Saturday, August 02, 2014

Romania and the Last Frontier - Day 7 a.m: Where Eagles Dare

Another early rise but this morning I knew the weather was going to provide some glorious dawn light. A quick coffee, and Rene and I were soon heading south down the sandy track to the 'Southern Jackal Hide.' This hide was in a very different setting to the northern hide the previous morning, being set into the ground on a sandy ridge in an open short grassland area. A grass bank sloped down and away from the front of the hide to a ditch, before the bank rose once more on the far side. There were two large lumps of dead tree set into the slope. To give you an idea here is the view from the hide.

Luca pulled a large plastic tray from the back of the pick-up, inside it was a huge silver carp that must have weight in excess of 10kg which was staked in to the ground with the large metal hoops. Hopefully this one would be held more securely than the one the previous morning. Peanuts were scattered around once more to attract corvids.

With the dust cloud of the exiting pick-up still visible, a jackal appeared from the right walking down the far side of the ditch, before disappearing from view to the left. An encouraging sign. Meanwhile in the hide we had a small problem, insufficient ventilation and two warm photographers in a confined space were causing the cool early morning front glass to mist over. With the coast clear outside, except for the rapidly accumulating Hooded Crows and Magpies, we gave it a quick clean.  This window mist started to clear from the top as the first rays of sun broke through which was just as well as we were about to get our first visitor.

I said to Rene that looks to be a very large bird in the distance which seems to be heading this way. The bird got larger and larger and a White-tailed Eagle swooped in and landed on the old tree stump to the right. It sat there watching for a while occasionally calling.

A short while later a second larger eagle appeared but this one casually walked in from 'stage' right having landed at distance out of view and flew up on to the other tree. One eagle dropped down and started just eating the fish when the Golden Jackal re-emerged and it appeared less than 'happy'. It stalked around, occasionally dashing in to try and scare the eagle and other birds away from the fish.
The Golden Jackal was doing its best to keep all the birds off the fish and would come in take a chunk, run down towards the ditch, drop it and return for the next bit. Each piece it dropped was immediately pounced upon by hordes of corvids and we watched as  it became more and more irritated and aggressive towards the birds.

The jackal managed to shift the eagles temporarily off the fish carcass and back on to their perches and a running battle commenced between Jackal and birds

The Golden Jackal disappeared briefly allowing the White-tailed eagles a short period when they could drop from their perches and feed on the fish but it was short-lived as it came trotting back in from the right and before finally rushing in and seeing both eagles off before subsequently departing itself.
Wow, was the only word that came out of my mouth as we had just witnessed an amazing wildlife spectacle between two top predators in the Danube Delta. This had taken place very close to us as most of the photographs above were taken with a 300mm lens. For me this had to have been some of the best  moments trip and when Luca returned to collect us later he thought we had probably just had the best session anyone had experienced to date in that hide. Two smiling photographers left the hide and headed back to the hotel for some breakfast which tasted particularly good that morning.

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