Monday, October 23, 2017

Exploring Extremadura: Day 3 am - Azure Wings

The phone alarm vibrated into life on the side cabinet beside the bed to announce the start of another day in Spain. It was still dark outside, as I rolled out of the bed into my clothes and downstairs to the bar for a quick coffee before we departed to our hide for the morning. This morning's session was to concentrate on Azure-winged Magpies. Regular readers will know I am a big corvid fan and was looking forward to seeing some of these birds having only previously seen them in my local zoo.

The weather was not looking typically 'Spanish' with thick grey clouds above with the occasional light shower but it appeared likely that the clouds would break during our session and let some light through. It was around a twenty minute drive to the magpie site and which ended in the usual long winding farm track into a lovely looking area of rough grassland interspersed with clumps of mature trees.

It looked like we would be in for another cramped hide session given the size of the hide, which was also fitted at the front with glass to photograph through. I am not a big fan of glass fronted hides but I understand why hide operators use them. To get the best quality images requires the lens hood to be removed and the front of the lens placed as close and square to the glass as possible. It also seems to help if the lens aperture is stopped down a little rather than using a wide open lens.

In front of the hide there was a large table structure which had a lined shallow pool of water on top, a grassed area at the back and a number of perches strategically placed around it. Before our hosts left some peanuts were scattered strategically around the drinking pool and perches. We did not have long to wait before the first birds arrived, in the shape of Spotless Starlings, although the light was still fairly low with the dense cloud cover above.

These birds have a very glossy feathers with an attractive iridescent sheen and almost look like they have been dipped in oil.
They were also being very vocal and had a wide repertoire of calls and songs that included mimicking some other birds.
Behind the pool and perches we could see a pair of Woodchat Shrike and the female paid a brief visit to one of the perches.
The first of the Azure Winged Magpies started to arrive. The light was still poor so the most of the early images ended up getting deleted. These are such beautiful birds and easy to see where they got their name. This species of magpies appeared slightly smaller and milder in manner than the European Magpie than I am accustomed to.
The clouds above were starting to break letting some soft warm early morning light through as the numbers of magpies arriving increased.
 At one point the magpies all disappeared for some unknown reasons resulting in some the appearance of some other species. Such as Spotless Starling and a Corn Bunting in 'key jangling' song.
A cuckoo was also moving around and perched on a branch above the water pool but we frustratingly could not take photographs of the bird due to the confines of the cramped hide and problems with shooting up through the glass at an angle. Whatever had put the magpies off from visiting had obviously now passed and they soon started to return once more. This gave plenty of opportunities for some additional photographs of the birds.
I suppose my main disappointment was the hide didn't really offer any good opportunities for any flight images, particularly with the glass. I was looking forward to getting some flight images having spent hours photographing the European magpie in flight.

All too soon the familiar rattle of a the car engine was approaching and the session was over. It was time to return to the hotel, find some lunch, sort out the camera gear and morning's images and hopefully fit in a a quick siesta before leaving for the evening hide session.


Conehead54 said...

Stunning images of some great birds.

Tadoba said...

Great collection you have. Should participate in wildlife photography exibitions


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