We had not gone down the sandy track from the hotel when we came across the first bird, a Hoopoe hunting mole crickets along the verges with the sun high overhead.
We carried on and took a small track eastwards towards the north-eastern corner of the site. Given the conditions I was not too bothered about photography as my thoughts were firmly fixed on Bearded Tits. It was very enjoyable just driving along and seeing what birds were around and if there were any potential photo opportunities that may be worth revisiting the following day. We saw quite a good range of species including Cuckoo, Red-backed Shrike, Common Redstart, Garden Warbler, Penduline Tit, European Roller and Grey-headed Woodpecker.It was also interesting to see some of the flooded forest habitat that formed the northern boundary area of the site which looked a little like a scene from the film 'Southern Comfort'.
Time was passing and we head to the south-western area of the site and try for the Breaded Tits once again. These are actually a very interesting species as they are not actually part of the Tit family and so are now often referred to by their other names of either Bearded Reedling or Parrotbill. It has been placed by taxonomists into the grouping of Parrotbills but is actually a unique song bird species with no other closely related living species.
Small birds which inhabit reed beds such as various warblers, and of course Bearded Tits, as any bird photographer knows can be a very frustrating pursuit. Trying to get a clear photograph of the birds is usually hampered by a single leaf or stem in the wrong place. Often in these situations it is best to concentrate the efforts on the edges of the vegetation where the plants and stems are less dense.
Over the next few hours Zoltan and I worked hard in some very warm conditions at three locations along the western track, trying to get some photographs of the birds. Typically a group of Bearded Tits would appear at the edge of the reed fringing on the far side of a channel adjacent to the track before flying across in fluttering procession to the reeds next to the track. Beyond the difficulties of photographing the glimpses of these hyperactive birds amongst the reeds, they did seem fairly tolerant to our presence although definitely did not like any fast or large movements. This was particularly case with the adult birds.We just used the electric buggy to get us between locations, all the photography was done on foot.
Eventually our persistence was rewarded, particularly with a small group of young birds which spent an extended time, although in reality was probably only a few minutes, at the top of some stems in a relatively sparse part of the reedbed. A selection of photos from the afternoon session are below.
Birds on one side of the track were back lit.
Whilst the other side provided some good even lighting conditions in the softening evening sun.
Adult nale birds were particularly challenging. As they would only stop for the briefest of moments in any one location.
Young birds on reed seed heads
A rather soggy looking adult male, presumably that has recently bathed.
The long tail helps with the reed stem acrobatics.
'Peas in a pod'
Young bird just about to lift off