At the beginning of August, I had the opportunity, along with my partner in crime Juan Carlos Fajardo, to go to the Reserva de la Biosfera Real Sitio de San Ildefonso (Espinar) with OTEA, an organization that sets up tours specialized in birds of prey. This organization was created by Colectivo Azálvaro, and its main goal is to promote a sustainable turism based on the nature observation aswell as the knowledge of the bird life.
OTEA has very comfortable and complete facilities to observe the birds, and also a water dispenser at the same place. The seats are very comfortable and the place is quite spacious, so we could stand up and stretch our legs.
We woke up pretty early (05:15 a.m.) to go to the point where José Aguilera was going to meet us, so we could arrive by the first lights of dawn. Fortunately, José has a good 4×4, because we saw that, at the very beginning of the trip, there was a huge slope, pretty difficult to climb it so early in the morning (although he told us that if there was snow, we had to go to the top by walking (Juan, prepare for the next time).
As soon as we arrived, we settled and started to put all the things on the tripod. It was time to wait… but we didn’t have to wait too much, because at 07:40 a.m. the first visitor arrived, a common buzzard (Buteo buteo) that was followed by some kites, both red kites (Milvus milvus) and black kites (Milvus migrans).
Later, more kites began to arrive to the place. Sometimes, I decided to underexpose the image to increase the contrast between the reflected light of the dawn on the bird and the background.
Furthermore, we were able to play with focals other than the 400 mm. I had to resign myself with the 70-200 mm (it was my fault, because I didn’t bring my wide-angle), but they were useful to get some interesting portraits.
Some ravens (Corvus corax) arrived between all the kites, as if they were the famous Messenger ravens of Odin, carrying with them a clear message: vultures were coming.
And, indeed, the first griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) arrived as if they were an Airbus A380 landing. It was a pleasure to watch them fly that way, opening their big wings. These animals are essential for the food chain and for the conservation of natural areas.
Slowly, more vultures arrived, some of them even opening their wings as a sign of strenght and power. One of them took over a piece of meat and a rock, defending its position against the rest, but principally against another that was on the perch, failing to steal its place and food.
There was more activity than we expected, because it was a very hot season. We couldn’t see the Sarcorhamphus but we did see some cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) that were the focus of our cameras, aswell as the griffon vultures and the kites. It was the first time that I saw and photographed a cinereous vulture and I can now say that they are spectacular. Pure flying elegance.
After they ate everything, the activity was now more calmed. We stayed until 17:00 more or less, and we only saw some kites and ravens. But it was more than compensated with the huge amount of birds we saw during the morning. We left, with no doubt, with a very good feel and thinking about the next time we could return, we wish with snow.
Beyond the fact of photographing, there is the experience of being able to see the behaviour of all those wild birds, to see them all working hard and the little ones trying to steal a piece of meat to the big ones, and enjoy that moment.
I hope you enjoyed the reading. You can find more pictures in the gallery.
Enjoy the moment and good lights!