We tumbled out of the the hotel for our final evening session in Romania. It was announced that this session would be spent roaming along tracks in the minibus and photographing any birds we encountered. My internal groan must have almost been audible at the prospect, as I knew everyone would head straight to 'their seat' on the minibus which would leave me stuck in the very restricted position in the back corner. This seat allowed me to photograph nothing to my left as the was no window that opened and anything to the right would have to be photographed through the sliding van door between Rene sat on the middle bench and Hans sat on my right to the back. In hindsight I should have really just asked Zoltan to drop me off somewhere to try and do some photography on foot but fatigue and lack of sleep were well upon me by this phase of the trip. I was not expecting this van session to be particularly productive.
Before hitting the tracks around the wind farm and agricultural land we headed across to a couple of large lagoons where there was a large flock of white pelicans but the birds were distant and the shimmering haze off the warm salty water in between made photography pointless as achieving a sharp image would be near impossible. We had headed there on the outside chance there may be a wader or two to photograph but our trip was between the spring and autumn passage periods. The place was a wader desert. We left and drove up to the farmland and started our slow drive around the dusty tracks. A large white van is not ideal for sneaking up on birds especially when there are 4 photographers inside all suddenly wanting to point their lenses at a bird encountered at the side of the road.
The first bird we encountered that I could actually manage to get in the viewfinder was a Yellow wagtail of the black headed 'feldegg' subspecies perched on top of a sunflower. I suppose it was fortunate that the blooming of the sunflowers had been delayed by the cold spring across Europe otherwise it may have been very difficult to spot.
Yellow wagtails comes in many different sub-races across Europe. Some with grey heads, others with black or blue. I have seen several of these varieties in my travels around Europe but still find the yellow headed 'flavissima' race that visits the UK to be the most beautiful.
A short distance further down the track we came across a Calandra Lark, again perched on top of a sunflower and peeking out from behind one of the broad leaves.
A brief encounter with a male Ortolan Bunting which burst in to song lifted the spirits and we finished this session by finally coming across a Black-headed Bunting (albeit not a particularly great looking one) at the side of the track. All these birds we had seen previously had been perched up high on the telegraphs wires that followed some of the tracks.
As predicted, before we had headed out of the hotel car park, this was not the most productive session but we did encounter some interesting birds that included a couple not previously photographed on the trip.
We were soon heading back to the hotel and decisions needed to be made on our final session in Romania the next morning. I felt the need to finish on a flourish, and after the trawl around the dusty track, was in need of both some colour and action. There was only one answer, a return to the Bee-eater colony with my main objective being to concentrate on some flight photos rather than perched or landing images. Hans and Rene decided they would join me at the Bee-eaters the next morning while Michael headed off back along the dusty farm tracks looking for more larks and buntings to photograph.