Another very early start saw myself and Rene heading back to the Northern Jackal hide for our last attempt on these enigmatic animals. Overcast conditions prevailed above once more but at least is was a white cloud rather than deep grey which increased the availability of light. The carp carcasses were staked out and once again within a short time a jackal head nervously appeared out of the longer grass and scrub area to the left of the hide. We had three jackals appear that morning which seemed to be a an adult male, a female and a sub-adult. These jackals are quite nervous animals and the large male seemed fairly possessive over the carp breakfast. I guess in total we had the jackals in front of us on and off for seemed to be around 20 - 30 minutes in total allowing plenty of time to get some more photos to add to those taken in the preceding days.
We were not sat there very long before we heard the distinctive high pitch call of the Kingfisher and a male bird came speeding in towards the hide and landed on a perch in the water in front of us.
Whilst waiting for it to hopefully reappear there were some other birds in front of us. A Squacco Heron stalking through the reedbeds on the far bank and a pair of Ferruginous Duck. I concentrated my efforts on the ducks having taken so many heron photos in the previous days. The drake was preening and as with virtually all birds this was followed by the obligatory wing flap to shake down the feathers.
Another shrill call announced the return of the Kingfisher, a female this time.
This last one shows the last few of many flying insects during their short lives.
Over another tasty lunch we all sat down and discussed our plans for the final afternoon / evening session. Rene, Paul and Kevin decided they would go off site with Luca and Zoltan with a drive of around 40 minutes to an area with Collared Pratincole. I decided I would stay and take out one of the electric buggies and see what I could find to photograph around Ultima Frontiera.
Mid-afternoon accompanied by the whir of an electric motor I headed down to the south end of the site to start my afternoon in a hide for that had been set up for Marsh Harrier.
My transport for the afternoon
The hide was a strange one! A tiny box raised up on long supports overlooking a vast area of reeds with an old tree branch a short distance in front. This was not a hide for the claustrophobic as it was so small I had to leave my bag outside at the foot of the entry ladder. Once settle in it was obvious flight photos were going to be nearly difficult as the slight breeze was not in an ideal direction and there was a fair amount of heat and water vapour haze rising up off the reeds. I had seen a couple of harriers at distance and continued to wait cramped into the box. A male bird suddenly appeared from nowhere and settled on the perch.
The male stayed a short while but did not really do much beyond the above photo except rearrange a couple of feathers before taking flight once more. I decided under the conditions I was not really going to get much more out of the hide and had a growing need to stretch my legs. Under some better conditions the potential for this hide to provide some amazing harrier photographs would be very good.
What to try next? I remembered there was a hide nearer the hotel set amongst a series of old square fish ponds where the previous day Luca had managed a nice photograph of a Purple Heron and Rene and Paul had seen some Musk Rat. I convinced myself it was worth checking. This hide was not ideal sited as it was set up quite high on the bank and therefore not providing the ideal viewpoint of anything in front of it. It was very quiet except for a family of Mute swans including a very aggressive male. My hopes were raised when an adult purple heron flew in behind some reeds to the left but this was soon flushed by a herd of free ranging cattle. After staying in the hide a while I decided my efforts would be better directed elsewhere and remembered the Penduline Tit nest that was just around the corner that Zoltan had showed me the previous day.
Getting photographs of this tiny 'masked' bird was a trial of patience as it zipped around between nest, low bushes and reeds but eventually I managed to get some photographs I was happy with.
The first photo opportunity was with a beautifully coloured Red-backed Shrike which was glowing in the late sun. The bird was quite difficult to photograph as it was one of those that just wanted to stay a little too distant in front of me, as it flipped between low bushes, and as I tried to creep up on it in the electric buggy. Eventually it paused on top of a bush for a moment allowing me to get close and a couple of shots. Such a shame these birds have been lost from the UK.
I was heading back to the hotel now as the light was dropping fast. On the final approach a Hoopoe made me stop briefly and I got a nice full sequence of photographs as it dispatched another mole cricket excavated from the sandy track below. These were to be my last bird photographs of the trip and a fine way to finish.
The following morning, it was time to wave goodbye to Danube Delta and make the long journey home. We all decided we would try and squeeze in one more brief Golden Jackal session and we would literally have around 30 minutes in the hide. A heavily overcast sky and a jackal that ran in and ripped the staked carp from the ground in one move meant that the few photographs taken ended up in the computer trash bin. However, it was good, even though very briefly, to see a jackal for one last time before we left.
The journey home was a reverse of the one coming to the Delta with a combination of boat, minibus, two planes and a car before I was putting the keys in the front door 18 hours later. What a superb and memorable trip it had been spent in great company with some truly wonderful and memorable wildlife encounters.
So I would like to express a big thank you to a number of people:
- Rene, Paul and Kevin for their great company.
- Zoltan and Luca for their tireless efforts.
- Sakertour (website here ) for another brilliantly organised trip
- Skua Nature (website here ) for making the stay at Ultima Frontiera such a pleasure
- The chef at Ultima Frontiera for not serving fish!
and finally.....to the wildlife of the Danube Delta for allowing us to share those precious and intimate moments.