Friday, July 06, 2012

Hungary for Birds - Day 3: Reflective Bathing

We returned to the hotel after our productive first day in the Tower Hide and the plan was made for the following day's photography. Given that some rain was forecast for the day after the next it seemed sensible to try the Bathing Pool Hide. After a good meal we made our preparations for the next day. When you are on a photography trip the day does not end when you get back to hotel as there are images to download and back-up, batteries to charge, lens to clean etc. I certainly slept well that night.

An early start the at dawn saw us heading further east to an area of woodland just outside the second largest city in Hungary, Debrecen. In the UK we tend to use food to attract birds but in dry areas water can be equally if more attractive for the birds to drink and bathe in to keep their feathers in good condition. The quick draining sandy soils of eastern Hungary makes water a premium and an established pool in the right location can attract a large number of birds from a wide range of species.

I will just take a moment to describe the hide which was accessed down a short track in to the forest. The hide itself was set in to the ground in front of a slightly raised pool of around 5.5 metres in length. This effectively puts the photographer at water level. The pool tapers in width from the hide to the narrower far end, where water spills over like an infinity swimming pool. The sides of the pool were vertical with logs placed on top to create a significant height above the water. The effect of this design is to concentrate all the bird activity in to a small area at the end of the pool. A small clearing was present in the forest beyond the far end of the pool to provide clean backgrounds to the resulting photos.  Such a set up can provide perfect reflections although on the day these were disrupted by a slight breeze rippling the water surface.

Before we settled in to the hide, we made some adjustments to the set-up and laid some moss covered bark at the far end. Within 10 minutes the first birds were arriving. Like a feeding station, the birds came in waves  and as soon as the first appeared it would be joined by many others, no doubt on the basis of safety in numbers from predators like Sparrowhawks.Quiet periods in the day were therefore punctuated by frenzied photography.

The sun beamed down for most of the day creating some quite tricky light conditions as it filtered through the canopy of the forest behind the hide, keeping both us very busy adjusting camera settings to keep a grip of the constantly changing exposure values. So having given you all the background I guess its time to show you some photos of the birds which include some species that were new to me. Given the variety of birds that came through the day I will only show one of two images of each species, and I will not show all of them or this will turn into a very, very long post.

The first birds to arrive were Song Thrush which wasted no time in getting down to the important job of bathing.

The small and highly energetic Blackcap. This was a bird I was going to concentrate on this spring but never got round to it.
Taking a dip.
Usually Blackcap photography is frustrating due to the birds love of lurking in undergrowth so it was good to have them out in the open and I also managed to get my first photos of the brown-capped female.
A female Collared Flycatcher visited regularly but we only had one visit from the black and white male, which had worn  plumage and not looking its best. The male also visited late in the day when the light had become particularly tricky, especially when trying to a pied bird.
Some more familiar birds were amongst the new. These included Jay.
Yellowhammer and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
I will move on to what for me were the 'star' birds of the day. We had a brief visit from a pair of Turtle Dove, which obviously had not been given away to some true love last Christmas ;).These beautiful birds are now sadly a rare sight in the UK.
Throughout the day, we could see a Red-backed Shrike perched in the a tree at the edge of the clearing at the far end of the pool. We were both willing the bird to come in to the pool which it only did once, and very briefly, and landed along the raised side of the pool. Its not the greatest photo, and I will obviously need to return to Hungary to improve upon it :), but my first of the species which is now extinct as a breeding bird in the UK.
A bird which arrived quite late in the day was the beautiful songster, the Nightingale. A bird which I have only previously caught fleeting glimpses but know its liquid song well.

To finish off this post, I have saved one of my favourite birds of the day until last, the Hawfinch. I have wanted to photograph this bird for a long time but it is a difficult and scarce species in the UK with only a couple of distant sites where there are some possible photo opportunities during the winter. We were spoilt with young, females and males all visiting the pool regularly throughout the day.

A young bird.
Female drinking.
The more colourful males.
Sun bathing birds often look slightly strange but this is particularly the case for Hawfinch.
As this is only a small selection of photos from the day, you can see we had a very busy time. The day also brought our only very close encounter with a mammal in Hungary which I will save for the next instalment.


Balics Gábor said...

All three posts are brilliant!I'm very proud of our birds,and our country.
Gabor, from hungary

ZielonaMila said...

Beautiful photographs, fantastic birds. I am greeting

Talibra said...

Fantastyczne zdjęcia, piękne ptaki i te odbicia w wodzie, super.

Olga said...

These birds are so different. That's amazing!

Kurucz Andrea said...

Amazing pictures really! Thank you for sharing.
Also greetings from Hungary :)

Rich Steel said...

You should be proud of your birds. It is a beautiful country with amazing bird life and great people . I am sure this will not be my last trip to Hungary.




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