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One of Calera's Bustards at sunrise image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday

Dan reports in from our Spanish Bird Photography Holiday

This was my second year leading a group for NaturesLens on their Spanish Bird Photography Holiday that is focussed around the fantastic hides in Calera & once again they did not disappoint.

The stars of this area in Spain are the bustards & the black-winged kite but when Europe’s more common but still wonderful & colourful birds are also on your doorstep there’s really nothing not to like – add in some paella, sunshine & a few beers & I’m happy!

This year I had the chance to photograph a few species I missed last year. Starting with the charismatic little owl! I’ll share the others in my second blog but for now just look at those eyes…

A little owl poses in the Spanish olive grove image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday On the ground, a little owl attempts to out stare the camera lens grove image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday Nestled in the trees within the olive grove, the little owls make their nests image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday

This year Spring was much more advanced when compared to last year; this meant the bee-eaters were already digging away, courting, & mating by the time we arrived – a bee-eater colony never fails to impress!

They became a firm favourite with the guests on the holiday & were a great way to spend the afternoons on the Spanish plains.

Tossing an insect, this European Bee eater demonstrates it's agility image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday Demonstrating the classic food pass, this pair of European Bee eaters are entranced with one and other image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday Of course, when we visit, many of the species, such as this pair of European Bee eaters, are at the height of their mating season image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday One of the solo Bee eaters perches awaiting the return of it's mate image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday

The bustards were putting on a good show too, with a large group of lekking males making their rounds on the short grazed fields. Great fun to watch from the hide, massive & really impressive birds!

On the plains, the bustards are king image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday A pair of bustards stride, gathering their harem of females as they do so image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday One of Calera's Bustards at sunrise image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday

Their smaller (but still rather large!) cousins, the little bustards, also put in an appearance & whilst waiting for the famous jumping display I took some photos as they scratched away & scurried amongst the arable fields. Unfortunately, the jumping display evaded me again!

A highlight for many during the holiday, is the chirping and jumping of the Little Bustard image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday The little bustards are early risers, often seen in the blue of the dawn image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday

I’ll finish this first part of my report with some photos from one of my favourite hides for Spanish Bird photography at this location, the lake hide!

It’s great; you’re there, laying on a comfy mat at water level with waders feeding around you. The sun gets lower & the light gets better & better, just brilliant …

Low level photography from the shoreline hide image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday The afternoon sessions at the shoreline hide are often bathed in a glorious light image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday Reflection shots are more than achievable at the shoreline hide on a small water body in Calera image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday The shore line hide sees you laying on a comfy mat at water level with waders feeding around you image captured during a NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday

WOULD YOU LIKE TO UNDERTAKE SOME SPANISH BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR YOURSELF IN 2018?

For 2018, NaturesLens have already planned a duo of Spanish Bird Photography Holidays that can be joined together to form one seamless opportunity to add a plethora of photos of the birds of Spain to your portfolio – or you can attend the separate events individually – the two events are the Spanish Raptors Photography Holiday followed the next week by Spanish Birds of Calera Photography Holiday.

Starting with the Spanish Raptors Photography Holiday during mid-April – specifically starting on April 13 & ending on April 20, 2018 – to be led by Sean Weekly for NaturesLens, then the amazing Spanish Birds of Calera Photography Holiday starts on April 21 & ends on April 29, 2018, this trip is being led by … Sean Weekly … so you’ll have his company, photographic tuition & guidance for the whole fortnight.

One of the Black winged Stilts poses one only one leg photographed during the Natureslens Birds of Spain Photography Holiday

Derek reviews our Birds of Spain Photography Holiday

I have been on wildlife photographic trips many times with David & PN. Sometimes as personal friends & sometimes as a client of NaturesLens, whilst discussing plans for 2017, David mentioned that he felt the Calera trip to photograph some of the Birds of Spain would be exactly what I wanted as I have for some time yearned to photograph the Little Bustard displaying.

As all wildlife photographers know you can go to the right place at the right time & still fail to get your shot. – this is exactly what happened on this trip! If it was easy it would soon become boring.

So did I come away disappointed from my trip? The answer is a resounding No as there were so many other great birds to photograph & in wonderful lighting that I almost forgot why I first decided to go on this trip.

Photographed from the lake hide, one of the Black winged Stilts photographed during the Natureslens Birds of Spain Photography Holiday

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A Spanish Little Owl at it's nesting site in an olive grove photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain

Alan’s thoughts from his second week with the Birds of Spain

This is part 2 of my blog for NaturesLens after my undertaking a pair of back-to-back Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain, this blog covers the Spanish Birds of Calera Photography Holiday – if you haven’t read the first part, you can read it here – it covers the Spanish Raptors Photography Holiday.

After the Raptors trip & my overnight stop in Madrid, it was time to head back to the airport to meet the group arriving from the UK for the Calera tour. Greetings exchanged, Daniel met with, we were soon on our way. Calera is about 1h 30mins to the west of Madrid in the Castilla-la-Mancha region. It would be another week of early starts & longs days in hides but I knew it would also be a week of excellent bird photography & I was looking forward to it very much.

A Spanish Little Owl at it's nesting site in an olive grove photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain Read more

David’s images of the Birds of the Spanish Plains

Earlier this year, David was part of a small group who headed to capture images of the birds of the Spanish plains with Pui Hang & myself, we spent a weekend photograph the various species that are to be found in the area.

Ordinarily, we had expected some of the species to have diminished numbers as they would have started to migrate following their successful breeding earlier in the season, however the season had been wet, many of the earlier clutches had sadly failed & so large numbers of birds remained & were trying for a second clutch – this certainly applied to the hoopoes, the bee-eaters & more.

The female adult hoopoe feeding one of the young from this years clutch - photographed on the NaturesLens Birds of the Spanish Plains Photography Holiday Read more

Birds of the Spanish Plains from a recent visit

Although our main photography holiday for the birds of the Spanish plains takes place in late April or early May; for the first time this year, we additionally visited at the end of May, specifically over the bank holiday weekend. Our local guide opined that some of the species would have left & the young of others would have fledged, so there was a possibility of a lesser selection of species to photograph – this would not be a hardship, given only four photography sessions over the weekend & plenty of species remaining, we would still have plenty to photograph.

As it turned out, this was not the case, we had virtually the same species as those who had visited 6 weeks previous; due to rains earlier in the season, the bee-eaters were still courting, nest-building & mating, the black-shouldered kites had not departed for their migration south & many other species were still displaying a full set of behaviours.

Jason was amongst those who accompanied us on this trip to our location, which is about 90 minutes from Madrid, he has kindly sent in a selection of the images that he captured whilst on the Spanish plains, he had sessions with shrike, bee-eater, hoopoe & time in the carrion hide, which sees visits from black & red kites, storks, many vultures, ravens & more.

We have one place remaining available for the 2017 weekend, which will be held between the dates of May 27th – 29th 2017, if you’d like to attend & capture images of the birds of the Spanish plains for yourself, send us a message using our contact form.

Jason has kindly sent us a selection of his images that we are happy to publish below:

A male bee-eater delicately passes a freshly caught insect to a female of the species - photographed on a NaturesLens Photography Holiday to Spain to photograph the birds of the Spanish plains Read more

More participant photos of the Birds of the Spanish Plains

We are pleased to post up another selection of photos of the Birds of the Spanish Plains, taken on the Birds of Calera Photography Holiday, these were taken & contributed by David Jones, who visited Calera with me in 2015, but was so taken with the area & the variety of species on offer that he decided to revisit in 2016, with Dan leading the trip on this occasion.

You can view some of the images captured by Andrew, one of the participants, on another blog post located here & some of those from Dan, who led the trip for us in 2016 & will do so again in 2017 & 2018, here! But for now, here are some great images from David

A Bee-eater captured tossing a bee before swallowing it - photographed on the NaturesLens Birds of Calera Photography Holiday Read more

Some thoughts on the Birds of the Spanish Plains

The rare & elusive Black Winged Kite - photographed on the NaturesLens Birds of Calera Photography Holiday in Spain

Spain’s central plains, about 90 minutes from Madrid, retain their rustic charm & beauty with dilapidate terracotta roofed buildings, rusty farm machinery & very few built up areas. Subsistence farming mixed with large areas of cork oak, olive groves & wilderness create a wide range of unspoilt habitats for the birds of the Spanish plains. This all has the wonderful backdrop of the Sierra de Gredos, a stunning mountain range home to Iberian Ibex, Imperial Eagle, Black Vultures & much more! What really struck me though was the abundance of invertebrates & small birds. A clear indication of how productive the area is. Read more