Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Estonia May 2018 Part 8. The good, the bad and the hungry.

Up at the crack of dawn again we headed back to Nigula bog to the White-backed Woodpecker nest site. We'd already planned where to set up our cameras, a fair distance from the tree and largely hidden by a bush. 
On our way there though we did stop to attempt a Common Crane shot but the minute we stopped the car they started to move away again and it wasn't as if they were near either, probably 400m away.
Common Crane   Grus grus
This huge open field was surrounded by woodland and the echo of the two Cranes calling was an amazing sound. I tried to capture it on this video snippet as it's worth sharing. Ignore the video itself, it's near impossible to focus whilst hand holding a 1dx and a 500mm lens but do have a listen ( and yes that's Mike firing off a couple of images in the background too!)
Common Crane soundtrack
Carrying on we arrived at our destination only to find a tent erected in the car park and two young ladies having a cigarette at the picnic bench. One of them wandered off past our nest site and down to the edge of the lake where it seemed another tent was in place. Much loud talking and shouting followed but fair do's when I gesticulated for them to keep quiet now we'd set up our cameras they got the message. They packed up to leave and were gone by 7.00am but still there was no sign of a woodpecker. Another 30 minutes later and we decided to accept our fate...another failure... and we were in the process of packing up when Mike exclaimed"There, he's stuck his head out!'
White-backed Woodpecker   Dendrocopos leucotos
Sure enough, now everything had returned to perfect peace he'd decided it was all clear to take a look around.
White-backed Woodpecker   Dendrocopos leucotos
We had hurriedly re assembled tripods etc when I spotted the female return to a neighbouring tree.
White-backed Woodpecker   Dendrocopos leucotos
In hindsight it had been a bad move by us both to move positions and try to capture the image of the female. We should have realised there would be a change over of custodians on the nest but instead I missed the male leaving and only just got an image of the female entering the nest.
White-backed Woodpecker   Dendrocopos leucotos
I guess after 90 minutes or more of waiting one does tend to jump too soon out of desperation!
Anyway, we'd got an image so decided it was prudent to move on to another Gosney site which he'd dubbed "Magic Corner". In his booklet he enthused so much about the numbers and varieties of species, particularly Hazel Grouse, we needed to get there before it was too late. Following his excellent description and sketches we discovered the forest track blocked by a fallen tree.
Our attempts to move it were futile and I wasn't happy at leaving the car blocking the road just in case someone turned up to move it so I reversed about 400m to a passing place. The sketch showed Magic Corner was the opposite corner of a square of forest road. We might as well walk the circuit back to the parking place. 
Unfortunately the sketch was inaccurate in this respect, it wasn't a square, it was a rectangle and we must have walked at least 1000m before reaching the turning point. From what we could see the road was a continuation of tall trees on either side. A photographers nightmare at best and besides other than Chaffinch, brief glimpses of a Wood Warbler and a calling Cuckoo we'd seen nothing worth convincing us there was any point in carrying on.
Magic corner had indeed worked it's magic... a disappearing act! 
As we drove away we came across an organised bird tour walking along the track. We were able to brief the guide on what we'd seen, ( he looked glum!) and left. We bumped in to them the next day and they had no more luck than we did.
The question was what to do next? Heading back towards the main road , the Via Baltica, I suggested we head back to our favourite bargain breakfast stop for coffee and pastries and as it was close to Pikla, we might as well get rid of the hide that kept threatening to jump out when you opened the boot. Plan agreed,but we were just leaving Pikla when an approaching car slowed down to obviously speak to us. It was our hostess who announced she'd waited at Kosmonautika until 10.00am to give us breakfast ( the time her husband had been making it for us at Pikla) but I suspect her real reason for staying was we owed her for the two dinners we'd had there! Maybe I'm just cynical! She also announced she'd arranged for us to have breakfast the following day. Her change of heart was too late though as we told her we had a plan to come back to Pikla to check out the reed beds on our way north and it wasn't worth going back just for breakfast, couldn't we have it at Pikla. Negative she said, they were going away and wouldn't be home.
Looked like it would be coffee and pastries again!
Anyway, to fill in the rest of the day was our next problem and looking at the Gosney book I  suggested a site near Parnu 25kms north. With time moving on and Mike now driving he put his foot down although not to any great speed. It wasn't until we returned the car that we discovered we'd been clocked on camera doing 110kph which for the standard of the road and the level of traffic was not really fast. Still, the limit is 90 so we picked up a 50 euro ticket for our troubles! 
Did it pay off?
Did it heck!
We found Gosney's site but it was much changed from his description. The one time camp site was now a huge lumber yard and there were few birds other than the usual gaggle of nervous geese to be seen.
I settled for some Frog shots to make the journey worthwhile!
On our way back I noticed a park set back in the trees and just off the main road, why not, we'd give it a go. It turned out to be a cemetery and although I know they can be wildlife havens I feel awkward about wandering around with a camera when perhaps families are visiting to pay their respects to a dear departed. We didn't go in but instead followed a path in to the woods. Soon we were on to a singing Wood Warbler.
Wood Warbler   Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Mike wandered off and left me to the Warbler.
Wood Warbler   Phylloscopus sibilatrix
but when he returned he showed me an image of a Crested Tit he'd found. Now that would be a first for me but sadly although he showed me the place, there was now no sign of the bird.
Heading south again we stopped at the place we'd first found Citrine Wagtails but which Gosney hadn't.
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
It was definitely the better of the two he'd mentioned.
Anyway we were happy we'd improved on our previous images from Tartu.
We dined out in the filling station once more then retreated to Kosmonautika with a 6 pack to consume on our terrace whilst watching the sun go down.
It had been another blisteringly hot day with temperatures reaching 29 degrees. Not good for birding but evening perfection with an ice cold beer!

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