Thursday, June 27, 2013

Roaming in Romania - Day 3: Silence is Grey

Having returned to our hotel at Mila 23 after a frenetic first morning on the Delta, it was time for a bit of a relax with a light lunch, downloading and backing-up images and a siesta to catch up on some missing sleep. As I drew the curtains for the afternoon nap, I noticed a gathering mass of grey clouds in the distance. When I woke at 3pm to get ready for the next photography session, that would take us through the late afternoon and evening, I opened the curtains and a mass of clouds had filled the sky in a low grey blanket. The atmosphere beneath was very still, heavy and slightly oppressive.

We set off in the boat and soon again cut off the wide main channel into a narrow twisting one. However, as we travelled along it very quickly became obvious that a different mood had settled across the Delta. It was as if the change in the weather had tripped a large 'off switch' causing all the birds and wildlife to become inactive and quiet. Even the constant chorus from the frogs had fallen silent. It was quite eerie as we slowly chugged along through the silent weed choke channels that seemed devoid of bird life. You get times like this back in UK, when one day will be very quiet for birds even though they are very active on the days preceding and following.

Despite the apparent lack of activity it was inevitable that we would eventually happen upon the ubiquitous Squacco Heron. This bird put on a good show as it went into stalking mode to catch a frog. The bird became almost cat like as it got lower and lower as it approached the unsuspecting amphibian.

After photographing the bird for a while we carried on our journey with the only bird we came across being a solitary Green Sandpiper in the grey gloom
Not surprisingly the next bird we happened across was another another Squacco heron this one being busily engaged with tackling a large water beetle larvae.
I am not sure if it was the lack of action, the apparent 'weight' of the sky pressing down from above or the fact that we never seemed to quite be in the optimal position to photograph the bird but I was starting to find this session slightly frustrating. I suspect this had mainly to do with the fact of normally being more in control of the position where I am photographing a bird from to ensure a good background and pose. Here I had to make do with where the boat had stopped and I could often see a better photography angle if it had just come to rest in a slightly different position. However, you have to always try and make the best of what is in front of you and the camera.

I think when you travel abroad you often go with expectations that it will be continual action with the camera but this is rarely the case. Those who remember my trip to Hungary last year might recall how we sat in a hide with just a single coot bobbing around in front of us for 7 hours. On this occasion those two Squacco Heron had so far saved a very quiet session.

We sailed into a larger channel and tied up along side a vertical soil bank close to a Kingfisher burrow, although despite waiting there for a while there was no evidence of any birds. Not even a passing electric blue flash to raise the hopes that a bird might appear. As we sat there waiting and hoping, a hatch of large cream Mayflies started. It has many years since I have seen this as thousands of these large flies emerge from the water in unison and dance across the surface for their brief few hours life to mate and then expire. This event certainly woke some of the fish up that were greedily sucking in those that had become trapped in the surface film.

We headed off downstream escorted by a swarms of mayflies and where the channel rejoined the main one a few birds were taking advantage of nature's bounty. A merlin, a roller a few common terns were busily snapping up the easy meals but the light was to poor and the sky unattractive shade of grey to make it worthwile to attempt any flight photos. In fact I only took a couple of a Caspian Gull (which is very similar to a Herring Gull except some subtle differences) and a Common Tern that had temporarily alighted on a branch in some debris that had accumulated mid-channel.
We headed off in the boat once more and turned up another channel which after a while opened out in to an enormous reed fringed lake whose surface was dotted with patches of yellow and white lilies. We had a brief encounter with a Night Heron and a solitary White Pelican and as the little light there left was further diminished at the end of the day we could see there were quite a large number of Squacco and Night Herons around the different patches of lilies.
It looked like a place that might be worth visiting the following evening when hopefully the light would be improved. A lone pelican in the rapidly descending darkness also proved to be our first sighting of the much rarer Dalmatian Pelican.

Overall the first day on the Delta had been one of two halves with a wonderful start but a slightly disappointing and frustrating end. However, this silence in the grey would all be forgotten the next day as the Delta sprung to life once more and really showed us what an amazing destination this is for the bird photographer. Of course that will be the subject of my next post...


Dave Williams said...

Highs vs Lows,it will be interesting to see the final score Rich.
Been a bad year weather wise right across to eastern Europe which was suffering severe flooding right about the time you describe.

Frank said...

It might have been a slow period for you but I'm very much enjoying what was on offer. Superb images.

Amazing wonders in my life said...

Wow... Amazing pics... Enjoyed the entire series...


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