POOR LITTLE BUSTARD

Male Little Bustard, Lleida Plains, Catalonia

THE DISPLAY OF LITTLE BUSTARD IS ONE OF THE WILDLIFE WONDERS OF SPAIN and is not to be missed. I have now spent almost 60 hours watching and photographing them from photo hides on the Lleida Plains of Catalonia and I have still not quite achieved the shot I am hoping for. Capturing the right phase of the bird's display jump in nice light (= around one hour or so each morning) is hard enough but achieving a nice background is just as important and unfortunately the farmers in this area now seem hell-bent on eradicating poppies and other flowering plants from the lovely rolling farmland landscape. I have also learned that you have a better chance of a jumping bustard if you do not take any shots at all until it has jumped several times. It takes some time build up to the this phase of its display, from strutting around making its 'raspberry blow' call to fanning its black 'cobra neck' feathers and if it is not disturbed during these phases it may eventually make its way to one of its hardened mud lekking pads where it will start to stamp its feet before each call. Foot stamping is usually a pre-cursor to jumping. However, it is difficult for most photographers to resist the temptation to bag a few portraits thereby blowing their chances of jumping shots! Weather plays a part as well and they do not usually jump in cool temperatures or after rain. Listed as near-threatened by BirdLife International owing to a decreasing population it is another bird to watch while we still can. A big thank you to our excellent partners Birding in Spain, whose photo hide placement was impeccable this year!

Male Little Bustards chasing, Lleida Plains, Catalonia