Bee-eater ... and other animals

Bee-eater ... and other animals

Bee-eater ... and other animals

White throat to dive under foamy white waterfalls ... Dark wings to fly under dark currents ... and a quick and crystal clear mind to survive in the river of fast crystalline waters!

p> It is, of course, the cinclus cinclus , the adaptation and specialization made bird. A flash of white that occupies an exclusive ecological niche in European rivers


I've always been fascinated by the aquatic blackbird, but it's not an easy animal to photograph - one has to find a river of unpolluted clean water that allows the blackbird to live and the tiny underwater insects it eats. It is not an easy task in a country where environmental disturbances come free and the river biodiversity is systematically sifted. In fact, the first river where I was following the blackbirds this summer (Arlanza, in Burgos) had a repulsive grayish contamination just a few meters upstream from the territory of the blackbirds.

But in this stretch the water flows quiet, and among the "flocks" of hundreds of cobblers, a beautiful blackbird travels its huge territory in the shade that the poplars project at noon.

But once found a blackbird territory, the problems to photograph it have just begun. Every individual is a world - and these were of the worst strain! Suspicious and unpredictable: every day I watched them travel the river flying from side to side but there was no way to find their areas of desire ...

So I played camouflage netting and ad-hoc rock caches and give him patience! Luckily in the river you are never alone ... the local horses, washerwomen and even the kingfisher are neighbors of the blackbird, and live in harmony, each taking advantage of a different "level" of the river.

But one morning, when I had already spent several hours with my camouflage net and gave the session for lost, my luck was going to change ...

And from the little waterfall that sounded just 100 meters downstream, a brown form flew flat towards me.

It will pass long, do not get any illusions vaapasardelarg ... Bam! A moment later the blackbird was perched 20 meters in the middle of the river. What a marvel, what a white glow in the dark!

I did not dare to move even a millimeter under my camouflage net, but the blackbird did not flinch because of my shutter ... a small flight to the rocks from the shore and placed in a natural light spot to dry butt plumage - the oil with which they cover their feathers is especially insulated and it is amazing to see them leave a completely dry dive, but in the long run nothing like a good traditional drying!

The half hour of setting the plumage to 20 meters that gave me that blackbird was unforgettable, but the Arlanza is not the only river where I looked for the winged diver ...

The Cantabrian mountain range is one of the few places where there are corners of almost virgin Iberian nature. The first light of dawn outlines the mosses and lichens of the savage forest of La Marta, which looks down the valley from the old dry trunk ...

... down the valley, where the transparent Somiedo River flows! Here also live several families of blackbirds, and the fast and cold waters are very different from the wide and open channels of the south.

On the same stones on which the blackbird perches there were signs that here big things move ... and suddenly ... CLACK, CRASH! Stones falling down the river from the hillside - someone is coming down! I hid behind a few rocks and a second later ...

Two chamois! A mother and her brood of the year ... ¡ sshhh! I do not have to shoot or they will look for the sound of the camera and they will flee to discover me! Ahh, but whom I want to deceive, having them so close I could not contain myself and I started to shoot like crazy!

But contrary to what I expected, far from being frightened, continued to drink quietly. Perhaps the fauna is not so "fearful" by nature as they sell us! The thirst quenched, the mother raised her head, dripping in the diffused light that reached the bottom of the valley, and both began to climb the slope to her steep home

And at the last dawn, in one of the many waits we made in that beautiful river, this spectacular blackbird perched just 5 meters from the hide of my friend César: the best farewell to a magnificent few days in Somiedo!

But sometimes the best is which is closer to home, and if the Somiedo was the forest of the marten, in the valleys of the Sierra de Guadarrama is the forest of the jay ...

Because here the jays ( Garrulus glandarius) have displaced magpies, hawksbill and crows and are the dominant cormorant ...

Their blue panels are a turquoise lantern in the infinity of green and brown forest when the jay lowers to the river ...

... where more blue and green shines fly. The emerald of the body of the devil's horse Caryopteryx virgo is a fleeting glare, countless 4-wing beatings in a blue flicker, the fastest movement in the river ... to keep the hovering motionless in the air!

But even the prodigious horse must pull away from its favorite rocks when the jay lands.

Clouds are beginning to cover river patches and water reflects spotlights and shadows ... but one of the flashes is too much white ...

... of course! A few meters upstream from the jay, the blackbird poses majestically in the last ray of sun before the clouds cover the sky, a small but imposing statue of feathers and oil impermeable

But there is not only one ... in the small waterfall, another blackbird appears among the waves ...

He launches into the water and begins his search for underwater food ... and this is when his complex adaptations begin to emerge: did you know that the blackbird does not have the hollow bones characteristic of other birds? So he does not float and swim with precision - that gives his characteristic line of float to the level of the shoulders, so different from the one of the ducks.

Waash !! The sharpness of the surface world disappears, and the cold current floods the senses, a wave of disconnection and disoriented blindness ...?

Not for the blackbird. Specialized eye muscles allow you to correct the distortions of the water and to look for the rich larvae between the rocks.

And it is at this moment when the blackbird is blackbird, when it is much more than a small passeriform and becomes a prolongation of the river, the perfect hydrodynamics of millennia of evolution placed at the service of a mind that lives in three true dimensions

And after the current has submerged each of its feathers, the blackbird rises new to the surface ... and it looks brighter than ever!


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