For the last couple of days, flying rapidly across one of the two fields we have to ourselves on this still blissful campsite, we’ve seen hoopoes. The hoopoe is surely one of nature’s strangest avian creations, resembling a clown with a mohican hair-do. Along with the fact that man’s windpipe and oesophagus sit side by side such that food often attempts to enter the lungs, hoopoes are a fine argument against the existence of a god. Neither is a design befitting an omnipotent being. Long live Darwin.
Anyway, by observation between showers, we spotted the crested little tykes visiting the roof of one of the sanitaires blocks nearby our pitch, a block that is currently closed pending the high-season onslaught. Our bird guide says that hoopoes will nest “in the foundations of your house” which seems rather more curious than dangerous; a hoopoe – a little smaller than a blackbird – is not large enough to undermine any foundations. This pair, we think, is actually nesting in/on the roof of les sanitaires. Their nest is not visible but appears to be behind the top edge of a roof sky-light window, judging by their activity.
It’s quite uncanny how nature tends to pull an amazing disappearing act as soon as a camera appears with a relatively long lens attached. The hoopoes were no exception. It’s also quite uncanny how many times I seem to find myself pointing a camera with a relatively long lens at a toilet block. One day, Franco is likely to be hauled off by the gendarmes. [Ed: Not a comfortable experience.] However, after a couple of fruitless and less than easy hours hiding behind a suitable tree, and after receiving several strange glances from the adjacent van Dogs family, patience finally paid off. Although the brick-pink tiled roof of les sanitaires does not make a great background for a buff-pink coloured bird – the camouflage may contribute to their choice of nesting site – eventually some half-way decent shots of hoopoes delivering grub(s) to their nest did emerge, to inner whoops of delight, I might add. (Although the 1.4X extender was involved, the images of the hoopoe are cropped ~50%.)
With adults looking this weird, I’d expect young hoopoes to look decidedly odd. Unfortunately, I suspect that eggs are still being incubated and we wont be here long enough to see them fledge.