I set out this morning with the intention of trying to film a little of what I saw. My motivation was a mixture of being inspired by Morten Hilmer who is an absolute legend and also curiosity. Curiosity because I was interested both in how the technology works but also whether I would find the process a distraction or a fun thing to do.
I’ll come back to what conclusions I came to at the end of this post. The day began as usual when visiting the Farm with a moment of utter marvellment that such a place can even exist. You drive 50km outside of Doha heading toward the Saudi border, down increasingly worsening roads. Finally you turn off and head toward a concrete factory, surrounded by trucks before suddenly you’re at the gates to the farm.
The feeling of peace and serenity that comes to me as I drive inside the expansive green terrain is sublime.
Straight away, almost before your eyes have adjusted from the glare of the desert, shapes can be seen on top of the irrigation booms. There are dozens of silhouettes and as you drive closer it’s clear they are all Bee-eaters, of the blue-cheeked variety.
I pause and watch them darting down from their perches before swooping acrobatically through the air as they grab insects on the wing. I can hear their piping calls and it is so uplifting to see these beautiful birds performing their dance.
The last time I saw Bee-eaters was in Italy and then they were the European variety. The blue-cheeked variety are stunning birds and I’ve set myself the challenge to capture a shot of one of them in flight.
Greater Hoopoe Lark
Prior to the Covid clamp down, my visits to the Farm had not provided any views of this rather odd looking bird. It first catched your attention as it flies past, the wing colours resembling a hoopoe’s — a black and white flicker that is eye-grabbing.
Then when you focus on it, the weird elements come together. A long de-curved bill and a pipit’s body combined. Like many birds, it seems that once you’ve made one bird’s acquaintance, they are suddenly everywhere.
Whether that means I was simply neglecting to notice them earlier in the year, I don’t know. There are certainly plenty about now.
Grey Shrike and Black-winged Stilt
As I studied the lines of bee-eaters on the irrigation booms, I noticed a single Grey Shrike perched on top of the gantry. I normally see these birds closer to the ground on bushes or rock piles. It was calling, which is the first time I’ve heard this.
The Black-winged stilts are often found on the edge of the grey-water reservoirs. These a large circular concrete basins. I’ve found them to be quite productive locations with sightings of wagtails and waders.
Kentish Plover — I think?
I’m not very good at sea birds I must confess. So I’m stabbing in the dark with this bird and tentaively naming it as a Kentish Plover. If you’ve got a better idea than me, please leave a comment below.
I’m slightly perplexed to see these birds here. Although there is a bit of spillage around some of the reservoirs, where I found this bird, you could not call this a wetland.
There I was, minding my own business watching the Kentish Plover when a sudden movement from above caught my attention. I looked on in utter astonishment as an osprey swept over the water and made several attempts to catch a fish.
My heart rate suddenly shot up as I tried to capture the scene in front of me. I could scarcely believe my eyes. I did in fact catch a clip of one sortie, which you can see in the video below.
My hands were shaking as I focused on the bird as it alighted on top of a nearby shed.
A Second View
After a couple of minutes, the bird flew off and I tried to follow it through my binoculars. It disappeared over a bluff, and I set off to see if I could catch up with. I’m so glad I did.
My decision to try and record some video of my trip now seemed inspired. I was able — if however shakily — to capture a glimpse of this marvellous raptor in hunting mode.
Having already decided to record some video meant that when this moment arrived I was able to capture what for me was an utterly magical moment. I had never seen an osprey fish before and now I had managed to capture that memory forever.
Despite my worry that fliming video might distract me from the meditative quality I find in birding, those concerns have largely been allayed. I’m sure if I become a bit more practiced, fliming birds will begin to become second nature.
I have no pretentions that my flim making will be anything other than a fun way to capture some lasting memories, but this trip is a full vindication of my decision to try this new medium. I expect I’ll make some more videos in the weeks to come.