For our first day Mike and I had decided that Arrocampo Reservoir would be our destination as it was en route to our next stopping place and roughly half way there too. Perfectly placed in fact!
I was up early, well not that early compared to days to come, and downstairs in the bar area by 7.00am. The hotel doesn't serve breakfast as such but they are open for coffee. Surprisingly busy too for that time of day. Locals wander in for coffee, to use the cigarette machine and even to play the fruit machines!
I was more interested in the assembling masses of photographers.
We hadn't been able to hire the hides for another 7 days because there was an organised group using them this week. I was keen to pump them for more information but as this was their first day they hadn't too much to give away. Their tour guide introduced himself and I gathered from conversations some of the restrictions that were the norm it seemed with this particular hide operator.
We would be away for 4 nights but by the time we returned they should have some tips to give us before we started our hide days in 7 days time.
Meanwhile, off we went, heading once more down the main road, the E-90, towards Extremadura. The road continued as we had found it. Superbly maintained and virtually traffic free compared to the UK's motorway system.
Finding where we needed to be was fairly simple and we were the second car to arrive at that particular spot. There are several hides around the lake but the ones we checked out we didn't attempt to enter as they were all but useless for photography, instead we initially placed ourselves on the bank overlooking a reed lined inlet.
Birds were fairly plentiful and a good variety too but photography wasn't the easiest as there was a fair distance between us and our subjects.
The one bird that did come in close was the elusive Cetti's Warbler, one I have only seen on one previous occasion and that too was very, very brief.
I managed an image of sorts but this was as good as it got.
On the other side of the inlet we had views of Purple Swamphen,
and Purple Heron, both a European first for me.
We saw several Little Bitterns flying but you had to be quick to catch them.
I was using my Canon 1DX2 and 500mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter attached to try and get me that little bit closer. The teleconverter slows things down for auto focus so flight shots are a bit trickier but all my images were disappointing, not quite sharp. Still I wasn't too bothered as they were subjects I'd seen and photographed previously.
By now we had been joined by a tour group of birdwatchers that must have numbered at least 20. Shouting sightings across at each other and generally making a noise who say's that photographers are the nuisance factor?
Anyway, we were thankful when they moved off and we too decided to investigate another part of the reserve. Viewing there was no better, a Stonechat caught my attention for a few minutes
as did a Zitting Cisticola, also known as the Fan-tailed Warbler.
We decided enough was enough and headed south towards our new accomodation taking a slower back road rather than continuing on the motorway as we couldn't check in until 3.00pm and in fact I had told them it would be after 5.00pm.
As we drove along a part rough track road we noticed a large number of Shrikes, Larks and Corn Buntings. Very promising indeed! Further down the road we came across a large lake with distant views of Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Egyptian Goose and Ringed Ploverbut the distance was too great for a decent photograph. The weather was blisteringly hot and I put down the reason for all my images being soft was the heat haze that causes image distortion.
Moving on we called in to a local bar in Almoharin for a rehydrating Coke and a snack before checking in at Finca Flores.
Finca Flores is surrounded by olive groves and farmland, hopefully we would find some good subject matter around and about. Sadly this was not the case really.
A distant Woodchat Shrike
and a struggle to lock on focus on to an overhead Booted Eagle summed up my day really.
However, I wasn't alone. Mike too felt we hadn't really achieved too much on our first day and was just as frustrated.
The saving grace was our accommodation which although was a little pricey was also excellent.
A three course dinner at 20 euros pp included a bottle of excellent wine and having had a couple of beers beforehand we sat on the balcony and watched the sun go down whilst enjoying the feast and feeling nicely mellow yet upbeat about the prospects for the following day.
We also wondered what gourmet delights Steve and Rich might not be enjoying back in Colera Y Chozas!