Monday 16 July 2012

Short-eared Owl and Green Woodpecker, Elmley, Kent, 14/7/2012

The weather forecast is for grey cloud and rain for most of the day everywhere !

I picked up M.S. and Kevin as per usual at 05.30 hours, we have no ideas, no plans, negative attitudes ! !

A drive past their ''patch'', viewed from the road, a look at the gulls and maybe a Wood Sand or LRP, the light is bad, i do not look very hard !

We move on

About 07.30 hours we turn off the main road for the entrance to Elmley, before the first farm we take the right turning up towards the bridge, all quiet, the light is little better !

We see a Short-eared Owl  sitting on a post !

Camera set at ISO 1000, windows down, nobody moves, carefull car positioning, we are in best possible position to get a photo !

The time is 07.40 hours, the start of an incredible 75 MINUTES

A Green Woodpecker juvenile lands on a nearer post, this automatically gets photo'd first, the SEO is doing nothing !

07.41 hours, the Short-eared Owl, 'all three positions sitting on a post'.

07.42 hours, the family of Green Woodpeckers turn up and took over the show.
An adult male and a female plus two juveniles put on an 75 minute display, calling alarm calls constantly,  switching perches, sync poses ! !

The Short-eared Owl drops out of view,

The juvenile and the adult female

07.52 hours, the Short-eared Owl gets back up to perch, this time aggravated by a Kestrel that came in to check him out !

Back with the Green Woodpecker family, the light is getting better

Then it is the turn of the adult male

08.42 hours, the Short-eared Owl re-appears, this time to be anoyed by a Magpie

The light has got a lot better, 400 ISO

08.56 hours, the ''show'' is over, the Short-eared Owl flies off left, the Woodpeckers move behind us, we move on to the track to Elmley !

The clouds roll in, the light gets worse, it starts to rain, we sit and listen for the Quail we saw and heard last week.

The weather had closed in for the day, we gave up early !

Wednesday 11 July 2012

ROMANIA, Sinoe, Constanta, Part 3 of the Danube Delta Tour, JUNE, 2012

Now we start the final part of our Danube Delta Tour, based in Sinhoe, at the southern part of the Delta, 50 miles north of Constanta on the Black Sea coast.

I have not yet commented on Mr. Zoltan our guide.
Zoltan has been sensational as a guide, his knowledge and skills, the preparation and fieldwork he must have put in, the Danube Delta, then the Macin Mountains, the organising, the driving, translations, and having to put up with Me and Mick ! His patience and skill to show us ''up close'' all these birds, excellent ! ! A constant source of knowledge ! and now he goes into overdrive !

It is Day 5, Afternoon session, 15.00 hours, we are out, and Mr. Zoltan has something special for us to see !

A 45 minute drive and Zoltan takes us to stop on a track between Sunflower fields.
There are vast acreage of Sunflower fields, huge fields of Sunflower, but Mr. Zoltan had brought us here to this one dirt track to 'get us close' to some top species ! 

On arrival, the sky goes cloudy, in minutes to dull with spots of rain,

Ortolan Bunting on Sunflower, 16.00 hours, weather dull.

17.00 hours, all brightening up, 17.10 perfect blue sky again, on the same track between the Sunflower fields

20 minutes of back to perfect light, we are taking photos of

Ortolan Bunting, (again), better !
Calandra Lark
Short-toed Lark
Corn Bunting

Skylark, Grey Partridge both seen

 Calandra Lark, juv.

 Ortolan Bunting

 Ortolan Bunting

 Corn Bunting

 Calandra Lark


 Calandra Lark

 Calandra Lark

17.30 hours we move on,

18.00 hours we drive into Dobrudja national park, we enter a gorge, steep rock cliff either side.

Immediately, we see a Pied Wheatear 20 metres up the rock face on our right as we enter the gorge. Very good views, a ''massive'' 1st sighting of this stunning bird for me,

We proceed into the gorge, it spreads out to 100 - 200 metres wide, left and right is short grass, small stream and then sparse flat dirt with little to no vegetation, then the sides of the gorge, about 20 to 30 meter high, rocky, large boulders, goat tracks up, we park up, Hans elects to take photos on his own close to the van !

Zoltan, Michael and myself wander of up the gorge searching for 'Pied Wheatear'

I grabbed a shot of a White Wagtail

The skillful eyes and ears of both Mr. Zoltan and Mr. Mick Southcott soon pick up on a superb Pied Wheatear, perched up, about 25 meters up on a sparse shrub !

Singing away, content !

Goats can get up there ! Mick Southcott was going up there ! and I was one step behind !

With stealth 'maximum', difficult terrain, unseen approach, we were able to get within 10 metres

18.24 hours and a photo of a Pied Wheatear ! !
I am absolutely buzzing ! ! It was hot, camoed up, that was good, half a crawl behind Mick, not a sound, all the way to within 10 metres ! it was shear adrenaline to get a photo of  this 'star bird' !

We are resting from that 15 minute exertion, in the shade at the base of the gorge, the shade goes out about 15 metres, out of the shade in perfect light is the very sparse grass dirt area.

19.00 hours
Then !   the Pied Wheatear flies in to land just about 18 metres away from us, 3 metres into the sunny area of sparse dirt ! Mick is flat out on his arms, commando style, me low on left knee and use right hand, 1 metre behind Mick, (I can not get down as low as Mick), Zoltan is to our left, we approach, super stealth, as we draw close the shutters begin to fire off rapid.

For the next 45 minutes the Pied Wheatear entertained us with 3 super long photo opportunities in changing light conditions, very close, superb ! !

19.45 hours, the light is fading, nothing more to be gained, a truly awesome session !

As we returned to the van we did see a Hybrid Pied x Black-eared Wheatear, not as pretty, white all down its back ! Fading light, I had the 'star', I could not be bothered with the Hybrid !

What a stunning day !

Back at the pension at 21.00 hours, good evening meal, the banter is 'good', bed by 23.00 hours, we are out early tomorrow


Day 6

It starts 'big time', Zoltan has taken us to a very flat area with raised banks approach, two lagoons on our right, into the sun.

Little Tern
Common Tern
Collared Pratincole

On our left, sun still low, behind, perfect light, Collared Pratincole

(nearly down as low as Mick on this one, no, no, not quite ! )

Next to a Reed bed area, from the parked van, we are looking at

Great Reed Warbler

Mick enquires to Zoltan, any Paddyfield Warbler ?

Next stop,

Paddyfield Warbler

It 10.30 hours again, finish, temperature high, 30+, back to the air conditioned pension, nice shower, nice meal, nice lay down !


Checking out an area,

Mick spots a Booted Eagle, with its lunch in its right talon, a Souslic.
This is fair distance stuff, a quick study of the terrain, van forward, off road, do not let the Eagle see the van, position van sideways on, sun behind, perfect ! We are probably 200 meters from the Eagle and he has not seen us !  Again, commando style, out of the van, Zoltan left of me, Mick out to the right, we advanced to where for the first time I could see the Eagle through the blades of grass, only 25 metres away, all three of us had to be absolutely sync ho in order that we all three was in position to slowly rise a few inches, least disturbance to the Eagles view of his horizon and then the few burst of shutters at a couple of head poses, the Eagle slipped away low to our right, to perch again for another photo before slipping away low again, away from us ! 

We move on, noting another Booted Eagle fly over

Next stop, some lagoons

Wood Sandpiper

Little Ringed Plover

Then to next location, miles of sunflowers, long road, two single bushes some 60 metres apart, no other bushes anywhere !  Spanish Sparrow in one, a Lesser Grey Shrike backwards and forwards between both bushes !

Spanish Sparrow

Lesser Grey Shrike

Least disturbance, we move on,

Where to ?
In the miles and miles and miles of Sunflower fields !     Another Sunflower field !     And on a corner of this Sunflower field !   Close in on the Sunflower are

Black-headed Bunting

Zoltan, that was a magnificent day, I took photos of TEN different species of  '''STAR BIRDS'''

The day is over, back to pension, superb spirits, air conditioning, eat, shower, bed, tomorrow is day 7, our last day. This day enables us to do a morning session, then a relax at the pension before our afternoon return travel to Bucharest.


Day 7

First light, we are at the Bee-eater colony, I elect for a portable hide position, set up rapid to where I could view two perches and to have sky background, perfect ! Mick has other ideas and hes away somewhere else !

minutes and the photography begins

*** Black-eared Wheatear


A Starling drops by

A Hoopoe approaches from my left, picking away at the dirt, disappearing into the grass on my right

My time is running out, just time to have a go at a few flight shots

My time is up, I have had extra time ! Mick into the hide.

Me, my last hour was spent quietly watching this ? Northern Wheatear ?  *** BIG MISTAKE****

I have been corrected, it is a   ***Black-eared Wheatear (which is even better, a massive 1st for me))

***Black-eared Wheatear 

I knew, and was thinking that I had had the most fantastic week bird photography ever possible ! !
Superb ! Superb !

A big thank you to Mr. Janos Olah, Sakertours who had organised this Danube Delta Tour.
A big thank you to Mr. Zoltan Baczo, Zoltan, that was 'unbelievable'.
A big thank you to all the people we met in Romania, a truly remarkable country with all these superb birds.

On this Part 3 part of the Danube Delta Tour,   I took photos of  18 different Species.
That with the 30 species already taken in part 1 and 2  
 =  48 SPECIES of '''STAR BIRDS'''  

The species seen list topped up to 101 Species seen + 1 Hybrid

15 **New birds for me, 1st's time seen and took photos of all of them !

** Pallas's Gull
** White-tailed Eagle
** Dalmation Pelican
** White Pelican
** Issabeline Wheatear
** Long-legged Buzzard
** Ortolan Bunting
** Short-toed Lark
** Calandra Lark
** Pied Wheatear
** Collared Pratincole
** Paddyfield Warbler
** Booted Eagle
** Black-headed Bunting
** Black-eared Wheatear