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.
Our host for this photography holiday, which is focussed entirely on these amazing birds of the Spanish plains, has worked hard in this area to develop hides for a wide range of Iberian & Southern European specialities & the opportunities don't disappoint. I'm a conservative shooter & came back with full memory cards despite evening memory card clean outs! Hoopoe, Bee Eater, Little Owl, Great & Little Bustards, Black & Griffon Vulture, Lesser & Common Kestrel as well as the striking Black-Winged Kite are on offer. I'm not going to describe all the hides but will pick a few that were my personal favourites.
The hides that we have use of are the only hides in Europe for photographing the amazing Black-Winged Kite, an incredibly striking raptor. It's a long day in the hide but worth the effort when the birds bring prey back to pluck & eat in front of you. Being in the hide all day also gives you the morning light initially then wonderful backlighting in the evening.
I've seen Lesser Kestrel before but not like this. The hide looks over the roof of an old farm outbuilding where 9 pairs nest in a very small area. The action is constant with the lovely looking males bringing back prey items to gift to their partner. Preening, mating, squabbling. I associate Lesser Kestrel with nesting in ruined buildings & this is exactly that – I think they look great on the terracotta pantiles & just watching the colony is brilliant.
Bee Eaters are a common bird in Europe but I don't think you can ever tire of photographing them. Brightly coloured, bubbling to each other & only a few metres away! In Calera they nest in the ground rather than a bank, watching them excavate was good fun.
Last but not least on my favourites list was the lake hide. The month prior to our trip had seen a lot of rain fall. As a results lots of water was available elsewhere & the lake was not as much of a draw for animals in the surrounding area. Nevertheless the resident Black-Winged Stilt provided great entertainment; defending territories, mating & preening in some glorious light. The low level perspective was what made this hide great.
I'm looking forward to the trip in 2017 already!
You can view some of the images captured by Andrew, one of the participants, on another blog post located here.
Do you want to photograph the birds of the Spanish plains?
If you would like to join the group to photograph the amazing birds of the Spanish plains, which will again be led by Daniel Trim in 2017, then you can book the 2017 Birds of Calera Photography Holiday for the same price as the 2016 participants paid, that is £1749 for a 9 day trip, but this price is only available until June 1st 2016, so book now if you would like to take advantage of this special offer price. After the special offer has closed, the price will rise to £1899.
We include all transport from Madrid Airport to the area in which the hides are located, transport to the hides themselves, accommodation on a full board basis, usage of the hides for 7 days & plenty of laughter. You should be presented with opportunities for photographing Bee-Eater, Black Vulture, Black-Winged Kite, Common Kestrel, Great Bustard, Griffon Vulture, Hoopoe, Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Little Bustard, Little Owl & more besides!