Saturday, August 04, 2012

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.
One particular bird came right in close to the hide and was successfully and repeatedly surfacing with small catfish which after a bit of playing around to subdue the fish eventually disappeared down the large gape.
A one way trip for the catfish.
However, the best bird of the day, I will save for the next blog post. This is a species I have wanted to see and photograph for a long time and I was not disappointed when it arrived. In fact it probably rated as one of my favourite birds of the whole trip, the beautiful Squacco Heron.


Nancy J said...

Beautiful, the background is so like marbled batik fabric I use for quilting.In the hide is there room for tripods? I so like the contrast with the widespread wings and the logs they perch on, against the paler colours. Cheers, Jean.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Wow, oh wow, you get the most stunning images. The Egret images are so stunning and then I scrolled down to the Cormorant...oh my goodness, those are exceptional captures. Bravo~

canvas prints said...

what a very different looking bird, very lovely shots though

northierthanthou said...

Gorgeous pics. The Heron is especially striking.


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