Looking for Iberian Lynx in Coto Doñana

David Morris led our April tour to Coto Doñana and Extremadura. Although a birdwatching tour, there is always a chance of a sighting of Iberian Lynx in Coto Doñana. Our group was in for a treat – a superb sighting of this elusive cat. In this article, David writes about the experience …

Having led tours into Doñana for 10 years I’m acutely aware of the scarcity of Iberian Lynx sightings within the area and the challenge of getting good views with groups. One of the first questions I’m often asked on a trip to this part of the world is: ‘Will we see a Lynx?’. My reply is usually: ‘If you are very lucky!’.

The pine woodlands to the west of the Parque Nacional hold a number of animals, yet despite the number of tracks that we are able to access on tours, they can still remain an enigma. The vegetation makes it difficult to observe lynx when scanning the panorama, so if you are lucky enough to spot this iconic cat it is usually at fairly close range and often brief.

Our tour this April began in the usual fashion – an early breakfast followed by a foray out into the sandy tracks of Coto del Rey at first light. I was feeling a bit more confident than usual as my local contact, Irene, had called me the day before to say an animal had been seen on several occasions during the previous week. As we drove through the network of tracks, the sense of anticipation started to build. A movement in the shadows or a rustle in the scrub usually turned out to be a Wild Boar or Red Deer, but nonetheless, the entire group was focused on spotting Iberian Lynx. As we continued, we found fresh tracks on the dusty road surface: an adult lynx had used our route within the last 12 hours. We were getting tantalisingly close!

Our next 6-day Lynx-watching in Spain holiday departs Monday 23rd October 2017. For further details about this holiday please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Our combined Coto Doñana and Extremadura tours run in April and May each year.Having made numerous circuits of the forest with no success, we drove north along the main track, leaving the village of El Rocio with the intention of moving out into the adjacent marismas (marshes). All of a sudden we stopped. There was a movement to our right and a distinctive shape strolled out across a shaded spot beside our vehicles. There was no doubting what it was: Labrador-sized; characteristic silhouette; short bobbed tail; ear tufts and a beard (that I was very envious of!). The group was stunned into silence. We were watching one of the world’s rarest cats sitting beneath a cork oak tree, less than 20 metres from our vans; and it was looking straight back at us with eyes like yellow sapphires. As the reality of our incredible luck started to sink in, we gently eased open the windows of our vehicles in order to allow the group to photograph this most majestic feline. As if this were not enough, the lynx then got up and walked to within 10 metres of our minivan, sat down and continued to fix us with its mesmerising stare. Finally, the lynx rose and strolled to the other side of the clearing, before finally melting away into a mastic bush thicket.

We were not just lucky, but incredibly privileged. Our encounter with this particular cat lasted about 10 minutes, but the memory will no doubt stay with the group for a long time. We pulled away gently, with everyone in high spirits, ready to enjoy the rest of the day in the thronging wetlands of the park. We had a wonderful time in the marismas, which this year were particularly rich in birdlife due to winter rains. After lunch in El Rocio and an afternoon of more birding, we headed back to the sandy tracks of Coto del Rey for the early evening in search of our confiding lynx. As we drove back towards town, down the same track as that morning, I could not believe our luck again: an Iberian Lynx, possibly the same animal as before, crossed in front of us. Unlike our earlier encounter, this one was brief: as soon as the animal reached an area of scrub on the eastern side of the track, it disappeared from view. However, a second lynx sighting in one day is as rare as hen’s teeth and we were well aware of our good fortune. And we were not just lucky, but utterly charmed by the bearded cat of Doñana!

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