Garth Peacock
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The Danube Delta - Day 2

Friday 15th June 2018

The first afternoon

Tuesday 5th June 2018

A long journey to......

Sunday 3rd June 2018

Week ending 11th May 2018

Thursday 17th May 2018

The last few days - local trips.

Monday 7th May 2018

Local trips.

Tuesday 24th April 2018

Scotland - the last three days

Wednesday 18th April 2018

Scotland day 6

Tuesday 17th April 2018

Scotland - Day 5 - A mammal day

Friday 13th April 2018

Scotland - Days 3 & 4

Thursday 12th April 2018

Scotland - Day2

Tuesday 10th April 2018

Scotland - Day 1

Wednesday 4th April 2018

Catch-up time on nothing much.

Monday 12th March 2018

A trip to Northamptonshire

Tuesday 27th February 2018

What a delightful surprise

Monday 5th February 2018

What a week it wasn't

Sunday 4th February 2018

Week ending 19th January 2018

Monday 22nd January 2018

First outing of 2018

Monday 8th January 2018

A snowy start to the week.

Saturday 16th December 2017

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Friday 15th June 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 2

Monday 21st May was the date of our second day at Ultima Frontiera and we were again out early (06.00am) for a morning session in the Roller Hide. Rollers were always a main target bird for me, firstly because their plumage is totally striking and secondly because it took me four attempts before I saw one. They are a migratory species from Africa but adverse weather had delayed their arrival for my trips to Hungary in 2011, Catalonia in 2012 and Mallorca 2016. It was not until Hungary 2016 when I finally caught up with them.

So this time, I was hoping for some action shots. Perched bird portraits are no longer the 'in-thing' and I ww were not disappointed. First shot was of a preening bird in the early morning sunlight before flying off.

I then concentrated on catching one flying in to a perch.

After this session, a Dalmatian Pelican flew over - a first for me.

before the female Roller flew in and after further sessions of dislaying, they mated.

After this event, things went quiet for a spell with both birds perched and then the male took off and returned a few minutes later with a snake.

The female was occasionallybegging for it

but the male did not give up his prize until it was totally dead.

for the female to swallow it whole.

That completed an absorbing morning session so back to the hotel.

Ultima Frontiera originally started out as a Russian Gulag (prison camp), then turned into a fish farm by the Romanian government before becomong redundant and puchased a few years ago by an Italian company, Skua Nature and turned into a nature reserve, specifically for wildlife photography. There are nearl 40 hides, although not all usable at the same time, and only a total of 12 guests at a time. Ours was a party of 6, booked via Sakertours of Hungary and very ably led by our guide, Zoltan. The only other party was of 6 from France.

Ther reserve is large - over 100 hectares ( nearly 2500 acres), and for those that wanted to 'do their own thing', there were some electric buggies, like golf carts that you could drive around most of the reserve. We chose to do this for the afternoon.

Penduline Tit is a bird that I have never seen before and the French party had found a nest that they kindly directed us to. Unfortunatley, the only plase to photograph it was directly into the sun at this time but I took a few record shots of nest building anyway.

Returning ti the buggy, i noticed a small skulking bird in the reeds opposite so took some photos, thinking it was a Lesser Whitethroat, not uncommon in the UK. Processing the photos at home, it did not look quite rifgt for one so I asked friend for his thoughts and was delighted to find that it was an Eastern Orphean Warbler - another first for me.

Driving in the buggy, we came across a Hoopoe on the track in front of us having caught a large beetle.

I could not resist a distant shot of a male Ferruginous Duck, rare in the UK.

and finding another Hoopoe having a dust bath.

Time to return to the hotel for downloading and battery recharging.

 

 

 

Tuesday 5th June 2018

The first afternoon

On the reserve, there is, what is referred to as the drinking pool hide. Seemed rather strange to me as it is sited right next to a stream but food was put out to attract the birds. It is a two person hide with the usual glass front and in a wooded area.

We were collected from the hotel at around 3.30pm. By now, the sun was starting to show. Dappled light is not the easiest light to contend with but we made the best of it.

We were surprised just how many Cuckoos there were on the reserve and one made a rather distant appearance.

Unlike the UK, there were Tree Sparrows in abundance with one dropping in

and others following.

Under the drinking pool, there was a small family of Brown Rats that kept making rapid forays to collect the food.

and finally, what we were hoping for. A Grey-headed Woodpecker flew in. This is a species not found in the UK and a first for both of us.

Finally as it quietened down we were treated to a quick visit from a male Common Redstart in breeding plumage - quite a sight - but it did not perform well for the cameras.

Finally, we were collected from the hide at 7.30pm ready for dinner at 8.30pm and an early night.

Monday 4th June 2018

Ultima Frontiera - the action commences.

So it was in the vehicle at 5.00am for a 15 minute drive to the first hide. It accomodated all 6 of us with a toilet of sorts. We had to arrive around dawn as one of the target species, White-tailed Eagle, would not perform if we were seen. The bait was two large fishes that were anchored down and then it was time to wait for developments.

Weather was cloudy with the odd shower, but warm - rising to lower 20's centigrade.

The usual Hooded Crows soon came in.

arguing over the food.

Settling down, another of the target species, Golden Jackal, quickly made a cautious appearance. This is an African species that is beginning to colonise Europe. In fact our Danish members said that the odd one had been reported in Denmark.

and then we were checked out by a Raven, a naturally very wary species.

with up to five Golden Jackals arriving.

The sole Raven soon became a pair

with displaying activity.

One White-tailed Eagle was watching proceedings from a tree top about a kilometere away but eventually flew in.

It was an immature bird and tried to feed from a fish located in the top of a tree stump

but not entirely successfully as it was severly harrassed by by the Hooded Crows and the Ravens.

After a couple of hours of frenzied activity, things quietened down. In the distance a couple of Marsh Harriers were patrolling the reedbeds and one came close enough for a photo.

Finally, we were collected at around 11.00 am to return to the hotel, lunch, downloading and a rest before the afternoon session.

Loads more photos of this session in the Recent Additions section.

Sunday 3rd June 2018

A long journey to......

I was collected from home by my friend Neil at 6.30am on Friday 18th May to begin the long journey to our remote destination in Romania. A Ryanair flight from London Stansted was the first step after parking the car. In had visions of baggage problems as photographic gear is rather weighty. Not to woory. By pre-booking the seats we were able to take a cabin bag up to 10 kilos and an underseat second cabin bag. 20 kilos of hold luggage was just enough, especially since there were no heavy clothes to take.

With a two hour time difference, we arrived in Bucharest early afternoon, collected from the airport by the free hotel transport and messed around for the rest of the day, with a very reasonable dinner.

We were collected from the hotel by our guide for the week, Zoltan, at around mid-day Saturday. We had booked the week via Sakertours, a company that I was familiar with from my trips to Hungary. After a delay at the airport, waiting for two photographers from Denmark, we started the 3 and 1/2 hour drive to Tulcea before embarking on a river taxi for the 1 and 1/2 hour trip to our destination, Ultima Frontiera in the Danube Delta. It is very remote, only accessible by boat, and on the northern border of Romania. Ukraine was the other side of the river.

I have wanted to visit this reserve for several years since I first found out about it so was quite excited to arrive - well 9.00pm arrival, dinner and then to unpack, set up the gear and ready for the first session at 5.00am. That was a shock to this aging body system!!!

The hotel is small, only 18 rooms and a maximum of 12 photographers allowed on the reserve at any one time. Our party totalled 6 and there was a another party of 6 from France. There are nearly 40 hides on the reserve but not all operational at the same time due to light direction and differing water levels.

That completes days 1 and 2 - the real start in the next blog.

Thursday 17th May 2018

Week ending 11th May 2018

Due to my recurring knee injury, I was rather limited to places where there was limited walking involved. On Tuesday, I did venture out to an area that I will keep undisclosed at present. There are breeding Marsh Harriers there so we wish to avoid excessive disturbance. I did manage a few shots of the male attending to the nest that made the trip worthwhile.

On friday, I went to North Norfolk. following my usual route from West to East but it was only on the reverse trip in the afternoon did anything of interest occur. At Brancaster Staithe harbour, it is possible to park the car close to the water to use it as a blind and there is a pool that is used by various birds to bathe. A Sandwich Tern, a recent summer migrant, was flying around and eventually settled on the pool.

Although rather more distant than was ideal, I was pleased with these as I had few photos of the species.

Several Turnstones in bright summer plumage were feeding on the water line, one unearthing a crab.

There were several Herring Gulls about. I have so many images of this common bird that I had decided to ignore them - and sods law they decided to do something interesting. A female was making up to a male close by, much to the disgust of her partner who screamed in annoyance, called her over and proceeded to disgorge some food from his crop as a peace offering.

Surprisingly, it worked as they flew off together.

Next on to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell. Surprisingly quiet for a sunny day. I made it to the first hide and sat and waited. Another recent summer migrant, Common Terns were feeding in front of the hide.

One was perched on a post in the water, only to be disturbed by another.

Whether it was trying to mate, I am not sure but it had a funny way of going about it.

A quick fly-by of something and I suddenly realised that it was a Little Gull - uncommon rather than rare but worth a shot as it flw past.

After that, it became overcast so I headed home.