Saturday, 30 July 2016

Romania - May 2016

It amazes me how little most Brits know about Central Europe and our ignorance allows the media to demonise migrants from countries like Romania. In reality, it's a fantastic place with such friendly people! This was the second tour that I have led to this country for Naturetrek. We visited the precipitous Carpathian Mountains, the tops covered in snow but the forested valleys alive with birdsong. Here we visited a private hide to see Brown Bears - we had prolonged views of a dozen bears in a forest clearing.

Then we drove south east across wide agricultural plains to Tulcea. Here we boarded our "Floatel" to spend four days exploring the Danube Delta. This is Europe's largest wetland and home to many thousands of breeding birds. It offers arguably the best birding on our continent!

Pelicans gather together in huge flocks and at dawn, they can be seen flying in long, undulating lines, across the vast reedbeds. At one point, we found ourselves in the middle of a big flock as they gorged themselves on a shoal of small fish, in the company of hundreds of Cormorants; it was one of the most memorable wildlife experiences of my life!

Great White Pelican

There are several species of heron and egret in the Delta and we saw dozens every day. If I was picking a favourite species, it would be hard to choose between Squacco  and Night Heron, both of which have a subtle beauty that is hard to catpure in a photograph.

Squacco Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron

The variety of birds is surprising. Whiskered, Black and White-winged Terns all breed, laying their eggs on floating vegetation around the many hidden lakes.  Grebes include both Black-necked and Red-necked, Grey-headed Woodpeckers are quite common and we had close views of Black Woodpecker. We heard many Golden Orioles and Nightingales but they were hard to see; more obliging were diminuitive Penduline Tits, building their hanging nests in the reedbeds. At the other end of the scale, we had fantastic views of Red-footed Falcons and  majestic White-tailed Eagles.

White-tailed Eagle

We completed our tour around Tulcea and the Black Sea coast, where we saw such specialities as Paddyfield Warbler and Levant Sparrowhawk. It's not all about birds though; apart from Brown Bear, we saw several other species of mammal including Golden Jackal and lovely little Sousliks.