Our photography tour to El Taray to photograph the Birds of Central Spain was a new trip for 2019 but I can see how it may well become our flagship Spanish birding tour. There is literally something for everyone whether you like raptors, pretty little birds or wading birds.
Ellen was one of our guests on our inaugural trip and she very kindly sent in these stunning images for us to share with you.
We were originally attracted to El Taray because it is home to the largest colony of lesser kestrels that we have ever encountered. However, we soon discovered that the number of species that can be photographed here is simply phenomenal! This includes wild Goshawk that is not live-baited.
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
I mentioned in my previous blog that during this year’s trip to Calera, for the NaturesLens Spanish Bird Photography Holiday, that Spring was far more advanced than the year before. Previously the rollers hadn’t even turned up yet whereas this year they were already establishing nesting locations & ferociously chasing anything that came near, including a kestrel at one stage! They weren’t feeding young yet so the visits weren’t so frequent but there aren’t many birds in Europe as stunning as these & it was a pleasure to photograph them.
A firm favourite amongst everyone is always the carrion hide. The action is constant with varied species & even the odd guest appearance from a fox or if you’re really lucky an imperial eagle! The regulars are just as fun though & watching lots of griffon & black vultures feasting is quite a sight! This hide really fills up the memory cards!
Speaking of favourites, my favourite hide in Calera is that of the lesser kestrels. They are charming small falcons & a joy to watch at the colony as they bring back all sorts of tasty morsels. With the odd hen harrier flying by in the fields behind & the bubbling from bee-eaters overhead it’s a great hide to spend an afternoon or two in!
During this year’s trip I took a drive with our local guide to look for red-legged partridge. An introduced species in the UK but don’t be put off – the birds in Iberia have quite striking markings & make a nice subject. We stalked them in the car in the surrounding countryside & the array of photos you can take make a nice addition to the hide work here.
I’ll finish with another common european bird but also another wonderful one; the hoopoe! I can’t think of anyone that doesn’t like seeing or photographing one of these. When they raise their crest there are few European birds that look more tropical!
Back in April, David, one of our clients, not one of our leaders, visited our latest location for bird photography in Sierra Morena, Spain. The site offered the opportunity to capture images of different bird species from those on our Birds of Calera tour such as Crossbills & the majestic Golden Eagle.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the trip was when the lucky occupants of one of the hides witnessed a Golden Eagle fighting with a fox! This is just one image from that memorable encounter.
David told us “Once again the trip was very well arranged. The permanent hides were the best I have ever used. They were all brick built & had toilets while the temporary ones were very large dome hides with artificial turf floors. Thanks once again for another enjoyable trip.”
The unexpected visits by the red fox certainly made this trip rather special & one to remember.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO PHOTOGRAPH THE BIRDS OF SPAIN FOR YOURSELF IN 2018?
This was my second year leading a group for NaturesLens on their Spanish Bird Photography Holiday that is focussed around the fantastic hides in Calera & once again they did not disappoint.
The stars of this area in Spain are the bustards & the black-winged kite but when Europe’s more common but still wonderful & colourful birds are also on your doorstep there’s really nothing not to like – add in some paella, sunshine & a few beers & I’m happy!
This year I had the chance to photograph a few species I missed last year. Starting with the charismatic little owl! I’ll share the others in my second blog but for now just look at those eyes…
I have been on wildlife photographic trips many times with David & PN. Sometimes as personal friends & sometimes as a client of NaturesLens, whilst discussing plans for 2017, David mentioned that he felt the Calera trip to photograph some of the Birds of Spain would be exactly what I wanted as I have for some time yearned to photograph the Little Bustard displaying.
As all wildlife photographers know you can go to the right place at the right time & still fail to get your shot. – this is exactly what happened on this trip! If it was easy it would soon become boring.
So did I come away disappointed from my trip? The answer is a resounding No as there were so many other great birds to photograph & in wonderful lighting that I almost forgot why I first decided to go on this trip.