Musings on FIO Extremadura 2012

2012_03_03 MON - Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) 05
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)

This past weekend myself and Mrs. HibernoManchego took the Brown Cow and went to FIO in Monfragüe National Park. FIO is the Feria Internacional de Ornitología, or the International Birdwatching Fair Extremadura, that they have in the village of Villareal de San Carlos inside the Park itself.

The Brown Cow looking orangey in the sunset.

It was a dodgy start, the van had a rubber tube connector to the vacuum pump sucking air and causing power loss, which as I was fixing it remembered we had forgotten a load of our food and we had to backtrack 10km. We couldn´t forget the wild boar fillets, sausages and black pudding. Then we were on the road and 4 hours later in Camping Monfrague where we had a most excellent meal in the campsite restaurant. 
So it was off to FIO the next morning for some talks given by various organisations and companies. The Saturday talks were quite good actually about the state of eco-tourism in Spain and its opportunities and we learnt quite a bit. The Bird of the Year talk was most interesting too. Sundays were more about wildlife photography and the specialisation and care required to do it.

2012_03_03 MON - Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) 04
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)

Naturally it wasn´t all talks and we viewed the stands, ooohing and aaahing over lenses, telescopes and books. And then it was a big bocadillo for lunch and off to see the vultures.

2012_03_03 MON - Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) 03
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)

A number of things struck me though this year. We have been to Monfragüe many times and this was our second year at FIO. Most noticeable was the apparent reduction in numbers. Not a bad thing, personally, as it made it easier to park in different places and to move around. Certainly though, perhaps a sign of the economic downturn?
Second, our clapped out, broke and disinterested regional government in Castilla la Mancha did not have a stand like last year. Two national parks and no representation. OK, there were some folk from a company in Albacete, but to be honest, when we were at their stand perusing the info, they seemed more interested in talking to each other than showing an interest in visitors to their stand. So we let them at it…
Third, they hadn´t thrown meat (or so we surmised last year) all over the hill behind to attract the hundreds of vultures they had over the village last year.
And fourth, I´m getting a bit bored of Monfragüe. Don´t get me wrong, I love the place and it is a wonderful birding area however I do have some reservations. It still looks like it came out of a barbers after a shave of the head. They are trying to restore it to its old glory before it was ruined with eucalyptus trees and a lot of it is just not pretty. It will be someday I’m sure. It has some pretty parts but not enough to say the whole park is. As well as that, it’s too…it’s too…bird supermarket for me. You go to Peña Falcón and there are loads of vultures and some Black Stork and always a Rock Thrush. Go to Portilla del Tietar and see the Eagle Owl or maybe a Spanish Imperial, or Bonellis Eagle. You rub shoulders with people all the time, parking is tough and Mrs. HB gets a bit bored. It is a bit too predictive in my mind. This is fine I suppose, if you want to see vultures up close you will not be disappointed. Go three or four times and they seem a bit passé. Maybe I need to go there off season midweek. It reminds me of elephants in Botswana and how we went…oh…how exciting…another elephant…
Fifth, despite all the above, it was another great weekend in Extremadura. I´m sure we´ll be going back this year at some stage…just to a different area.

Go birding in La Mancha, Spain and see Vultures, Blue Rock Thrush and all the above with Oretani Wildlife.

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