During the COVID-19 lockdown, Duluth resident and photographer Mary Buck discovered that instead of taking pictures in exotic locales such as Cuba, she was housebound like the rest of us.
Good photographers can find beguiling subject matter regardless of their situation, and Buck found great beauty in the birds that were bountiful in her own back yard.
Since then, Buck has become very popular for her bird photography. Always seeking new places, and new avian subjects, she received an email from the Georgia Audubon Society about a birding trip to Southwest Spain.
“It sounded like such a great adventure, so I called my BBFF (best birding friend forever) Susan and said, ‘Let’s go!’”
Buck and her friend flew to Madrid on April 23. Over 11 days, they covered 1,000 miles throughout the regions of Extremadura and Andalusia. There were 11 individuals in the tour group, mostly from Atlanta.
One of the goals of these tourists was to bag as many “lifers” as they could. A “lifer,” in birding terms, is a bird that a person has successfully sighted and identified for the first time in their life.
The expert guides of the wild bird company “Wild Donana” were named Maria and Sergio. Between them, they sighted 190 species of birds during the 11-day tour, so many “lifers” were obtained by the group.
Buck used a Canon Mirrorless full frame camera and very long lenses.
“I did a little homework before I left and was eager to see and photograph raptors,” says Buck. “When I finally did see them, I was so far away that they were barely a speck in my viewfinder. I found much more satisfaction photographing smaller birds that were closer and practically posing for me.”
“I was thrilled to photograph the Eurasian Hoopoe,” Buck said. “It really does make that ‘hoopoe’ sound! I photographed the Eurasian Bee-Eater which really does eat bees, the Bald Ibis, and the Iberian Magpie, just to name a few. My only disappointment was not seeing a Cuckoo bird.”
Buck’s greatest experience was witnessing the migration of birds from Africa to Europe, in Punta Carnero where the eastern end of Gallows Hill descends 600 feet to the Mediterranean Sea.
“It was fascinating to watch the migratory birds such as buzzards, eagles, vultures and black kites make the trip across the straits,” Buck said. “They utilize thermals, warm rising air columns, and soar to great heights. They can then glide great distances without flapping their wings.”
An unexpected detour led part of the tour to Seville during a colorful festival, where parades of big-hatted horsemen, beautiful carriages, and women in traditional dress performing Andalusian folk dances provided a colorful experience, and a few photos.
Buck has traveled to many fascinating places, but this trip was special in unique ways.
“I was able to experience nature on a new level,” she said. “Although I took over 3,000 photos, the best view was unobstructed by a camera. I’ll be back.”