In the opening chapter of my Pictures of Bird-Life, written in 1903, I indicated roughly, in the following words, what a splendid field there was for the photographic ornithologist in various parts of Europe:
' A most interesting expedition could be made now in pursuit of the Eagles and Vultures of Southern Europe. In Spain alone there are still to be found, in the big pine-woods and rugged sierras, five different kinds of Eagles and four kinds of Vultures. Some of these are yearly decreasing in numbers, and in a few more years will be extremely rare. Hungary and the country round the Danube is also particularly rich in raptorial and marsh birds.'
I had already visited the marismas of the Guadalquivir once, Denmark once, and Holland three times; and had succeeded in photographing many interesting species at home : for example, the Spoonbill, the Purple Heron, Little Egret, Buff-backed Heron, Glossy Ibis, Black Tern, White Stork, Grey Shrike, and other interesting forms of bird life which it would be hopeless to expect to find in this country. I had also seen many others which had succeeded in evading the near approach of my camera. But rappetit vient en mangeant, and I was bitten with an insatiable longing to add more rarities to my list of photographic subjects. Lack of means, however, was an effectual bar to any further pursuit on my part, especially in those countries which I was most anxious to visit. However, by good fortune, I have in quite an unexpected way been enabled to make three most interesting expeditions to some of the least known and most out-of-the-way parts of Southern and Eastern Europe in the search for rare members of the bird world, and the present volume deals with my experiences and adventures.
To me these expeditions after birds, in spite of the difficulties and hardships inseparable from working in the inaccessible marshes and mountain solitudes, where alone one may expect to have any success, have been most intensely enjoyable. Many rare birds, quite new to me, have been found and photographed at close quarters, many strange countries and strange people have been visited, and many friendships made. Fresh experience has also been gained in other directions, for while previous expeditions at home and abroad have been made with camera only, photographs of wild and living birds in the native haunts being the sole object, in these last journeyings bird collecting, as well as egg collecting has been included in the programme.
The inhabitants of these wild countries attach so little importance to birds that they find it difficult to understand why any sane person should take the trouble and go to the expense of travelling about to photograph them or even to shoot them. No doubt in many cases they look upon the search for birds as merely an excuse, a blind to hide some reason of more importance, political or otherwise; especially when they see an imposing cavalcade of from half a dozen to a dozen or more mounted men. But perhaps the proverbial madness of all Englishmen accounts for much that is otherwise unaccountable in their eyes ; and I must say that I have met with much genuine kindness and hospitality from the peasants and fishermen of the most remote regions, many of whom had never seen an Englishman before in the whole course of their lives. Few of them, indeed, had the slightest idea where England was situated, though they had a dim sort of idea that there was such a country somewhere.
My most grateful thanks are due to Baron Bornemisza, late vice-Consul for Austria-Hungary, at Durazzo in Albania, for the most generous hospitality and assistance during two seasons spent in that country; also to Herr Otto Hermann, and the ornithologists at the Bureau of Ornithology at Budapest, and Dr. von Madarasz of the Museum of that city, Herr Othmar Reiser of the Sarajevo Museum, Dr. Antipa of Buccarest, Dr. Jonescu and M. Panaitescu of Tulcea, Roumania ; also to Messrs. J. and A. McLean Marshall, and many others, some of whom I forbear to name at their own request, and others because their hospitality has, I fear, been somewhat overtaxed of late years by wandering ornithologists, and I am unwilling to abuse their kindness by running the risk of adding to their number.
R. B. Lodge.