Me, the Mrs, Dinger and Walls have just returned from a recent trip to Spain in the hope of finding what is said to be the world's rarest cat - The Iberian Lynx. Rather depressingly, the estimated population is less than 150 individual animals so you may say we were somewhat over optimistic to hope we might see one!
However, in the last 2-3 years, information surfaced that these fantastic animals were actually being seen relatively regularly in the Sierra Morena region of Spain. We were under no illusions that it was going to involve an awful lot of patience and scanning vast areas of dehesa habitat. Very similar in many ways to searching for Wolves in the Sierra de la Culebra that me and the Mrs have been lucky enough to see.
SO - we spent 5 days (1st - 5th Feb) in the Sierra Morena scanning relentlessly at two different sites and on day 2, I located an Iberian Lynx at about 1 mile range as it paced across an open hillside that we all managed to scope, but it disappeared out of sight after 20 - 30 seconds. It was not until day 4 that we got the views that we really wanted.
DAY 4 The weather had changed from blue skies and sunshine to a rather chilly wet day, but still we scanned and scanned until we were almost delirious! It was about 18.25hrs and the rain began to fall again after another intense day of scanning. We decided to call it a day and return to our car where Rachel was rather sensibly trying to avoid the rain. I took the lower path down the hillside from our viewpoint, whilst Lee and Helen took the one above me. I was almost at the car park, when unbelievably an Iberian Lynx walked out, no more than 3 metres in front of me! I flipped out, but tried to remain calm and not wanting to shout I gesticulated to Lee, who I could see above me, as the animal walked back into cover towards him. Luckily, Lee had already seen the animal and alerted Helen as we all watched this fantastic animal cooly and calmly walk across to our car where Rachel was sat. We could do nothing, for fear of disturbing it, but watch and hope that Rachel would see it. Rachel was unaware of what was going on behind her until her first view of the Lynx in the car wing mirror! It then walked right beside her and proceeded to urinate beside the car! A flash of the car's hazzard lights confirmed she was obviously watching the animal, as she tried to alert us, thinking we were still up at the viewpoint, and not knowing we were behind her already literally lapping it up!!
The video below shows a somewhat wobbly clip of our feline friend and gives some idea of its route across the car park, past our red hire car and over the bridge! The whole sequence of events was certainly one of my top wildlife moments....
I shall post a few more pics of the trip tomorrow - For now enjoy the video!
My advice, is get out there if you want to see this great cat - Full trip report soon to appear on http://www.mammalwatching.com/
See SOS Lynx website to help conserve this cat and save it from extinction - http://www.soslynx.org/