Jonathan Rodríguez Ramiro is a wildlife biologist who lives in Cantabria, a mountainous area in northern Spain. In this Leica Nature Blog Jonathan writes about his home, his favourite wildlife and encounters, and how he got on when he recently took the Leica Trinovid 7×35 leathered binoculars out for a spin.
My name is Jonathan, I live in Reinosa, Cantabria, a mountainous area in northern Spain and I work as a wildlife biologist.
The mountains near my home are some of the most biodiverse in Europe with large species like Cantabrian Brown bear and Iberian Wolf making their home there, to incredible birds such as the Montagu’s Harrier.
My favourite animal is the wolf, they are incredible, the most majestic apex predator. Where I live we get the Iberian wolf which is a subspecies of the grey wolf. It is endemic to the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, which includes northern Portugal and northwestern Spain.
It is not easy to find them, they have territories that can cover hundreds of kilometres, and you need a lot of patience and knowledge about their behaviour if you want to see one. One of the most amazing things about wolves is the way their behaviour models the landscapes and how they can control populations of wild ungulates. To truly understand what I mean by this, look up the amazing story of what happened in Yellowstone when they reintroduced wolves.
In northern Spain wolves live in different landscapes, but in my opinion the most wild area to watch them is the high mountains. This topography is dominated by little shrubs like Erica australis (heather) and Cytisus scoparius (broom) and lots of grass species where chamois, Cantabrian hares and red and roe deer also live (and end up prey to the wolf)! There are also a few little forests of beech and silver birch.
My best encounter with a wolf, took place one cold foggy morning 20 years ago. I remember it clearly. The fog was so thick you couldn’t see further than 15 meters in any directions. And then my friend told me he could see something sitting and looking at us. We drew a bit closer and it immediately became clear, it was a wolf in his big winter coat, perhaps 10 meters from us. We looked at each other, directly in the eye. The wolf sat up very slowly, he then walked away his belly low to the ground and disappeared into the mist. I have had many encounters with wolves over my years observing them, but I remember this day and this wolf so clearly.
My favourite bird here is the Wallcreeper. They are a small bird, similar in size to a robin, but the colours in their wings are like a butterflies. Look here to see a photo of one. Not only are they stunning, they live high up in the steep mountains in sometimes very inhospitable places. It is so high that it is sometimes hard to believe they can survive there! They feed by creeping up and down the sheer stone walls looking for invertebrates to eat.
Once in Monfragüe (Extremadura) I was looking for Eagle owl in “Salto del Gitano” and suddenly a little bird crossed my field-scope. I thought it was a wallcreeper, I have watched them many times in my own mountains but there in the middle of Extremadura, a region in the west of Spain that borders Portugal. It didn’t seem the right place to see them. I checked again, and then I found it. It really was a wallcreeper! I made a call to friends of mine who were doing a census in the area and I told them what I had seen but nobody believed me. I persuaded them to come and see it for themselves, only then did they believe me. Some years later a good friend of mine told me they had received information about a ringed wallcreeper that was found on a road in Extremadura. I often wonder if it was the one I saw.
When people want to watch wildlife near to me I always recommend the south of Cantabria and Montaña Palentina. Late summer and autumn time is my favourite time of the year, with the deers rutting and the forests turning the most amazing colours in autumn. Cantabria is a small region of Spain where you can wake up in the morning above 2000 meters looking for wolves, bears, wallcreepers or Golden Eagle. You can then take lunch in the river valleys watching raptors and vultures and finish your day in marshes and at the sea looking for waders. It´s incredible and not many people have ever heard about it.
I recently borrowed the Leica Trinovid 7×35 leathered binoculars, which are a quality pair of binoculars for their size. It is incredible how they can preserve the light in the object you are watching. This is the most important factor when you are looking for wildlife, because sometimes you don’t have that much time to ID the animal.
The materials are also brilliant, hardy and high quality material make a really good option for the buyer if you look for durable binoculars. And their size makes them easy to carry on long walks, letting you scout for a long time without feeling tired.
I really recommend the binoculars if you want a durable and high quality binoculars in your backpack.