Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Greater Painted-Snipes

The afternoon of May 11th saw me sitting still for hours trying to get some good photos of the extremely shy Greater Painted-Snipes (Rostratula benghalensis) at Sekinoe. A pair of male and female birds was found staying closely together in the lotus fields. Even though never been so numerous, these birds can be found regularly each year during late spring and summer. Sometimes they can be found during winter too. In fact, I just flushed up a male bird from a flooded grassy field a few weeks ago at Furuichi. Anyway, they're much easier to see during summer since they normally build nests in the lotus fields either in Sekinoe or Furuichi. This year, sadly because my camera dropped into the mud, so I was unable to get some photos of them at the nest. Unfortunately, I heard from Tonai-san, another birder that regularly visited the nest, that the nest failed because the eggs were swallowed by a snake.
Male Greater Painted-Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis)

Male (left) and female (right)
If asking me to make a list of most difficult birds to photograph, this beautiful Greater Painted-Snipe would definitely be in the list. It's just so cryptic and extremely difficult to get good photos. Although some people might be lucky to get decent shots without much effort, these birds have never been so easy for me. It's the bird that I need to try to take photos of it everytime that I come across. Apart from being so shy and camouflaging, these birds have another thing that makes photography even more difficult, their patience. They're the most patient bird I've ever seen. They can sit still, even in water, for hours. I tried to compete with their patience but I've always lost. I've always ended up moving a bit forward, which always consequently made them flush.
Male Greater Painted-Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis)
After sitting still for almost half an hour, the male bird in the above photo decided to relax and stood up but it also decided to fly away shortly afterward. These are my best attempt for May 11th. There was 1 female bird in the fields with at least 2 males. You can see that the female bird, which is strikingly beautiful, is much more hideous than the male. The dull and slightly smaller male bird is also the one that takes care of incubation and the chicks, just like the phalaropes. And even though they look like snipes, they're actually more related to rails!
Female Greater Painted-Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis)

Can you find both of the birds in the above photos?
I went back again on the next day trying to get some better photos, but not only was I unable to get any better shot, my camera and lens also fell off the tripod and dropped into the mud while trying to follow them. I'll surely remember these birds forever. Finally, I'd like to end this post with a photo and video of them performing their courtship display at dusk. These birds are also nocturnal, so they become more active when the sun goes down. I had to push the ISO up to 3200 so please bare with noise. In the video, you can see the birds doing their creepy rituals of nodding their heads and tails, before the male bird climbs up on the female's back and falls off so miserably. My apologies for the size of the birds, but this is the only distance which they feel comfortable enough to move themselves around freely.

4 comments:

Stu said...

Great find, a bird we never get up here. Wow, May seems like a long time ago......

Russell said...

Beautiful birds and a wonderful study. Thanks.

Madibirder said...

Saw one male back in September this year but only managed one crappy photo. These are simply great images.

Phil said...

A good find and good pictures of such a secretive bird. I didn't know they are related to rails. An interesting courtship, a bit black grouse like.