Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hungary for Birds - Day 1 and 2: Bold and Colourful

This post is a continuation from the last, describing my first day on a recent trip to Hungary. It is rare in a bird hide to be restricted to a single species, especially in Hungary, and so it was for the Tower hide. Amongst the screams of the circling falcons various birds could be heard calling in the early morning. The sublime liquid song of a Nightingale from the undergrowth, the short warbling flute like singing of unseen Golden Oriole and the prolonged  repetitive triplicate 'hooping' of Hoopoe. These unfamiliar songs were mixed with a rising chorus of insects as the early sun warmed the productive steppe grasslands of the the Puszta.

In the early morning much of the falcon activity had been on the back-lit side of the hide and due to the double windows of the hide it required the opposite side to have a black curtain drawn to keep us invisible within. I took a peek through the front-lit side and was greeted by the technicolour sight of a pair of perched European Roller.

Apart from the immediate impact of the amazing colour of these birds my other first impression was that they were much larger than I had anticipated being approximately the size of a jackdaw. The male dived down to the field below and then the full extent of their beautiful colours become obvious. Despite several attempts at flight images through the day I did fail except for distant photos, one of which is the current banner for the site. The male returned with a small beetle which he presented to the female and then we were privileged to witness the rare spectacle of mating rollers. According to our Hungarian hosts we were informed that this was seldom seen.

A feature of Roller behaviour is that they sit around for long periods doing, well, very little. I also found out why they are called Rollers, as the male embarked on a couple of characteristic rolling display flights around the hide. Given the general inactivity of the birds it allows plenty of opportunity to take some portrait photographs. From the front.

The back and the side.

The Rollers were around on and off through out the day and a single bird returned late in the day and looked particularly magnificent in the softening light of the setting sun.
Conditions in the hide became uncomfortable around the middle of the day with the soaring temperatures and we decided we would stretch our legs and check out a recently built drinking pool hide about 200m away. I lasted in this hide, where there was very little activity except for the odd Tree sparrow, about 15 minutes as it was like stepping into an oven and made all the worse by the heady odour of a recent coat of paint inside.

As I left the hide I noticed a Hoopoe swoop out of a large tree next to an abandoned farmhouse. Hoopoe had been nesting in the roof but had left the nest a few days before arrival. As such our guide thought that the small raised hide next to the building was probably not worth bothering with. However, having seen this bird I was having second thoughts and decided I would try it out later on in the afternoon just in case the birds were still hanging around the nest site. By strange coincidence on returning to the Tower Hide a solitary Hoopoe landed very briefly allowing enough time to get some first photos of this species.

Hoopoe are such unique and attractive looking birds and this momentary appearance convinced me that some time spent in the hide next to the old nesting site may be worthwhile. I wandered over to the small slightly raised hide next to the old white farm building and waited. It was not long before the first bird appeared.

The building had a small perch sticking out of the white wall but this did not provide a great background, although did have the advantage of acting as a large reflector and creating a nice diffuse light when a bird landed on an adjacent branch.

The business end of a Hoopoe.

It was interesting to watch these birds in song. The neck slightly enlarged and the head angled down and the triple 'hooping' sound appearing to emit from within the bird without the beak moving.

I was starting to lose the light fast as the sun arced downward past the corner of the building casting shadows across the perches. I was hoping to try and get an image of the bird with its crest raised. This only seemed to happen for a brief moment when a bird landed and the restrictive view from the hide allowed no warning of an approaching bird making the task seem near impossible, particularly with the diminishing light.

We had decided that we would return to these hides later in the week as Gerhard was keen to capture some photos of the falcons mating and I definitely had some unfinished business with these Hoopoes. All too soon we heard the sound of the approaching 4 wheel drive to collect and take us back to the Hotel. It had been a great starting day to our visit to Hungary and we were already looking forward to what the next day might bring but that will obviously have to wait until my next post.


Kate said...

Those are amazing. Richard.

Don Davis. said...

Brilliant work Richard.

Gary Jones said...

Great photos Rich, the Hoopoes are brilliant

Mary Howell Cromer said...

This post and the previous post are just full of the kind of bird images that make your photography so superb, for they are simply marvelous!

Laurence Butler said...

Magnificent! Such incredible birds...really couldn't be photographed any better.

Antonio Puigg said...

Hola Richard magnificas imagenes de la Coracia y la Upupa.Un saludo

Nick S said...

Great pics Rich!

Nick S said...

Nice set Rich ! Love them all.

Rich Steel said...

Many thanks for your comments. Some more hoopoes to come soon.




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