I saw another hoopoe this morning. I was convinced the hoopoes had all flown back to Africa by now. But there's at least one still out in the Renaudière vineyard.
A month or so ago, I saw a group of three or four hoopoes several times on my morning walks with the dog. They were feeding between rows of grapevines, and Callie would flush them out. Problem was, it always happened too fast for me to take a picture.
It was the same thing this morning. Too fast, I mean. I was just walking down the gravel road through the vineyard when I noticed a bird that flew low, right across my line of sight. It must have been 10 or 12 feet off the ground. As as it flew by, the rising sun shone on it and I could see that it was definitely a hoopoe — une huppe fasciée in French.
This has been the year of the hoopoe for me. It all started on the Ile d'Oléron in May, when we spent a week down there with our bird-watching friend Cheryl. Her long-time goal — I just looked at e-mails we got from her after her 2003 visit to Saint-Aignan — was to see a hoopoe, if at all possible. She has another bird-watcher friend who asks her, she said, every time she comes back from a trip to France: "Did you see a hoopoe this time?" In 2003 and 2006, she had to answer in the negative.
The first one we ever saw was in March or April of 2004. Walt spotted an unusual-looking bird feeding on the ground out in our back yard. He thought it was a woodpecker at first. He called me to the window and we both got a good look at it. It had a big crest, an orange-ish color, and black and white stripes on its wings and body. We didn't have a camera out and didn't get a picture.
I remember racing to the bird books (one English — Peterson's — and one French). I thumbed through the pages of both until I found a picture of a bird that resembled the one we had seen in the back yard. It was definitely a huppe fasciée, a hoopoe.
Then I put one of the books down and glanced at the cover. Right there, staring me in the face, was a hoopoe. I looked at the other bird book. Another hoopoe! Right on the cover. I had never noticed before.
On the Ile d'Oléron, it was Sunday morning at about 9:00 a.m. The glass carafe for the coffeemaker in the little house we had rented for the week was broken. Catastrophe! No way to make coffee on our first morning there, and Cheryl needs her coffee (Walt and I can and usually do drink tea).
So as early as we could, Cheryl and I set out in the car to go find a new glass carafe for the Moulinex coffee maker. Grocery stores are open on Sunday mornings in France, and Walt said he was sure that Intermarché carried replacement carafes for many brands of coffeemakers. There was an Intermarché five or six miles down the road from where we were staying.
We came to an intersection with a stop light. We were talking, of course, but I noticed a bird at the base of a tall hedge, right on the side of the road, on the other side of the intersection. The light turned green, and we started moving. I kept watching the bird, wondering what it was. Oh, it's just a pigeon, I said to Cheryl, as we drove on past it.
As we passed, I got a better look at it. Then I realized what I was seeing. "It's a damn' hoopoe!" I yelled out. "Oh no, really?" Cheryl cried out. She looked at me and said, "Can we turn around and go back? I didn't see it and I really want to see a hoopoe." She was upset she had missed it.
I of course turned around as soon as I could, but I was sure the bird would be long gone by the time we got back to that intersection. But it was early enough on a Sunday morning that there was hardly any traffic at all.
Click to read part 2