Monday, October 29, 2007

Upapa epops

Foraging in grass
That bird was this bird, a Hoopoe. I woke, what was to me early, this Sunday. Fortunately, it was early for the birds as well. The nights have been cold and the mornings overcast, so they, like me under my warm rug, begin a little slower and later.

I walked up to Jubilee trying to hunt up, unsuccessfully, the Indian Pitta I had seen again the day before. Or maybe the Paradise flycatcher. But they eluded me and I left, I went to what I call the Rocks. This is a bit of open space near the entrance to Jubilee where there is a GPS system installed by CAOS which is used to monitor the movements of the Deccan plate. There is here a large piece of granite rock, run through with what seem to iron ores, exposed above the topsoil. In the rock are hollows, which in the rains accumulate water. These little ponds attract many birds which are happy for the cleaner water to drink and it's shallowness to bathe. Many of my better birds pictures are a gift of this place. Excellent light and two resources close by, the water and surrounding hedges bearing fruit and shelter.

Threat display
I wasn't really expecting anything in the morning, birds wouldn't need water to cool off at that time of day. And much my current quarry, the migrants, are insect-eaters. The force of habit led me there, and to this bird. It was foraging on the surface of the rock, quietly picking up insects using it's long beak like forceps. I used all my getting close tricks to ... get close, and got the first few shots. I soon realized that as long as I stayed close to the ground and didn't move suddenly this bird was essentially completely unafraid of me. It went on foraging merrily, walking silently on the rock surface, at the margin where the grass met stone, picking and searching . I stayed with it a long while, getting closer and closer to it. Once or twice it flew off, I went in search of it, found it perched on a tree, shot a few frames there. Then it would fly right back to the same rock and begin foraging again! I could come back and restart where I left off.

At some point, Ashok arrived, and I offered him a go at getting some shots. He told me of a few migrants he had spotted and where he thought I might get some shots of them. I left the rocks to him and toddled off. He didn't unfortunately get as pally with my friend. And I didn't get anything much where he was, a few distant shots, a few obscured ones. We went off to lunch. But I couldn't keep myself away, I thought the Hoopoe would still be there and so I returned. And sure enough it was. A bird as beautiful as that is too much of an photographic opportunity to pass up and besides there is quite a thrill in having a wild creature come within reaching distance, in being accepted to that degree. An outstretched arm would have touched the bird on many occasions that afternoon. The picture in the previous post is one such occasion, the bird is nearly too close for my lens's minimal focusing distance. It's grabbed an insect and is tossing it up before swallowing. A moment like that on 'film', is for me quite something. To say I enjoyed it is underwhelming.

The crest comes unfurled when the bird perceives a threat, this time it was a millipede!
It got dark eventually and other imperatives beckoned and I must needs go. A labmate went back the next day to do some work near the rocks. She reported that it wasn't there. She thought maybe the dogs that were parked there the whole time she was there was why. I'd like to think, fanciful and foolish as it is, that presence was my gift.

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