The increased water levels of the Hluhluwe River and Lake St Lucia has spurred a major boom in the aquatic and insect life. This in turn has boosted the amount of bird species visiting our spectacular area. However, photographing these avian models is never the easiest as they are exceptionally skittish and somewhat camera shy.
With this problem at hand I decided to make it my latest mission to get up close to my little feathered friends and photograph them completely undisturbed and at ease in their natural habitat. This was a little harder than I anticipated. It is amazing an animal with such a small brain relative to its body size has such amazing senses. In the past I have gone the extra mile to trick these sharp-sensed creatures into letting me into their comfort zone to get the shots I would like. So much so that I have camped out next to a zebra carcass to photograph vultures feeding and they would not come down from the trees until I left, even though I set up early in the morning, during the darkest hour, and made 100% sure that I was completely concealed. Somehow they still sensed my presence through the low visibility and over the rancid stench of the decaying zebra.
The challenges I have faced drove me to do things properly first time around so I scratched around the workshop and managed to collect enough material to build myself an aluminum framed hide with shade cloth sides. After many hours of designing and redesigning my rickety hide I was good to go.
The location I chose to set up my hide was alongside the Hluhluwe River, close to where we launch our boat for boat cruises. I chose this spot because we have been having a large amount of birds such as egrets, herons, kingfishers and hamerkops all congregating alongside a pool that tens of thousands of small fry use to find shelter from the predatory fish.
After setting up and waiting patiently for the birds to get familiar with my shade cloth shack the flood gates were opened and birds flocked back to their favored hunting grounds. The first to arrive was the Little Egrets who were very weary of my structure and seemed to flinch every time I moved slightly but they seemed to be fairly at ease with my presence. Then came the Green-backed Heron took one look at me in my green box and carried on staring at the water waiting for the right moment to lunge at an unsuspecting fry. I was also lucky enough to have two juvenile black-crowned night-herons; a hamerkop and a common sandpiper grace me with their presence.
It is remarkable being able to observe these beautiful creatures undisturbed and in their natural habitat, going about their everyday activities, almost completely oblivious to my presence. It is also a great sense of achievement being able to conceal one’s self so well that birds will stand not even 5 meters away while in search of a snack. I am definitely hooked on this method of capturing great bird shots. Next time I will be after the kingfisher species!
Here are some shots that I captured on day one! Stay tuned for some more awesome shots to come.