Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Spain,Extremadura, 2017. Part 14. Monfrague....again?!

This was our penultimate day. We both had hide sessions booked but not until 4.30pm for Mike, 6.45pm for me. Mike was doing Rollers and I was doing the Little Owl.
How would we fill the morning? Well I had no doubt where I wanted to go...... back to Monfrague. We were both down to do the Vulture feeding hide the following morning before setting off home but I knew we wouldn't get the flight shot opportunity that the Castillo at Monfrague offers and I didn't want to go home without trying. With equipment failure on the first visit, torrential rain on the second this was it. Mike very kindly agreed. There was no need, it was along drive and he already had all the species in the bag but fair do's that's were we headed.
Unbelievably, the weather worsened as we approached the national park.
We climbed the steps up to the very top and watched as the weather swept in.
Within minutes it was pouring down.
A "I don't believe it' moment. I had checked the forecast this time and it looked OK. Not brilliant but OK.
We took what little shelter there was on offer and waited to see if it would ease off but after an hour gave up and headed back to the car to drive to the viewing point well below. 
That's when the rain stopped!
So we climbed all those steps once more.
This time it stayed dry and as the wind came up, the vultures started to fly.
Griffon Vulture  Gyps fulvus
At first they were quite some way off but a cropped image wasn't too bad.
Griffon Vulture  Gyps fulvus
Much better than any attempt I had made when previously there.
Griffon Vulture  Gyps fulvus
Slowly but surely the birds were rising higher and higher.
Griffon Vulture  Gyps fulvus
I was using a bare 500mm lens on my full frame body so I needed them to get as close as possible.
Griffon Vulture  Gyps fulvus
and to my delight they were doing so!
Griffon Vulture  Gyps fulvus
We had been joined by three British birders who were asking questions about photography and looking at our shots.
"You make it look easy" they said.
Might look it on the back of the camera but there had been a lot off effort put in to getting those shots.
Three dawn starts, hundreds of kilometres driven to say nothing of getting wet, and climbing countless steps!
Griffon Vulture  Gyps fulvus
But at last it had been worthwhile.
Griffon Vulture  Gyps fulvus
The only disappointment was that there only seemed to be Griffon Vultures flying today, well near to us anyway. An Egyptian could be seen a long way off and Mike told me a Black Vulture had flown higher up but I'd missed it.
As we had lost a fair bit earlier it was soon time to head back to Colera-y-Chozas. We did make a quick stop on the way to seek out the Spanish Imperial Eagle's nest the 3 Brits had told us about.
Spanish Imperial Eagle.   Aquila adalberti
It was a long way off but the bird was sitting on the nest so that was another species to add to our trip list.
On the way back Mike asked if I'd swop my Little Owl session for his Roller. He'd drawn a blank when he had tried a couple of days previously and he was desperate to get some images of the species. So was I ! Selfishly I declined the invitation so at 4.30 off he went.
Later I, along with another person I hadn't seen before, headed off to the Little Owl hides, there are two spots. Taking me first, Jose told me I was getting the hide where someone had been very successful a couple of nights earlier. 
It wasn't that night though!
Another two and a half hours sat doing little although the weather was probably against me too. It even started to rain but at least I had a bedraggled Partridge come to keep me company for a while.
Red-legged Partridge
Returning to the hotel for our last night we had to settle our bills. Neither of us were charged for our Little Owl no show but we still parted company with 440 euros each.
Mike had had reasonable success with the Roller. It hadn't been active but it has posed for a few pictures so Mike was happy.
We settled the 9 night hotel bill which for two separate rooms, a couple of nightly beers each, (maybe three on some nights!), one rather poor meal, a bottle of cheap wine, countless bowls of nuts and crisps, some extra tapas, my baguettes for the hide day and it still only came to 559 euros for the two of us. I thought it was a bit of a bargain and I would happily recommend Hostel Cuarto Caminos to anyone.
Shame they can't produce decent food though.
One last morning session to go then it was back to Madrid and home.

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