The traveller arriving at a Turkish port must be prepared for unpleasantness. Unable to speak the language, I was not long in finding out the difference between the manners of Montenegrin and Turkish customs officials, and very soon found myself in difficulties. The whole of my luggage was opened and subjected to a vigorous search, and all my goods and chattels were quickly scattered over the floor in inextricable confusion, while the Turkish officials were busy confiscating my gun and all the cartridges. Then they came on several gross of photographic dry-plates, and proceeded to commence opening them to see what they contained. The previous proceedings had sufficiently exasperated me, but this was more than I could stand. How I managed to stop them I hardly know to this day ; but by very vigorous expostulations I did manage to stay proceedings, and induced one of the bystanders- for by this time a considerable crowd had collected -to take my card to the Consul and request him to come to my assistance.
Judge of my relief when, a very few minutes afterwards, a cheery voice shouted out from the doorway, and in perfect English too, ' Hullo, Mr. Lodge! what can I do for you ?' The obvious reply was to beg him to get me out of this bother as soon as possible ; and in 1 less than no time' my things were bundled back into the portmanteaux and boxes, and I was on my way to the Consulate with my new friend. The gun and cartridges had to be left for the time being, but they were restored two or three days later.
This was my first introduction to Baron B-, the Austrian Consul, the best sportsman and most jovial companion I ever had the good luck to meet anywhere. A keen naturalist, good shot, and full of enthusiasm for whatever he undertook, I could not possibly have met a man better qualified to help me in my difficult search ; for besides his power as Consul, he spoke fluently all the languages and dialects of the country-Servian, Turkish, Italian, and Albanian, besides German, Magyar, French, and English.
On arrival at the Consulate he lost no time in fulfilling his promise to show me Pelicans from his windows. Sure enough, with a prism binocular, I could see on the lagoon beyond the town seven or eight Pelicans resting on a small island, and after lunch we walked out to see them nearer.
Durazzo lagoon is a large sheet of shallow, brackish water stretching behind the town, and divided from the sea at each end by a narrow strip of sand. It is surrounded by marshy ground, behind which lie forests, and behind them, on the landward side, high mountains, on which the snows lie unmelted until May. There are a few fish, but apparently not enough to attract the attention of many fishermen ; and as there are many low islands covered with samphire and other plants, and an extensive reed-bed at one end, it is an ideal place for ducks and all kinds of wading and water birds. Plenty of feeding ground, shallow water, small fish, quietness, and cover for resting in during the day-what more could water-fowl desire ? and in consequence they were there in immense numbers. And, above all, there were the Pelicans, which my host believed to nest on the lagoon.
It was quickly decided to start work on the very next day, and I turned in to bed that night with great hopes for the morrow, confident that success could not be far off with such efficient assistance.
Next morning we set off on horseback, having sent on previously Marco, the kavass, and another man, with the camera and belongings, with orders to wait for us at a certain point which seemed to be the best place at which to hide up while Btried to drive the birds round to me.
This first day was conclusive proof to me of the sort of man I had come across ; for no sooner had we finished making a rude hiding-place for me at the extremity of the point than he plunged gaily into the lagoon and commenced his long and arduous drive. Waist-deep in water he waded across and across, dodging behind islands, and sometimes lying flat on one of them, driving and turning them with consummate skill. But Pelicans are kittle cattle to drive, and, in spite of some hours of hard work, only once did they approach me within 1,000 yards. Then I did a long range telephotograph of two of them on a small islet about 400 yards away, knowing perfectly well all the time that I was only wasting a plate. However, I would have wasted willingly a gross of plates rather than run any risk of even appearing to lose an opportunity obtained by so much labour.
To make a long story short, and to save recording unnecessary and trivial details, we spent a fortnight searching the whole of the lagoon, wading to all the numerous islets, exploring the reed-beds, watching the lagoon from the neighbouring hills with powerful glasses, and trying every plan we could think of. It was impossible, however, to get the better of their incessant watchfulness and to approach them within a reasonable distance, or to find out where they were nesting. I even tried the plan of hiding a camera overnight on one of the islets much favoured by them, connecting the shutter with an electric battery in such a way that the slightest touch on a silk thread stretched along the ground would release it and make the exposure, in the hope that in the early morning one of them might unsuspectingly photograph itself without knowing anything about it. But all in vain.
The worst of it was that I seriously began to doubt whether the Pelicans were in the habit of nesting there at all. I had noticed from the first that nearly all the birds were in immature plumage, and I suspected strongly that, though there probably was a breeding colony somewhere not far off, the birds here were not breeding. This supposition was confirmed by a family of fishermen and gunners who lived near the shore, who declared that they had not nested in the lagoon for many years. (These men showed us a box of dark yellow fat from a Pelican, which they declared was first-rate stuff for rheumatism.) But if we did no good with the Pelicans we had some most interesting experiences with other birds, and some of my pleasantest memories are connected with Durazzo lagoon and the surrounding country.