Monday, 20 July 2015

Pont de Gau, Camargue

I could happily spend all day in a bird reserve. Since I know myself only too well I took careful measures to be back on time on this occasion, though I needn't have worried because another keen bird photographer was late back to the bus instead of me.

The salt marshes of The Camargue are full of exotic species; wild birds being encouraged to congregate inside the bounds of Pont de Gau by feeding. The Greater Flamingos cluster in garrulous flocks close to the shore of  small lakes, demonstrating by their high stepping strutting that the water is only inches deep and especially convenient for their strange but logical method of sieving the oozy mud below through odd-shaped beaks.

Other species are slightly less gregarious. Greater Egrets seem to have slightly more respect for each other's personal space and roost several feet apart. Yellow-crested Cattle Egrets seem to mix in with their all-white relatives without concern, and even the often solitary grey herons will join the family groups.

It is quite hard to take a bad photograph where large birds are so concentrated. After some time photographing birds on the ground, I decided that take-off and landing presented greater challenges, though my attempts here also caused me to waste many more exposures. It is so easy to have the wrong depth of field and end up with part of a bird out of focus. If it happens to be the head that you have wrong this will ruin the shot, yet the recommended technique of focussing on the bird's eye is remarkably difficult if the bird is moving.

You need good reflexes and a steady hand; I was usually quite pleased just to get the whole bird in the frame. The White Stork on the left obligingly assisted by coming in to touch down in just the right spot.

There are lots of tracks around the lakes of Pont de Gau and it is easy to find yourself on your own, even when there are crowds around the cafe and enclosures. 

For any naturalist in The Camargue, a visit to Pont de Gau should certainly be on the agenda.  Take several lenses, spare batteries and lots of time.  Oh, and if it's a still day, take mosquito repellent!

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