The Flight of the Bumblebee Bird

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Yellow Bishop Birds have to be one of the great South African grassland birds. Looking a little like overgrown bumble bee’s these bishops along with their red cousins bring a dash of color to the fields of grass throughout the highveld.

Being small, with deeply contrasting feathers yellow bishops are not the easiest to photograph with short lenses as you need to get fairly close to be able to pick up any feather detail. Having a bigger lens than I was able to fly with would have been an advantage. But sometimes you do what you have to do with what you got and hope for the best.

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It took a good few hours of frustratingly chasing birds through waist high grass, before it finally dawned on me that like red bishops, male yellow bishops regularly return to a favorite perch. Once I’d figured this out it was a case of slowly advancing on the perch until I was close enough to photograph and not chase the birds off. More often than not the temptation to take another step and then another one too many was my downfall and the birds would take off before I could focus and shoot.

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Fortunately the birds are slow flyers, with an erratic forward hovering type flight action than you typically see and looking every bit a big yellow bee rather than a bird getting away from a camera. So as luck would have it I managed a few birds-in-flight shots that I was pleased to come away with.

So, if you are a birder and in South Africa during the summer, take your camera and pick up your car and head out to one of the local grassland bird sanctuaries and shoot some bee’s!!

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