Thursday, November 22, 2018

Exploring Extremadura: Day 4 - Hoopoes and Wind

Steve and I were going in separate directions very early in the morning on the 4th day. He was heading off to try Little Bustard, more of that later in this post, and I was booked in for a session with some Hoopoe. I was met by a brisk and surprisingly cold wind as I stepped out of the hotel to be whisked off to the Hoopoe hide. Steve was already long since departed to get into his hide during darkness.

Once more I was locked into a small wooden hide which was setup behind some old derelict farm buildings. Looking out front and there was an area of grassland with well spaced trees, with the nearest tree having an obvious perched wedged into its base, just below a hole where the birds were nesting. An overcast sky only providing some fairly 'flat' light.  The general limited activity suggested the female, which only made one brief appearance for a stretch during my time in the hide, was still sitting on eggs in the base of tree.

The male bird was out foraging and would occasionally return with a small grub to pass into the unseen female.

The low frequency of visits made attempting any flight shots impractical. The light did improve towards the end of the session but rapidly became side-lit at that point.  Having taken a few photographs of the male bird on the single perch there was not much else to do. Before me was certainly not a very imaginative setup conducive to obtaining a variety of images.

As some you will know I am not the greatest fan of the fixed hides particularly when little thought has been put into the setup in front of it greatly limiting photograph opportunities. With this hide it was obvious after the first 30 minutes I was not going to get any different images to those already on the memory card.

The increasing frustration with the setup as time passed was broken by the welcome arrival of a Turtle Dove. This was the first one of these beautiful birds that had ever been seen from this hide and was only present briefly on the solitary perch.

After around 4 hours in the hide the sound of an approaching vehicle to collect me was a welcome one. It had not been one of the most enjoyable hide sessions.

I sent Steve a text to give him an update. It seemed that it wasn't going to well at his end. He had to walk out to a tiny hide in the middle of huge field in darkness. As the light dawned he realised he was surrounded by 0.75m high grass waving in the stiff cold breeze. The only view he got of the Little Bustard was brief glimpses of its head through waving grass stems making getting any photographs impossible. He was not in the best of moods when he returned to the hotel. Again another example of a poor thought put into the setup.

Given the ever strengthening and cooling wind we decided to cancel the afternoon hide booking and just go out in the car around some local farm tracks to see if we could find some birds to photograph. It quickly became obvious that the strong winds had suppressed bird activity and despite slowly driving around many kilometers of farm track the only birds we could find within photography distance were the occasional Corn Bunting and Crested Lark.

Overall not our most successful day. What would tomorrow bring as Steve was heading to the Hoopoe hide and I was destined for one of the Little Bustard hides. Hopefully I would be put in a different one to which Steve had been placed that morning which turned out to be useless from a photography perspective.


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