Having started our scheduled hide photography a day earlier than originally intended as a result of the Black-winged Kite cancellations we now had a full day with nothing planned.
Where should we go?
It was unanimous. Back to the Sierra de Gredos up in the mountains.
Hide photography is all well and good, and both Mike and I were agreed that they should be part of this particular trip. When you are abroad in particularly time is precious as it is limited, hides increase the chances of getting close to your subject and , when set up in the right places at the right times, should virtually guarantee success.
They have however a major drawback in my opinion. You are taking the same shots as everyone else!
I often see shots posted on the internet and can immediately recognise the perch , I can think of one species in particularly where it seems about 90% of UK shots were taken. You pay handsomely for the privilege too. Nowadays lots of people seem to go for this ready made option more and more but it's also nice to get out and find your own opportunities too.
The mountains up in the Sierra de Gredos offered the chance to get some fresh air, enjoy the stunning countryside and hopefully get some images in to the bargain.
We felt we had some unfinished business with several species still to try and improve on.
We arrived slightly later than the previous visit but still before the sun had come over the top of the mountains to light up the valley we had previously explored. Learning from previous experience I was travelling light and just took the bare minimum of gear and no tripod. That made the climb a much easier proposition. We were also pleased to discover the temperature was positively balmy at around 3º if I recall correctly.
We both got to the place we'd seen the ortolan Buntings a few days previously and split up. I could hear them singing but they were proving impossible to get near.
I was distracted by a Bluethroat singing at the top of his voice.
This one wasn't as confiding as my other little friend so inevitably when I went back down the hillside I'd climbed I went to check him out.
Sure enough, he was soon performing just for me.
What a little star!
I probably spent more time than I should have, my targets were after all other species but this one was irresistible.
I eventually dragged myself away and after a fruitless search for both Water Pipit and Yellow Wagtail on the higher reaches of the stream running through the valley I decided to return down towards the car park where I had a feeling I might find Mike.
By this time there were quite a few walkers heading up the path and one pair had allowed their dog to run loose and chase the Spanish Ibex.
There was no way it was competition for the Ibex whose sure footedness over the rough terrain is quite amazing.
Back at car park level sure enough, there was Mike who had been after Rock and Ortolan Buntings which seemed very approachable down there as did a Wheatear which I'm still not 100% convinced is Black-eared.
I saw an Ortolan No doubt about the Ortolan and managed to get pretty close.
as well as finding another Ibex that was an easier target as it was sat down!
It was getting very bright now, the temperature had scaled to dizzy heights, the car thermometer registered 13º. We decided we'd go and have lunch at the bar we'd visited the previous time.
On arrival we walked in and ordered a couple of beers whilst perusing the menu. No sign of the " menu of the day" nor the man who had served up previously. This time we were virtually ignored, instead of serving up the barman answered his phone and started to chat.
We walked out after a few minutes, disgusted at such rudeness.
Instead we chose another little bar of which there were several to choose from although many ,in what seems to be a popular tourist resort, were shut as it's probably out of season.
We decided to play safe and simple and ordered a burger. We knew what we were getting then! Our new host didn't speak a word of English but we did manage to work out that there was an option to have a burger with an egg on it.
What arrived was truly disappointing. A cold bun with tasteless iceberg lettuce and a slice of tomato, a thin nondescript burger with limp half cooked frozen chips. The fried egg was magnificent though.
Our search for a decent meal continued in vain.
Back up the mountain after lunch I spotted a pair of Common Rock Thrush and decided to target them. In trying to stake them out though I suddenly spotted a Water Pipit heading my way.
Constantly on the move it was a difficult target.
and one I failed to achieve anything near to a desirable outcome.
Instead I concentrated on the Rock Thrush.
I headed back up the mountain side.
He'd spotted me too and ducked down behind a boulder as I approached.
I waited and sure enough up he popped.
So, you want to play hide and seek eh! You're on.
A pretty steep hillside and a pair of wings vs an OAP's legs should have been a forgone conclusion but I wasn't going to give in that easily.
The bird must have been so amused at my efforts he eventually allowed a full view and a photograph.
Relieved at my victory I returned back to the car park finding this stunning Lizard along the way.
The colours are so garish you could easily believe it's one of those dinosaur toys.
Mike meantime hadn't so much as broken in to a sweat in pursuit of his targets. Using guile instead of energy he had simply baited a rock with some bread and waited! He'd nailed the Ortolan and Rock Buntings with comparative ease.
I followed suit and took the easy route.
Delightful little birds.
I was very pleased to have captured three of the four target species I had set out to get.
I even got lucky with the female Rock Thrush and that too was with little effort whatsoever.
We were actually heading to the car to leave when she flew down to the edge of the car park.
All good things come to those who wait..... sometimes!
It had been a successful trip and worth the effort. Both happy with what we had we decided to have a look around the bottom of the valley some distance below but with nothing much seen we headed off towards the Parador hotel we'd passed on the way. Cirl Bunting can apparently be found there but again, we were unsuccessful. Not too bothered we headed back to the Cuatro Caminos hotel, a couple of beers and a crisp and salted peanut dinner followed by an early bedtime.
Such exciting lives we lead no wonder our wives a) don't want to come with us and b) don't mind letting us loose!!
The following day we had hide visits planned. In the morning we were both doing the drinking pool.