Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Spain,Extremadura, 2017. Part 5. If at first you don't succeed!

Once again it was a crack of dawn start and an early sneak out in the dark. Alarms set at 6.00am were now the norm even if our bodies were still in UK time an hour earlier.
We knew how to get to the start of the road we needed and indeed found it with ease.
The Monroy crossroads would soon be there.
We just had to find them!
It took us longer than we had planned and it was getting sunnier by the moment. The road went on and on until we got to a left turn and a signpost to Santa Marta which was 8 kms away. Alternatively if we carried on it was signed 23kms to Monroy. We were told that the place we needed was near Santa Marta so we turned off.
8 kms later we reached the village with no sign of any cross roads.
We turned back and headed to Monroy again, 16 kms wasted.
Again, we carried on and on and still no crossroads until we reached Monroy.
I got out of the car and tried to communicate with a lady setting up the tables and chairs at a local restaurant. With neither having clue what was being said I gave up my quest for information as to where we might see flying birds. She must have thought I was a bit mad but there again they are used to birders in that part of Spain so lunacy is par for the course.
Mike and I were both a bit despondent to be honest. We decided we were hopelessly lost and the best course of action was to try to return to Santa Marta and try again from there somehow.
First though we stopped at another bridge just outside Monroy for a bit more testing photography.
Crag Martins this time!

Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
It took ages to get one that was anything like the standard I was after although photographing them sat down is pretty easy!
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
 Enough time and shutter life wasted on a difficult cause we headed back the way we had originally come and then we saw them. Flying Montagu's Harriers. 
We had found the nest site after all and it wasn't at the crossroads at all. There are no crossroads but there is a T-junction and we had already been there 62 kms driven previously!
Oh well, at least we had at last found them. We even found a spot you could slip off the rather narrow road on to a parallel rough track along the edge of the field where they nest. It was obvious that this spot is well known and well used by birders and photographers. There were even perches attached to the concrete fence posts placed there in the hope of getting a better shot.
We sat in the car for around 6 hours hoping we might get lucky but the birds, and there were at least four pairs, stayed well clear of our car and the nearby perches too instead choosing to rest some distance away and only infrequently fly near us. One bonus sighting though was a distant Great Bustard that landed in the field some 500m away. At least we'd seen one!
Eventually I suggested we moved the car to a different spot and with nothing to loose really Mike agreed. We investigated another spot but there was a car parked there so instead I actually pulled up on the edge of the road trying to allow as much passing space as possible.
From previous experience in some parts of Europe other drivers get agitated and annoyed if you park on the road, even if it is long and straight, however here a few cars went past without incident so we stayed put and boy did it pay off!
Mike was in the back looking at his obtained shots so far, "chimping" as it's called, when I suddenly exclaimed Great Bustard! 
One had flown up out of the field and landed much closer to the road maybe as little as 80-100m away in distance. We got ready for further movement and then it happened. Not one but two Great Bustard took flight and flew parallel tot he road at a similar distance. We had had plenty of time to prepare and there could be no excuses. I fired off a dozen shots and when they had gone took a look at the result. Not bad but not great either.
Great Bustard   Otis tarda
Once again it must be the heat haze but still, how often have you seen a Great Bustard flight shot?
Great Bustard Otis tarda
The last one appeared as if it might be slightly better.
Mike in the back let out a whoop of delight as he saw his shot. I looked at it  and felt disappointed. He'd out performed me yet again.
No excuses it was me. We were both using identical kit.
Canon 1DX2 camera, 500mm f4 lens and a 1.4Mk3 TC. In fact Mike had concerns his camera wasn't performing as well as it should as it seemed to take time to wake up instead of the milliseconds expected from it. Not only that it seemed to be overheating and the battery was running flat far too soon. Didn't hold him back though !
From the same vantage point we started to get much better shots of the Montys again too.
Redemption time for me maybe.
Montagu's Harrier  Circus pygargus
Maybe not.
Montagu's Harrier
I couldn't nail the focus to save my life, it was depressing. The shots might look better if I left them small.
Montagu's Harrier
Afraid not!
The trials and tribulations of a wannabe wildlife photographer!
Oh well, we had cracking views of two top targets. We were expecting another chance with the Great Bustards from a hide later in the trip but as we'd had three efforts at the Montagu it was time to call it quits.
We returned to Finca Flores for our final supper, another feast taken outside on the balcony despite the ever increasing wind.
We don't get the chance to eat "al fresco" all to often in the UK so grab it while you can even if you are shivering slightly!!
Tomorrow we'd be back at the hotel Cuatro Caminos so enjoy the occasion while you can.
Tomorrows plan was another dawn departure and a visit to Monfrague national park, the most famous birding area in the region.
Bring it on!
My enthusiasm was as yet undiminished. I am capable of matching Mike's ability sometimes. Tomorrow I'd prove it.

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