Griffon Vulture

Vulture Canyon

Having recently embraced middle-age early and purchased my first bird watching book, we decided to go to a very special place this weekend – The Hoces del Rio Riaza – a protected nature reserve and home to one of the biggest and most important Griffon Vulture colonies in Europe.

We stayed overnight in a pretty medieval town in Segovia called Maderuelo. An important frontier town during the centuries of war between Moorish and Christian Spain it is built high up above a lake. Our ‘medieval suite’ looks out onto the lake, bats circle the town walls in the evening dusk.

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Monte Abantos

Monte Abantos

The wind is relentless, ferocious and bitterly cold. Standing on the peak of Monte Abantos the enormous, austere palace of San Lorenzo El Escorial looks like a miniature lego playset. The view stretches on for miles, grassland dotted with lakes and low trees sweeps on towards Madrid, bathed in a haze its 4 high towers rise like tiny fingers out of the pollution-induced mist. Far to the south, the shadow of the Montes de Toledo forms a distant barrier. To the north the high, snow-covered high peaks loom forward, shrouded in cloud. I can’t feel my face. We seek shelter.

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