Friday, 4 November 2016

Finally, a Hoopoe day

Another overcast day, and a morning spent reading news reports on reactions to yesterday's Law Lords' judgement on the need for the British Parliament to be consulted before the Brexit process is started. The tabloid newspapers hysterical and misleading denunciation of long established legal authority and process is deeply disturbing. If these newspaper owners and their editors claim to be the 'voice of the people' what they are doing is preaching anarchy and calling for mob rule. It's worrying to witness truth being cast aside in favour of unsubstantiated, inaccurate oft repeated opinionation, and its happening all over the western world these days. It's every bit as evil as religious fundamentalism in its many guises, and is re-enforcing social divisions by the day. So disheartening.

Finally, after lunch, I summoned the effort to shrug off worldly despair and get out for a walk. I crossed the rio Aguas bridge and then turned into the complex of hotels and apartments and golf course that are part of the prestigious Marina Club Golf resort. I've walked through parts of the resort a few times before, but this time I climbed up as high as I could, to a ridge about 70m above sea level, where there are several very classy architect designed luxury dwellings with fantastic views inland and out to sea. 

The course extends down on to the plain the other side of the ridge, cutting a huge green grassy enclave out of an inland plain of pale sandy soil. In season I guess this would be normally used to grow cereal crops. It was hard to avoid overhearing a snatch of conversation between two golfing gents talking loudly in their electric buggy on their return trip. "I spent two hundred and fifty thousand." Then "Did you say two hundred and sixty thousand ....?" Yes, it's that sort of place. But already, something else had caught my eye.

Looking out over part of the golf course on the sea side towards Puerto Garrucha, its loading dock empty since the departure of the bulk carrier 'Sun Vita' after sunset last night, a distinctive bird flew out of the shadows, then settled again on a green further away. I first saw a Hoopoe take to the air when I surprised one on a track in the pinewoods near El Chaparal golf course, La Cala de Mijas in the winter of 2013. Several times later, I glimpsed one in the foothills of the Alpujarras behind Nerja, where I got one lucky, but slightly blurred photo of the bird on the wing. It was only recognisable Hoopoe photo until now. This was among the first I took today.
A perimeter fence post at shoulder height enabled me to stabilise my trusty Sony HX50, so that I could shoot near the limit of its 30x zoom if needed. The bird obligingly allowed itself to be photographed in the company of a pied wagtail, and what I think was a Rock Pipit. Then, even better. I spotted a second and third Hoopoe foraging on the same green. I got a good clear picture of two together out of three, the other was just out of sight. 
So unexpectedly in a few minutes, a dull day turned to delight and exultation. I've hunted for Hoopoes to photograph, each duty tour in Spain for the past three and a half years, so taken was I by my first El Chaparal encounter.

Another little surprise of the past few days has been the appearance of a pair of pied wagtails around the rio Aguas watercourse. They were there again as a made my way back to the apartment, as the sun was going down. Separately, they fly out of the reed beds, alight on an isolated clump of reed in the water, then fly around in tight circles, returning to the same spot, presumably insect gathering. 
Being a bit bigger and brighter coloured than other reed bed denizens, wagtails are quite distinctive. Most of the time they are sociable. I once counted two dozen together in the Asda Leckwith car park. Not when they're mating to reproduce however. They seem to count on the absence of predators to hang out in a twosome around the watercourse at this time of year.

Tonight, I look at the photos with pleasure, but also a little disappointment. Might I have got better pics with my Sony HX300, with greater magnification, but essentially the same camera innards? Shooting at extreme zoom lengths and getting decent images is a chancy business. Now I know where to find  those Hoopoes, should I return there tomorrow with the other camera? Really, I could do with a camera with a bigger sensor as well as a decent zoom, but at this point the cost of my little diversion start escalating unreasonably. Fair quality on a modest budget is a factor in my measure of hobby satisfaction, but real pleasure is to be found in the surprise gift of a moment unexpected.

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