So I came to Extremedura (western Spain) hoping to get some quality time with some of Europe´s most spectacular raptors. Well, the eagles have been playing very scarce (only got a quick glimpse of a Spanish Imperial Eagle as being my only one in 3 days birding), but boy have the vultures given us a show.
One of the people that inspired me in to ornithology, Prof Steven Piper, was mad about vultures, and some of his passion rubbed off on me. The huge Cape Griffons of my youth were reflected beautifully in the Eurasian Griffons on the stunning, craggy cliffs of Monfragüe National Park. The days are still warm, but the griffons are already starting to get frisky with their plaintive calls echoing across the valleys (females soliciting mating, as far as I understand), and tandem flights, typical courtship behaviour, were the order of the day.
The Black Vultures, crazy in their form, were also ever present, with their huge expanding wingspan and outstretched fingers.
This afternoon we had absolutely beautiful light and we managed to get a whole pile of great shots of steppe birds; Thekla Larks, Crested Larks, Stonechats, Corn Buntings, Iberian Grey Shrike… I¨ll put some of them on my regular blog when I get back home and behind my own computer. And the cranes have started to arrive. Today was the first time we saw them, and we heard/saw them a good number of times during the day, seemlingly arriving from the north / northeast. And a flock of Little Bustards gave us hope to get some shots of them tomorrow.
Many thanks to Martin and Claudia Kelsey of Birding Extremadura / Casa Rural El Recuerdo – fantastically fine hosts and wonderfully knowledgable about the birds of the area.