Little Bustard at first light
Customary shadow photo
Carlos on the look out
Stork nests on bell tower
I thought I'd got up at the wrong time as I left the hotel and the streets were full at 5.30am with clubbers making their way home after a night of partying. I did seem some what out of place standing on the street corner waiting to meet Carlos a local birder who had kindly offered to show me around three seperate locations if time allowed. Carlos was keen to point out that August is a tough month to bird around Madrid because of the intense heat.
A forty minute drive took us out to the foot of the Steppe mountains. The steppes and cereal fields are one of the most characteristic Spanish ecosystems. These cultivated plains are disputed to be one of the best places to see Bustards. We parked up with just farms in view when a Little Bustard landed at the far side of the field beside us and then walked towards us before flying over us. In the same field an adult Montagu's Harrier (first of three seen) flew past which was quickly joined by a Marsh Harrier, Kestrel & Red-legged Partridge.
Next species was the Crested Lark working its way on the dusty road in front of the car where I managed to get a record shot. This was the first of many we saw around this location. Their distinctive whistle call certainly caught your attention.
Moving slightly along the road a bit further to a Bustard hotspot I picked up a flock of around 16 large birds in the distance. A quick turn of the telescope confirmed it was a flock of Great Bustards. These very heavy birds were feeding close to a stable complex and it was great to take in these superb birds.
To celebrate our early morning haul with stopped at a small village for a fantastic coffee by the bell tower where the White Storks breed. The first session ended with a Turtle Dove flying over the car as we headed to our next location.