Updated: Oct 9
My first experience of a European lynx was in the Carpathian mountains, in Romania.
Wild lynx are extremely difficult to see in their natural habitat. Despite many attempts I have only had five sightings of European lynxes and five sightings of Spanish lynxes. Spanish lynxes are easier to see than European ones because they inhabit areas fairly close to people.
My first European lynx was in the Carpathian mountains, in Romania. It was a very fleeting glimpse, as it broke for cover. It clearly knew of my presence .
The following year I visited the same area but I went equipped with some local knowledge. For a complete week, Malcolm Rudge, a brilliant naturalist and myself scoured the area from dawn till dusk, looking for any signs. In the entire week we saw two, both several days old. We decided to move camp.
We arrived at the new site at dusk and set up our tents, hoping for better things. I woke to the first call of the birds and started boiling water on the stove. Malcolm joined me and we discussed our plans for the day.
At that moment, I thought I had seen a slight movement about 30 metres away on our left. We scanned the area with binoculars but apart from the odd bird nothing moved.
All of a sudden a lynx kitten bounded from the thicket and raced into an arc being chased by another lynx kitten. They chased around fighting and playing seemingly unaware of our presence. It was an unbelievable sight. At one memorable point they were only 15 metres away. At times like this you realise how privileged and fortunate you have been to witness such things. Then they were gone.
I crawled into my tent to get my sketch pad. I froze in the doorway of my tent as the two kittens gave a repeat performance. One picked up the wing of a bird and the other tried to get it. They fought and chased for another ten minutes before tiredness set in and we could see them lying motionless. As if by magic, and despite us keeping a watch on them, they disappeared from view. We sat for two hours hoping for another display but to no avail.
I made some sketches from what I could remember, but they were very poor. However 40 years later I got the sketches out to consider making a sculpture of the two kittens.
Amazingly the memory flashed into my head as though it was yesterday, I did some better sketches. It activated my memory to such an extent that I could even recall the smell of the area. The smell of prey that had been largely consumed by the kittens. I sat down and sketched many details of what I could recall, the size of the kittens, length of the legs and feet, one lying and the other pretending to go for the throat. I remember the stubby little tail and their fabulous heads. It was wonderful to relive one of the greatest moments of my life.
I did the sculpture by making each kitten separately. Putting them together proved to be difficult because there appeared to be too many legs and feet competing for the same space. I tried many positions and noticed one of the back legs didn’t quite seem right. I made some slight adjustments and tried again, to join them together. Two slight movements and they clicked together perfectly. It was the only way that they would join but funnily enough it was the perfect pose. The perfect end to a remarkable event in my life.