Saturday, August 24, 2013

Roaming in Romania - Day 8: Blood Donor

The last words from Zoltan the previous evening were to make sure we applied some insect repellent the next day as we may encounter a few mosquitoes. So when I rose at 5am, I liberally doused myself in Avon SSS dry oil assured by the claims that no midge or mosquito would come anywhere near me. Our first destination for the day was the lagoons as Vadu on the edge of the Black Sea and the target bird was Collared Pratincole. This is an unusual but attractive bird that is classed a wader despite it not really looking much like one. The approach was going to be stalking on foot, or more accurately should I say on stomach, as we crawled our way through strange coloured salt marsh vegetation to photograph the birds in the soft early light.
As we stepped into the dry basin like lagoon, clouds of mosquitoes erupted off the short vegetation. I suspect these mosquitoes had recently flown in from the east of Romania having been under some intensive training at the Vlad the Impaler school of blood sucking in Transylvania. The supposed repellent properties of the Avon oil was useless and the mosquitoes were instantly enjoying a good corpuscle breakfast at my expense. I reckoned I could take about 30 -40 minutes of this blood draining onslaught. We soon got in amongst the Pratincole that were glowing in soft dawn light. After taking some portrait photos and some of the birds in flight it was time to beat a hasty retreat before forced anaemia took hold. During my brief time in the 'mosquito lagoon' I had managed to accumulate over 80 bites on my forearms and hands to add to the ones all round my head and face. The suffering was worth it to finally get some photos of these birds.
These birds look quite unusual in flight and look even less like waders than when on the ground with their swallow like tails.
We were soon back in the minibus and heading back up the road to a large area of rolling grassland near our hotel at Sinhoe , part of which was being used as a local rubbish dump, where we would spend the rest of the morning. Here we split into two groups with Rene and I taking first shift on some temporary hides that we set-up next to a Bee-eater colony whilst Hans and Michael toured around the grass plains looking for Souslik and other birds.

Setting up next to the Bee-eater colony.

I love photographing bee-eaters as not only are they such obviously incredibly beautiful with their rainbow plumage but there is always plenty of activity with birds coming back and forth to the colony with various insects they have plucked from the sky. The following photographs are a selection taken during a relatively brief but productive session. I do not apologise for posting quite a few images of these wonderful birds.

Birds of a feather stick together.
Sharing a butterfly for breakfast
The early morning ruffled look.
Coming in to land
Perched amongst the short grasses of the plains
The last moments of a dragonfly
It was all to soon to swap our hide places with Hans and Michael and we were heading along the dirt tracks looking for some Souslik to photograph. The light was starting to get harsh now and the heat haze starting to develop. I lay down next to a fairly active looking burrow and sure enough after a short wait was rewarded with the ground squirrel appearing.

After spending some time there, slowly baking in the sun, we carried on and found some more Souslik feeding away on wall barley heads.
On our trail around these grasslands we also picked up a few birds including Hoopoe, Juvenile Isabelline Wheatear and a Crested Lark that was perched on top of a dry stone wall.
It has been a very enjoyable morning, despite the mosquito bites now starting to get itchy, and we headed back to the hotel for some lunch and the by now routine afternoon siesta before heading out on our final late afternoon and evening session.


Ed Rosack said...

Wonderful photos. It looks like you had a great morning.

The happy wanderer. said...

The Pratincole images are lovely. It's similar to the Oriental Pratincole we had as a rarity in Melbourne for a time last year. At least that one was in with some waders at Werribee, one of the best wader sites in Victoria.
I like the Bee-eaters too, but prefer the colours of the Rainbow we have in Australia. Would love to see the Carmine one of Africa though!

Noushka said...

That is one heck of a post!
The hide for the Collared Pratincole was well worth, this is a bird I discover here! It looks like a robust swallow. In the morning light, these pics are just perfect.
The bee eaters are gorgeous but the one with the Aeshna isoceles is incredible! That is one dragon I haven't seen yet, so to see in the beak of a bird is just WOW!!

Rich Steel said...

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog. We don't have bee-eaters in the UK so the European version is always a treat. Have to agree with you on the Carmine variety as they look incredible. Noushka I have to admit I am not very good on insect identification so many thanks. I believe thy dragonfly is scarce in the UK and known as a Norfolk Hawker.




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