Saturday, May 13
Over dinner we met our fellow photographers, Jani, Brenda, Stella, and Peggy and our tour leaders Jeff and MaryO. These fellow photographers seem well traveled and seasoned photographer-travelers. We will need to pick some brains!
Sunday, May 14
Karen was up early and had a quick shower without waking Alan. We had breakfast downstairs in the hotel and then Alan walked over to the airport and got some more money out of an ATM, to use for tips and such.
Today is the official start of the “Birds of Hungary” ExploreInFocus tour. We were driven to Bence’s Farm (about a 2 hour journey). There are 24 hides (blinds) at the farm, and a few other cooperative farms, with 20 that are in use. The location we went to is adjacent to the Kiskunsag National Park which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The park consists of both publicly and privately owned land and the hides we will be using are both in and outside the park.
The Bence Farms are the creation of Bence Máté. He is a Hungarian wildlife photographer. He pioneered the one-way glass photography technique now popular among hide-based nature photographers around the world. In 2010, his image ‘Marvel of Ants’ won the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year grand title, making him the only contestant to date to win the grand title prizes in both the young and adult categories of the competition.
Once we arrived and had lunch we were taken to our afternoon blind – the Theatre. We had about a 1.5 km (about one mile) hike to get from the vehicle to the hide. It has been raining for the last couple of days so there is thick clay-like mud everywhere. One of the rules is that you must remove your shoes before going into any of the rooms at the lodge and the same applies to certain of the hides. The hide we are going to is one of those hides. The Theatre hide is also one of the three hides where we don’t take our tripods because there is already a system in the hide to hold the cameras in place.
The Theatre hide is set up to capture photos of water birds. We mostly photographed black storks, gray herons, and eurasian spoonbills.
Monday, May 15
Like all photo tours, we need to be ready to go early, i.e. 5:20 this morning. This morning we will be headed to the Kingfisher hide. Needless to say, the main quarry here is the common kingfisher. Unfortunately we couldn’t figure out the lighting and the photos did not come out well at all.
For the afternoon session we were at the Hoopoe 4 hide. Here the main birds were the eurasian hoopoe, red-backed shrike and common wood-pigeon.
Tuesday, May 16
We got to sleep late this morning, we didn’t need to be ready until 5:30. This morning we headed to the Bee-Eater hide. Since this is a bit of a drive we would be at the location for the entire day. For the first two hours or so the activity was very sparse, due in part to the rain. Then all of a sudden there were more European bee-eaters than we could keep up with. There were other birds that made cameo appearances including the eurasian green woodpecker. By lunch-time we had so many photos that we were ready to return for the day.
To pass the time after we got back to the farm, we visited the field behind the sleeping quarters and practiced our (very fast) birds in flight by attempting to take photos of the swallows.
Karen got lucky and photographed a bee eater chasing, and catching… a bee.
Wednesday, May 17
Well so much for sleeping late, we need to be ready to leave by 4:40 today. This morning we headed to Hoopoe 3 hide. The main birds were the eurasian hoopoe, red-backed shrike and European roller. There was also a roe deer and European hare that wandered through viewfinders.
For the afternoon session we went to the Ground Squirrel hide. Here we photographed the eurasian ground squirrel (aka European souslik). We also photographed the eurasian jackdaw, multiple wagtails and tried to get photos of barn swallows getting drinks of water while in flight.
Thursday, May 18
The mornings keep getting earlier, we need to be ready to leave by 4:30 today. This morning we were scheduled for the Cinema hide. This hide is similar to the Theatre hide since we don’t take our tripods and the main attraction is waterbirds. The main birds were the black stork, gray heron and black-crowned night-heron. We were also able to capture a purple heron at a distance. Alan had a chance to photograph a bittern but thought it was just another night-heron until it was too late.
For the afternoon session we went to the Tower hide. Here we photographed the eurasian kestrel, eurasian jackdaw and a ring-necked pheasant.
Friday, May 19
We got a little extra sleep this morning, we didn’t need to be ready to go until 5:30 today. This morning we went to the Hoopoe 1 hide. We got to photograph the eurasian hoopoe, the European turtle-dove and the eurasian golden oriole.
For the afternoon session we went into the forest to the Drinking 4 hide. Here we photographed the various tits, eurasian jay and a hawfinch. We also got some up close and personal snail photos.
Saturday, May 20
Today we pack up and head back to Budapest where we will be taking a private drive to Croatia.