Two years ago I travelled to Spain with Natureslens to photograph a wide variety of the birds of Spain in Calera y Chozas, & I enjoyed it so much that I booked to go back again in 2017: but this time with a difference. The week before the Birds of Calera Photography Holiday, Natureslens also had arranged a trip to photograph Eagles & other birds in the Sierra Morena region found in the south of Spain; consequently, I rolled the two trips together, with a day of downtime, in between, in Madrid.
Part 1 of my blog for NaturesLens covers the Spanish Raptors Photography Holiday.
Week 1 – Spanish Raptors in Adamuz
The trip started with a very early flight from London to Malaga, where we were met by our local guides. A comfortable 2-hour drive took us inland to Adamuz – a small provincial town in the Sierra Morena region & our base for the week. We were soon settled into our hotel to unpack & freshen up before meeting in a restaurant just minutes from the hotel (run by the same people) where we received a warm welcome from our hosts. In the early evening our guides took us out for a recce to get a feel for the region.
We split into 2 groups, & for my group, our first full day of photography started with a pre-dawn drive into the mountains to a remote hide to photograph the Spanish Imperial Eagle. On this first morning we were blanketed by the mist that was rising from the valley floor, making photography nearly impossible. Through the mist we occasionally caught a glimpse of the pair of eagles that visited this site. They were sat in a tree a short distance away. Eventually, after the mists burnt off, they took to the air – & promptly flew off down the valley! But we were visited by foxes from time to time, & Azure-winged Magpies that were nesting nearby, so we still had something to photograph.
Day 2 was a later start for our group. This time we were heading into another area of the mountains & hoping to see Golden Eagles. Arriving at the hide around midday we settled in & waited. We would be here for another 8-9 hours but the hide had comfortable chairs & room for 4 people. The hide is purpose-built with one-way glass & good views across the tree tops – allowing you to track the eagles for flight shots. But we weren’t going to be that lucky. An eagle arrived a little after 8pm, just as the sun was dropping behind the hill to our left. It perched in a tree just close enough to get some shots of it in the landscape. Our guide was due to arrive back at 8.30pm to collect us. He saw the eagle was there, & stayed away until the eagle left, but by then the light had dropped & all the shots of the eagle on the perches were at very high ISOs & slow shutter speeds. Another frustrating day (who said wildlife photography was easy) but still incredible to see such a wary bird at such close quarters!
Another session with the Golden Eagle was more rewarding, with the bird arriving a little earlier & looking splendid, bathed in the glorious evening light.
Day 3 was much the same – back in the Spanish Imperial Hide but the only view we had was of one bird perched in the trees on the distant skyline. We were beginning to think our group was jinxed.
Days 4 to 7 were made up of various hides. We would sit down in the evening & work out who would visit which hide the following day. I visited the Hoopoes 3 times, Kestrel twice, Kingfisher once, & the drinking pool hide a couple of times to photograph a variety of smaller birds.
The Hoopoe were great fun to watch. The adult birds were so busy collecting food to bring back to the nest. You could watch them fly to the shade of the surrounding trees & wander around probing the ground looking for bugs. With 3 visits to this hide I was able to capture a variety of images & behaviours, & even shoot some video.
The Kestrels were nesting in a cavity left by floor joists in an abandoned farm building. The location was high up & benefitted from being lit with the evening sun, giving pleasingly warm images of the birds. You would hear the male calling to the female. Sometimes she would come out of the nest hole to meet him, sometimes he would bring his catch directly to her. The colours of the stone were so similar to the birds that if male landed away from the nest site to call to the female, you had trouble finding him.
The Kingfisher hide was a morning session. We were stationed in portable hides in the gravelly bed of a river. Where the river was still flowing, a perch had been positioned for the Kingfisher. Both male & female birds were flying past constantly but only perched twice, for short periods. While we waited we were kept busy by a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, & a Hoopoe that was searching out food in the sandy edges of the river bank.
The drinking pool hide was a late afternoon/early evening hide. Mostly visited by the resident Sparrows, but a few other common species also put in an appearance: Great Tit, Blue Tit, Blackcap, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Starling, Azure-winged Magpies to name a few. We missed out on the Hawfinch that sometimes visits, & the Green Woodpecker only put in a brief appearance, but we did see & photograph a Crossbill & also had a Woodchat Shrike perching & hunting from a fencepost behind the pool.
It was a great trip, offering intimate views of the lives of the birds, & sharing the experience with fellow photographers. We all had a brilliant time – great camaraderie & lots of photography chit-chat. Thanks to Sean, David, Weng & Laura for making it a memorable week – I hope we can all meet up again on another trip.
Week 1 over, I flew to Madrid while the bulk of headed back to the UK.
In Part 2, I meet up with a new group joining the Spanish Birds of Calera Photography Holiday for still more photography of the birds of Spain.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO CAPTURE IMAGES OF THE BIRDS OF SPAIN 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.