DETTIFOSS is my favourite waterfall. It is located in northeast Iceland to the east of Lake Myvatn, about one hour off the ‘Ring Road’ and is consifdered to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe with a flow of 193 cubic metres per second going over the 100m wide falls, dropping 43m into the gorge of the Jökulsa á Fjöllum River (Sarp Falls in Norway has a bigger flow but only stands about half the height of Dettifoss). The Jökulsa á Fjöllum is a glacial meltwater river emanating from the Vatnajökul Glacier and its water is consequently grey-white with sediment. Standing next to the thundering giant Dettifoss is a terrific experience, especially on the quiet eastern side of the falls. The western side is nearer to Lake Myvatn for the day-tripping bucket listers from the Husavík cruise ships and is best avoided at peak times. The view is better by far from the eastern side in my opinion as well.
SITTING NEXT TO A RUSHING SALMON RIVER WATCHING HARLEQUINS SHOOTING THE RAPIDS is one of my favoutite wildlife experiences. We had such a great time in 2017 on the Laxá (‘Salmon River’) in Iceland’s Lake Myvatn region that I was looking forward to returning this summer. However, things are rarely as good a second time sadly. Although we enjoyed some stupendous close views again the chironomid flies after which the nearby lake was named were out in force making photographing quite arduous, even with a head net. Without it the experience of the non-biting although mega irritating flies is like having someone poke you in the face, ears or mouth every second or two. Expect to eat a few of them by accident as they fly into your mouth kamikaze style. Not painfull but very distracting. there can be clouds of several hundred of them around your head within minutes. The weather before my 2017 visit was very cold and they had not really got going but the weather recently had been unusually warm and the sodding flies were bad. Ah well, plenty of bird food I guess, looking on the bright side. Much worse was the sheer number of anglers all along the river at my favourite spots, which caused the Harlequins to move off elsewhere. I am going to need to find a quiet spot away from them when it return in 2020. Consequently my images were not as dramatic as in 2017 but I managed to get the lovely marigold flowers into backgrounds this time. Fortunately this was a birding rather than a photography tour so no one minded but next time with Wild Images this project is going to need some more effort. I also heard some disturbing news that Harlequins are declining in Iceland and no one knows why yet. My original Laxá Harlequins post can be seen here and you can see the details of my next Wild Images Iceland tour here.
THE HOPED-FOR 2019 ROSY STARLING INVASION OF ROMANIA HAD NOT MATERIALISED, so what to do at the end of our time there? Spend it in the forests of Transylvania was the answer. Janó’s Sakertour team had finished extending their ‘stream background’ photo hide with a view to capturing some artistic against-the-light images in early morning sun and Janó was very keen to try it. Sakertour also have a new bear lodge near the lovely town of Székelyudvarhely (or ‘Odorheiu Sequiesq’), which is located in the Harghita municipality of Transylvania, 300km (or 5 hours drive) from Bucharest’s Henri Coanda International (OTP) Airport. Transylvania, which means ‘beyond the forest’, holds the largest population of Brown Bears outside Russia and thankfully they are now protected and are no longer hunted. The bears’ mating season extends late into spring so June is a good time to watch them and as food is left for them outside the photo hides, there is a very high chance of success. Ultimately we had such a good sunrise session in the ‘stream background’ hide that the rest of the guys went home after it, leaving me to my own devices and an afternoon session at another of the hides with a mature forest background. We saw two bears in the morning, one of which crossed the stream several times and I had another six in the afternoon, a number boosted by a mum and her three cubs. The bears approach the hides very closely at times and were too close for the 500, as these virtually uncropped images show. An effective focal length of 300-400mm would have been ideal. It was wonderful to stay in a place where there are bears in the forest right on the edge of town bearing in mind that we got rid of our last one here at least 1000 years ago! Fab-u-lous in fact! It was also good to have some áfonya (blueberry) pálinka again at long last. I even brought some home too and am looking forward to a reason to open it. Finally thanks to János Oláh and his excellent Sakertour team of Zsolt and Tibi for looking after me so well and to Fiteti and Manu for making our trip such a lot of fun!
Having seen his lovely cat earlier this year I was lucky to have an opportunity to see another of Pallas’s amazing creatures, this time his gull, in Romania’s Danube Delta, courtesy of my friend János Oláh and his Sakertour team. I remember when Janó was awaiting delivery of the ‘Borzas’ (= ‘shaggy’, after the Hungarian name for Dalmatian Pelican) almost 10 years ago and how excited he was about his plans for developing proper bird photo tours in the delta. They are very well evolved now and with the two Zolis, Gergely Nagy and Bacszo guiding the Sakertour groups in the delta I can think of few better tours in terms of numbers of easy-to-shoot great bird subjects. No-one else gets closer to the birds than the ‘Shaggy’ and so deep into the delta! Happily Pallas’s Gulls are becoming easier to see owing to the increasing numbers breeding in the delta and the Sakertour boys have got them well figured out now. We were able to spend a lot of time with them taking thousands of flight shots in lovely golden light both in the earl morning and evening. A few from the sunset session are shown below. Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811) is one of the most well known German naturalists and his name is synonymous with amazing creatures from the east, where he travelled extensively, however, I had no idea he has a metal (from a meteorite) named after him as well, Pallasite! Thanks to Zoltán Gergely Nagy for guiding us and Romica Tiganov for driving the ‘Shaggy’ through the narrow channels in the heart of the delta so expertly.