Scavengers Photo Hide

SETTING UP THE PHOTO SCENARIO

My alarm clock rang at 4:45 AM on a Saturday morning: “God, what the hell am I doing?” That’s what I thought while I was taking a hot shower to shake off the sleep. I was really tired after been working the whole week. I drove my car from Madrid to Buitrago de Lozoya (www.ayto-buitragodellozoya.es), a small but beautiful village located in the north of Madrid, by the mountains of Guadarrama National Park.

Fujifilm XT-1 + XF16mm f1.4 – ISO400 f5.6 1/12seg

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At 5:35 AM I met up with Omar Alonso, who manages the photo hide company called Hides Sierra de Guadarrama (www.wildiberiannature.es). I parked my car in the village, jumped into Omar’s Jeep 4×4 and he drove me to the middle of nowhere in the mountains where the photo hide was located.

While Omar was preparing pieces of carrion to attract the raptors and setting up a scenario with improvised perches like woods and big rocks, the sunrise started to rise. Suddenly I was surrounded by an unbelievable sunrise: orange, pink and violet mixed colors painted the horizon and the mountains background.

Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO200 100mm f5.6 1/9seg

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SHOOTING WILD RAPTORS

The sunrise did not reach its highest point yet and Omar had already left me by myself inside the photo hide where I would be waiting for the raptors to come down. I looked up to the dark blue sky and saw a big venue of vultures coming down. Soon, Griffon vultures and Black vultures arrived and start fighting for carrion. The Crepuscular rays didn’t cover the land yet and the dark vulture shapes were dancing in the darkness.

Griffon vulture – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO400 400mm f5.6 1/180seg

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Behind the rocks a red fox appeared timidly, observing the vultures and looking for some carrion to catch. As soon as I saw the fox, all my interest was instantly focused on him. Watching a wildlife documentary is probably the closest experience to being hidden inside of a photo hide while wild animals are behaving in their own habitat.

Red Fox – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO800 400mm f5.6 1/30seg

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Red Fox – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO800 400mm f5.6 1/30seg

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Foxes and vultures know well each other, so they use to respect their spaces and territories and don’t fight for a piece of carrion. Both know that they could get injured and it’s always better to watch out and keep a minimum of distance. It seems like they have a natural code of respect between different species. They are scavengers and their function in the ecosystem is the same: feeding on dead animals in their habitats.

Today was the first time I saw Black vultures, the biggest European raptor. A couple of them came down today. Comparing them with the Griffon vultures, they are shy but territorial too. Black vultures are prudent and wait for their turn to eat, however they don’t like when Griffon vultures invade their space, and if it happens, Black vultures won’t hesitate to mark their space by attacking.

Griffon vulture – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO400 400mm f5.6 1/250seg

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A venue of Griffon vultures – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO400 400mm f5.6 1/250seg

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However the highlight of the day were not the vultures nor the foxes. In the sky, other species of raptors came down too. Black kites and Red kites started fighting and chasing each other around in order to defend their air spaces, trying to dominate the other species. It was absolutely beautiful, as I could see how dominant Red kites are. A couple of Common buzzards came down too, but both were chased and tried to be expulsed by Black kites, while Red kites were trying to expulse Black kites, what a strategic air flight!

Black kite – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO1600 234.8mm f5 1/2000seg

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Black kite – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO1600 176.7mm f5 1/2000seg

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Red kite – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO1600 372.6mm f5.6 1/2000seg

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The most awaited moment was as quick as a lightning. A Golden Eagle came down too. He took a big piece of carrion and left the rest of the scavengers fighting for the rest of carrion. Didn’t have enough time to shoot good pictures, but I got some of them at least.

At the end of the shooting season I had the opportunity to spot two beautiful young red foxes playing around, just in front of me!

Red foxes – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO400 164.6mm f5 1/500seg

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BEHIND THE CAMERA

When I have a bird’s shooting session, I always attach one lens to my lovely camera Fuji XT-1: the wonderful Fuji XF100-400mm f 4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. When I’m inside the hide, grapping big lenses can be tricky, so I always use a tripod. I like to switch on the OIS mode even though I use a tripod, because I want to get the best possible focus on the subject.

When the subject is moving or flying, I always shoot birds in the Auto Focus Continuous mode, selecting shutter speed 2000 and selecting 1600 ISO. However, if the subject is stationary, I shoot with 200 or 400 ISO and shutter speed in lower numbers, between 1000 and 250.

Don’t forget to follow my work on my site: www.josecarpin.com

MORE PICTURES

Black kite – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO1600 334.9mm f5.6 1/1000seg

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Griffon vulture – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO400 400mm f5.6 1/250seg

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Red Fox – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO400 218.7mm f5 1/500seg

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Red Fox – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO400 400mm f5.6 1/500seg

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Black kite – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO400 400mm f5.6 1/300seg

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Common buzzard – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO400 400mm f5.6 1/400seg

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Red kite – Fujifilm XT-1 + f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR– ISO1600 153.3mm f4.8 1/2000seg

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