Hungary for Birds - Day 5: The Long Wait
Another early start on day 5 was met with the sun creeping up slowly over the horizon in to a cloudless sky. Our full day of photography was scheduled for the 'Pygmy Cormorant Hide' but unlike the hide of the previous day we were not on 'lock down' due to some screening around the enterance allowing for some comfort breaks. The access to the hide was by walking a long raised board walk through a huge dense reed bed and involved a bit of mosquito dodging in the cool dawn air.
The large hide, which you stepped down into, was set down at water-level with a large one-way glass window. We settled in to the hide and took in the view. In front of us was a large circular reed fringed pool, covered in yellow water lilies. To the left a channel connected this pool to a large lake. It was a very attractive view in front us but there were two probelms. Firstly the hide was facing into the light in the early morning. Back-lit photos can look good when the sun is low but it was quickly arcing skyward. The second problem was there were no birds to photograph except for a solitary coot picking its way through the lilies. This is how the scene before us stayed the next 7 hours! There were birds to be seen and heard during this time, a constant passage of Whiskered Terns, Marsh Harriers floating over the high reeds, various herons flying over, and deep within the reed bed the loud songs of Great Reed Warbler and more distantly a Cuckoo. All of them out of photography range. This is the difference between bird photography and bird watching, with the former requiring close encounters even with long lens we use.
During the 7 hour wait cabin fever started to set in a bit for the waiting photographers. At times I was surprised not to see tumble weed blowing across this 'avian desert'. By the time the first bird arrived the sun had fortunately swung round and the light was at a more favourable angle. A Great White Egret came in and start stalking through the lilies. By this time quite a bit of cloud had built up with the heat of the day causing variable light conditions.
This bird departed but another returned towards the end of the session when the light had softened down very nicely in the early evening.
Still no sign of the Pygmy Cormorants which were the main target species for the day. A Coromorant arrived and started fishing around the pool unsuccessfully before hauling itself out to dry its water-logged feathers.
We had seen the small dark shapes of a couple of Pygmy Cormorants flying over and eventually one circled round and came into land like a scene from pre-history. Of all the birds I always think that the cormorants show the greatest closeness to their reptillian ancestory.
This bird was soon joined by half a dozen others who were either fishing around the pool or 'loafing' on pieces of wood to dry out their feathers. The light was getting better and better for photography with a beautiful reflected golden glow from the surrounding reeds.