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Truly a great bustard.

Every time I write a blog about what I have been working on recently I have noticed I tend to eulogise quite a lot. As I write this blog I have been thinking about whether I have gone over the top a bit too much in the past, particularly as I am about to do it again. My answer, I think, is that I don’t or haven’t.

The real answer is that every time I wax lyrical I actually believe it because the bird or animal is so fantastic. I guess it’s because like so many others I love wildlife and find it not only incredibly fascinating but usually stunningly beautiful as well.

So, here goes again! I have just returned from a trip to southern England to work photographically with great bustards. Great bustards became extinct in the UK hundreds of years ago, mainly through hunting and loss of their open, wild, grassy habitat which is now mainly cut by the modern plough and drenched with chemical sprays.

A few dedicated individuals believed that these huge and amazing birds could survive again in the UK given the right help and habitat management. So began the great bustard project, a fabulous idea which is now starting to bear fruit. Eggs from Russia and Spain have been incubated and reared here in the UK every year with the subsequent young birds released into the wild. Survival to date has been excellent and higher than the natural survival of wild Spanish/Russian birds.

As spring approaches great bustard males start one, if not the most fantastic courtship displays of any European bird. The males slowly pull their heads into their chests, inflate their throats and seem incredibly to turn their tails inside out to show the huge white plumes. How they do this is not only mind-boggling but also incredibly beautiful. If you add to this the gorgeous colours and the most bewitching moustached whiskers you have one of the true spectacles of the avian world.   

Some of the birds have been wing-tagged to allow the project workers to identify individuals but from a photographer’s point of view luckily some have lost their wing tags plus they don’t always show during the miraculous courtship.

So I ask myself, have I gone over the top a bit? Well, I don’t think so, I absolutely loved my time there, the birds lived up to all my expectations and stunned and amazed me in equal potions! This is truly a great, great bustard extravaganza.