A Lesser Kestrel having a scratch on the rooftop of a derelict farm building image captured during the 2018 Spanish bird photography holiday in Calera

A 2018 visit to the fantastic Spanish Birds of Calera

Article written by illustrated with images contributed by .

Spring of 2018 saw me spending two weeks in Spain. The first week was for the Eagles & Raptors photography holiday in the Sierra Morena Mountains. The second week saw me travelling to Madrid to collect the next group of clients & then on to Calera y Chozas for the NaturesLens Spanish bird photography holiday.

The Natureslens photography tour to Calera has been running for a few years now & always offers a wide variety of birds to photograph on the plains & the mountains close to the area.  2018 was my first visit here after taking over guiding from the incredibly talented Dan Trim. Having seen his images from the previous trips he led for NaturesLens, I couldn't wait to see them for myself.

Calera y Chozas is just two hours drive from Madrid & is an area with many locations for photographic opportunities. In previous years, when David, Pui Hang & Dan have led trips there, the bar had been set high with images of Azure-winged Magpie, , black-winged kite, , great bustard, great grey shrike, griffon vulture, , lesser  & red-legged partridge & more all being captured.

When we arrived, the weather forecast was not as we had hoped for the duration of the trip. But, there were definite positives to the colder weather. For example, some species were more active than they would typically be, & some were still nest-building. This meant different photographic opportunities from previous years so, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining!

One species I was rather keen on seeing & photographing were the Black Winged Stilts at the lake hide. I had seen some fantastic images from previous years so was eager to capture some of my own.

The lake hide is positioned just above water level which allows for some stunning low angle images of the Stilts & other wading birds. Due to its low level, if you are lucky & the water is still, you may get reflection shots. Further, in the afternoon, the sun will, hopefully, cast a warm glow across the lake.

I thought that doing two back to back trips of Spanish bird photography would be exhausting, but I was wrong. There are just so many species to see & photograph at Calera that I was too excited to feel tired.

I also knew that we would be one of the first people to use the newly developed Eagle or Valley hide. We had no eagles but we were kept busy with numerous black & red kites, & even a few vultures.

We even had a visit from an Egyptian Mongoose! He arrived just as we had put away our camera gear, so no one got a shot. Apparently, they are regular visitors to this hide, so I look forward to my next encounter with this mammal.

I have to say that for me, the highlight of the trip was the Carrion hide! The group & I were spoilt with over 100 Griffon & Black Vultures, Red & Black Kites, plus Storks to name a few of the species that visited. At one point, there were so many birds that it was hard to know where to point my camera! The wild lavender was starting to flower, providing us with a gorgeous foreground for some portrait shots of the birds. This hide was so amazing that several of the guests & I would have been more than happy to spend the entire week in there! Small wonder that the carrion hide is so popular.

However, if I had stayed in the carrion hide, I would have missed out on photographing the Little Owls, Southern Grey Shrikes, Hoopoe's, Lesser Kestrels, Bee Eaters & so much more.

The Lesser Kestrels were also amazing not just to photograph but to watch as well. The hide overlooks an old derelict farm building roof, so you are eye level with the birds. Thanks to the late Spring, there were at least four pairs of Lesser Kestrels nesting on the roof! As a result, the activity here was constant. Since they were still in mating season, we were lucky enough to capture some exceptional & close up images of the mating birds.

The beautiful Bee-eater is another immensely popular species on this Spanish bird photography tour. Highly photogenic & lots of fun to watch & photograph.

Bee-eaters feed mostly on stinging insects like bees & wasps although they are also partial to moths. It was fascinating to watch them remove the sting by rapidly rubbing them on their perch, then tossing & catching their prey into the air numerous times, just for fun! They eat around 250 insects each day, so there are plenty of opportunities to capture action shots.

The cute, but grumpy looking, Little Owl is another firm favourite for photographers. Their charismatic nature makes them my favourite owl species. They are full of attitude but adorable at the same time, & one species that I never tire of photographing.

I can't wait to go back next year for more Spanish bird photography, although I do hope that it is warmer!

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[tec_event_excerpt_for_after_blog_post id=16250 prefix=”Or, join me, to photograph the stunning Golden Eagles & Raptors of , ” guide_first_name_only=1 use_guide_name_suffix=0 replace_guide_name=”]

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