WILDASLIFE: THE IBERIAN LYNX, A SPECIES ON THE EDGE

Lynx-01 copyThe Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardel) is one of the rarest species on earth, and at the worlds 2nd rarest feline species after the Amur Leopard. So it is somewhat of an understatement to say the Iberian Lynx ,  with only an estimated 200-250 surviving in the wild, has more than a few problems regarding it’s mid to long term prospects for survival.  Since making the switch from photography to filming in the last couple of years, my  goal has been  to try to convince a production company specializing in wildlife documentaries to pick up my project and help me bring it to fruition, as this species is yet another that has suffered greatly at the hands of man, sadly to such an extent  that we have driven it to the edge of extinction in the last 15 years. It’s  numbers in the wild were down to between  75 -90 individuals only as far back as 1999.

In order to convince the production companies and broadcasters  that this would be a great story, albeit a difficult one,  I am about to spend several months over the coming year, living in the back of a Toyota MPV in the heart of Lynx territory in Andalusia, southern Spain, learning as much as I can about the species and the landscape where this species clings to a fragile existence.   Capturing footage of this very rare feline is a huge challenge, so  I  thought it would be a good idea to create a blog to give those with an interest in the species, and nature in general, a chance to follow my filming exploits as I set about trying to get a are peak into into the life of this very rare feline.

My interest in wildlife started at an early age, but my passion for photographing feline  species started in earnest  when I spent a total of 3 years camped out in southern Chiles awe inspiring Torres del Paine National Park, between 1998 and 2003, where I had gone to search out, observe and photograph the elusive Patagonian Puma. After that incredible adventure I found myself back in the chaos and pollution of London at somewhat of a  loose end.

Desperate to escape  I drifted to Andalucia, in southern Spain, a place I had been very fortunate to have visited as a young child, and had fond memories of. This large autonomous region is blessed with one of the best climates in the world and is home to a Plethora of wildlife species, and the rarest of these, and one I had long wished to observe in the wild , was clinging to a very fragile existence in two remnant breeding populations only a short drive from my home on the coast. It was a no brainer to choose this species as the subject for my first attempt at making a wildlife documentary.

So it begins. I am currently ensconced in a cafe near Marbella on the Costa del Sol, enjoying the last of the luxuries it offers, waiting for the last bits of equipment to arrive, as the coming months will be spent living in the back of Toyota MPV plotted up among the sun scorched hills and valleys of the Sierra Morena National Park,in Jaen province,  home to one of only 2 barely viable remnant breeding populations, the 2nd and smaller being in and around the Donana National Park, Spains most important wetland, located in the province of Huelva, These 2 locations will become my home for several months, and the success of my project will depend on a lot of luck, as I will be searching for the proverbial “needle in a haystack”

I CANNOT WAIT.

 

Adventure Town,Back in Chamonix

CHAMONIX , MT BLANC SEPTEMBER 23RD 2016

 

There is a deep sense, at least in my mind, of peace to be found in a mountain environment, some places more than others. I experienced this to the highest degree, when I was fortunate enough to have lived in one of the most beautiful mountain massifs on earth, Chiles Torres del Paine National Park, deep in southern Patagonia, a place where the wind, snow, ice and rain have carved out a landscape in the rock that inspires a sense of awe.

 

Those years in that Patagonian paradise are now a memory, not a distant one, because places such as this become deeply etched into the mind, a place that forces you to remember it, the sheer granite spires, the glacial tongues that fork out from the mighty Southern Patagonian Icecap, a place so foreboding few venture onto it, the skies awash with surreal lenticular cloud formations that leave you in awe of the majesty of the natural world, it inspires one to venture further, the next valley, the next peak, it’s seemingly endless landscape, was made for dreamers, of which I am one, and so when I am asked how could I have lived in a tent through all the seasons in this vast wild place for so long, and how did I cope with the boredom, I pity them for assuming I was bored, boredom is not an option in Torres del Paine,even in foul weather, I loved it,which brings me to my current location, where I sit and write this 1st entry into my new blog about my forthcoming year in Chamonix, not much chance of being bored here either…..

 

The day >>>>>Lost out on a cool 2 bed apartment to rent in lovely quiet and very beautiful les Bois, as the landlady wants the new occupant (s) to sign for 2 years and the guy who was renting it could not commit, and the same goes for me, year max.

 

However found a cool little studio next to Brevent Ski Lift, good news , but only short tem till December 24th aaaarrrrhhhh, but plenty of time to find somewhere else for the rest of the winter or year if I am lucky. Commenced training in earnest for a couple of 50k mountain trail runs in summer 2017, in the hope of qualifying for the big ones the following year, lots and lots of training to do, really looking forward to it.

 

Weather these last 2 weeks, since I drove from the Pyrenees, has kept me grounded as far as filming the breeding vultures is concerned, but Sunday is looking promising, so a 5am drive and an early scrabble up the steep grass and later scree slope of the Grand Bargy Cirque, where the Bearded Vultures soar and the nest is located, will be a rewarding day if the weather holds. I have scoured the web and all the wildlife film footage libraries, and I have yet to find any high quality footage of them mating, and seeing as I witnessed it last year only a few hundred feet from where I sat observing them, I fully intend to make this my main goal this coming breeding season, I sadly had no camera last year on the day of my visit, and if truth be known, the last thing I expected was to see them land on a roosting spot across the far side of the cirque from the nest and mate, I won’t miss it his year.

 

The nesting area is well known by locals, and a small dedicated band of eagle eyed volunteers keep a keen eye on the nesting pair as they truly love the fact they have the priv of having such a rare and beautiful species living in the neighbourhood On my first visit I met an old lady walking her pooch on the slope close to the nest, who is a volunteer in among others in the local community , who keep an eye on the nest and the birds throughout the year, she was a great source of information and told me the place I saw them mating was a very regular spot for the pair to land and rest, and go about the business of procreating, just what this boy to hear…..

 

 

 

 

 

A long first day.

This day has been a long time coming, and I was looking forward to it  like a child awaits xmas morning, but I was a whisker away from a tantrum that would make the Bikini atolls nuclear tests look and sound  like a balloon popping in a lead lined bank vault, drama queen I hear you say, ok a bit OTT!. In a nut shell I arrived in the Andujar national park after a long drive from Marbella, via Seville, where I picked up  the last of my filming equipment, and shock horror I could not find the one bit of kit that is essential before filming can begin, my new binoculars. I spent an hour emptying the Toyota MPV and tearing a part everything I posses in the world , only to find them wrapped in a t-shirt in my fresh laundry , what an ass.

Heavy  rains had hit much of Andalucia over the last week, and had left it as lush as nature could conjure it, the light was rich and clear, the sun last rays became obscured by the thickening clouds on the horizon and I decided to spend what energy I had left watching several Red Deer hinds grazing knee deep in tall grass and sprays of wild flowers and clumps of the reddest poppies I had ever seen.

I did not expect to see a Lynx  today, and I did not, but I will be up with the birds everyday for the next few months trying to locate and film them, and no doubt wear myself into the ground in the process. Tomorrow I am going to load up the back pack with my new camera, strap  the tripod to my mountain bike, and head for the hills, but right now I am heading for my pillow in the back of my Toyota Previa before I fall asleep at the table in the  Los Pinos hotel.

Stories and Footage From The Natural World