Hungary Day 2: The Pygmy Cormorant Hide

July 02, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Waking up to rain, my fellow photographers and I elected to try the Pygmy Cormorant hide, the theory being that water runs right off ducks. This is situated in the vast wetland area of the Hortobagy, and is a hide set at water level - you can lie down on a mattress in behind your camera. With perches right in front of the glass, we had high hopes for an excellent day despite the weather.

We drove through a deluge to the hide, black skies and forked lightning. Pushing our way through water-logged reeds we got soaked getting to the hide  (tip, if it's raining, go last!). Once safely inside, we raised the shutter to reveal......nothing!! Oh well, patience is often the name of the game, so we set up and waited. And waited....

I'm not sure what to say. For most of the day we had mostly Greylag Geese, Mallards and Pochard outside the hide. I refused to photograph the first two. Sometimes small parties of Ferruginous Duck attempted to visit but either stayed some way out, or were chased away by a family of Coots. A Great White Egret visited twice, a Squacco once, and a Purple Heron was unphotographable. Whilst there was opportunity for Whiskered Tern flight shots, I gave it several hundred attempts and came away with one single image that was vaguely OK, but still essentially laughable. I have no idea what I am doing wrong, I may try a special course in the US as it is most frustrating. Anyway, moving on, a frustrating day which saw the perches go almost unused - a single Whiskered Tern spent perhaps a minute on one of the larger logs. Apart from that the only options were for birds in amongst the yellow water plant flowers - I'm not sure yellow is a particularly forgiving background for bird photography. One or two perhaps, but every shot? A Pygmy Cormorant visited once, swimming and diving in the centre of the pool before disappearing leaving us with no shots. Oh, and we got eaten alive by mossies as the day went on! The light was largely sub-optimal, and when it was nice, no birds deigned to drop in!

So, tiring, hot, and deeply unsatisfying,  and I ended up keeping only a tiny number of photos, fewer than 30, which for a whole day of bird photography in a set-up designed for you to score heavily is very poor indeed. With few usable images we bemoaned our luck on the way back to Balmazjuvaros and our hotel, hoping for better weather the following day, and a hide with birds in front of it! Things could only get better!

 

Gear

Lenses: A 300mm lens would be an asset for photographing Marsh Harrier and Whiskered Tern in flight, but otherwise a 500mm/600mm + extenders would be suitable - the longest you have, basically.

Cameras: Again, high ISO is a necessity, but unlike the Drinking Pool Hide, a 1.6x crop body would work fine. A few birds came close, but our experience was that most were far out. I used a 1.3x crop body almost exclusively.

 

Other: A tripod without a centre column, one that can go flush to the ground. Alternatively a beanbag or a skimmer pod would work. All wildlife photographers ought to have a tripod that goes to ground level though, in my opinion at least.

Mosquito repellent!

 


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