Garth Peacock
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Bitterns and a Hobby

Tuesday 17th July 2018

The Danube Delta - a busy final day

Saturday 14th July 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 5

Wednesday 11th July 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 4

Thursday 5th July 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 3

Wednesday 27th June 2018

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

View Blog Archive >>
Tuesday 17th July 2018

Bitterns and a Hobby

I am just about catching up on the backlog of photos, just one more to go after this and I will be up-to-date. That is the problem with photo trips away - there are so many photos to edit that it takes ages to clear them all.

A month ago, 18th June to be precise, a friend and I decided to visit Lakenheath RSPB in Suffolk. This was to be my final trip before my operation would put me out of action for a time.

We decided to stay in the one hide for the morning and see what happened - weather good - and a couple of others already there when we arrived. First we saw a Bittern flying past and then realised that it had a nest just the far side of the pool that the hide overlooked. We were soon able to get some decent images.

A Common Tern dropped in to fish, and the usual  family of Coot put on a display.

Then, a Hobby decided to hunt for Dragonflies in front of the hide. They fly extremely fast when hunting so getting any sort of picture was a real challenge as it was so close but persistance finally paid off.

Overall, a successful morning. More images in the Recent Additions section.

Saturday 14th July 2018

The Danube Delta - a busy final day

Friday 25th May 2018 - our final day at Ultima Frontiera before we leave early the next day for the long journey home.

Neil and I decided to ask if we could be taken back to the steppe area between the reserve and the nearby village of Letea. We had the four-wheel drive to ourselves with the driver so we could get closer to the birds by being inside and out of view.

First we found the Red-footed Falcons, giving much closer views than before.

Surprisingly, there was little else of note until we were driving back when a family of Wild Carpathian Boar crossed in front of us. This is a subspecies of Wild Boar.

Arriving back at the hotel, we took a buggy to explore the reserve for a final time. A Hoopoe has caught a large beetle and dispatched it after a few minutes.

We revisited the Penduline Tit nest with partial success as the nest access was on the far side but eventually one came into the open.

And on the final drive back to the hotel for lunch, there were some Turtle Doves feeding on the path although only passable photos as the sun was directly behind them.

After lunch, the whole party boarded the boat for a long trip to the Black Sea, via narrow waterways, one of which had a police outpost on it where our passport were checked. Our destination was the Gulf of Musura which we crossed to a large sandbank that was covered in birds with a large colony of White Pelicans.

The water was shallow so we could not get in really close but with some chum thrown out, we quickly attracted many Caspian Gulls and one of out target species, Pallas's Gull also known as Great Black-headed Gull.

Another target species was Caspian Tern that sat on the sandbank but never came close.

There were opportunities for sone scenic shots that not everone appreciated but I like anyway.

One gull flew past the boat so I took a quick couple of shots but it was not until I started to edit that I realised that it was an unusual one. Sending a photo to James Hanlon, a local larophile, he identified it as as Slender-billed Gull - that was a real turn up for the book.

Finally, a pair of Sandwich Terns were mating - for ages!!!

Returning to the hotel, after dinner, we decided to have another try for the Windcat that had eluded us before - night shots under floodlight. This time is appeared for the food immediately and posed to 10 minurs or so.

Then off to packing and bed.

A summary of the week. Ultima Frontiera is a fabulous reserve although there were certainly opportunites to improve the experience with some portable hides. Many of the 40 hides were not usable due to high water levels and wrong season.The accomodation and food was quite acceptable so overall a very worthwhile week. I had photographed 11 new species for me and managed much better photos of another 6 species.

Wednesday 11th July 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 5

I am still ploughing through all the photos from my trip to the Danube Delta. The better ones from Day 5 now posted to this website - see Recent Additions - and my first edit of the final day now completed. Having to rest after my operation, combined with the very hot weather has been quite a blessing to keep me at the computer as doing something more strenuous is not currently an option.

Anyway, enough of my situation, what about the trip!!! Today was good and bad. We were being taken to one of the nearby lakes to photograph water birds. The advertising blurb showed a small camouflaged boat for three photographers, a spotter and a driver. Ideal for getting those close shots. However, that had been discontinued and we were taken on a much larger open sided boat for all six of us in the party plus our guide, a spotter from the reserve and the driver. Too many for close approaches, no space for tripods and lots of movement from everyone trying to get into position for the shot.

First bird to show on the appraoch to the lake was a Dalmatian Pelican that eventually allowed a close approach before taking flight.

We then arrived at our destination - Lake Merhie - very large and shallow although the lake bottom was pure silt - just like quicksand. Another pelican species, White Pelican was on show but kept its distance. There were largish islands of floating vegetation that moved with the wind and any tides. On one we found a group of very flighty Pygmy Cormorants with one staying long enough for a colourful shot.

We then came to a colony of nesting Black Terns but, because of the boat size, were unable to get really close. The wind direction was in our faces so flight shots were difficult.

An adult White Pelican was more approachablewith more flying around

We then headed for another lake - Lake Matita - and found a nice perched Hobby in the approach channel.

before hitting a very large colony of Whiskered Ternsand plenty of activity

A White-tailed Eagle flew over, causing great consternation in the colonyand a Squacco Heron showed well

There were many other species that we could not get close to so only record shots possible - rather disappointing.

In the afternoon, Neil and I decided to have another session in the 'Drinking Pool Hide'. Not that much activity - Great Tit feeding youngTree Sparrow coming to drinka very showy Great Spotted Woodpeckerand a real surprise, a male Pheasant

Overall, a decent day but could have been better.

 

 

 

Thursday 5th July 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 4

This seems to be so long ago now - 23rd May 2018 - but it takes a lot of work and time to carefully edit several thousand photos. And I still have two more days to go.

Well, with the recuperation from the operation and the very hot weather we are experiencing, the best and coolest place to be is in my study, editing photos among other jobs that need to be done.

Day 4 saw us with another very early start - 4.30am - as we were to have another session in the Golden Jackal hide, hopefully for a longer visiting White-tailed Eagle. A beautiful sunrise and that lovely golden light, so sought after by photographers - well landscape photographers anyway. I remain convinced if it is of benefit to wildlife photography. You can make your own mind up about that as the first to appear were the Golden Jackals - really looking golden in the morning light.

and even some interaction to show who's boss.

Even a Hooded Crow looked rather more upmarket in this light.

The pair of Ravens were still hanging around, bossing the food supply.

A Caspian Gull visited, once again appearing rather dapper.

and a Raven checked out the clicking cameras by looking into the hide window.

It then went totally quiet for ther rest of the morning until lunch. No White-tailed Eagles visited at all.

In the afternoon, we were loaded into the back of the four-wheel drive for a safari. The open back has seats fitted back to front which is a common method of transportation in the area. We headed to a nearby wetland near the villge of Letea where the first we noticed was a flock of White Pelicans.

I am not sure whether the correct name is 'White Pelican' or 'Great White Pelican. I have seen both but in Romania they use the former so I am too.

Driving along a bank overlooking the wetland, a summer plumage Curlew Sandpiper was feeding

and then we stopped with nothing in sight - until a lone Fox cub made an appearance from the set in the bank just across the water.

and soon we had two and then three enjoying the sunshine.

This den had been noticed by the reserve staff a few days earlier.

Moving on after a time with the foxcubs, we passed a flooded field with Glossy Ibis showing rather distantly.

A rather scruffy White Stork came really close.

and then we hit gold - a Squacco Heron - rare in the UK but showing beautifully in the late afternoon sun.

before making a brief flight to a post and then flying off again

One of the species that I was particularly hoping for was Collared Pratincole that usually nest in colonies on this wetland - well not this year as the high water had forced them to an inaccessible site some miles away. That was a major disappointment for me.

Time for dinner.

 

 

Wednesday 27th June 2018

The Danube Delta - Day 3

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post - a short spell in hospital and recuperation has delayed matters - nothing serious!!!

The third day at Ultima Frontiera and it was the first time that we went off the reserve. It is located on a large island - only means of access is by boat - and there are a small number of villages also on the island. To get there, Neil and I were taken south into a large area of steppe grassland - not too much to see except a male Red-footed Falcon that kept it's distance. I took just a record shot.

We then went through a village that was an education. Few paved streets, mostly mud tracks, with the main mode of transport horse-and-cart. We then entered a wooded area to our target - a Black Woodpecker nest - one of the larger species of Woodpecker and not found in the UK.

We sat down behing our gear pointing at the nest hole and were wrapped round in camouflage scrim netting to await developments. Not too long to wait.

We spent most of the morning, wrapped up like a Christmas present before heading back to the reserve. On the way, we passed a singing Great Reed Warbler, rather distant, rare in the UK although there is one currently at the local RSPB reserve.

After lunch, we took a buggy to tour the reserve on our own. First stop was a nest of a Long-eared Owl, across a stream and into the sun but the young were showing interest in us showing interest in them.

Next we went to a hide specially for Little Owl. Food was placed inside a low brick wall but that was quickly taken so the activity was short-lived.

After that, we made our way to a Bee-eater hide. Bee-eaters are colonial nesters in sandy banks but here they had ignored the specially constucted sandy bank with a hide to nest in holes in the ground so we had a couple of pop-up hides to see if they would come to a perch.

After a few shots of them 'doing their thing' on the ground

and one finally landed on the perch.

End of day so back to the hotel for dinner, recharging of batteries and downloading of photos.