Wildlife Holiday News

News in Brief: Finland, the Azores, Spain, France and the UK

Read about highlights from recent tours to Finland, the Azores, Spain, France and the UK …

In Finland ...

'With hardly any rain and very few mosquitoes, for the second year in a row our ‘Finland’s Mammals’ tour was a big success. Once again, prolonged and superb views took place of all three large carnivores (Brown Bear, Wolverine and Wolf). Most remarkable this time was that all three were seen from one location in one night! While cruising on the beautiful Lake Saimaa, several foraging Saimaa Ringed Seals were spotted, along with resident Beavers. Siberian Flying Squirrels and Forest Reindeer, however, decided to stay hidden. Although fresh dropping of the former were present below their hosting tree, the small mammals themselves didn’t show up near the tree cavity they occupied. We only found fresh hoof prints of the Forest Reindeer on the tracks we drove down, but fortunately Elk, a more common resident ungulate, cooperated well and excellent views were achieved. Birding wise Hazel Hen, White-backed Woodpecker, Black Kite, White-tailed Eagle and Ural Owl were avian highlights, together with more common typical Scandinavian bird species such as Cranes, Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Whimbrel, Golden Plover, Osprey, Whooper Swan and Red-necked Grebe. All were in full summer plumage and, in general, accompanied by offspring on their breeding grounds!'

We will soon announce a new ‘Finland’s Mammals’ overflow departure for 2020, prices start at £2,995. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Brown Bear (Jan Kelchtermans)


In the Azores ...

‘For years, a massive concentration of plankton around the Azores in spring has provided an open-all-hours snack bar for migrating baleen whales’, writes tour leader Cathy Harlow. ‘In May 2019 most of the plankton gathered further out to sea than usual and combined with high winds, choppy seas and a big swell, the boats were often unable to reach the area where the whales were feeding. As a result our group missed out on Blue and Fin Whale sightings. That said, we watched mother and calf Sperm Whales on most of our boat trips and enjoyed a surprise meeting with False Killer Whales and Pilot Whales. We also had amazing encounters with acrobatic Bottlenose Dolphins, Short-beaked Common Dolphins and Striped Dolphins, with the bonus of an unexpected view of a huge Leatherback Turtle. With their mid-Atlantic location on a whale highway, the Azores continue to be a top choice for observing a wide variety of cetaceans, along with Cory’s Shearwaters and other seabirds. On land we circled the volcanic cone of Mt Pico, enjoyed dramatic views of sombre lava cliffs, and explored villages of lava brick cottages and an island culture of unique vineyards, seafood and interesting cheeses.’

Our next ‘Great Whales of the Azores (Pico)’ tour departs on 2nd May 2020, prices start at £1,995. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Sperm Whales


In Spain ...

Butterflies & Moths of the Spanish Pyrenees

'Our tour to Berdún in the Spanish Pyrenees was a huge success, with the main focus being the lepidopteran delights, both by day and by night', writes tour leader Chris Gibson. 'An amazing 107 species of butterfly were encountered with great numbers of puddling blues, skippers and fritillaries. Add in to the mix the moth trapping on five nights, a great selection of the available nightlife and many other fascinating invertebrates; stunning scenery, a good range of mountain flowers and special birds; a few mammals and reptiles, plus wonderful food, drink and accommodation at Casa Sarasa – the perfect recipe for an outstanding holiday!'

Our next ‘Butterflies & Moths of the Spanish Pyrenees’ tour departs on 1st July 2020, prices start at £1,595. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Butterflies of Spain's Montana Palentina

Local expert Fernando Jubete led our first ever butterfly tour of the Montana Palentina from 8th – 15th June. The Palentian mountains are one of the best areas in Spain for butterflies, with more than 150 species having been recorded, around a 100 of which were possible on this new tour.

'One of the principal goals of this holiday was to visit colonies of the threatened Dusky Large Blue', writes Fernando. 'This species takes to the wing in July and August and was seen together with other butterflies of wet meadows and peat bogs such as Weaver’s Fritillary, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Purple-edged Copper. Our tour also visited grasslands and extensive deciduous forests, the latter providing a home for Brown Bear, Wolf and Roe Deer.  Here we were surrounded by hundreds of striking butterflies such as Black-veined White, Short-tailed Blue, Queen of Spain Fritillary, Chestnut Heath and Chapman’s Ringlet.

Our excursions to the high mountains also resulted in a good number of species. Birds included Egyptian Vulture, Alpine Chough and Snowfinch while noteworthy butterflies included Shepherd’s Fritillary, Small Mountain Ringlet, Lefèvre’s Ringlet and Dusky Heath. One of our most surprising and rewarding visits was to the Páramo de Castañeda, an area of high exposed limestone, where we saw Apollo and other scarce butterflies such as Twin-spot Fritillary, Marbled Skipper and Ripart’s Anomalus Blue. Up here we also recorded Griffon Vulture, Montagu’s Harrier and Tawny Pipit.

Even though these were not the best dates for orchids, we nevertheless enjoyed the flora and saw around 10 species of orchids, as well as some very interesting plants endemic to the Cantabrian mountains such as Echium cantabricum, Viola palentina and Linaria supina.'

Our next ‘Butterflies of Spain's Montana Palentina’ tour departs on 6th July 2020, prices start at £1,495. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Two-tailed Pasha

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Damon Blue (Fernando Jubete)

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Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Fernando Jubete)


In France ...

Butterflies of the Cévennes

‘The Cévennes is a vast, unspoilt area with abundant and very interesting wildlife. The landscape is grandiose with immense limestone gorges, extensive plains and wildflowers in profusion almost everywhere.

This year we found most of the target species and had very good sightings of many’, writes tour leader Tony Williams. ‘We even managed to find some Apollos, although for most of us they were only seen in flight as they sped past! We had more luck with Clouded Apollos, of which we saw many. In all we identified more than 60 species including such local specialities as Esper’s Marbled White and Mountain Alcon Blue. However, it wasn’t only the butterflies that proved to be of great interest. The trip was very much enhanced by very good sightings of other wildlife. Two Beavers in the river not far from the hotel on one evening, many Lady’s Slipper Orchids at their best and carpets of Pyramidal and other orchids were all outstanding. Birds were also in evidence, with an extremely close immature Golden Eagle being harassed by three Carrion Crows being a highlight for some and a breeding Great Grey Shrike also putting on a good show. All this whilst staying in a comfortable hotel providing excellent French food and drink. Join me next June!’

Our next ‘The Cévennes – A Butterfly Tour’ departs on 18th June 2020, prices start at £1,595. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Butterflies of La Brenne

‘The trip this year coincided with a heat wave with the temperature climbing to 39° on the third day of a 6-day trip (the maximum ever recorded in the area)’, writes leader Tony Williams.

‘However, we made the best of it, taking our time and finding shade during the hottest parts of the day, even retiring to the hotel for part of an afternoon. Butterflies didn’t seem to have been affected by the temperatures, with two sought-after species, Camberwell Beauty and Large Tortoiseshell, both being well seen early in the trip. The hoped for Woodland Brown made an appearance, whilst towards the end of the six days we added both Large and Alcon Blues to our list of butterfly species which finished on a very respectable 51.

Several Lesser Purple Emperors, along with one Purple Emperor, were visiting the flowering Lime trees just five minutes’ walk from the hotel, adding to the interest of staying in Mézières-en-Brenne. Although often high in the trees and not always easy to see well, with a little patience we saw two or three lower down and could see their distinguishing features. Other wildlife wasn’t ignored and for some a Short-toed Eagle circling around above the minibus and hunting with its typical floppy ‘hovering’ flight close to us for a few minutes was a highlight. A few orchid species were still in flower, several Mueller’s Helleborines being the pick of the bunch.’

Our next ‘Butterflies of La Brenne’ holiday departs on 25th June 2020, prices start at £1,295. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Clouded Apollo

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Golden Eagle

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Camberwell Beauty

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Large Tortoiseshell


In the UK ...

'We spent a very enjoyable four days on the Isle of Wight looking for some of its specialities', writes tour leader Jim Andrews. 'The first afternoon we headed for the chines, where our first butterfly of the trip was the sought-after Glanville Fritillary which was seen in good numbers. Other highlights that day included Grizzled Skippers and Bee Orchids.

During the next few days we visited a number of interesting destinations across the island, from The Needles to Brading Marshes. We were lucky enough to run into the warden of Newtown Marshes who gave us a great talk on the methods they were using to manage their flower meadows and we enjoyed seeing Corky-fruited Water Dropwort and Adder’s-tongue Fern. Other highlights from the trip ranged from Red Squirrel in Parkhurst Forest to Field Cow-wheat and Purple Broomrape, Gannets passing St Catherine’s Point in the morning and Hobbies hawking and Marsh Harriers quartering the marsh at Brading, with a distant Great White Egret thrown in.

The final day started with a trip to the beautiful Ventnor Botanical Gardens, ironically not looking for plants, but the lovely Wall Lizards. We were thrilled to see a good 32 but found we were outdone by a school group the day before, who managed to spot 95!'

Our next ‘The Isle of Wight in Spring’ departs on 1st June 2020, prices start at £495. For more information please click on the link above, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Wall Lizard (Jim Andrews)