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.
My first two trips as a photography guide for NaturesLens took me to some beautiful wildlife hotspots in rural Spain during April & May of 2019, the focus of the tours, to photograph the diverse birdlife of Spain.
In this, the first of two trip reports, I’ll be looking back at our week in the Sierra Morena where Spanish raptors were our main subjects. After arriving in Malaga & meeting our NaturesLens guests, we headed to the village of Adamuz, our base for the week. After settling in at our accommodation & enjoying lunch in the sun, we headed out to photograph Golden Eagles from a purpose-built hide with the most incredible mountain & woodland vista as an unspoilt background. Hide photography can often be a trial of patience, but we didn’t have to wait long for the star of the show to arrive. As a pair of Golden Eagles circled effortlessly above us, we enjoyed visits from Azure Winged Magpies & Jays. But Golden Eagles were to be our target subject for our first afternoon, & they didn’t disappoint. It was an incredible opportunity to photograph these fantastic raptors at such proximity, & it’s fair to say it set the bar very high for the week ahead!
Back in the summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Hungary to meet with a hide owner out there; I had heard great things about the area & the species on offer, but one set of hides in particular caught my attention.
Now, we are inviting you to join NaturesLens on a new pair of exciting photography holidays, photographing the diverse bird species that inhabit the Tisza Valley in Hungary. With a wide selection of hides designed & built to provide optimal opportunities throughout the area at our disposal, we will provide you with some of the best bird photography opportunities possible, capturing them in flight, within their habitats & interacting with one another.
Working from dawn ’til dusk watching this wonderful range of species in action, this is a pair of experiences that you won’t want to miss!
The hides are designed & built to provide optimal opportunities in terms of light, background, & distance for a wide range of iconic species including Red-footed Falcon, Kestrel, Roller, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Spoonbill, Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Garganey, Ferruginous duck, Kingfisher, & more.
The hides are located in different habitats & the set-ups varied to provide the maximum number of species & opportunities.
For Summer 2018, we will have two new opportunities: the first, is a week long visit to the area, on a full board non-shared accommodation basis with airport transfers & all hide usage & guidance included. This photography holiday is of 7 nights duration, & costs £2199 on a non-shared basis. It takes place in Tiszaalpár in Hungary, between the dates of 27th May – 3rd June 2018. The trip is ideal for photographing bee-eater, black-necked grebe, common kestrel, hoopoe, kestrel, kingfisher, lesser grey shrike, little grebe, middle-spotted woodpecker, red-backed shrike, red-footed falcon, roller, scops owl, spoonbill & more. Group size for this photography holiday is a minimum of 4 participants & a maximum of 7, plus our guide.
During your 4 night stay, you will have opportunities to capture images of the falcons as they display, mate, keep their eyes on the nests, fight, & fly. This tour is the perfect introduction to the Steppe Birds of Hungary photography holiday for those who can’t manage the longer 7 day photography trip or can only get away for a long weekend.
This photography break is of 4 nights duration, & costs £1399, it takes place in Tiszaalpár in Hungary, between the dates of 29th June – 3rd July 2018. The photography break is offered on a full board, non-shared basis. As with the longer trip, the photography break starts & ends at Budapest Airport, & transfers between Budapest Airport & Tiszaalpár are included in the cost.
For the longer holiday – you can hold a place with a deposit of £440 – for the shorter tour, a deposit of £280 will secure your place, in both cases, the balance is due 90 days before the holiday commences
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.
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:
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 …
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. Continue reading →
We’ve been sent some great images from clients in the last week, we will start with a few images of the Birds of Spain, from one of the participants that attended the Birds of Calera Photography Holiday at the end of April, Andrew Oldacre, who had this to say about the trip …
“The hides, their location & backgrounds, all worked well & the opportunities to take some stunning images were many & regular … Overall I can heartly recommend this trip!”
More on these particular birds in an upcoming post from Dan, but the lake hide & the black-winged stilt that was in attendance appears to have been a hit with quite a few of the participants.