Saturday, 13 June 2015

Bulgaria 2016 Day 6 Cape Kaliakra again

I'm not sure why but it was decided that on our 6th day in Bulgaria we would return to Cape Kaliakra, I think Mike was keen to improve on his Pied Wheatear photos and the range of birds we might see was probably greater than staking out a couple of pools down by the beach. We'd also decided that we would leave Durankulak a day earlier than originally planned for reasons I'll explain later so perhaps it was also the reason we decided to try and "mop up" as many species as possible on this particular day, anyway we were on the road south again hoping to catch the best of the light from the sunrise.
Cape Kaliakra  Bulgaria
It really is a magnificent spot with a glorious feeling of the great outdoors, the warmth of the sun, the sounds of the larks and sight of the wild flowers on the headland.
Jutting out in to the sea you can see the attraction to migrating birds for a stop over resting place too.
Cape Kaliakra  Bulgaria
A quick scout around confirmed that there were indeed several pairs of Pied Wheatears around as well as the ubiquitous Black-headed Bunting, singing away as per usual. Well, the male anyway.
Black-headed Bunting  Bulgaria
Less noticed is the female who tends to stay quiet.
Black-headed Bunting  Bulgaria
I left Mike to set up a perch which he was using to try and tempt a Pied Wheatear to land on and I wandered off to stake out a small puddle of water which was being used by Barn Swallows and House Martins to gather mud for nesting material.
Barn Swallow   Bulgaria
There were lots of them and trying to get a clear shot of a single bird wasn't that easy. Besides, I'm not too sure about the aesthetics of a beak full of mud.
Barn Swallow   Bulgaria
On two occasions a different species landed but the noise of my camera shutter at close range had them put to flight instantly. First a Goldfinch, then a Linnet.
Linnet  Bulgaria
I decided a flight shot challenge was more fun and set about trying. The Martins and Swallows seemed to care little that I was now stood up and standing 20 feet away from the puddle,there was after all a constant flow of people walking by later in the days so if I stood still I was perceived as no threat.
The wind was against me so the birds were flying too fast and flight shots, especially with a 500mm lens, are a bit tricky. I got a few "in focus" but they were mainly a bit distant and needed a big crop on the finished shot.
House Martin   Bulgaria
A bit of fun though and always a challenge until frustration at your lack of success gets the better of you !
Still, while I was stood up I did manage my first ever Alpine Swift image so that was a good result.
Alpine Swift   Bulgaria
Anyway, I decided to check in with Mike and see how he was getting on. As it happened very well it seemed too! Using the car as a hide the Pied Wheatears had taken to his stick instantly and satisfied with his shots he was ready for a different challenge too. I took over his position and within a minute I had the female in my sights.
Pied Wheatear   Bulgaria
A little bit of ingenuity and there is no need to go chasing after the bird, better let it come to you every time.
With the female in the bag I just needed the male now and sure enough a few minutes later it was there. So two were two more photographers who had just arrived in to the car park and saw their chance. There was me, hidden from the bird, well maybe not too hidden but posing no threat from within the car, and the next thing these two blokes walk in front of our car to get that bit closer and the bird was gone. It was obvious to them what I was doing but some folk have little etiquette in these matters. Anyway, they didn't hang around and after a few more visits by the male I was content with what I had achieved.
Pied Wheatear   Bulgaria
The light was getting a bit too bright now we we decided to move on . At the end of May much of the migration has already gone past and I'm sure it's a better bird watching place than one for photography but it is certainly one worth visiting. I think the only other species I took shots of was the local Jackdaws. Easily overlooked when you go abroad are our own common species such as this but the Bulgarian ones are different in as much as they have a white collar and are not as black as those found in the UK.
Jackdaw   Bulgaria
We hadn't driven too far when we spotted a bird sat next to the road on top of a concrete post. To get the shot we would have to get out of the car as it was otherwise too close.
Woodlark   Bulgaria
I'm not sure if the crouched position was an attempt at hiding from us, anyway, we got a few shots before it decided the camouflage wasn't working and it flew off. Not the best of captures but a good result. My first ever Woodlark photo!
Returning to the lovely sandy beach area previously visited we found nothing to photograph but did spot a Honey Buzzard flying distantly, another European first for me so another satisfying stop.
Heading back north along the coast we recognised the road we had taken to Tyulenovo to see the possible Finsch's probable hybrid Wheatear. Knowing there was a nice place to get a coffee and  a bite to eat we headed down there then spent the next half hour attempting to get shots of the Pallid Swift from over the cliff top. More frustrating fun ! More photo firsts for me.
Pallid Swift  Bulgaria
Having considerably shortened the camera bodies shutter life and satisfied we couldn't do any better we decided to head to the restaurant for lunch
Pallid Swift  Bulgaria
The "Finsch's Wheatear" seemed reluctant to show. I did get another image to illustrate the white back but nothing too clever.
Finsch's Wheater hybrid  Bulgaria
We were about to move on when a local man who didn't speak a word of English came over and indicated we should follow him. We gathered he had been fishing nearby and he wanted to show us some birds nests. Not sure what to expect we followed.
Suddenly I heard a loud hissing sound and realised I had almost trodden on a snake. I moved pretty damn fast but had it wanted to bite me it could have done with ease. Appearing all black it looked pretty dangerous to me. 
Grass Snake  Bulgaria
I'd been telling Mike ( who openly admits his fear of snakes) a day or two earlier that he had no need to worry about being bitten if you are second in line. The first person gets bitten, by the time the second one gets there it's gone . Wrong, big time, as this could have proved. 
On this occasion he was third in line and it was No 2 that would have copped it. No 1 merely woke it up! Anyway, the line was no more.... Mike had retreated some distance !
Our friendly Bulgarian either hadn't noticed the snake or thought it of no interest as he was urging him to follow still. I had to try and get a few shots first though.
Grass Snake  Bulgaria
It soon slithered off and disappeared in to a crack in the rock surface. We only found out that evening it was a probable Grass snake and totally harmless.
The day was drawing on . The birds nesting that the nice Bulgarian wanted to point out to us were Jackdaws. We thanked him for his kindness but left. Further down the coast we stopped off at a beach area were on the rocks below we spotted a couple of waders. Little Stint ! Mike went off in search of a photo whilst I took up another position where I had seen a single Little Ringed Plover in the vicinity.
I think I did better than Mike did. It was an alright result as far as I was concerned. Possibly my best ever LRP shot.
Little Ringed Plover  Bulgaria
The day's result had in many ways been very good, excellent even, but after the previous days photographic results from the Tower Hide this seemed a bit of an anti-climax.
Tomorrow was to be our last in Durankulak. I had to get another crack at those pools down on the beach. For some reason the attraction of the Little Stint was very powerful. I t had been nearly a week since we had first seen them, what chance they were still there ? Possibly not, visible migration had slowed down immeasurably in the few days we had been there but seeing the Little Stint on that other beach gave me hope.
Come what may we would set up our hides tomorrow!

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