alpine Accentors, Griffon Vultures and both Alpine and Red-billed Choughs. Raptor possibilities include European Honey Buzzard along with Golden, Booted and Short-toed Eagles and if we are very lucky, we might even find Lammergeier.
A range of colourful late summer butterflies adds to the variety of wildlife on offer during our trip. Species seen on previous visits include Great Banded and Tree Graylings, Queen of Spain and High Brown Fritillaries, Southern Gatekeeper, Oberthür’s Grizzled Skipper and Lang’s Short-tailed Blue. The stunningly orange male Scarce Copper is sure to bring a ‘wow’ even from those who haven’t previously specialised in insects.
A visit to the Cantabrian Mountains in early September is usually characterised by sunshine and pleasant temperatures, with good light conditions for looking for wildlife both during the middle of the day and in the early mornings and evenings. The amazingly beautiful scenery is widely regarded as some of the very best in the whole of mainland Spain and will provide a splendid backdrop to our search for the region’s very special wildlife.
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