Puffins! Those adorable black and white birds did not originate on the cover of a paperback book, they are for real and the largest population in the world of these fellows is in Iceland. On the hoof are Icelandic ponies and herds of reindeer roaming the hills, as well as Arctic foxes, on paw that is; take a whale and dolphin-watching cruise for thrilling sightings on the water.
For peat’s sake, Ireland is a must on your tour of natural Europe. Peatlands Country Park is rich butterflies, moths, dragonflies and damselflies as well as many woodland and wetland birds waterfowl species. Red and grey squirrels, badgers and hares are also present, while lizards and newts can be found in the open bog areas. Walk the paths and see how many you can spot! For more astonishing bird life, visit the Wexford Slobs, an internationally renowned wild bird sanctuary favored by Greenland Whitefronted, Snow, Bean and Brent geese as well as swans from Iceland and Siberia.
Did you know that rural landscape covers 80% of France? Its topography and climate includes ocean, continental, Mediterranean and mountain, so you know the biodiversity is enormous. Summer is perfect for visiting the high leafy forests in the northern half of the country to stay cool, or in the autumn for the kaleidoscope of changing colors. The raw excitement of mountain chamois in rutting combats can be observed (discreetly), if a forest warden or nature reserve keeper accompanies you. The numerous marshlands are home to flocks of migratory birds from April onwards.
Discover Spain’s unique and rich array of flora outdoors or at one the fantastic botanical gardens in the major cities. Plant life is Spain is as varied as its terrain and microclimates. The Vedado de Eguaras Nature Reserve is a geological depression where farmland is interspersed with pine woods, whose shade provides an excellent spot to eat and rest. This area is an ideal spot for viewing wildlife such as foxes, badgers, rabbits, griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures, eagle owls and occasionally great bustards. The Region of Castile-La Mancha is something like an avian Grand Central Station, thanks to its location on major migratory routes, so birdwatchers, this is your heaven.
Just one example of the magical natural world in Portugal is at the Dunas de São Jacinto Nature Reserve. Sea, lagoon and sand dunes make a beautiful coastal landscape, with scenic forests and dunes stretching down to the sea. These hills of sane are an integral part of the ecosystem in the Beira Litoral region, populated with ancient woodlands of resinous and broad-leaved trees, growing in small wetland areas and supporting much local wildlife. You’ll find observation posts strategically placed in areas of great natural beauty, to the delight of bird watchers who can observe all kinds of water birds sheltering and nesting in the lagoon.