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Darren Rees is an artist and co-leader of BBC Wildlife's forthcoming reader holiday to Extremadura. Here he describes a memorable encounter with the eagle owl and a chance to paint this regal species beneath the sunny Spanish sky.
Some birds seem more important than others. I suppose that they have what others species lack - ornithological charisma.
I’ve always thought of eagle owls as kings of their world, top of the heap. It comes as no surprise to me that the Spanish call them 'buho real', meaning 'royal owl'.
© Darren Rees
All of the wild eagle owls I’ve seen have been in Spain, and most of them have been perched on the precipitous cliff faces of Monfrague National Park in Extremadura, the location for BBC Wildlife's forthcoming painting holiday.
More often than not, they appear from nowhere, like phantoms - tufted boulders on the skyline - giving me just enough of a glance at that distinct profile to grab a quick sketch.
© Darren Rees
Then, once in a while a keen eye scanning through the rocks in daylight will find an owl at rest.
It’s as if Christmas has come early – my favourite bird, the most beautiful of locations, sun on my back and a perfect model to sit and draw.
You can join Darren Rees and Spanish artist Juan Varela in Extremadura on our exclusive BBC Wildlife Painting Holiday.
Darren Rees is one of the UK’s most highly respected nature artists, as well as an experienced naturalist.
Find out more about the BBC Wildlife Paint Wild Spain reader holiday.
Find out more about the BBC Wildlife Painting Wild Orkney reader holiday.