Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Spain,Extremadura, 2017. Part 13. Double hide day!

No need to decide what to do today, it was all sorted. Mike and I would be doing the drinking pool, primarily for Azure-winged Magpie, in the morning and in the afternoon Mike was doing the Low water hide whilst I was doing the Roller or so I thought. Once again a change, why I don't know but Jose seemed to think the Roller wasn't performing very well. I didn't know what to think but reluctantly I agreed to the change. We would both be doing the Low water hide , the prime species being Black-winged Stilt, later that afternoon.
First though, the drinking pool.
Jose's driver picked us up and took us on the 30 minute drive to the hide, by far the furthest we had had to drive so far. Situated in a field in the middle of nowhere it was a raised artificial pool on a table with a few  perches placed at the far end.
Advised we should take our 500mm lenses that's what we took with nothing else bar a camera body, spare battery and our tripod heads. We'd got the hang of things now, no need to take too much gear, space in the hides was at a premium.
Big mistake.
On entering the hide we discovered there wasn't anywhere to mount a tripod head. The driver looked at us and gestured where were our tripods. He should have noticed when we got in the car that we hadn't got them. Too late now.
With no shelf in front of the glass window, no support we were having to hand hold the lenses.
Not a good start, we were a bit annoyed, well I was anyway.
Once the perches were heavily baited with fat and the water  in the pool topped up we were wired in to prevent escape and told we'd be picked up at 10.30.
The birds arrived immediately the driver had left.
Azure-winged Magpies. Lots of them!
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
Basically there were three perches, two of which were baited.
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
You had to grab the shot before they got a mouth full of fat.
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
It was soon apparent that we had a problem. The grass surrounding the pool was too long.
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
It was getting in all the shots unless the bird was at the extremity of the perch.
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
The shots along the side of the drinking pool were all but useless, our lenses were too big as well. 
We both regretted not bringing our 100-400 lens as that would have been perfect.
Too late now, we just had to make do with what we had.
Very soon we had more than our fill of perched Mapies so it was a question of trying for something a little bit different.
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
It wasn't easy either!
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
With poor light we were stuck with low shutter speeds.
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
and the 500mm lens was making life very difficult to try and capture the birds in flight.
The sun came out eventually though.
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
but we still had 500mm lenses and nothing else!
It was getting a bit too repetitive, the odd change in feeding habits 
Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus
and a Spotless Starling having a bath
Spotless Starling   Sturnus unicolor
was the limit of the variety.
In fairness, we hadn't managed a single shot of the Azure -winged Magpies prior to this session despite fairly frequent sightings but we were disappointed that the close singing Oriole and Cuckoo didn't drop in, probably as the pool was overcrowded with Magpies as their food seemed to last forever.
Not the best of drinking pool hides we have been to but at least it delivered on one species.
When I pointed out to Jose that the grass was too long he just shrugged and said it had been cut a week ago but was growing very fast at the moment.
That might be the case but we'd paid 100 euros for around two and a half hours. Everything should be fully prepared.
For our evening session there were three of us. Mike and myself in one hide, a Dutch guy in a separate one that was next to ours.
Again it had me thinking was this more for the convenience of Jose, one drop off one pick up, than for my benefit and an allegedly inactive Roller at the hide I was originally meant to be at?
I have to admit though, it was the best hide I had all week! Despite my reservations about Black-winged Stilts and having been there and done them before, this time was so much better.
Lying flat out on mats, the hide looked over a small sandy point on part of a much bigger pond.
Within minutes we had a pair of Stilts mating right in front of us and it wouldn't be the only time either so if you are a bit embarrassed cover your eyes now!
Black-winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus
Actually, I'll keep those shots to later.
My only regret was I didn't have a 1.4 TC. The 2x on my 500mm lens was a frame filler.
Black-winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus
Any movement and I'd be unable to get all the action in the frame.
Of course if a small bird came along it was fine.
Common Sandpiper    Actitis hypoleucos
A Common Sandpiper was hunting right round the little point so we had it on either side of the hide.
Common Sandpiper    Actitis hypoleucos
Sometimes it was too close as it walked right past us.
Of course it's sod's law the minute you take the teleconverter off the lens you need it again but there is no chance to re mount it or you'll miss the action.
Still a big crop on the shot does the trick too.
Little Grebe  Tachybaptus ruficollis
but you can loose some detail as this stunning breeding plumaged Dunlin demonstrates.
Dunlin  Calidris alpina
Another last minute entry just before were picked up was a Little Ringed Plover.
Little Ringed Plover   Charadrius dubius
but for me the stars were the hunting Common Sandpiper 
Common Sandpiper    Actitis hypoleucos
chasing flies which were in plentiful supply
Common Sandpiper    Actitis hypoleucos
The low angle of the shots were really pleasing.
Common Sandpiper    Actitis hypoleucos
The Stilts looked good too.
Black-winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus
particularly as the sun started to sink lower in the sky.
Black-winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus
But it was the action that really made the session outstanding.
Black Winged Stilt.    Himantopus himantopus
You can see why a 2x teleconverter would have missed half the shot now!
Black-winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus
The whole courting and mating ritual made for fascinating watching.
Black-winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus
There is a real bond of affection apparent too.
Black-winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus
The act completed they perform a little side by side walk together before carrying on where they left off.
That was more than we were going to do though.
Crisps and salted peanuts at the bar again.
Still, it had been a good day otherwise.

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