After having arrived in the rock-cut cathedral of giant boulders to see the Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas), called also the Red-headed Picathartes, in the Campo Maan National Park in April 2017, we settle down to wait. Be patient and wait. This is the motto.
We are still pretty early. It is just 4:00 pm. I got assigned a place by the Ranger of the NP office, which seems a bit reset compared to last April. But with my Canon EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM I’m well prepared. I set up the three-legged stool and adjust the 200 with the EOS 5 DsR to the Gitzo G1588 monopod. In addition, I arrange the EOS 1 DX with the Canon EF85mm f / 1.8 USM in case the Grey-necked Rockfowl is suddenly in front of me. That had happened briefly in April; too short for the lens attached at that time. I switch both cameras on Silent Mode. But I change that after a while with the EOS 1 DX, because I think that – when I use the EOS 1 DX – it is really hardship and then noise does not matter anymore. In this case speed is more needed. Luckily, I still remember to turn on the image stabilizer on the EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM. Then I am ready. I’m still undecided whether I should rather take the EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM or the EF85mm f / 1.8 USM in the hand. The sitting position is ok on the stool; but sitting for hours is perhaps not recommended.
After I sorted everything I feel prepared. The nests of the Picathartes seem to be much further compared to their last visit in April 2017. You can tell by the drops on the boulders underneath. In April we had sat on these boulders. The local guide says that 2 couples breed here. It takes a while. At 4:45 pm some activity is obviously. An individual of a Picathartes is standing on a boulder at the other cave entrance and looks carefully over to us. He does not seem to be really shy. The combination of distance-to-object and jungle background is really great. I only shoot with the EOS 5 DsR. I am curious how the ASA performance will be on the images afterwards. In any case, I managed to go down with the exposure times to 1/16 sec. That’s a word – despite monopod and image stabilizer. Then the rockhopper, who had been standing on the boulder for a while, disappears. But obviously there are a lot more individuals in the surrounding area. Again and again a Picathartes apear. They also call extensively the snoring-like sound. Suddenly a rockhopper is very close. A bird comes up to almost 8m distance. I take the picture with the 1.8 / 85 and the EOS 1 DX. The bird probably intended to jump over to the overhanging nest directly over one of the lying rocks. In vain, the bird quickly disappears. In the back area is a bit more movement. Unfortunately, the Picathartes are partially covered by branches. But then it is very clear: these are 2 individuals. What an experience to see a males and a female of this enigmatic bird together. Some pictures I shoot again from a Picathartes on a boulder, then again on a branch. This should be a difference to the yield of last April. With the EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM I make beautiful experiences. It focus even in near darkness pretty fast. After a while, the activity of the Picathartes decreases significantly. My enthusiasm for the birds is all the greater. The guides blow to leave, so as not to disturb the Rockfowl. That’s ok too. The yield of the very good pictures compared to April 2017 is impressive. In the twilight, we walk through the jungle back to the National Park trail.
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