RFI: France and Spain in July
I’m going to Barcelona for a conference next month, with a week of travel in France beforehand, and I’m hoping to add some mammal-watching to my trip. Most successful trip reports are from other times of year, but that might be because of the heat rather than the chances of seeing mammals. I have a couple questions:
- Is it possible to see Alpine Chamois near Grenoble in July? Any tips on where to search for them?
- Is Iberian Lynx get-able in the summertime? Is Sierra de Andujar the best site?
- Is there anywhere where I’d have a decent chance to spotlight Pyrenean Desman?
When I purchased my flight, I was hoping to do a separate mammal-watching trip to South America or Borneo, and didn’t budget time for mammal-watching in Europe. I realized this week that that just won’t be possible, so I’m debating changing my return flight from Spain.
Alpine Chamois are common in most mountains around Grenoble, but most sites will be crowded in July (summer holidays), therefore Chamois would be less easy to spot. At this time of year Chamois will be at high altitude (>2000m) in sites less frequented by hikers. The closest sites would be in the Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse (sub species of Chamois R r cartusiana), or the Vercors or the Belledonne or the Bauges (R r rupicapra). Chamois are also abundant in PN de la Vanoise et PN des Ecrins (Ibex are abundant there too). The easiest site to see chamois would be in Italy in the PN Garn Paradiso (chamois are far less shy there) but it is far from Grenoble.
For desman, a good site in the Pyrenées is the Lac d’Ayous (a series of small lakes at c. 2000m of altitude) where it can be spotted in daytime. Chamois are present there too (R. pyrenaica).
Technically spotlighting is not allowed in the Sierra Morena’s. However I’ve done it several times and not been stopped. As a foreigner (no speakingo Espanolo) you’d probably be more likely to get away with it than a Spaniard. I was there last July and it was hotter than hell and I didn’t see the lynx on that occasion; the people running the hotel said sightings were much scarcer in the summer because the animals were less active during the day (as Natalia mentioned above). Worth a try though, particularly if you’re going to be in Spain. There is someone based in Andujar who is running lynx watching tours, and it might be worth going out with them, as they would be tuned into where the lynx are likely to be. I don’t have their contact details (I saw some posters they had put up in the local bar in Andujar), but you might be able to find them online.
For what it’s worth, I drove from Bilbao to Sierra de Andujar in less than 7 hours (excluding wildlife-viewing stops). Just try to go through Madrid outside rush hours. There is virtually no highway police and very few, if any, speed cameras; traffic is very light, roads are excellent, and, unlike in the US, slow drivers don’t hang in the left lane. It’s driver’s paradise.
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On the lynx, yes go to Andujar (it is the only site where you have a realistic chance on a short visit, Donana is much much harder and would require more driving)! People do see them in July/August in Andujar, and you will have the luxury of a long siesta in the middle of the day. The issue with a July visit might be much lower numbers of other lynx spotters. Part of the high success rate in the cooler months is explained by the large/excessive number of people on the La Lancha road.