I do not consider myself a patient person. That is a strange statement coming from me because I am a birder and a bird photographer. Patience is supposed to be a virtue that practicers of these hobbies should possess.
When news that Barred Buttonquails (BBQs) have been observed regularly at Los Banos little did I know that to see these small birds would require patience. Lots of it!
Cynthia and I were sitting in our car staring at the empty road before us. Waiting for a buttonquail to appear any moment now (or so we thought). Thanks to the map provided by fellow bird photographer Mark Itol, we were confident that we were at the right place. So we waited. Nothing. Then a car approached us, stopped, and out came a gentleman.
"I think I know you," he said as he approached our car. "You're Bob Kaufman, right?"
Flattered, (how can a complete stranger know me?) I nodded in response. "And you are....?" I asked with a broad smile.
"Tirso Paris", he replied.
"Prof. Paris!" I exclaimed as I shook the hand of the man who first reported the presence of the buttonquails in this area.
Professor Paris then explained the habits of these furtive birds and advised us that we would have better chances if we moved forward a bit and stay next to the African Tulip tree. He wished us good luck as he prepared to leave inasmuch as he will be meeting with fellow bird photographers Enrique Frio and Alain Pascua at the Botanic Center in a few minutes. Just as he was leaving a Barred Buttonquail emerged from the clump of grass along the road. It was on Cynthia's side so I handed her the camera. Unfortunately she was too excited and the bird too quick that she wasn't able to get some good shots. We waited for it to come out again, but impatience got into us. We moved to where Tirso suggested we should stay. Again we waited. The fact that somebody decided to use the road we were at to learn to drive a car didn't encourage the secretive quails to come out in the open.
Eventually the student driver drove off. Once again, lack of patience got the better of us. So we drove slowly along the short stretch of road that's supposed to have a bunch of buttonquails just waiting to be photographed. Still nothing. Luckily, we saw some swallows bathing in a tiny puddle. That got our attention and we were even more thrilled when some of those turned out to be Striated Swallows. Lifers for us!
After getting some good shots, we staked out the road anew. Watching Oriental Skylarks mingling with the plentiful Eurasian Tree Sparrows feeding in the middle of the road somehow alleviated the boredom. Perhaps the presence of these brown birds gave the necessary courage for the Barred Buttonquails to determine that it was now safe to come out of their hiding places. And they did, not just one, but several of them. We had an enjoyable time taking turns at capturing the image of the lovely, skulking BBQs.
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