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Houbara Bustard

Houbara Bustard

La Pared, Fuerteventura, Spain, 11 Feb 2011
EOS 50D & 400mmf4DO+x1.4TC. 1/400 sec f5.6 ISO 800

This is a Birdguides 'Notable Photo'!

Prior to this trip, I had re-read with interest an account by Richard Brooks in Birding World from 2006, in which he described a trip to Fuerteventura where he found and photographed a Houbara Bustard from a car at close range. Surely though we wouldn't be so lucky?!

On this week long trip to Fuerteventura we had already been fortunate enough to see three of these splendid birds, but only very distantly - no good for photography. For our last three days we stayed in Costa Calma which allowed a couple of early morning visits to the nearby plains. On the first morning I was up on a pre-dawn prowl first looking unsuccessfully for sandgrouse at La Pared. But driving along a track in the same general area I came across a strange dull silver car with blanked out windows. Moments later I spotted 2 large lenses protruding from the other side. I then saw what they were interested in – a displaying Houbara Bustard right by the track! Despite my bright red car without any window blanking, this splendid bird tolerated a close approach and I managed to get some quite reasonable shots. However the conditions that morning were dull and the photos lacked contrast.

The next morning we tried again a bit earlier – and arrived to find the Houbara Bustard again in exactly the same spot with no other car around. Again the bird tolerated our bright red car and open, un-blanked windows, but initial shots were rather dull. However soon the sun’s first rays started to hit the bird with an immediate dramatic improvement in contrast. The bird did a few of its remarkable display runs - it looks like a demented headless chicken as it charges around with head tucked well back, with its white ruff to the fore! These few minutes with the early morning light on the bustard were definitely my highlight of this trip and of 2011 to date

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