A Flight Over the Crow’s Nest

We’ve been doing kite aerial photography for over six years and, with the exception of a dog, a herd of cows, and some horses, we’ve never caught an animal – even when we fly in areas where wildlife is supposed to be prevalent. Last weekend, however …

The Ljubljana Marshes, our favorite and most frequented kite flying location, is a unique intertwining of meadows, moors, fields, hedges, rivers, and channels. The majority of its 160 square kilometers are designated landscape parks, and inside them are even more special spots that have been particularly conserved and specially safeguarded.

Those places where the real stuff (flood forests, relic streams, peat bogs, and habitats of extremely rare flora and fauna) is, are scarce; millennia of human intrusion (dubbed “melioration” for whatever reason) has done them in, and they are all shrinking dangerously, despite ever stricter protection.

Iški Morost (The Moor by the Iška river) nature preserve in the middle of Ljubljana Marshes landscape park is an example of such a place. A veritable cornucopia of ecosystems by the relic stream of Iška river, with Molinia damp marshy grassland, a flood forest, hedges, and bogs covers a modest 63 hectares, yet hundreds of unique, endangered, and protected wildlife and flora dwell, hide, and thrive within this diminutive preserve.

While Iški Morost is a frequent target of our KAP endeavours, it never ceases to amaze … the cliché “different in every season and at every time of day” is truly alive and well on this moor.

The Three Birches Meadow across the road from the Moor – got its name from these four birches – is also a nice KAP target, the gleaming white bark of the trees contrasted with the brown-green carpet of marshy vegetation (mainly purple moor-grass, Molinia caerulea). And we noticed that someone had built a nest on one of the trunks – we reckoned it was most probably a bird.

So we walked the kite to the birches …

… positioned the camera directly above the nest …

… and checked to see if anyone was home.

Hello, Madam Crow! 🙂

Using kites is a rather non-intrusive method for observing birds nesting. Because the kite is about 100 meters higher up from the camera, one may approach the nest quietly and virtually imperceptibly, thanks to the camera and the rig we employed (Insta360 on Wolfgang Bieck’s micro picavet).

Hooded crows, like all corvids, are extremely intelligent birds. In April, they construct their massive stick nests high in the canopy and lay their clutch of four to six speckled blue eggs. The eggs are incubated by the female, and the fledglings emerge from their shells in late April to early May. They eat everything and find their food in ingenious ways, such as dropping nuts or small mollusks from the air to crack on the hard ground, or by catching slow and startled doves released by the Pope in the Vatican square.

And we didn’t even recognise this fascinating bird as a distinct species until 2002! Thought to be a variant of the carrion crow (Corvus corone), the hooded crow now proudly sits in the Tree of Life as Corvus Cornix, thanks to the efforts of geneticists who sequenced the genomes of both crows and determined that while they are nearly identical, a small portion in the hooded crow does not get expressed, which accounts for their lighter grey plumage on the torso, but the grey-and-black hooded crows couldn’t care less for the all-black carrions. Smart birds.

And Mrs. Crow was not the only creature of the skies we captured that day! We saw a blue speck over the Moor while reviewing the images …

It was the cyan Spark rokkaku, caught in the act of shooting Iška Moor with a camera it was carrying. The wind was extremely strong that day, technically beyond the range of the rokkaku, and notice how squished and twisted the poor thing is, fighting the brute force of the air.

It was a fun kite aerial photography shoot above a genuinely exceptional wildlife preserve that is well worth a visit even from the ground – walking along the Corn crake trail into the heart of of the mysteries of Iška Moor is an amazing experience!

Kite aerial photos shot with Insta360 on Cindy Delta, and with Nikon P330 on The Spark rokkaku.

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