It was like panning for gold and all you got was just a piece of trash. Well, that may be carrying the analogy a bit too far but still….
It appeared that most of the birds at the La Mesa Ecopark took a vacation or were just not in the mood to be photographed this particular Saturday morning. Contrast that with last weeks very cooperative avian fauna.
Very much affected by this dearth of ornithological presence was our friend, Peter. He bemoaned the fact that every bird photographer and his uncle had taken pictures of the local Red-bellied Pitta. Except him! (Honestly neither have I, at least not this year). He also wanted to take better photos of the Hooded Pitta, a species that frustrated his endeavors seven days ago.
In my case, I got a little bit luckier. While Peter was patiently waiting for the Red-bellied to show up, I wandered around hoping to see a bird. Any bird. I was resting after carrying my heavy gear all over the place (made even heavier, it seemed, by the muggy weather) when from the corner of my eye I saw something bright blue-green. Hooded Pitta! I screamed silently as I positioned my camera and prayed that the colorful bird would stay put. It did. I took several shots. I was about to text Peter when "poof!" No more Pitta.
I rejoined my wife who was sitting and fanning herself while intently staring at the understory in front of her. Then she waved at me and pointed at something moving. After much peering and squinting, I saw it. The Pechora Pipit was, of course, moving non-stop in search of morsels.
"Position yourself to where it is headed," Cynthia, my director, told me.
As we expected it to do, the Pipit appeared in my line of view. "Aaargh!" My camera couldn't focus on it. Then "poof!" No more Pipit.
Then there were those trilling tailorbirds that preferred to be heard than seen. And the White-eyes that avoided our searching eyes.
Time passed slowly. It was my wife's turn to wander around. Peter and I joined forces and as we were exchanging some juicy gossip, the Trashy Ash, no, I meant the Ashy Thrush popped into view. Right there we got our consolation.
Satisfied, we all decided to celebrate by taking an early lunch. It was then that friends Adri and Trinket arrived. With them was a British birder, Stuart who wanted to see Ashy Thrush and the Pittas. Cordial salutations were made. We pointed to Peter who was standing at a distance peering through his camera, so Stuart approached him and said in his clipped British accent, "Petah?"
"Hooded" our friend replied.
There were smiles all around, a little clarification and then some small talk. It was getting close to noon so we reluctantly bade our birding buddies goodbye.
On our way out, we met Anthony, the local birder. He explained to us why the Red-bellied was nowhere to be found: they became yellow-bellied after being bullied by the hoods. In other words, the bigger Hoodeds chased the cowardly Red-bellieds away.
Enough of the Pitta trash talk, lunch awaits.