Monday, 15 June 2015

Bulgaria 2015 Day 10 Mount Vitosha, Sofia

We had left the Trigord Gorge early the previous day in the hope of getting some photography at the new destination in the evening sun. No chance ! ViaMichelin had projected about 4 hours to cover the 133 miles but of course they knew the way.We didn't !
Whereas the out of date SatNav had served us well elsewhere, in Sofia all has changed. We failed to get on to the ring road as the SatNav sent us bang through the middle of Sofia.... in the rush hour too ! We got to see the Parliament Buildings I think, certainly an area of high security and armed police and soldiers. Well, added to the interest I guess.
Whereas elsewhere driving is a little unpredictable in Sofia it was VERY predictable . Just watch out as everyone tries to squeeze in front, cut you up, out accelerate you at the lights. It's quite a game. The idea is you take up the outside lane of two or three lane roads as there is less traffic in it. Why ? Because some folk want to turn left and will block the road at lights, you gamble that none wants to but you are often wrong. You need to cut in to the traffic on your inside before you reach the point you have to stop. You have the idea I'm sure.
Bulgarian drivers, well most anyway, are totally self centred, inconsiderate, mad, you name it they are just that. If you can't beat them join them.
I really enjoyed the experience of driving with reckless abandon through a major European capital city and fair do's to Mike, he didn't complain once !
Eventually we found our way out of town and to the suburb we thought we needed to be in. That's what the SatNav told us anyway. We decided to ring our pre-booked hotel to ask for directions. Pavel had arranged it and said the guy who runs it speaks perfect English. Not so it seemed on the phone and we gave up. Instead we found a garage and bought a street map. Believe it or not we were in the suburbs of Sofia, we needed to get to the top of a mountain that towers over the city which was in plain view but could we find the road ? Could we heck. It took three hours! By the time we actually arrived in the hotel it was getting near to dusk.
We had been warned that the hotel wasn't the best and as we arrived some other potential guests were leaving having decided the rooms weren't suitable.
We were shown ours and asked if they were OK.
"Fine" was my reply.
"Are you sure?' was Ivan the caretakers taken aback reply !
We were too knackered to consider moving.
Mount Vitosha  Bulgaria
I'm sure that once upon a time this hotel was considered desirable but certainly no longer.
Mount Vitosha  Bulgaria
We were not surprisingly the only guests!
Ah well, we were only there for one night and we were in the right location for an early start.
Out at first light and off up the road a few hundred metres to the area around the ski lifts where we were told to look for the Nutcracker. Ominously there were a few cars and people setting up tables and banners etc. There was an event of some kind going to happen.
We wandered around together for a while and found a Ring Ouzel, a bit different than the ones we are lucky to see here in the UK.
Ring Ouzel   Bulgaria
After splitting up to cover greater ground we later came together right by the picnic tables next to the lifts. Mike had found a Nutcracker and got a shot in decent light but I think it was a bit distant. Suddenly I spotted movement under a table and sure enough, it was our target.
They are obviously used to people and very approachable. I tried to get ahead of it and hid behind a tree. The light was poor but it was very close by.
Nutcracker   Bulgaria
Hand holding my lens but lent against a tree to try and get some stability for a low shutter speed shot I had only just managed to get the whole bird in the frame. The answer was to go back to the car and get the tripods out. 
Back at the car park things were getting busy. Music was now blaring out of loudspeakers, announcements being made that could probably be heard miles away.
Damn it ! It was Saturday and there was a mountain running race taking place. Soon the car park was full and overflowing. There were cars and people everywhere in next to no time.
Mount Vitosha  Bulgaria
It was looking disastrous ! Once again we split up and went in different directions and away from the crowds and noise. Mike headed off in the direction of the Cuckoos we had seen earlier, me to explore some new territory. It was depressingly short of bird life. I decided to go and look for Mike and see how he was getting on. Heading back past the crowds and beyond, I spotted a Crossbill high in the trees. A new one for the trip but too far for a photo but then I saw it.
Nutcracker !
Nutcracker   Bulgaria
It was hunting around in a hillside area where the trees had been chopped down. It too was very approachable and allowed me to follow at a reasonably close distance although the going was tough as I stumbled amongst rocks, tree stumps and other wooden debris.
Nutcracker   Bulgaria
We had been told they were hard to find purely because they are usually on the ground and silent. Correct on point one only !
Nutcracker   Bulgaria
This one was a regular caller !
Unfortunately the light had got worse as the day progressed and now it was quite miserable. A slower shutter speed was required but as I was in permanent recovery mode breathing deeply from my up hill struggle, hand holding my camera wasn't always easy!
Nevertheless I was pleased with the results
Nutcracker   Bulgaria
The Nutcracker isn't the easiest of birds to find and I believe they do tend to be shy too. Mount Vitosha is one of the best places to find them and as they are used to people, one of the best to photograph them too.
This one, amongst the first taken, is my favourite !
Nutcracker   Bulgaria
Eventually the bird flew off. I carefully retreated back down the hill and on to the recognised path.
Finding Mike he had had no luck finding one, the light was getting darker and the cloud was moving in. We were at 1800m above sea level!
We called it a day and went back to our hotel. The best thing about it was we could keep our rooms for as long as we wanted so it was an opportunity to get showered and changed ready for the journey home. Problem was it was only lunchtime and our flight wasn't until 10.00pm .
We paid the bill, unbelievably the most expensive night of the whole trip, and walked out to the car park to head down to Sofia. Overhead a Lesser Spotted Eagle. OK only a record shot but my first !
Booted Eagle    Bulgaria
The weather down in Sofia was much brighter but we had the occasional shower in between some sunnier periods. We took up residence on a rough track next to a small industrial estate near the airport and to our amazement  found Hare, Grey Partridge and a family of Kestrels amongst others.
Hunting Kestrel returning with their prey kept us amused for a while but it was not ideal.
Kestrel   Bulgaria
We decided to return the car earlier than planned at 5.00pm. A good decision as they refused to take it back unless we cleaned it first. An unspecified amount would be deducted from my credit card and there was also a 10 euro admin charge. We decided to take it to the local car wash which fortunately was only a few yards away and for only £5 their man spent the best part of an hour returning the car from being pretty filthy inside and out to pristine and like new again.
So that was it then, the trip was over for another year. Overall, a great success, possibly the best Mike and I have undertaken together. Certainly the least expensive.
We managed to see 129 species, got some shots of birds we hadn't previously managed and added a few lifers to our lists.
All for around £850 all in for 10 days.
Not bad.
I'd recommend Bulgaria to anyone.

Bulgaria 2015 Day 8 & 9 Trigrad....and home of the Wallcreeper

When Mike and I had planned our original itinerary we had decided to leave the first and last nights free to allow some flexibility in travel. On the outward journey we anticipated being pretty shattered having left home at 3.00am and had broken the 364 mile journey to Durankulak at the end of the motorway near Bourgas. A sensible option as it turned out.
During the first evening at Durankulak we discussed our plans and host Pavel was of the opinion that for our last night a return via the Trigrad Gorge, home of the Wallcreeper was not a sensible option. My estimate for getting there as provided by ViaMichelin was 8.5 hours for the 364 mile journey. Pavel insisted it would take much,much longer.
He suggested we should go straight to Sofia which was 338 miles and 8.25 hours drive. There we would be able to visit a site for Firecrest,Goldcrest,Alpine Accentor and Nutcracker. My ears had pricked up at the sound of Nutcracker. It's one of those birds that you have on your list of "top want to see" as Wallcreeper had been the previous year.
The trouble was once seen is not enough for the Wallcreeper. We felt we had to go back as who knows if and when the chance would happen again.
The answer was simple really. We'd do both!
We decided that Day 8 would be written off to travel leaving at a reasonable time and not bothering with a final morning locally in Durankulak.
It turned out that ViaMichelin's estimate was about right. Including a stop for lunch it took 9 hours to get to Trigrad and we didn't go the way ViaMichelin had suggested either. Armed with a fairly large scale map provided by the hire car company we had relied largely on my portable SatNav. In actual fact the Sat Nav hasn't been updated for several years as I have a built in one in my car but I decided that most roads were unlikely to have changed during that period and I wasn't going to pay £50 to update it now as chances are I won't use it for another few years. 
With hindsight a mistake but not on this occasion.
Once off the motorway it was much slower progress up in to the mountains but the scenery was magnificent. Eventually we arrived at our destination.
Wallcreeper site
It was a bit late in the day to contemplate a photo session so instead we would return in the morning and instead prioritising finding somewhere to stay. On our previous visit we had been taken to lunch by our guide and it had been the best food we had had on the whole trip. We sought them out, agreed everything using Google Translate on my iPad and relaxed in the garden with a few beers.
Modern technology is , when it works, quite incredible. Here we were, the only guests in this mountain hotel which although pretty basic was clean and comfortable, and we could use a tablet to talk to the non English speaking owner as they had an excellent wifi connection. The only slightly strange thing was the owner could read my tablet but couldn't reply as I don't have a cyrillic keyboard!
Anyway, all worked out well. I can't remember what the total cost was but for two rooms, excellent meals and beers it was another bargain.
Next morning we left at near dawn and went in search of what else might be about. On the river we found Dipper. The light was still poor but it was my first opportunity to photograph a juvenile.
Dipper   Bulgaria
Then we messed about a bit. Me with Crag Martins, Mike with Black Redstart. Neither of us had success and we decided that it was silly not to prioritise the main attraction right from the off.
Car parking is very limited at the spot we wanted and it would be tragic if we couldn't get in!
We were first to arrive and were rewarded fairly quickly.
Wallcreeper   Bulgaria
That full frame shot taken on a  full frame camera, 500mm plus 1.4xTC gives you a clue as to how close the bird can get to you. This is probably the best site in Europe. It's not just the proximity of the bird though, it's the location which is simply stunning. The gorge echoes every sound which for most of the time is the river below and the bird sounds of Crag Martin. Occasional motor vehicles make quite a thunderous noise but don't seem to put off the Wallcreeper from this spot right on the road itself.
The most magical thing is you hear the bird before you see it. It's haunting song carries some distance but the bird is relatively tiny and not always easy to spot. It's grey feathering camouflaged well with the rock face until it opens it's wings then it looks magnificent.
Wallcreeper  Bulgaria
You are mesmerised but at the same time trying to capture that image.
Wallcreeper   Bulgaria
Photographically it's  a bit of a nightmare, down to this location as much as anything. On our photo tour visit the previous year we had been told that it was pointless going before 10.00am as the light is poor. After 10.00am the sun hits the rock face. 
The effect can be hard to cope with.
Here's a shot as it came out of the camera.
Wallcreeper   Bulgaria
With good light I have a high shutter speed to try and freeze the wing action but as you can see, contrasting light conditions make it had to judge what is required ! A small movement and the bird can be plunged in to deep shadow.
Fortunately I had managed a few shots I was happy with, well you think you are until you get home and lookout them on your computer screen!
Wallcreeper   Bulgaria
The bird seems to be on the move constantly but will stop in a nice warm patch of sunshine for a brief moment or two and open it's wings.
That's the photo opportunity and you need to consider every aspect of the cameras capabilities to decide how to go about it.
On this particular day we were blessed with several visits, more than we had had the previous year. We also had some slightly different poses too.
Wallcreeper   Bulgaria
Wallcreeper   Bulgaria
Wallcreeper   Bulgaria
but in the end the brilliant sunshine drew us to the conclusion that it was getting harder each visit.
We had originally planned to leave at 1.00pm by the latest to allow a bit of leeway on the 4.25 hour journey to Sofia as we then had to find our pre booked hotel and location. We might even get some evening birding in.
We packed up and left not long after 11.00am.
My best shots were probably taken on the earliest visits.
Wallcreeper   Bulgaria
To be honest though, it's more than just capturing the image.
Wallcreeper   Bulgaria
Trigrad had become a sort of pilgrimage. Wouldn't have missed it for the world !

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Bulgaria 2015 Day 7 Durankulak beach and marsh

This was it, today we would get the Little Stints , my confidence was high. We had brought all the gear. Mike had a bag hide complete with built in chair, I'd brought a dome hide, basically a round tent, and a separate chair. Neither of us appear to have had much prior use out of our equipment, indeed my dome hide had only ever been used once out in the field in the several years that I had owned it after buying it second hand but in new condition( which begs the question ...why was it so !) 
All this gear came in at a fair weight... we had paid an extra £40 to bring it as a third bag and extra hold item on Easyjet. We also had the photo equipment to carry too. Mike's Mk1 600mm is a back breaker, my 500mm Mk11 is considerably lighter but still not one you want to carry too far. Bags, camera bodies, teleconverters, lenses I had about 20kgs of gear to carry, Mike even more. To get it to where we wanted was not going to be easy , it was about 2 miles along the beach. We could get to the beach itself but entrance was barred by a ford so that there was no way our hire car could negotiate it without water ingress in to the main body. We'd have to ask Pavel to drop of us off in his much higher people mover which he kindly agreed to do. 
Setting off at 7.00am I was to be dropped off at the Little Stint pool, Mike a hundred yards further on at a water outlet on to the beach where we had previously seen both a pair of Curlew Sandpiper and Grey Plover in breeding plumage. Fingers crossed all would still be there!
It must have been at least three years since my dome hide had been out of it's bag and with little experience of erecting it I was amazed that I managed it with ease. Soon I was set up, camera on tripod, me on chair and all I needed was a bird. Incredibly within a minute or so a Little Ringed Plover dropped in at the far side of the pool.
Little Ringed Plover   Bulgaria
Already I had my best ever shot of the species and the day had barely begun. I was elated.
I heard a shout from Pavel who had returned from dropping off Mike further down the beach and he shouted across to me from the car some distance away. With the wind blowing quite strongly I couldn't hear a word of what he was shouting but I stuck my arm out of the side of the hide, pointed that I had a bird already, stuck my thumb up as an OK all was well and off he went.
My photo session was under way!
The LRP was getting closer with each visit.
Little Ringed Plover   Bulgaria
and it made several, spending time here and elsewhere on the beach depending on the success of it's hunting resulting in the length of each stay no doubt.
Little Ringed Plover   Bulgaria
I was filling my boots, and my camera cards !
Little Ringed Plover   Bulgaria
Little Ringed Plover   Bulgaria
I was using my Canon 1DX, a 500mm f4 lens with a 2.0x teleconverter. Personally I am happy the images this combination takes. Sharp enough for me although I know most professionals prefer to avoid using a TC on their  lens when possible.
I decided to try the bare lens.
Little Ringed Plover   Bulgaria
In my incapable hands there isn't a lot of difference in image quality as far as I'm concerned. You have to crop the image to a much greater extent, particularly as the 1DX is a full frame camera. What you gain on the swings you loose on the roundabouts so to speak. The more you crop the image the more image quality you loose so although initially the 500mm bare looks sharper it ends up looking similar to the one taken with the 2.0x TC on. Of course the answer is to try and get closer and fill the frame a bit more but that isn't always possible either, even using a hide. 
The major disadvantage of using a TC is that it reduces the number of potentially available focus points the camera has. In fact the 1DX is left with a maximum of only 5 out of a possible 61, and they are all right in the centre of the frame. If the bird is moving, and a Little Ringed Plover does on a regular basis, composing the picture and focussing the image is not easy with just 5 focus points.
A good compromise is using a 1.4 TC. Instead of a 1000mm of "reach" or magnification you have 700mm but you have all 61 AF points to enable to compose the shot.
I decided to give that a go for a while.
Little Ringed Plover   Bulgaria
That would do nicely
Little Ringed Plover   Bulgaria
I had got more shots of the bird than I needed, what now I wondered.
Little Ringed Plover   Bulgaria
In our haste to set up and get on with the shooting we had never agreed a time at which we would swop hides thus giving us both a chance of both species without the disturbance of moving too much equipment. I was aware that I had been very successful with the LRP, how was Mike doing. It was only fair that I let him have a go and besides, I wanted a crack at the Curlew Sandpipers before the light was too harsh.
Leaving all my gear in the hide I went in search of Mike and to my amazement found out he wasn't where we had agreed and neither was the hide. He must have decided to go back with Pavel right from the off. Pavel had been trying to persuade us to go to see his Barred Warbler site and Mike had taken the bait. Maybe the Curlew Sandpiper had been missing earlier but they were there now. I went back to my hide and waited to see if Mike returned but no, there was no sign of him or Pavel. I decided my only option was to move my hide and move to the new position.
A bit miffed that Mike hadn't left the hide set up for me I soon realised why. From my previously sheltered position  behind the dunes this was an altogether different prospect. The wind blowing off the sea and on to the beach made setting up the hide difficult, anchoring it down in soft sand impossible. I had managed to capture one rather poor image of the stunning Sandpiper in virtually full breeding plumage before my efforts to put up the hides but in doing the latter had well and truly spooked the birds and they had flown off down the beach. Abandoning the hide idea I went to see if I could relocate them which I did pretty quickly  but one again they took flight.... this time back to their pool. I doubled back and taking only my camera and lens combination crawled closer working slowly up the beach. 
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
They were back in situ and so far, so good, they were not bothered about my presence either. I still had my 2x teleconverter attached to the 500mm lens which had the advantage of getting me closer but depth of field would be even more a problem with the extra magnification.
Soon the female, or at least I presume it was the female relaxed in to some grooming whilst the male carried on searching for food.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
Before long it was a role reversal 
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
To be very close to your subject is to be allowed in to their world. You are no longer an observer, you feel part of it.
My view was limited by the slight rise in the beach ahead before it dropped back down to the water where they were stood. More problems for composition, especially with the TC attached. Depth of field issues when the two birds were together, too much out of focus foreground if you tried to include both as well. Cropped shots were a problem too as you could have parts of the second bird still in the shot and that looks worse still. However, there were moments were one went out of shot leaving a better opportunity for cropping.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
Even some action.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
The pair tended to stick closely together and when one went to the far end of the pool, the other followed. Now they were a bit too far away although depth of field was less of a problem.
Then they started heading back. The female first.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
My heart beat rose ! Getting too close. I had a dilemma. Freeze the action with a higher shutter speed or try and increase depth of field with a higher f number. As they were mainly on the move I went for a higher shutter speed and you can see the result.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
When the bird turned sideways it's not such an issue.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
Next it was the stunning male's turn. Closer and closer. I had changed positions whilst the birds had been at the furthest end of the pool and now I had a clear water level view.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
You have to have experienced it to empathise ! Those who have will know the adrenaline rush we photo togs get at moments like this!
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
I was cursing the 2.0x TC now but I was stuck with it. I wouldn't know what the results would be like until it was too late to do anything about it. They were too close now to even contemplate taking it off. I might spook them with my movement.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
Some shots look better than others but the moment was magical and the closest I had come to revisiting my experience in The Gambia a few years back. We don't seem to get opportunities with waders like that where I live.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
Finally they backed off. I took the TC off and tossed it aside , not true, I tried to place it with care to avoid getting sand in it ! The pair were finished though. They walked up the sand and decided to have a sleep. Just before though I managed a shot at a very high f number...f22 in fact, just to make sure both birds were in focus.
Curlew Sandpiper  Bulgaria
As you can see, both look fairly sharp.
I must have spent 2 hours with them so I thought time to leave them in peace. Slowly crawling back I left them sleeping,picked up my gear and headed back down the beach. I didn't care that I had been abandoned , the experience with the Curlew Sandpipers had put me on a high. Minimising weight I left my chair behind and continued the long walk back to where our car was parked. Fortunately I had the ignition key so it still had to be where we had left it least I didn't have another two to three miles to walk once off the beach. 
Around mid day it was hot trudging through the sand. Very damned hot ! Almost back to the car I suddenly spotted a jet black bird at the edge of the reeds. It took a moment to register that I was looking at a fully summer plumaged Spotted Redshank, a stunning bird and highly desirable photo. I tried to gently put everything down on the ground to enable me to capture the image but it was a lost cause. The bird flew.
Ah well, can't win them all.
I drove back to Branta Lodge and I was met by an unexpected sight. Pavel's cars were parked outside. I went in but there was no sign of Mike. Asking the question I was told he was on the beach were Pavel had left him, not where agreed but a further on. Pavel said he'd shouted to tell me on his way back earlier but as I was gesticulating wildly he thought best to drive on as he could see I was pre-occupied with the Little Ringed Plover in front of my hide and he didn't want to disturb me further.
An expletive came to mind. 
What a cock up. 
What had happened to Mike then ? 
I presumed he must have found something to keep him occupied as I hadn't seen him. Nevertheless I asked Pavel if we could return by car to find him.  
We found him not far short of the place we had parked the car. 
He wasn't a happy bunny. 
He was pretty p***d off as he had sat waiting for me to change hides with him, eventually given up and carrying an extra heavy load to mine made the long walk back.
 To make matters worse he hadn't taken a decent image in the 6 hours he had sat there.
P**d off was an understatement and worse still... he blamed me !
Me ! It was his fault ! 
Maybe it was Pavel's fault but to be fair you can't shoot the messenger.
It was a reflection on both Mike and I's relationship and the fact that we are both laid back characters that all was soon forgotten. Lessons learnt on essential communication skills, oh and trust of one another.
We had each wrongly assumed the other had left by our own accord without telling the other. 
Stupid or what !
Oh well, we now had the rest of the day to figure out how to spend it. Having learnt of my Curlew Sandpiper experience Mike was keen to go back and try his luck. I was already amazed he hadn't seen them yet. He decided he'd shed all his load of gear and walk back from the car back where I'd drop him off.
I meantime would park a few hundred yards further up the road  and from there, walk in to the Sunflower field, pitch up my hide near a muddy pool and wait for him NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TOOK ! I was desperate for his day to turn around as mine had been superb.
It was my turn to get fed up as for four hours I saw barely a thing. The occasional distant visit of a Yellow Wagtail was as good as it got.
Yellow Wagtail   Bulgaria
I wasn't too bothered as long as Mike was getting some shots as good as mine.
Then came communication mistake number two. Pavel had asked why Mike and I hadn't 'phoned each other earlier, that way we could keep in touch. Simple ! Believe it or not we hadn't exchanged our mobile numbers... particularly difficult for me because I haven't a clue what mine is, largely due to the fact I rarely use it.
I heard Pavel tell Mike that he'd give him his card. I assumed mobile phone card thus making it a local call instead of an international call.
Sitting in my hide I decided to text Mike to ask him how he was getting on. First problem.. I couldn't figure out how to text on my cheap (free actually) and cheerful Asda mobile 'phone. All I could do was input numbers! I did however come across a menu with the option of "template".
Could I change things ?
No !
But I did find a selection of ready made texts and chose the one that said " How are you getting on?".
Perfect ! I sent it.
The reply came back "Fine"
Not exactly euphoric but I assumed Mike was too busy to elaborate. Thank goodness I thought!
Eventually I was too bored to carry on and decided to pack away the hide and was packing it in to the car when Pavel turned up in his.
" You text'd me" he said.
"Err, no I text'd Mike, he has your mobile phone card in his phone"
"No he hasn't, I gave him my business card with my mobile number on it" was the reply." He thought that the text he'd received from me was a request for a lift, hence his appearance !
Leaving the hire car where it was, I set off in Pavel's to look for Mike.Half way along the beach we spotted a small flock of mixed waders. Only a dozen birds but what beauties they were!
I jumped out of the car and grabbed a few images. Pavel told me they were approachable, they wouldn't fly. 
Ruff   Bulgaria

Wrong !
They gathered pace at the sight of me

Turnstone  Bulgaria
And moved on further down the beach

I told Pavel I'd keep track on them until he returned with Mike from where I presumed he'd find him... a mile or so further on at the beach pool!
To my delight I discovered that two of the mixed flock of waders hadn't gone very far. Today was certainly my lucky day.
The two were Little Stint.
Little Stint   Bulgaria
Now you don't get to see Little Stint very often in the UK. When you do they are not in this glorious breeding plumage either. On my local reserve they are seen at around 100m distance, look pale and unremarkable and getting a photo is near on impossible.
Here they were relaxed and feeding
Little Stint   Bulgaria
Looking glorious
Little Stint   Bulgaria
and close by.
Little Stint   Bulgaria
I was elated. My target for the day achieved when I had earlier thought it not likely.
I saw Pavel driving back along the beach towards me so left the Stints to intercept him on the track. 
He hadn't found Mike.
Oh no I thought, somehow we must have passed him earlier without seeing him. I knew the spot that it could happen so I was convinced I'd find him back at the car, waiting where I had promised to be.
Pavel decided to stop and take some photos of the single Ringed Plover in the mixed flock which by now were only a few hundred yards from where I had parked our car. I left him to it and walked/jogged back hoping that Mike hadn't been there too long.
He was there and totally relaxed. Phew! My good intentions of going looking for him hadn't backfired after all. I insisted we drove back to look for the mixed flock to give him the opportunity but the light was starting to fall, the birds flew on and away from us and we decided to call it a day.
Tonight was to be our last at Branta Lodge. The beers were on Pavel too!