Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Romania and the Last Frontier - Day 4: Sleepy until Sundown

I always think of my trips overseas as a 'holiday' but they are never really very relaxing. In fact they are a bit more like a survival course as they are always fairly punishing in terms of schedule and sleep deprivation. The early starts, combined with the time difference, and long days quickly take their toll with cumulative fatigue. I find it easier by trying to keep organised and sticking to a fairly strict regime whilst away.

On the morning of the 4th day the effects of lack of sleep were starting to take their toll. There was a subdued atmosphere on the boat that morning. Some were more subdued than others.
The boated gently chugged through the back channels of the soft pre-dawn light and we entered into the small western 'Grebe Lake' once more. We had barely entered the lake when the first bird, a Squacco heron,  was in front of us bathed in early light. The mosquitoes seemed to be out in force that morning.
We decided to try and get some tern flight photos, as everyone was keen to try and get some Black Tern shots, but it was never really going to happen as the gentle breeze was  completely in the wrong direction seeing the birds generally flying into the light. If the conditions are wrong it doesn't matter how hard you try, it will always be a struggle to get images. I managed to get my first couple of photographs of the Black Terns but could see it would have been so different if the wind had been blowing the other way.
In the end it soon became obvious it was fairly hopeless continuing, as the camera shutters progressively fell more silent, it was time for the boat of tired photographers to move on. A Hooded Crow flew lazily overhead on the look out for an easy food opportunity
We entered into a back channel and encountered a pair of Red-necked Grebe which we stayed with for a short while before continuing our journey.
A little further on a Squacco Heron preening amongst the emergent aquatic plants.
Onwards we traveled before entering the large lake where we had finished the previous evening and the boat came to rest amongst a large lily bed which groups of Whiskered Tern were hunting insects over. The same frustrating problem though of the wind being in the wrong direction persisted to thwart our efforts with few useful photos being produced.

While we were sat there I decided to make a short video which I thought you may find of interest. The video is not about what you will see but will be hearing so make sure you have some volume on before hitting play. Now you may think this wetland paradise is an oasis of tranquility? It is far from it and what you are hearing in the video, except for the occasional camera shutter, is the constant background chorus of thousands of frogs. The volume of these amphibians increases quite considerably at night.

Tranquility in the Danube Delta from Richard Steel on Vimeo.

The morning outing was over and it was time head back to our hotel. This has been our least productive session on the trip, partly due to making a wrong choice with the conditions and also due to a general lethargy amongst the photographers that morning. Hopefully a dose of carp broth for lunch and an extended siesta would set us back on track and raring to go for our final evening boat session on the Delta.

I had a good sleep and felt much more back on the planet when we assembled on the hotel jetty around 3 p.m. I put this down more to the curative properties of the afternoon nap than the fish and vegetable soup.
The boat slipped away from  the jetty and headed off downstream which meant we would be travelling to one of the large eastern lakes, and probably some pelicans which seemed to be showing a preference for those areas. I must admit I do like photographing pelicans as they always look great either stood on an accumulation of vegetation, swimming around or in flight. I was hoping we could get some more flight photographs during this session.

We encountered a solitary Dalmatian Pelican stood on the same area were we had encountered pelicans previously.

After a few photographs the bird took off and we moved across the lake to a small group of White Pelicans, which provided us with some good flight photographs. Photographing pelicans in flight is relatively straightforward as they are such large birds that they require a long run up to get airborne which allows plenty of time for the photographers to get locked on to the with the cameras.

The boat manouvered back around and we made our way slowly towards two more Dalmatian Pelicans. En-route we came across a male Ferruginous Duck in a patch of lilies, a new species for me. An attractive bird in its rusty plumage.
The boat eased up close towards the two Dalmatians Pelicans which also provided us with some good flight opportunities.

A bonus Purple Heron passed the boat with long slow wing beats  allowing opportunity for a couple of welcome bonus photographs.
On our travels we came across a Little Egret stood on a log mid-channel with the strong currents swirling round it. A fairly tough exposure with the sun still bright and the background relatively dark.

We were heading to the same destination as the previous evening and paused as we entered once more into the large lake for a loafing Pygmy Cormorant. If ever there was a bird species which reminds me of birds reptilian ancestors then this would be it.
The same cast of birds was set out before us as the previous evening, with numbers of herons and ibis picking their way through the large floating mass of weed . The sun was starting to soften down  now and we started with a Glossy Ibis. This bird was not looking as a good as the one from the previous evening with its guano splattered feathers where it had been sat on the lower branches of the roosting tree. An avian analogy of human lives really, with the lower your position on the ladder the more you tended to get dumped on!
A Grey Heron stopped by briefly which was a good reminder of how small both Squacco and Night Herons actually are.

Of course with the light becoming better by the minute the cameras turned back to both of these smaller herons until there was no glow to play with using sensible camera settings.
Another very enjoyable session had come to an end and as we headed back to the hotel, we were treated to a beautiful sunset as the grand ending to our final evening session.
We had one last boat photography session left the following morning, before we headed off to our new destination, deeper into the Delta, to a place known as the 'Last Frontier'. Would a overnight complete change in wind direction finally allow us to photograph the Black Terns the next morning?  Well  you will have to wait for the next instalment to find out :)

1 comment:

Dave Williams said...

Hide photography from a boat looks a lot more comfortable than pushing a floating hide around with water up to your neck Rich. You wouldn't be feeling sleepy then !!
Excellent blog, I'm enjoying the read.


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