Bird Photography and Sustainable Development. by Juan Aragonés
The great bustard (Otis tarda) is one of the most magnificent bird species I have ever seen. They are really huge, about the size of a domestic turkey, beautiful, shy, scarce and very interesting for photographers because of their amazing courtship displays.
These steppary birds has been declining in Spain and in other European countries in the past decades due to hunting, habitat destruction and disturbing but now the Spanish populations are showing signs of a promising recovery.
Last year I spend a weekend in Extremadura (western Spain) photographing some of the fantastic bird richness of that part of the country. One of my main goals was to photograph great bustards courtship displays so I spend a complete day, about 14 hours, in a blind waiting for these magnificent birds with the hope of witnessing the courtship display, an amazing nature spectacle.
Well I have to say that I failed in my attempt to photograph the display, because the displaying birds were too far from me, but I enjoyed it a lot and now I have a decent lot of great bustard images. This is a very, very shy and endangered species and to avoid disturbance, photographers have to spend all the day in the blind so you have to wake up very early in the morning and you have to be inside the blind before the sun is rising and stay there until the daylight vanish. The blinds are managed by a conservationist organization and the fees for the use of the blind is mainly for the owners of the lands were the bustard lives.
This is a fantastic model for sustainable conservation because the people can obtain important benefits from the conservation of the bustard (and many other steppe bird species). It is very nice to see how the people change their point of view about conservation, when they can raise funds. The small villages of the area obtain benefits from the photographers (hotels, restaurants, souvenirs...) and the farmers and land owners too.
I am talking about a lot of photographers from many parts of Europe (you have to book with a year of anticipation!). This model is very sensitive to the conservation needs of the bird species in order for it to be sustainable and is closely surveyed by the conservation authorities.
By the way, once the displaying season is finished, and the beginning the nesting season starts, the photographing activities are cancelled. Many other bird species living in the same habitat of the great bustard are protected under this interesting model: little bustard, hoopoe, sandgrouses, harriers, larks, bee-eaters, little kestrels, eurasian rollers and many more.
Juan Aragonés, Córdoba, Spain
Late addition... the Hide Juan was in while photographing these birds... 150 cm inside hieght! (Click on the pic, and use your back button to return)