Since a few years, I was hearing stories from friends that it was fairly easy to see Iberian lynx in the wild. I thought this was quite remarkable for such a rare and elusive cat, however with a couple of friends we decided to try our luck in February this year, a time of year when the species is very active and territorial.
The Iberian Peninsula is one of the oldest inhabited territories in Europe. In Western Iberia man always lived in and with nature resulting in a spectacular landscape with dehesas, mountain ridges and valleys with steep cliffs. Right now, the situation is changing.
The disappearance of grazing herds of sheep and goats transformed large areas of the Mediterranean mountain landscape into forest with dense undergrowth and scrub. These landscapes are particularly susceptible to large fires and extremely dry summers due to climate change increase the chances of this. But with the return of native herbivores such as deer, ibex, wild horses and wild cattle, semi-natural landscapes, which are much less vulnerable to fires, are once again formed.
From the very fragmented, small-landowner landscape in northeastern Portugal, we suddenly come into a big, already quite raw and wild-looking area: the 600 hectare Faia Brava private nature reserve, in the dramatic Côa valley. This is Portugal’s first private reserve and it is owned by Associaçâo Transumância e Natureza, who is working to rewild it, taking away all extractive use and bringing back lost wildlife, as well as protecting the already existing precious locally breeding wildlife: the Bonelli’s eagle, the golden eagle, griffon vulture, Egyptian vulture, eagle owl etc. And taking care of the cultural heritage sites in the reserve as well.
From the wide and relatively intact Dehesa forests of the Salamanca district in Castilla y León. After five minutes in the Campanarios de Azába nature reserve, we understand that we must be in the right place with the impressive sight of more than 100 large raptors slowly taking to their wings in the air thermals of the morning sun over the holm and cork oaks of the reserve.