März 26, 2022

La Sierra de Gredos

After a rather soggy and grey few days in Portugal, we decided to venture back to our beloved Spain and slowly make our way up to the North through the middle of the country. The bad weather has followed us, but gosh it’s nice to be back. As soon as we crossed the border we were met with friendly smiles and Beuno’s, a warmth that we had missed being in Portugal. We haven’t been staying in the same campsite for more than a day since we got here, we figure we’d use the bad weather to make miles as the North is still another 6 hours away.

The more we travel inland, the more beautiful the landscape is. Everything is lush and vibrant green, with colourful flowers popping up everywhere. Spain is country full of massive lakes, and no shortage of incredible campsites! We found a place in the middle of nowhere – only one house amidst km’s of vast open space in every direction. The hills were covered with wild lavender, a sea of bright purple contrasted against the green. We parked on top of a hill overlooking the lake, green rolling meadows everywhere and sheep grazing. It was freezing and the wind was fierce, so we couldn’t enjoy the outside as much as it deserved, which was an absolute crime. As I was walking I spooked two massive vultures feeding on a dead sheep just metres away from me. Safe to say I was devastated – not only did I miss the action, they didn’t return after that.

We decided to move on, and on the way saw countless birds – storks, hawks, eagles, vultures. 

We are now directly in the middle of Spain, about 2 hours west of Madrid. We’ve found a camp next to a huge lake, at the foot of the La Sierra de Gredos Mountain range. There’s light snow on the peaks and low hanging clouds making their way across the valley. The mountains look different every time I look at them. We’ve spent the morning watching the array of birdlife outside our home. Our new garden, full of wild natural beauty.

The storks have been the stars of the show, and we’ve come to learn quite a lot about them too. These birds are loyal to their nests, not to each other. Every year, the same birds will fly thousands of km’s from Africa to breed at their chosen nest, returning to it year after year. There is a particular stork that’s come prepared - she’s been sitting on her eggs all morning. The partner goes out to find food and twigs to fix up the nest. When he returns, she flings her head right back and clacks her beak together. It’s so loud and sounds like two clapping sticks banging together. They do this every single time one leaves the nest and comes back again, like a celebration. We call this couple Sue and Frank. Stefan said if I was a stork, I would be Sue, always the early bird, sitting pretty whilst the latecomers scramble to find a mate and a nest. We’ve witnessed a partnership forming between two younger Storks. They’ve been chased away from older birds and were unsuccessful in their hopes to steal some other storks nest. They find a tree top and begin to build their own. They take it in turns to find good twigs and moss to lay the foundations. We watched them consummate their partnership, well before the nest was even close to looking like a nest. I call them Claude and Jean. I wonder how long it will take until their home is ready. 

I can hear the whistles of the hawks and the loud cry of the peacock calling. I watch a beautiful brown eagle fly down and catch its victim with its claws, bringing it into the trees to feast on. There are grey hawks flying above stirring the peace and upsetting the seagulls who probably have chicks nearby. They chase the hawks off and sometimes the hawks will crash into the water at quite some speed, laying on the surface with its wings spread out.

There’s been a lot of rain over the last few days and the sky is still very grey, but I’m glad for it. The birds are taking advantage of all the food. A real wildlife documentary is playing out before our very eyes. It’s better than anything I would see on TV.

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