Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Spain,Extremadura, 2017. Part 3 Still no joy!

Day 2 proper and we were up and ready having had an early breakfast at 6.45am. We wanted to get to our prospective subjects and photograph them in the best light of the day.
Our chosen destination, well mine really, Mike agreed to go along, was Cornalvo and Los Conchales, an area a bit further south and recommended as one of 19 potentially good bird watching routes in Extremadura. There was after all, no point in staying in the more southern part if we were travelling north again! Anyway, after one brief error in navigation we found where we thought we should be.
Surrounded by lovely countryside the only problem was the lack of a stopping place on a narrow road which seemed to have a few cars travelling along, possibly heading to work in the fields somewhere.
Anyway, we found our very first bird of the day and no surprise it was a Corn Bunting.
Corn Bunting    Emberiza calandra
At point blank range there was no excuse for not getting a sharp image and I was happy with the result.
We moved on, slowly exploring an unmade track that was possibly leading only to a couple of farms.
There were birds but getting close was the problem still.
Another Zitting Cisticola, minute in the frame!
Zitting Cisticola  Cisticola juncidis
The crop was so big no wonder the image was soft.
Next we came across a pair of Hoopoe but they insisted on moving on as we slowly followed in the car. We decided to leave them in peace, we would be getting a much better opportunity from the photo hides next week so the images were of little importance.
Hoopoe. Upupa epops
What we saw next was though!
Woodlark  Lullula arborea
They were a bit distant so I decided to chance my arm with my 2x converter to give me that extra reach in getting a closer shot.
Woodlark  Lullula arborea
It's widely regarded that the 2x degrades the image quality, the end result being softer than it might be with a bare lens or even a 1.4TC but these shots looked good enough for my needs. 
I was happy with that. The birds flew off so we moved on. Maybe things might get better from now?
Sadly they didn't. We found a bird hide overlooking a lake but everything was once again distant. We headed back to see if we could find the Woodlarks again, a desirable subject for us both.
We found them briefly but only briefly.
Still, a couple of more images captured, again using the 2.0x TC.
Woodlark  Lullula arborea
They immediately walked away from the car when we stopped. 
Woodlark  Lullula arborea
It was rewarding but not rewarding enough. It was already lunch time and we felt we were not progressing too well.
A management decision was called for and we took it. We headed back to the motorway and off we went, north to Trujillo.
We checked out a place  where Mike knew we'd find the Lesser Kestrels flying in and out of their nesting site.
The roof of the bullring.
It was an hours drive but at least we would get to photograph something, and photograph them we did!
At last we could let rip and took loads of shots in our attempts to catch the action.
Lesser Kestrel  Falco naumanni
Not only did we have Kestrels but occasionally a Black kite would fly over closely too.
Black Kite   Milvus migrant
A bare lens is easily best for birds in flight, the auto focus locks on so much quicker but you need the subject to be close. Here they weren't always so I'm all for experimenting if the time and opportunity presents itself using different lens and converter combinations and trying new camera settings. Mike raises an eyebrow on occasions when I tell him what I'm doing preferring to stick with his tried and tested methods and who am I to dispute the results? He seemed happy with his whilst I was seeing lots of rubbish in amongst some of mine. That was down to me.
After filling our boots and satisfying that need to fill a camera card we decided to check out another of Mike's recommendations.
The Birding Road.
You leave the centre of Trujillo then west along the N521 ignoring the first turn right until you get to the CC99 , a right turn towards Santa Marta de Gasca. It took us about 30 minutes but we realised we could have also taken the new motorway standard A5 road that runs parallel to the N521. Neither road had any traffic and appeared to be a waste of money. An E.U. grant perhaps?
Anyway what we saw next wasn't a waste in our opinion!
Every telegraph pole along the C99 had a nesting box on it and most were occupied.
Roller   Coracias garrulus
I think Rollers might be the intended target occupants but Jackdaws were also competing and surprisingly so were several pairs of Little Owls. Marvellous stuff!
Little Owl   Athene noctua
The latter box seems to catch the attention of every passing birder and there were quite a few. It was on the corner of the first left turn, an unmade road through the grasslands.
This was "the birding road".
Sure enough we soon had singing Calandra Larks 
Calandra Lark   Melanocorypha calandra
and a plentiful number of Corn Buntings.
Corn Bunting    Emberiza calandra
but what we really wanted to see where Montagu's Harrier which we knew were in the area. Keeping in touch with Rich via the internet, he and Steve had got lucky along this stretch a couple of days before.
It wasn't to be today but at least the birds  we did photograph were close!
Crested Lark    Galerida cristata
It was time to head home as we had an agreed dinner time of 7.30pm. We could just about make it in time for a quick shower first too.
There had been enough to satisfy us both fthat maybe we had turned a corner and things were on the up.Once again we were upbeat as we returned to Finca Flores for another excellent dinner sat out on the balcony although the sun had by now been enveloped in cloud.

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