So last week I was in Sardinia. Many fine wines were drunk, and many fine meals were eaten. We also looked at some racing cars, which I guess was sort of the point? But of course, also and above all that, I saw birds.
The White Wagtails, omnipresent on all my other trips to Europe, were not around this time. But I was more than compensated by the Hooded Crows that met us as we flew into Berlin, by the many Common Kestrels along the road, by the Blackcap that shared the garden of our rental house and was dubbed “Angry Bird” by my travelling companions, by the Cirl Bunting in the headland shrubs by the lighthouse we visited. But I went into the trip with one bird in mind, one bird I was on a quest for… the Greater Flamingo. Because when you disappear for two weeks in the middle of a gray Montana autumn (there’s snow on the ground as I write this from back in Missoula,) nothing quite tops coming back and telling all your friends you saw a flamingo, does it?
Our base camp in Olbia was a bit far north for the Greater Flamingo (though like many wading birds, they are prone to wander when the breeding season is done.) Our farthest planned trip to the south of the island was to the Argiolas winery, so we planned to hunt down the living lawn ornaments that afternoon: after all, nothing like a bit of wine to make the colors brighter.
The winery lived up to its billing, and not only were the beverages delicious, but our tour guide immediately offered suggestions, and notations on her map, when we mentioned that we wanted to see the flamingos. Apparently, this is a not-uncommon tourist request. One wonders what non-birders think when they get sent through a small town, then down a dirt road past a series of goat pastures and a water-treatment plant. Standard birder stuff, for sure, but my companions were a little nonplussed and I’m sure the average gelato-centric German or sunburned Brit would have been more so. On the other hand, maybe I’m underestimating people. Maybe lots of people would flock to sewage treatment plants, if there were flamingos in all of them.
We cruised around for a while without much luck. The reeds were tall and the fences taller, the water distant. I began to grow worried — if I’d dragged my friends all this way to NOT see flamingos, I would feel pretty foolish. Finally, we just stopped the car at random and walked to the fence.
There, of course, I immediately spotted a flamingo. It was distant, and the plumage was pale – only on the folded wings were the patches of pink truly brilliant. My partner gave me a boost, piggy-back, to better see over the fence, and took a decent record shot when I could not.
Life was, and is, pretty great.
Photos by Chuk Radder