We continue with Europe on my challenge on nature photography inspired journey of the seven continents. If you’ve missed the journey to date, check out the last few posts for hyenas in Africa, cranes in Asia and fairywrens in Australia…
Seeing flamingos nearby, I snuck down the embankment and paused behind a patch of tall reeds. Quietly, I stretched to my toes and peered at my quarry through the fuzzy tops of the grasses. They seemed not to notice my approach. I eyed the small dock to my left and turned toward it. I took a tentative step in that direction and paused. I sensed no change on the water. I crouched low and softly took a few more steps. The cooing from below remained consistent. I was at the edge of the dock now and with no signs of disturbance, I eased myself onto the planks. I momentarily kneeled there then, ever so carefully, inched forward. When I’d nearly reached the end of the short walkway, just at the edge of the patch of grasses, I crossed my legs and settled into place.
I thought I was as close as I could possibly get to wild flamingos. They were on the opposite bank but for once, the flamingos weren’t mere specks on the horizon. I could watch them bicker. I could distinguish individual feathers. I’d spent so much time in the past perched on crusted salt pond banks, staring longingly at an unapproachable pink mass in the distance. There had never seemed to be vegetative cover, or any cover for that matter, to mask my attempts at stealthy approach. If I ventured too far into the water or around the bank in those wide open landscapes, the entire flock paddled across the water’s surface to lift into the air like a convention of pink witches. So to sit at the end of this dock, within hearing range of these Greater Flamingos, felt like a treat. Blissfully I framed one group of flamingoes after another in my lens; and then I heard a motor approach.
A utility vehicle screeched to a halt behind me. I whipped my head around to eye the likely flamingo disrupter. I’d worked so hard to attain my position without disrupting the colony. The idea that someone might so readily rob me of this experience irked me. I eyed the driver suspiciously as he jumped down and began rummaging through the back of his cart. The man seemed absorbed in his work and oblivious to both me and the flamingos. More importantly, the flamingos seemed oblivious to his arrival, so I returned to observing the flock.
I’d just gotten comfortable again when a heavy foot landed on the walk behind me. The man from the cart stepped across me and reached the end of the dock in just a couple of strides. With no warning or ceremony, he flung a bucketful of unhulled rice across the water and left as abruptly as he’d arrived. No sooner had the shower of grains pelted the water than the flamingos clamored into a frenzy. Their legs churned the water into a minor tsunami as they half ran and half flew from their bank towards mine. A hundred or more flamingos charged in my direction, spraying muddy water across my pants as they skidded to a halt within arm’s reach. They nudged and bumped one another, heads buried in the treasure-filled muck except when they were nipping a neighbor out of the way. One serpentine neck extended in my direction and I feared I’d be the next nippee. Fortunately, the bird directed its head away from my cheek before snapping it’s razor-edged beak shut. I was happy to skip the bill dueling but delighted to share in the flock’s energy. I had been wrong. NOW, within arm’s reach and pecking distance, I was as close as I could possibly get to a wild flamingo flock. As another beak waivered in my direction, I wondered if I hadn’t in fact joined the flock – at least for the moment. I thrilled at the thought, and dodged the threatening bill.