Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Roaming in Romania - Day 4: The Bounty of the Delta

Sleep deprivation was now setting in as I struggled out of bed to the  4:45am alarm call on the 4th day. A customary glance across the balcony to check the weather, as I dressed, saw a group of white pelicans pushing themselves upstream on slow powerful wing beats above the incessant chorus of frogs. The untimely breakfast of omelette's went down no easier than the previous day even with a large mug of freshly brewed coffee.

We set sail and this time head off a short distance downstream before turning off into a medium sized reed bordered channel. The quiet, heavy atmosphere of the previous afternoon had departed as the skies had cleared and the Delta had sprung fully into life once more. The biological productivity of this vast wetland truly has to be witnessed to be believed. The first bird that stalled our progress was a tiny Little Bittern I had spotted but by the time the boat had back tracked it had skulked back into the security of the reeds. After about 30 minutes travelling along an ever narrowing channel, it suddenly opened out into a vast lake bathed in soft pre-sunrise light. 

Ironically the first bird species we came across was the last one we had caught a brief look at the previous evening in the gloom of dusk, the Dalmatian Pelican. This species has been in rapid decline and is now fairly scarce within the Delta. All the pelicans seemed surprisingly shy despite their huge size and this one soon took flight with the approaching boat to relocate to a different part of the lake. 
This was only to be the start of several encounters with these birds over the course of the morning. As the boat was manoeuvred towards two more Dalmatian Pelicans, we paused briefly to take some photographs of a Cormorant that was drying out its waterlogged feathers in the early sun. 
I also managed a photograph of drake Pochard, its head glowing in the early light, as we slowly chugged through thick weed beds and lilies.
We eventually got into position for pelicans from what seemed to be an increasing frequency of positioning boat instructions from the four photographers. We took some portrait photographs of the two birds in the margins while the boat drifted ever closer to the birds until it entered the invisible 'circle of fear'.
All birds have this surrounding fear  zone which once breached will cause them to put more distance between themselves and people either by walking, swimming or flying away. The two pelicans settled for the latter allowing some full frame flight photographs of these magnificent birds.
Next stop on our circuit around the lake was an extensive lily bed  which was hosting a large colony of Whiskered Terns.
We took some more photographs to add to the collection of images taken the previous morning. The birds were busy building what appeared to be precarious nests, comprising a jumble of various water plant,s on top of the lilies. Occasional a Hooded Crow would swoop in a grab an unguarded egg whilst being pursued by a noisy group of terns.
Some of the terns had obviously learnt that it was quicker to build your own nest by plundering the materials from one of your neighbours. After a prolonged stay with the terns we headed across to an channel on the far side of a lake where a Pygmy Cormorant was drying off. I always think there is something very primitive in the appearance of these birds and it is quite easily to visualise the reptilian ancestry. 
We left the lake through a narrow channel and sailed through the weed-chocked waterway for around 20 minutes before entering a small lake. Zoltan, our guide, had brought us here to photograph Red-necked Grebe, a new species for the camera and one I was hoping to encounter during the trip.  A pair were present with the bonus of two chicks. The boat was positioned at distance so as not to disturb the birds and by waiting we were rewarded with the birds coming close on several occasions. A pleasure to watch and memorable time was had photographing these small grebes even though the light seemed to temporarily diminish while we were there. 
After staying there for a quite a while, the grebe family were left, and we finished off the morning session as it had started with further and very close encounters with Dalmatian Pelicans on a medium sized lake.

It had been an excellent start to the day with two new species at close range in front of the camera surrounded by the joys of the pulsating biological abundance of the Delta. As we moored up back at the hotel I was already wondering what avian treasures the evening session, our last on the Delta, would bring. You might have already guessed, given the number of photos above, that will need to wait now until be  my next blog post :). 


Ben Porter said...

Fantastic images as ever Rich. Looks like you're having a superb time. Loving the gorgeous light and low-level images.

Charmain said...



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