I dedicated a certain level of preparations for this wildlife session. Camouflage t-shirt and pants from Decathlon and a nice brown hat. Oh and also a shoulder pouch to store water and apples (or just a big one). With all of these placed in the closet, I waited for the weekend to come. Put my alarm for Saturday and…
Well, Saturday, at 5:00 in the morning, when the alarm ringed I looked outside and it was to dark (pretty obvious…). So I checked the route and I saw that I would do around 2,5 hours on foot to the location. I started to think about how much of that is actually through forest, and…
And the phone ringed again and it was almost eleven a clock in the morning. During the week that just passed, while being stuck at work, I proposed to myself that at 12, or maximum 13 I should be home so that I don’t stay too much in the sun/heat. Well, that train went away, so I set a next goal. Wake up at 6 in the morning, next Sunday and leave by 6:30. I put all my clothes on the chair, battery in the camera, the big 300mm lens in the pouch, a bottle of water in the belt pouch, one washed apple in the pouch, cereals on the table and phone to wake me at 6. I don’t know how… by it was nine when the lucky phone rang again so I jumped, washed and got out. 9,6km of climb in the morning sun on a sunny day in July.
This is the 3rd time I visit this place and, as always, I start from the Hotel and from this very annoying dog (see image bellow).
In Vigo, at some red lights, you stay so much, that you can actually get artistic.
Next, I exit the center city (the one with high apartment buildings) and enter the narrow, full of tight corners and climbing streets.
Here I have my first true photo of the trip: A bumblebee! I love these hard-working insects, mostly because they look fat and they can fly just as well as a normal bee. I made the photo with the not so expensive but great Pancake Lens the 24mm from Canon (best lens to have).
After about 2 hours of walking, I stopped to refill my bottle with fresh spring water, and also snap a picture that I hoped it will have a more 3D effect to it.
Ok, so I bring back the lake map.
Before No 1. Milestone, there is a small road that enters in the woods after you exit the main road. From there you either use Maps.Me or just ask around or just follow the noise of water and you should find this view (see image bellow). For me, this time, the smell of the water indicated that I was close. I never saw this spring so polluted before… So maybe next when I will come it will be that clear water full of colorful dragonflies and butterflies, as before.
Look aside from the spring and you should see this totally awesome stone house:
It looks so great in reality, that every time I take another picture of it, it just feels like I’m missing something.
Then you go up, next to the dam, which is not so interesting (this time I forgot to change lenses to make a photo with it, but if I restore my pictures from my crashed HDD, then, there should be a post from my first, very long, hiking in Galicia.)
I saw so many dragonflies, in so many colours, that I actually had a hard time chasing just one with my camera.
The white one (with a light blue tint) was the only one that kept returning, when I would stay still for longer periods of time. In total I spent 20 to 25 minutes just trying actually to get a red and a yellow dragonfly.
So now, I am at point 1 on the map, I am pretty bored from the dragonflies photos. I am watching the lake, with the full zoom, and trying to catch birds landing on water.
But I was to far away from them, to get the details like water splashes, or just the wings positions when they fly. So I check the headless white bird. First I thought it was just another seagull. But no, it is (according to the Spanish book of birds) a black-headed gull or Gaviota reidora. Pretty obvious, but on my small screen on my camera, it looked headless.
While I was looking zoomed in, at my camera screen, I saw a black shadow next to the water, at a few meters from me.
It was, of course, an European Mink. Never saw one outside the zoo and to be honest, I was not expected to be so close to me. I found it strange to be so near me, so when i moved to put my camera in my eye, it started running. When I stood still it stopped. Then jumped back in the bushes. I waited for it to come out and drink/fish. But no such thing happened in 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile this Water Pipit, and 3 other ones were drinking and washing on the shore of the lake, not even at 2 meters from me. I was so focused on the other side and I stood so still that these small birds did not notice me. So when I made the first picture, all 3 just froze, not knowing what was the sound.
Since the mink was not coming back to the water, or perhaps he was, but some place else, I moved on with my journey. I was so proud of this one picture (that I saw it was good), that almost nothing seemed to matter.
Now, this white dragonfly (or maybe another one that looks just like the first one) kept following me, so I stopped to make another picture of it, again and again. But unlike other times, I was on full manual focus mode and pushed to get as close as possible not carrying if it will go away. I had already many pictures of it.
On the other shore, there were some people taking horseback riding lessons. Since I did not find the subject interesting (I made better pictures in France) I kept only this frame. No car sound, no plane sound, just water, wind, and flies. I find it very peaceful. Here the water had also an orange tint, but no smell. So how does that the spring had such powerful odour.
But I wasn’t the only one that was enjoying the shade of the trees, also a group of fish, were chilling around this old dead tree. Interestingly enough, when one of them decided to change direction, the other ones soon followed. I guess the last one said: come on guys, there is nothing that direction, lets head the other way. And like so, now he was the first in the pack and the rest following. Soon the leader will change again.
Just when I was trying to get a proper picture with more sharp details of the fish, I hear branches and water splashes in front of me (more like 15 meters away). Apparently I annoyed by my presence, a few ducks got away.
So close-up on ducks, no crazy detail shots, on to the point 2 on my map.
On a hair of water (if that is correct) there was this small crayfish. It was so red, that caught my attention. I searched up on the internet and found this on Wikipedia:
“Procambarus clarkii is a species of cambarid freshwater crayfish, native to northern Mexico, and southern and southeastern United States, but also introduced elsewhere (both in North America and other continents), where it is often an invasive pest.”
While this red crayfish was hiding from me, another one was passing just next to my left foot. If I weren’t so careful where I step every time (I love to much my camera) I would definitely step on the poor traveller by mistake.
But this fella was so weird. It tried to climb so many things, no wonder he was so “far” from the water source. So he would try to get up on something, then fall on his back, then agitate until his back on his feet, then again. I guess in just these two crayfish I saw the type that stays home and safe and the kind that travels and never settles.
I got out in the opening, to feel the fresh air and perhaps get some bird shots (this is why I was here anyway)
Many forests from Galicia and Portugal, have little or no space between trees. Basically where there is something like a route, it is there because somebody made it.
In Romania, you can often get lost because trees have too much space between them, so there is no big trail to follow, just the compass. Yes, occasionally, just like here, there are painted markings of routes, but other than that, is pretty much open space!
I guess I miss those Alpine type forests.
Then, the sound of an eagle woke me up from my dream. I tried to pin point his position, but to do that I had to stay still and basically tried to hear everything. Like another shout, or other birds that leave one location.
Meanwhile a butterfly landed on a leaf right next to me.
An egg-shaped mushroom was hidden under dead leaves.
After almost 15 minutes of searching and waiting, at point 3 on the map I found the eagle in the sky. It was on a tree that I thought it was, just that he was on a side I could not reach with my camera. Now that he was gliding, I tried my best to get him into the frame.
I just could not get a better shot of it… at least to know if it is the Mountain Eagle (Golden Eagle) or not. It looked juvenile anyway, perhaps 1,5 meters in wing spam.
So I got a bit upset of the situation. If I got closer to the tree, perhaps I would have got a better shot. To be honest, this bird was in my mind when I bought the Tamron 70-300mm. It is a huge lens, heavy and for full-frame cameras. Since my camera is an APS-C, the crop factor is 1,6 so the total reach of this lens is 480 mm. Not bad I guess 😦 But not enough to reach a flying bird. Next time I dedicate all my time to get closer to these magnificent birds.
So I stopped to catch this small, delicate butterfly to compensate on my other fail.
And another red crayfish.
Galineiro mountain, in the distance.
Tress that are also at my countryside, back in Romania. A whole forest, just with this type of tree. Then I remembered I have not yet seeni a squirrel.
In that silent moment, I picked up an acorn from the ground and then I heard someone crunching on something.
An Eurasian otter was eating. It seemed to have a problem at one of his eyes. I even had time to shot a video of it (I just forgot to push record for the most part…).
I saw it going inside the water, and after a few seconds, resurfacing with another red crayfish in his jaws. He ate in my presence 4 of them, then I decided to leave him alone and moved on.
I found one of those subjects that people hate on the internet. A tree that had many deep and organic holes in it.
By this time I got pretty thirsty again and following the sound of a quick water (spring) in the nearby, I stopped to make just this one picture.
It looks so good, that I pictured elves that walked in this Celtic wood, some hundreds of years ago, if not thousands and left everything like this.
Gently jumped over those stones just to get a better look at a green dragonfly.
Under the rocks, illuminated just like you see it now in the image bellow, there was this feather. If only I could have got a better picture of that eagle…
I headed towards the source of the water, to point 4 on my map.
There was the same kind of bird that I saw at Pena in Sintra, Portugal. It is a Jay, that comes from the middle east (this is what the book says, and to be honest it looks just like the drawing). I did not mind too much about the bird, already have a great picture done at Pena.
Other thing caught my attention. Roman looking like houses.
Of course I replenished my bottle with fresh cold water.
I was so not expecting to see, even here, so far from a road, old buildings, that were river mills.
I sneaked the flash inside so that I can get a glimpse of how it looks like. Pity I did not get to see the mill in function.
Part of the water was channeled on these canals that ran on top of the houses. Then will flow thru an orifice on the bottom of the construction.
Ano de 1812.
Here we can see how they would stop the water from entering in the channel and in the construction.
On another house, this is the view from bellow, photo made with flash.
And right were I was sitting, these green feathers were resting on a stone, and a fly was on them. I got a bit sad so I started to look for dragonflies. I cannot say I have to many photos of them.
This particular one was trying to show me something artistic I guess and then got angry and opened the mouth 😅. Should I get a macro lens?
Doesn’t it look like leopard skin? Actually these are water spiders. And a whole bunch of them too.
This butterfly (even though I have no picture to prove it to you) was playing with the “angry dragonfly” and 4 more others. All 5 were flying and intersecting and for a second they were resting, but almost never all at the same time. So I made pictures only with the playfull brown butterfly.
With this image, I said goodbye to this place, but promised to return to get a proper photo of that Jay, perhaps while catching a cricket.
Meanwhile, this is a picture of a black dragonfly. I used high ISO and low shutter speed just to get more detail from it. More than this, and the image would get noisy.
From here, I ventured up until point 5, on the map, where there was no trail to follow. Actually after Zamans, there was nothing, like no trail at all. But I knew where was the lake so headed towards it.
I finally made a decent picture of the red dragonfly, remaining the yellow one for the next time.
Now, because I had to get on my belly to many times, to pass from one area to another, loosing my hat in the branches, and hurting my knee and also due to the powerful wet animal smell, I decided to not carry on, so just about point 5 on my map, I headed towards my app (maps.Me) showed me there should be a road and went towards it.
From there I looked just one more time at the lake and the mountain…
It is impossible to understand how much luck I had in just a few hours (5 be more exact) to see so many things, find twice fresh water, find an old encampment, and many more other events.
Now that I write this and also had some time to look up some information I will conclude like this:
My luck was actually not so much luck. In my country, if I would go so incognito, I would find also bears in the forest. But here, just a Mink and an Otter were the biggest mamals around. But why?
I think the answer is the Crayfish. Brought from America in the 70s, it became a pest animal by multiplying a lot and no predator. Since most birds stay in Vigo, next to the millions of pubs and places to enjoy tapas, I think that the locals took an Otter from the zoo, and released it here.
The Otter looked blind from one eye. Also, first time I saw it, it was at 4 or 5 meters from me. Actually just like I said, the ducks were more scared of me than the Mink or the Otter. And those wore more far away.
So in order to control the rising population of crayfish, they introduced a few animals, that actually find the pests delicious.
This is my opinion…
If you felt inspired by this post, then take a silly camera, or just your phone, throw some camouflage colours on you, head to a forest, follow a trail and make no noise.