Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A Crow of a Time - Uganda

What is with these crows? Photographing crows have been my achillies heel, okay - I might have another dozens of them here and there but this is one of them. You look towards them - they are ready to fly - you pick up the camera - they are already up and away. You really think one can get away with pointing something towards them - forget it - they are way too smart. Point something towards them - they will not only fly away but also keep you in the periphery of their vision and GOD forbid that you look towards them again - this is no way to photograph them. I learnt this the hard way - actually very very hard way. 

Then there is this one more small little problem - they are usually black and I do not know about others but my camera and me included break into a sweat playing with the settings. As if that was not enough the Crows in Uganda turned out to be Black and White - whatever you thought would work just went out of the window - either you will over expose White or you will under-expose black. No way you will land a perfect shot - till the time you are as lucky as me.
Pied Crow
Hide, take a zoom lens, crop the picture and show the world how easy it is to picture crowns 😀
Let me come down to my experience in Uganda - we had two Crows and one Raven in the range we visited. The Piapiac - the unusual crow of East Africa, the Pied Crow and the White-naped Raven. I would discuss the Piapiac in a moment. First the Pied Crow - the crow that looked and behaved like a crown. It was bigger than the common house crow that we so often seen in India. It used to cautiously hop around keeping a lookout towards the humans and perhaps everything else. They sounded like a crow. These were the intelligent types - one look and off they go. They were every where but extremely cautious. Inspite of seeing them everywhere they hardly afforded me photo opportunity. When I did photograph them on two occasions - once they were actually preoccupied and concentrating on the task at their hands and on the second occasion I hid behind a tree and took snapshots of a crow sitting far far away. 
Piapiac - the crow with long tail

The immature Piapiac have red bills that become black as the birds mature.
Piapiac on back of an elephant in Murchison

Now as to why I call Piapiac an unusual crow was that their look and behaviour was not what I have seen of crows in my experience. The tails were long and pointed. The sounds they made was not the croaking sound of a crow but more like a shriek of a parrot, shrike or something. The sounds of the pied crow and the piapiac are in the end of this article for you to compare. Their behaviour too was unlike the crows normally seen. They were all over the place jumping over cows, elephants, giraffes and other animals - that kind of thing is better expected out of oxpeckers and cattle egrets. That is why perhaps they were perhaps as approachable as cattle egrets - not bothered about anything in the world other than what they were doing.

Unfortunately for us - we did not sight any Raven - though there were people in the group who claimed to have seen one. The range of raven was in the vicinity of Entebbe and Kampala. So perhaps some other time...

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