15 images of the diverse birdlife of Spain’s plains of Calera

A Lesser Kestrel rests on the tiles of a derelict barn photographed during one of the NaturesLens photography holidays to Spain

In this second trip report on the birdlife of Spain, I look back at our week in Calera. We arrived in Calera Y Chozas after a week of predominantly raptor photography in the Sierra Morena area.

The Spanish Birds of Calera has been running every year for the last five years. The focus of the tour is to capture images of owls, kites & other endemic Spanish birdlife. I’ve seen some incredible photographs from my colleagues when they have guided in this location previously. The area is rich in wildlife with a diverse range of species available, a wildlife photographer’s nirvana! However, would it match our high expectations after an astonishingly fruitful week in the Sierra Morena?
Day one saw one of the guests & I in the Carrion hide to photograph Griffon & Eurasian Black Vultures. I was confident we’d get some excellent access to these scavenging raptors as I had heard much about this hide. I also have to admit to being a bit excited about photographing Eurasian Black Vultures after seeing them in Adamuz.

What I wasn’t quite expecting was just how many Vultures! As we sat in the hide, over 100 Vultures, plus Common Storks & the occasional Red Kite & Common Buzzard crowded into the small area in front of the hide window. This hive of activity was an incredible onslaught on the senses! Some of the birds came within just a few yards of the hide & others remained further in the distance. Trying to isolate individuals or small groups without other birds being a distraction proved to be challenging. However, challenging is also enjoyable & the colours in the wildflower meadow made for stunning surroundings.
Calera also offered us another chance to photograph Little Owls & Bee-Eaters, but in different surroundings such as farms & olive groves. Photographing the Bee-Eaters was a particularly enjoyable session as some incredible light flooded the plains. There were lots of opportunities to photograph individual birds & pairs squabbling amongst themselves.
The Hoopoe hide proved to be a firm favourite with all of our guests. Without doubt, the best shots were when it raised its marvellous crest & it did this as soon as it landed, but only for a second or so. It certainly kept us attentive & ready to get the shots we wanted. Like the Vultures, photography of the hoopoe was challenging but enjoyable.
Morning sessions with an Iberian Shrike were also fascinating & we enjoyed photographing them in some beautiful light. I’ve never observed Shrikes for a prolonged period & it was incredible to see how it behaved with its ‘larder’ of prey.
A population of Lesser Kestrels provided us with a fantastic session in their habitat, a dilapidated farm building. Around five or six pairs were nesting at various points around the roof. The hide, which is elevated on stilts, provided an excellent viewing point in a unique location. As an added interest, the same site was also popular with Spotless Starlings.
Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to revisit hides to photograph species in a different light. The Hoopoe proved a popular choice where back-lighting through the crest was an exciting & enjoyable exposure challenge.
The raptor hide was a hive of activity with Black & Red Kites gathering then swooping down in amongst the wildflower meadows. This gave us the opportunity to photograph them in flight, perched in morning light & in conflict with each other. I think it is safe to say that photography sessions at this hide provided regular & exciting action!
On the water’s edge, the Lake Hide provides photographic opportunities of Common & Ringed Plover, Stilt, Egret & Gadwall with options for the guests to use hides with a low water level viewpoint as well as a higher seated vantage point.
Our time in Calera certainly didn’t disappoint even after our fantastic week in the Sierra Morena area. I wouldn’t say one was better or more photographically fruitful as they were very different in terms of species, opportunities, light & habitat. What is safe to say is that these two photography holidays offered amazing wildlife photography experiences & incredible opportunities with the birdlife of Spain & to increase our guest’s photographic portfolios.

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