Sunday, October 01, 2017

Exploring Extremadura: Day 2pm - Flying Rainbows

Fully refreshed from the afternoon siesta, it was time to get ready for the late afternoon / early evening hide session. We arranged to meet outside the hotel around 5pm by which time the heat of the day was beginning to subside and the harsh sunlight starting to soften. This hide visit would be dedicated to photographing European bee-eaters. This is a bird I have photographed on several occasions in Hungary and Romania. However, Steve had never photographed them from a hide setup before and so was looking forward to some time with these birds at close quarters.

Bee-eaters are always fun birds to photograph. Not only are they beautiful birds with their bright plumage of 'rainbow' hues but also usually very active that offers some interesting photograph opportunities.

It was about a 10 minute drive from the hotel to the bee-eater site. We pulled off the main road and into a small farm and followed a dusty tracks around the edge of a small lake. A short distance further down the track we started to hear the distinctive calls and could see some of the 'flying rainbows' gliding around a small meadow area between two fence lines. On the edge of the meadow next to the track was a small hide for which no expense had been spared in it fabrication, in fact no expense at all. The hide was constructed from a folded wire mesh covered in false grass and all held together with cable  and wire ties. Inside folding  chairs completed the setup. The hide was very a small considering we were both going to be using it and it was going to be a cramped session. I think Steve was taking this hiding business to literally...

A great characteristic of bee-eaters is that if you give them a perch close to where they are building nests, which in this case was a shallow slope in the field, then they will generally use it straight away. I have to say I was disappointed in the three perches that had been set out which were cable tied to metal reinforcing bars. One was completely snapped off and completely unusable, the other two has also been snapped by livestock and just about usable. With no other plants suitable for use as perches in the short-grazed meadow or other spare perches next to the hide as alternatives, we were unfortunately stuck with the the two and bit rather sorry looking perches. It is the small attentions to detail that make the important difference on photographer enjoyment and resulting photos when using fixed hides. The hide operators should think carefully about perches, with regular changes, and also what is surrounding and behind those perches. I think this part of the reason why I find fixed hides slightly frustrating as I can always see how they could be set up better.
Anyway there was no worries about the bee-eaters using the perches in front of us but activity was fairly low as it looked like the birds were just starting to construct their nest tunnels on the small sandy slope in front of us. Needless to say we would have both been happier with some decent perches and tried to make the best of what was in front of us, aid by some soft evening light. A selection of images from the session are below:

About 40 minutes before the end of the session, the birds departed, presumably heading off somewhere to roost. With no signs of any birds for 30 minutes, we did decided to escape the cramped confines of hide. This took some effort as the door had been wired shut on us.  When we were collected, it was made clear they were not happy we had got out of the hide. Now Steve and I have each been photographing birds for over a decade and both  know the importance of entry and exit of hides at the right time to prevent disturbance. We would not have left the hide if we thought there was any possibility of disturbance which was impossible as the birds had long since departed. I must admit I had found the whole experience with the inadequacies of the hide set up and the subsequent attitude as if we were some kind of idiots, slightly annoying. On a positive note it was good to be back up close to some beautiful bee-eaters in wonderful evening light.

Back at the hotel we dumped our kit in our rooms, a quick clean up and headed downstairs for our first evening meal. We were served a bowl of stuff. Stuff is the best description I can give as I could honestly not recognise which part of the what animal was floating around in the thin gravy. I decided to pass on it and just ate some bread.

Back in the room it was time for the regular nighttime ritual of image download and back-up and charging batteries.  It was probably gone midnight before I hit the bed accompanied by the sounds of the wall vibrating snores from down the hotel corridor and persistent Scops Owl outside. An early start again was scheduled for the next day with a morning session photographing a local speciality, the Azure-winged Magpie.


Dave Williams said...

Believe me that hide, inadequate as it appears to be, was comparative luxury to the Bee-eater one we had on our first trip to Bulgaria. That was made from wooden pallets and nails. The nails hammered in from the outside stuck out an inch or so on the inside. One row at eye level, the other set to conveniently rip your bag down near the floor. Did I mention seats ? There weren't any but luckily our driver had a Ford Galaxy so could remove two of the car seats for us. Comfortable maybe, but reclining isn't ideal!
Considering the fees charged the delivery on service often leaves a lot to be desired.

Regine Karpel said...



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