Mike and I had decided from the off that we would take advantage of Pavel's local knowledge and hire him as our guide on the first full day. The previous evening we had explored a little of the locality but now hopefully we could find the best spots. Leaving at around 6.00am we set off the way we had driven the previous evening but turned off the paved road in to one of the sunflower fields.
Impossible with our little Dacia ( although Pavel seemed to think differently but he wasn't responsible for returning our hire car !) Pavel's Pajero handled the ditch at the entrance without any problem at all, we then followed a well driven route over flattened seedlings to check out the ponds on the fringe of the field and the reedbed.
There were possibilities for setting up our hides, we flushed several wader species as we drove along. Ruff,Little Ringed Plover,Wood Sandpiper amongst them. From a distance I snapped this Black-winged Stilt.
Returning to the road we drove a little further on where, unnoticed by us the previous evening, the very rough track with the "no entry" sign actually took you on to the beach. To get there though you had to drive through a ford that was about 18 inches deep. Once again Pavel assured us that it wouldn't be a problem driving our car through it but by now we decided he had an extremely gung ho attitude towards motor vehicles, his own being prime examples of his approach ! No way could we return the car to our rental company complete with a set of frogs living in the previously flooded vehicle!
We drove a couple of miles along a very firm sandy track before he showed us a pool that held 3 Little Stint and a Little Ringed Plover. We were able to drive to the edge of the pool and get out for some shots. The Little Stint was a very welcome addition to my photograph portfolio. We very occasionally see them here in North Wales but my sightings have been from huge distances. Here I was delighted.
A short distance further on there was a small pool right on the beach and this one held Curlew Sandpiper and Grey Plover both in summer plumage. Both flew at the approach of the vehicle.
These two pools were definitely on the agenda for staking out with hides at a later date.
Returning for breakfast at 9.00am we then set off heading further south. The weather wasn't the brightest, in fact with hindsight it was the worst day's photographic light we had.
This time we were in Pavel's other vehicle as we had agreed to drop off the only other Branta guest, a German guy, at one of the spots we were heading for.
Equally adept at rough terrain we drove through an area of rough and uncultivated ground trying unsuccessfully to get photographs of the numerous Whinchat,
and Corn Buntings
It was an impossible task to get close, just as you thought you would get there, the bird took off. Still, it was a joy to see the wild flowers growing in abundance.
Another frequently seen bird was the Marsh Harrier but in the time we were there I never really had a close photographic encounter and relied on one or two largely cropped shots.
A stop at a point where you could look down on the lake allowed views of the retreating Ferruginous Ducks, this increasingly rare species are reasonably numeric here.
but again, the opportunity for a decent photo was missing. This applied to many of the birds we saw including Stonechats, Woodcut Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrikes to name a few.
One bird that did decide to settle on a nearby bush was a Tawny Pipit.
Not quite so willing were a brace of Grey Partridge we flushed. I managed a few snaps of this "lifer " for me as they scurried off across the field we were in.
Continuing on we parked up at a spot where we had seen a Spotted Flycatcher on a perch that looked like a half decent chance to get something close by. It had retreated to a stunning flowered tree, I'm not sure what it's called.
The lilac of the flowers as a contrast with the grey of the bird would hopefully make a good capture.
While we were waiting for the bird to return Mike spotted an Icterine Warbler on the edge of some nearby bushes. Great spot, it was my second "lifer" of the day.
Despite the poor light and a few rain spots I was reasonably happy with the shots !
Moving on to our last destination as it turned out, we had a third potential "lifer" but this I am informed is a bit dubious. Finsch's Wheatear are distinguished from the similar Pied Wheatear by the white feathers stretching right down their back as this rather poor shot demonstrates.
The female of the pair was captured in camera the minute we arrived
but despite spending a long time trying the male proved elusive. It was a Saturday and there were many people walking around in the vicinity. I wasn't too bothered at our failure. The Finsch's isn't seen this far north of Turkey, this male was most probably a hybrid. Still, attempts to get good enough shots to prove or disprove the theory failed.
Photographically it had't been the best of days but we had at least an idea of where to return to.
The best shot of the day had been captured by Mike. Two Corn Buntings having an airborne battle. I was envious of his capture and when I had an opportunity to do likewise with a pair of Black-headed Buntings I had to try!
My most successful effort wasn't a patch on Mike's. I gave up wasting the shutter life of my camera and we returned back to Branta to enjoy another evening meal, beers and a discussion on what to do the following day.