Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Romania and the Last Frontier - Day 5 a.m: Black Tern Tuesday

I was now reduced to crawling from my bed when the alarm sung its merry tune once more at 4:15 am for what was to be our last session on the hide boat. Before heading down to breakfast I slipped out on to the balcony in the pre-dawn gloom to check if the wind direction had shifted from the previous day. The little wind there was seemed to be in a more favourable direction in relation to the pink faint pink glow in the distance where the sun would soon rise.

With omelette and coffee quickly consumed, we were soon heading upstream and north-west  to 'Grebe Lake'. Would we finally get to photograph some Black Terns? I guess I have probably already given that away with the title of the post! The boat was guided towards and brought to rest on the edge of an extensive patch of lilies in the first soft light of dawn. A reasonable number of Common Terns, and more importantly Black Terns, were speeding around, occasionally hovering over the lilies and coming to rest on the broad floating leaves and tubers.

Excuse the quality of this following video which is a bit shakey but it is just to give you an idea of the scene before us that morning.

Black tern Lilies from Richard Steel on Vimeo.

As you can see the terns do not hang around and their flight involves a lot of twisting and turning (if you will excuse the pun!) which is not the easiest to track with the camera from the confines of a hide boat.

Before the sun was up a pair of Black Terns were mating in front of us close to the boat. A promising start to what turned into a lengthy stay at this location.

The sun broke through casting its orange glow, not strong enough for flight photos but sufficient for some portraits of birds perched on lily tubers and some more mating action. As this is the first time I had been up close to these birds, I had previously be unaware that there was such a marked difference between the male and female birds. The males being much more dark birds with more extensive black over their bodies as you can see in the following photographs.

Over on the left hand side of the lily bed was a pair of Ferruginious Duck. The early warm sun really fired off the rusty coloured plumage.

The light had now increased sufficiently to get enough shutter speed to start taking some flight photographs but as stated previously it was not particularly easy but at least the wind was in a more favourable direction than the previous day.

The rest of the time there was spent alternating between flight, and occasional mating photos of the elegant birds.
The colour of the birds changed as the sun rose and the quality of light hardened.
A special session of pure Danube Delta magic.

We spent the majority of the session photographing the terns and slowly started making our way towards the Paradise Delta House Hotel. En route we came across both Night and Squacco Herons but I guess you have seen enough images of those species already in the previous posts.

As we slowly cruised down one of the myriad of channels we stopped briefly for by pair of Red-footed Falcons at the top of a channel-side tree. I didn't really bother with these distant birds having had such a great session with them a couple of years previously in Hungary. I knew any photos would no doubt end up in the trash bin, particularly given the fact that the temperature had rapidly increased and there appeared to be a lot of wobbling air between us and the birds.

Our time with the boat hide was over, it was now time to move on from Mila 23 and on to the second part of our trip and head further east and north into the delta and to a place known as Ultima Frontiera - the 'Last Frontier'.

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