Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Giant Transformers

So yesterday was spent in a hide in La Serena, Badajoz, organized by Manuel Calderon / Anser. Manuel brought me to the rough rocky hide before dawn, where I stayed for the next 14 hours. The weather was very bad almost all day. It started off very grey and dark, which was a shame, but at least windless. Later in the morning a fierce, relentless wind built up which didn't aid my situation in the hide, nor did the rain and hail storms that soaked me inside the hide... What happened to spring here?
Anyway, my main reason for getting into this hide is that this was my first opportunity to study my research species, Great Bustard, without time pressure and without having to do anything else: just watch and study. Unfortunately, because of the cold spell in the last couple of weeks, lekking hasn't really picked up and the males I saw were only half-dancing, and as a result no females were attracted to the male groups. I do hope that the weather improves during my stay here, and the birds get the show going.
The morning began with an impressive dawn chorus, mainly of Calandra Larks. When there was light enough, I spotted some small groups of semi-dancing male Great Bustards scattered on some hills around the hide. But still early in the morning, when the light was really shit, a group of 20 males walked past my hide, foraging and occasionally stopping for a quick dance. I assume that these dances are intended more towards cohortees than towards females. One of the males, a really large bull, came really close, perhaps 20 m away from my hide, and stopped. All the following images of him are full-frame.

It amazed me how within seconds, he transformed from a 'normal-looking' bird to an alien-thing. This sequence of four images was taken within about 5 seconds:

I am pretty sure he saw me in the hide - he was looking at the hide constantly.

Mr. Moustache

What a magnificent bird

For some unknown reason, in full frontal view he reminded me of a Russian M35 helicopter:

From Google

Another display of transformation:


Few seconds after

Then the group walked on and stayed the rest of the day on a distant hill, not doing much: foraging, resting, preening and occasionally dancing for fun. During the day I had some other birds in the area, including several flyover groups of both Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Lesser Kestrels, one Montagu's Harrier, and a few other bits and bobs.

In the afternoon another smaller group of males walked past the hide, this time slightly further away:

Some stopping for a quick dance:

I just love this rich rufous colour of the lower breast:

In the late afternoon the sun came out briefly, but sadly no birds were near the hide, so I had to settle for some more atmospheric shots: 

Some of my neighbours for the day:

Calandra Lark

Corn Bunting

I left temporary home after dark, in the rain, total of 14 hours. Not an easy day, all my body was aching and I felt like shit as I am still recovering from a nasty flu I caught before flying over. And also it has been some years since I last had to piss into a bottle... But in conclusion, especially after seeing my images and resting a bit, I can say that it was a great and interesting day.

Castelo Estremoz - from my drive across Portugal on the way here on Sunday:


  1. Fabulous. Love to spend 14 hours in the hide. Hope you are recovering fast now.

  2. Speechless!! Insane bustard display, and superb images Yoav. A great post. Wish you a speedy recovery (worth it though ;)

  3. Madhim these captures of this amazing bird. Worth to edure 14 hours in a hide.