Retired from teaching 2016, Paul retired from being at the university of newcastle in 2017, we have started Flaire Consulting and travel round the world.
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  • Day6

    Wednesday extramadura

    May 24, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Got up super early and headed off towards Guadeloupe where we were expecting to find greater bustards, rollers and other delights. We had asked Martin the birding guru who owns the hotel and he showed us on the map where to go. It was already heating up as we arrived at the area, and our first bird encounter was a little owl. There were many raptors gliding over the fields and we spent hours searching every blade of grass for a hidden great bustard. Eventually our hard work was rewarded but as we went to get back in the car, Paul caught his fingers in the car door. A blackened finger nail and a lot of loud swearing later we managed to relocate the buzzards closer to the road and got some great photographs. Happy that we had found them we journeyed to the end of the road and saw our first roller of the day on the wires next to its nesting box.
    We drove to a small town nearby for a coffee and then went looking for rollers again. We found more and took pictures and then made our way to the rice fields. We were mega exciting to find pratincoles and chicks.
    After the rice fields had been transversed looking for more excitement we called it a day and headed back to the village for lunch in the bar.
    An afternoon spent by the pool and a swim completed the day.
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  • Day5

    Tuesday extramadura

    May 23, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We journeyed to the monfrague national park arriving just before they opened. This park is native Mediterranean species of vegetation and is home to typical Mediterranean birds of the area and is particularly famous for its raptor rock which we passed on the way in. Being early morning there were no raptors to be seen, so we decided to check it out on the way back.
    The visitors centre eventually opened and we went in. Hoping to get advice on which path to walk down to see the birds we were interested in finding. Both the young women at there computers studiously avoided eye contact when we approached their desk and so we beat a retreat and went to regroup over a coffee
    We had a lovely coffee and decided to walk to the north of the car park where a wide path descended. The bushes were full of warblers and other small birds and we happily walked, talked and took photos of them as we went. After a while the path ran alongside a river offering yet more varieties of birds and a cooling breeze. We walked to the end of this and at this point our path swung left and as we had no map we decided to head back the way we came. This proved interesting as we noticed things on the way back we had not seen on the way. One of these was a dung beetle clasping a piece of dung the size of itself and then fighting off another beetle intent on its prize. We were photographing this when two people we had met at the hotel came by, we exchanged a few pleasantries and then continued back. The coffee shop did us another coffee and we headed out of the park to an area recommended by a man we did get information from who was offering a lodge with drinking hides in an area north of extramadura. After a few miles we realised this was a mistake and we turned back, this time in time for lunch at the bar.
    After lunch we took ourselves off to raptor rock and happily took photos of the many raptors going in and out of the rocks with food for their chicks.
    We found a different route back through the dehesas looking for great bustards, and instead finding a fantastic river complete with flying frogs, a montagues harrier and some storks feeding their chicks.
    On our return we dined in the casa rural el recuerdo and then drank wine with a couple from Rotterdam who are delightful. We sat by the pool and eventually the birds morphed into bats and later we saw some red necked nightjars come through the garden.
    This day was marred by a terrible terrorist act in Manchester arena that was aimed at killing and maiming children and adolescents..
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  • Day4

    Monday

    May 22, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    We spent the evening yesterday getting to know our fellow birders and finding out where they had been. We felt veritable light weights having never been to Africa, Costa Rica, Alaska etc..
    After breakfast today we headed out for a beautiful 5 mile walk around the lanes. The area is abundant with meadow and wild flowers at their peak in mid May. My camera was put to good use, but unfortunately I had knocked the exposure off (the front wheel, which is the shutter button) must have been slid into the minus position. Without a good app for restoring the mistake I would have had no pictures.
    After our walk we had a coffee at the little bar down the road and came back to sit by the pool. It has been a very warm day. As it was now lunch time we got into the hire car and drove to Trujillo, well known for its castle which has appeared on game of thrones. We plan to go back to explore the castle but lunch was more pressing. We had a lovely plate of mixed cheese and some patron peppers and then lost ourselves in a maze of twisty streets all the same. Every building in the square was enhanced by several storks nests and the wheeling cry of the swifts drowned out the noise of a small town thronged with people.
    We returned and had a further few hours reading and resting by the pool. Gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky.
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  • Day3

    Journey to extra madura

    May 21, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    So we got packed up and took a taxi to the airport and after about half an hour were in the hire car. It's not a bad car but with an annoying sat navy display that keeps popping up when you least expect it. We journeyed off using the iPhone sat nav which paul had reliably programmed but later accused me of setting it wrong. 🤔
    We stopped off at a reservoir en route. The arrocampo reservoir where we were supposed to see purple swamp hen, penduline tit ( I can never see that birds name without snickering) lots of herons and some reed warblers etc. What we really saw was shed loads of marsh harriers and cattle egrets, some reed birds and a strange unknown bird which later turned out to be an azure winged magpie. We stopped for lunch in a service station beforehand which was a hilarious experience as we had the ten euro menu del did which was soup and then a huge plate of carne and chips. Followed by coffee while we were drinking the coffee a huge party of oaps arrived and the noise became deafening.
    We then made the journey to casa rural el recuerdo where we were shown to our lovely room. (Room 4).
    After unpacking we took our technology around the lanes and we now know where the azure winged magpies hang out. We wandered down the road to the little bar and had a beer. Now we are showered and ready to go and eat.
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  • Day2

    Madrid 20th May

    May 20, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Conference day, so after breakfast Paul was tied up with being at and talking for the conference so I decided to go to the nearby Botanical gardens. They didn't open til 10, so I took my time and left the hotel at about 10. It was already warm and gradually as the morning progressed it got up to 26 degrees C. It was a straightforward walk to the gardens and I arrived shortly after 10:15. This was a great time as the gardens were quiet in terms of people and noisy as they were full of birds, particularly parakeets, also there seemed to be live music coming from somewhere in the middle.
    The gardens are laid out in a formal squared pattern with different areas for plants, from medicinal to bonsai and included many mature trees as the original garden dated from the 18th century.
    The greenhouse area had three distinct zones, representing succulents from the Canary Islands, cacti and bromeliads and orchids. My favourite part was the ornamental and medicinal plants which were arranged around central fountains in square beds. The fountains were frequented by various birds, mainly sparrows and blackbirds. The fountains weren't up to much.
    I traced the source of the live music to an area beside a duck pond (cute ducklings). The orchestra was clearly a youth band which was being put through their paces before a performance. They were very good to listen to as they had a wide range of pieces to play, some of which got your toes tapping and some of which were very Spanish. At around 12 I left the gardens and time the queue to get in was horrendous.
    I overdid my walk back as I was pretty much in a world of my own and continued for about half a mile past the hotel before I realised my mistake, so I was very thirsty by the time I got back. I spent a quiet couple of hours rehydrating in the garden and reading. Paul joined me for lunch in the hotel, lovely grilled vegetables with goats cheese.
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  • Day1

    Madrid 19 may

    May 19, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    After a pretty uneventful journey (apart from Iberia running out of sandwiches and an immensity long taxi queue, we finally arrived at our hotel where we are based for the conference. Our room is great, on the fourth floor overlooking the garden area, so is very quiet.
    We got ourselves unpacked and went and rehydrated in the garden area. Lovely jasmine scented shady area with comfy seats and a few sparrows eyeing up the food that is being carried out to an outdoor eating area.
    Later we met up with the conference people to sort out the inevitable screen and PowerPoint issues which with present technology seem ridiculous. We walked to a nearby restaurant come tapas bar which did really nice food and was very reasonably priced. We were accompanied by Eric and Natalie both of whom are now from the USA, but Eric had been brought up in Germany. They were delightful company. As often happens in Spain, supper was relaxed and time consuming so bed time was later than we had intended.
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