Danube Delta Bird Photography Season in 2017

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The Danube Delta is a fantastic place to visit for a wildlife photographer! In this new post I will tell you the highlights of the 2017 Spring season with some interesting observations and in the same time I will share with you a nice selection of images taken by our guests and guides.

In 2017 the water level of the Danube was low, without substantial flood in the river basin therefore the whole area was packed with wetland birds. Little bit later in July some lakes had such shallow water that the access was impossible for boats. In such lakes where the surface was covered with thick floating vegetation too, Whiskered Terns, Black-necked Grebes and Great Crested Grebes bred successfully in big numbers while in the muddy edges Glossy Ibises, Egrets, Herons, Black-tailed Goodwits congregate in large numbers.

Whiskered Tern in the back-light  (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Nest building Whiskered Tern. They often steal nest material from the neighboring nests (Photo: Gábor Simay)

Whiskered Tern with a Red Darter dragonfly (Photo: Gordon Follows)

 Whiskered Tern catching a tadpole (Photo: Philip Mugridge)

Mating Whiskered Terns (Photo: Jan Zanders)

Black-necked Grebe (Photo: Inge Diujsens)

Black-necked Grebe (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Great Crested Grebes displaying in the rain (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Glossy Ibises among the Yellow Foating-heart (Photo: Raimund Brandstaetter)

White-tailed Eagle taking off right in front of our photo boat (Photo: Sabine Schroll)

White-tailed Eagles are often mobbed by Hooded Crows (Photo: Raimund Brandstaetter)

Adult White-tailed Eagle standing still by a channel (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

White-tailed Eagle leaving its favorite perch. The Danube Delta is a famous breeding place for this magnificent Sea Eagle. (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Fishing groups of White Pelicans were common throughout the year but it was also great to observe and photograph fishing Purple Herons, Little Bitterns, the always photogenic Squacco Herons, Night Herons or tame Pygmy Cormorants and listen to the millions of Frogs every day.

Great White Pelican and Dalmatian Pelican fishing side by side (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Bigger and smaller groups of White Pelicans is a common sightings in the Danube Delta (Photo: Raimund Braendstaetter)

Fishing group of White Pelicans in the shallow water (Photo: Raimund Braendstaetter)

White Pelican with a fish in the mouth (Photo: Gábor Simay)

Have a look inside to a Pelican mouth! White Pelican attacking a Caspian Gulls to steal a dead fish (Photo: Jaap La Brijn)

Pelican siesta (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Dalmatian Pelican (Photo: Raimund Braendstaetter)

 Dalmatian Pelicans often use different kind of fishing techniques than White Pelicans (Photo: Bastien Juif)

Night Herons are typically active before sunset and during the night (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Squacco Heron with a Danube Crested Newt (Photo: Stephan Bonneau)

Pygmy Cormorant drying its feathers (Photo: Gábor Simay)

Pygmy Cormorant in the rain (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

 Singing Great Reed Warbler (Photo: Gábor Simay)

 Common Terns in flight (Photo: raimund Brandstaetter)

 Common Tern (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Fishing Purple Heron among Water Mint and dense Water Soldier floating vegetation (Photo: Gábor Simay)

Purple Heron hunting in the open (Photo: Gábor Simay)

Purple Heron taking off. A very special photo subject in the Danube Delta (Photo: Bastien Juif)

Purple Heron fishing in the open (Photo: Jan Zanders)

Purple Heron in the morning light while having a fish for breakfast (Photo: Philip Mugridge)

Little Bittern (Photo: Philip Mugridge)

Fishing Little Bittern (Photo: Jan Zanders)

Territorial Little Bittern (Photo: Jaap La Brijn)

 Male Little Bittern in the beginning of the breeding season, when the beak is beautiful red (Photo: Bastien Juif)

The morning and afternoon lights are very special this time of the year, and provided the perfect setting for the time we have spent with the Red-necked Grebes or Whiskered and Black Terns or Penduline and Bearded Tits or Kingfishers or with the thousand of newly emerged Mayflies.

Sunrise over the Danube Delta (Photo: Gábor Simay)

White Pelican in the sunset light (Photo: Gábor Simay)

White Pelican and Pygmy Cormorants (Photo: Raimund Brandstaetter)

White Pelican in a foggy morning (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Group of Dalmatian Pelicans before sunrise (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Red-necked Grebe family (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Greeting Red-necked Grebes (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Black Tern food pass (Photo: Inge Diujsens)

Black Tern in flight (Jan Zanders)

Black Terns breed in much smaller numbers in the Danube Delta than Whiskered or Common Terns (Photo: Gábor Simay)

Penduline Tit (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Male Bearded Tit (Photo: Philip Mugridge)

Juvenile Bearded Tit (Photo: Jan Zanders)

Mayflies over the Danube (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Mayflies are important food source for many birds and fishes during their short life time (Photo: Bastien Juif)

The photo boat was again a perfect and very comfortable mobile hide in all kinds of situations! (Photo: Jaap La Brijn)

 Red Fox cub looking to our boat curiously (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

 To find a Wild Cat in daytime is a real privilege  (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

It was interesting to witness how Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes started to breed in bigger colonies in order to defend their nests against the very shameless Hooded Crows. We have counted a colony of 80 pairs of Black-necked Grebes in a single lake but many lakes had 15-30 pairs of Great Crested Grebes breeding very close together, often with 1-3 pairs of Red-necked Grebe in the edge of the colony.  In territorial interactions between Great Crested and Red-necked Grebes, the winner was always the Great Crested Grebe therefore if possible Red-necked Grebes preferred to breed alone and often in the edge of the Typha vegetation.

Hooded Crows are the most important danger for birds that breed in the open floating vegetation. If a bird had left their eggs uncovered or without a strong supervision a sharp-eyed Crow somewhere from a tree top immediately took advantage of the situation and tied to rob it quickly. Even with strong supervision Tern nests are easy targets for Hoodies during breeding time.

Hooded Crow with a freshwater snail. This species is very opportunistic and learned how to find food in the Danube Delta in almost every seasons (Photo: Mike Lane)

Hooded Crow eating a dead snail (Photo: Jan Zanders)

We couldn`t be angry for a Crow as their nests are crucial breeding platform for such species like Eurasian Hobby, Red-footed Falcon or Long-eared Owl (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Female Red-footed Falcon (Photo: Raimund Brandstaetter)

In such a low water level like in 2017, Kingfishers bred successfully all over the Danube Delta! (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

From Mid-June local fisherman’s started the fishing activity on most of the lakes with special traps. For almost every family in the Delta this activity is the most important source of income. Sadly due to the shallow water the catch in the last Spring was rather poor.

Fisherman in the Danube Delta (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Local people prime income is coming from selling fish to special fish collecting places. A fisherman among the Water Chestnut. You need very good physical condition and technique to raw through this dense vegetation (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

An other fisherman… (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Pelicans often look for some easy food when a fisherman checking the trap  (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

 Caspian Gull sitting on a fishing trap (Photo: Jan Zanders)

 Caspian Gull is the commonest large size gull in the Danube Delta (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

For the first time ever we have tried specially made floating hides for extremely low angle photography, designed by Mr.JanGear. In 2017 due to the low water level we found many places with mud and shallow water. Some photographers have tried the floating hides in a shallow bay where Glossy Ibises, Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Black-winged Stilts, Black-tailed Goodwits and several Sandpipers feed. It worked perfectly just has to be able to lay on the belly or be able to creep in the shallow muddy water to get the right angle and distance. (Deep water lakes or lakes with deep mud were not convenient).

In 2017 we gave the possibility to our clients to try special floating hides, designed by Mr. JanGear (Photo: Mike Lane)

 Inside the floating hide (Photo: Tiganov Romica)

Glossy Ibis scretching (Photo: Philip Mugridge)

Glossy Ibis with a Snail (Photo: Mike Lane)

Young Glossy Ibis (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Black-winged Stilt (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Fishing Squacco Herons (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

Black-tailed Goodwit (Photo: Jan Zanders)

Wood Sandpiper (Photo: Philip Mugridge)

Grey Heron with a Grass Snake (Photo: Mike Lane)

In the second part of the tour, participants visited the Macin Mountains National Park area where we spent one and a half – two days of photography, depending on the weather and subjects. Highlights in this area were Bee-eaters, Rollers, Turtle Dove, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, European Souslik, Isabelline and Northern Wheatear, Ortolan Bunting, Wood Lark, Crested Lark, Tawny Pipit, Corn Bunting and for a few a clients a fantastic male Levant Sparrowhawk.

 Mating Bee-eaters (Photo: Bastien Juif)

 Bea-eaters were favorite subject for many photographers in the Macin NP area (Photo: Inge Duijsens)

 Food pass (Photo: Jaap La Brijn)

 European Roller preening. Rollers often breeds in old Bee-eater holes (Photo: Raimund Brandstaetter)

 Isabelline Wheatear (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Displaying Isabelline Wheatear (Photo: Bastien Juif)

 Isabelline Wheatears prefer  open steppe fields for breeding  (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Isabelline Wheatear chick with a Bee (Photo: Inge Duijsens)

 European Souslik or Ground Squirell live in the same habitat than Isabelline Wheatears (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Souslik or Ground Squirell (Photo: Bastien Juif)

 Turtle Dove, a regular visitor of the drinking hide (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

 Male Levant Sparrowhawk was a new visitor to our drinking station in 2017 (Photo: Raimund Brandstaetter)

The Levant Sparrowhawk was a new photographable species in this area as  a male started visiting the forest drinking hide. He first appeared in July 2016 on a camera trap, than become a regular guest in 2017 so we have very good chances to see it again next year.

Sadly the Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush population in the visited valley dropped significantly compared to the previous years. While in 2016 we have discovered 4-5 breeding pairs, in 2017 the very same area, only held 1 breeding pair in the highest part of the mountain. The reason(s) could be the lack of grazing therefore more difficult food supply; increased Fox population, reduced rocky faces as the vegetation covering bigger and bigger areas and even rock flows; or disturbance from an active rock quarry… We are going to make special efforts to put this species back on the list of photographable species.

The 3rd part of a classic photo tour ended at the Black Sea Coast where salt marshes and steppe habitats had many interesting subjects from Collared Pratincoles, to shorebirds, breeding Hoopoes, Pied Wheatear, Stone Curlew, Yellow Wagtails, Spanish Sparrow, Black-headed Bunting, Lesser Grey Shrike, Cuckoo, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Grey Partridge, Rosy Starling, Little Owl and so on…

 Collared Pratrincole in flight (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Collared Pratincole (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Collared Pratincole (Photo: Jaap La Brijn)

 Black-winged Stilt and Avocet (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Broad-billed Sandpipers migrate through Danube Delta in May (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Singing Paddyfield Warbler (Photo: Inge Duijsens)

 Fantastic Stone Curlew (Photo: Gábor Simay)

 Male Pied Wheatear (Photo: Zoltán Baczó)

 Pied Wheatear (Photo: Gábor Simay)

 Greater Short-toed Lark (Photo: Gábor Simay)

 Lesser Grey Shrike (Photo: Bastien Juif)

 Ortolan Bunting (Photo: Raimund Brandstaetter)

 Short-toed Eagle (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Feeding Hoopoe (Photo: Jaap La Brijn)

Our UltimaFrontiera Photo Tour to the forgotten part of the delta was amazing again. We only run this tour once a year but we have the best date for this tour and also we are the only one who utilize all the available time and spend all nights in the reserve! Nobody else does this! In 2017 the highlights were the Golden Jackals (of course) and White-tailed Eagles but we had great photo opportunities with Bee-eaters, Little Owl, Purple Heron, Bearded Tit, Grey-headed Woodpecker,  Thrush Nightingale.

 Golden Jackal (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 An angry Golden Jackal (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Nice interactions and behaviors were photographable in front of the Jackal hide (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 White-tailed Eagle in front of the Jackal hide (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Adult White-tailed Eagle (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

 Great Black-headed or Pallas`s Gull over the boat (Photo: Zoltán Gergely Nagy)

Wild Cat night photography with flashes and remote controller was a new opportunity for those who were prepared for this event.


Hope to see you over here, to enjoy the wonders of the Danube Delta with us in 2018. We still have some free places for next year: http://www.sakertour.com/romania-photo-tours.php


Sakertour team

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