I always enjoy having the opportunity on photograph something new. And holidays often bring those opportunities, as long as I can negotiate some photography time alongside the family fun. One such opportunity presented itself in the form of an October holiday to the Algarve in Portugal.
I had never been to Portugal before but I didn't know what to expect, although I have seen photos from a couple of friends that suggested there might be opportunities for bird photography. We stayed in the coastal resort of Villamoura. A bit of preparation in advance, scouring the internet, revealed this to be a relatively new resort, set amongst one or two areas that showed some promise. Although we were going to hire a car, and some of the main reserves were not that far away, I recognised that I needed something quite close - so I was pleasantly surprised to find, and keen to explore, the Villamoura Reedbeds.
I managed to fit in two early morning visits to the reserve. The first I used to get my bearings, including discovering that I had to park a little way out of the reserve and walk into it, to get anywhere near the hides. I decided to head to what is actually called Bird Hide 2 at the far end of the reserve.
I had the hide to myself. These images show the views from the hide, taken with my Galaxy Note 8 phone.
And in this image you can see my Canon EOS 7d mark ii with Sigma 150-600 mm lens. I include this image to demonstrate the pull of the lens. I continue to be amazed by the difference between a 400mm lens (the upper range of my 100-400 mm) and 600mm. Whilst a couple of the images below have minor cropping, they are cropped to make minor improvements to composition (often to trim off a reed highlighted by the sun), rather than to make the bird bigger the frame. I am really pleased with the combination of camera and lens.
I managed to photograph just 3 species from this hide - Little Grebe and Kingfisher were two that I had photographed before (see a future post which will include these images). But the bird that made my visit really worth worthwhile, was one that suddenly appeared in the gap in the shaded reeds to the right of my view.
It was a Purple Gallinule.
Also known as Purple Swamp hens, these birds are effectively large purple Moorhens. I love their purple colouring and their bright red beak and legs.
The bird skulked in the reeds....
before moving closer through the reeds from right to left.
stopping occasionally to check its surroundings.
It then flew to the reedbed to the left of the hide. I have quite a few blurred images as I tried to get it back in frame. Eventually, it stepped out into the open and allowed another photo.
It then disappeared out of sight, and didn't return.
Although I was frustrated at the pictures I had missed, I was really pleased to have grabbed some images - and it spurred me on to make a second visit to the reserve later in the week.
On my second visit I started in Bird Hide 1. Imagine my delight as I found another Purple Gallinule right in front of the hide. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, it heard me entering the hide, and flew to a point further away.
The early morning view out of this hide was almost entirely into the sun. But it wasn't long before another Purple Gallinule came out into the open, and started to wander around on the flattened reeds some distance in front of the hide.
After making sure I had a couple of images of the bird in silhouette, I made a serious adjustment to the exposure values on my camera to see if could get any more detail. Naturally this has turned the background very white, but I did get a couple of images as the bird played with, and ate, a crab.
The light was really quite tricky, so I decided to visit Bird Hide 2 again - and amazingly I was in luck. A third opportunity to photograph Purple Gallinule, albeit that the bird insisted in skulking in the reeds, and standing behind one brightly lit reed in particular.
These are great birds, with lovely colours, and nice and large, making photography that bit easier. Well worth getting out of bed early for!!
I will post further images from Villamoura Reedbeds in future posts. In the meantime, if you would like to see the full set of Purple Gallinule images please go to the gallery here.