One of my favourite birds is the exotic-looking hoopoe. It is an magnificent bird that lives across most of Europe, Asia and Africa and is famous for its giant mohican-like crest. Hoopoes often nest in cavities in the walls of derelict buildings, as is brilliantly shown in these stunning pictures by Peter Damerell.
Peter, a good friend of mine, was conducting research on the critically endangered Saiga antelope in the remote regions of the Ustyurt Plateau, Uzbekistan. While taking a break from work to avoid the 40+ degree heat, he found a nice cherry tree to rest under. But as soon as he sat down, he suddenly heard the chirping of nestlings nearby and discovered a hoopoe nest a couple meters away hidden in the wall of a crumbling outbuilding .
Peter set-up a cleaver trigger system to take these amazing photos of the birds coming to feed their young, even without them knowing as Peter explained:
By observing the parent’s behaviour I could accurately time their arrival and set-up my DSLR whilst they were away foraging. I then set-up a remote trigger that I could control while hidden away in the shade of the cherry tree, thereby minimizing my impact and at the same time enjoying a few cherries. I like using a remote camera in this way as it provides minimal disturbance for your subject, something that is really important to me.
Hoopoes mainly forage on bare ground, probing the ground with their long curved bill to look for big grubs and other insects, clearly visible in these photos. It’s salmon colour with black and white wings and extraordinary crest make the hoopoe instantly recognisable. I very clearly remember the times I managed to see them in the wild whilst travelling in Spain and France, a wonderful experience. However, I still hope to see them on an English lawn sometime as these birds do actually arrive in Britain each year!
Peter has travelled and conducted research across the world and is currently doing a PhD at the University of Cambridge to look at the relationships between people and wildlife in Romania. You can see more of his amazing photos and learn about his work on his website.
NB: When birds are nesting it is very important that they are not disturbed as this can cause them to abandon the nest. If not sure wether you will disturb a bird, then the simple rule is not to take the picture at all but just to enjoy watching the birds. Thanks!