TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
30th April - 8th May 2000
Elena & James Roberts
Costel (our driver)
Firstly I'd like to thank you all for making this such an enjoyable and interesting trip. It's rare to lead such a small group, and when all the participants are as enthusiastic as this, it makes it even more of a pleasure and life so much easier!
I should also add that there is no doubt that the smooth running of the trip is down to Elena's sterling efforts and fine organisational skills, not only to get around, but also with aspects such as the truly superb food we ate - just one of the many 'surprises' of the trip. I also wish to thank Costel for his good and thoughtful driving. As I discovered at the end, he's actually the general manager of Tulcea airport (hence the surprising series of mobile phone calls one day) and also a qualified jet fighter pilot - MIGs in fact...
Finally, apologies for the length of the report, but it was so enjoyable with so many highlights that I think it's worth it! I hope it serves to bring back some wonderful memories.
I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Sunday 30th April
We met in the waiting room at the airport before our evening flight out. Arriving late and in the dark at Otopeni airport, Bucharest, we met the customs officials who promptly lost Dorothy's details, though at least grudgingly wrote them out for her again. We rapidly found Elena who led us out, past lots of works in the car-park to Costel and the waiting vehicle, but not without getting the first bird of the trip - a Nightingale singing heartily from some bushes! We drove into Bucharest, with Elena pointing out the main street-lamp lit features as we drove by, and arrived safely a little before midnight to sleep well.
Monday 1st May
Up for a prompt breakfast only to discover that this was Easter weekend for the Orthodox church, and so we ate a little later, once the cook arrived, watching and listening to a few of the common city birds outside.
We soon left, first crossing Bucharest, then heading east through relatively bird-free highly agricultural land towards the river Danube and Black Sea coast. Apart from Rooks and small groups of Red-footed Falcons over the bus, there was little of note until Calasari marsh. Stepping out of the minibus, we were met (hit?!) by a loud chorus of marsh frogs, something that was a feature of most of the major wetlands we visited.
The main immediate interest was provided by a large flock of marsh terns hawking over a reed-filled pool. While most were Whiskered, there were good numbers of White-winged and also a few Black Terns, giving a wonderful display. These were joined later by a few Little Gulls, also taking part in this aerial fly-catching display. As attention turned to other species, Black-necked Grebes appeared in just about every open patch between the reeds, where several Purple Herons also tried to hide, but with the odd one flying over.
A deep 'grunching' song behind us heralded a Great Reed Warbler, which finally sat near the top of a reed to be admired, while the search for this led to the discovery of first, a flying female, then shortly afterwards, a beautiful male Little Bittern clinging to the base of some reeds in an exposed patch, giving stunning views. A pair of Ferruginous Ducks peered from between some reeds as if not to be outdone, while a check of a shallow pool on the opposite side yielded Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit and a lovely male Garganey, at one point all in the same field of view! An unseasonal Dunlin added interest.
We then moved the short distance to the Ostrov Ferry over the Danube, pausing briefly to look at a Hoopoe en route, and while enjoying a cool drink by the ferry terminal, a few Spanish Sparrows put in an all-too-brief appearance. The crossing provided Thrush Nightingale singing along the banks, and a few Great Cormorants and Yellow-legged Gulls (more about them later!), though it was optics hidden for a short time as we drove along the Bulgarian border at Silistra.
A stop to look at an as yet unoccupied Bee-eater colony led to the discovery of a Corn Bunting on overhead wires, while Stephen's sharp eyes caught a movement in the grass. Closer inspection revealed a lovely Spur-thighed Tortoise and also two Sand Lizards (including a male of the green Romanian form). Further scanning with the telescope revealed, in rather distant flooded fields below near Lake Bugeac, flocks of Grey Herons and Glossy Ibis, with numerous waders along the edge, then a large raptor, probably a Lesser Spotted Eagle, cruised over at great height. Exciting stuff!
We moved on again a short distance for lunch at Canaraua Fetei Valley, where supposing we'd be in the back of beyond, we came across numbers of Romanian people also picnicking like us! However, here, as virtually everywhere else, their very friendly, courteous manner was evident, with no-one even asking to have a look through a telescope. This surprised me, since just about everywhere one goes, people are 'inquisitive' at best, but we were left totally in peace. Wonderful!
While listening to Golden Orioles, a Woodlark flew up and landed on a wire for us all, at least 3 Rollers displayed along the cliff-face of a quarry, Tree Sparrows 'chipped' from the entrances to Bee-eater holes and up to 5 Red-rumped Swallows wheeled overhead. A simple but excellent lunch was brought to a sudden end by Stephen's question, "Is this a male Pied Wheatear?", which caused brief panic, but fortunately remained perched on an excavator (a most incongruous place it seemed to me!) for all to admire its stunning plumage, before getting into a tussle with a male Black Redstart. When things had calmed down, we admired the Scarce Swallowtails and other butterflies brought out by the hot weather. Just when things seemed to be under control, a comment that something odd and blue, but not a Roller was flying along the quarry caused confusion for a few seconds until it showed a white underside with black wingtips - a male Levant Sparrowhawk! Just a few seconds more and it had disappeared into the trees.
We then took a walk through some scrub and mature woodland, where hearing came to the fore, with more Golden Orioles on the way, a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, singing Common Cuckoo, Thrush Nightingale, Wood Warbler, a Yellowhammer (unlikely-seeming habitat!), and a fly-over Hawfinch. The track also produced a couple of small Grass Snakes, while small frogs were present in all the water-filled ruts, but most curious was the sound of dripping water on a hot and cloud-free day - vast numbers of froghoppers in the trees were feeding at an incredible rate and the excess liquid dripping off everywhere, including on us!
Coming out of the trees we reached an area of open crags which we scanned for some time, hoping to pick out Eagle Owl, which this year sadly gave us the slip, but while there had two Marsh Harriers, a Black Kite, a Common Buzzard, a Lesser Spotted Eagle and a male Red-footed Falcon, plus several more Red-rumped Swallows!
We finally gave up on the owl, and headed off through the Easter crowds to our extremely quiet (except for the frogs!) hotel on the Black Sea coast at Mamaia-Sat. Having settled in and wondered (not without minor apprehension) what we were going to eat, we had the most superb meal. Sarah also showed off a remarkable talent with the Romanian language, which Costel greatly appreciated.
What an amazing first day!
Tuesday 2nd May
The day dawned bright and fair, but within 5 minutes of arriving on the shoreline behind the hotel, having seen 2 brief fly-over Golden Orioles, a stiff, and cold NE breeze picked-up. This produced a most amazing passage of birds though, and the most difficult thing to know was where to look!
Yellow-legged Gulls formed a constant stream fairly high along the shoreline, intermittently forming flocks along the water's edge, which in turn attracted a number of Black-headed Gulls, hidden in which was a superb adult Slender-billed Gull. After a few more minutes, these were then joined by several Mediterranean Gulls of varying ages. Terns were everywhere, and bombing past in droves, with White-winged and Whiskered in good-sized flocks, but small flocks of Squacco Herons made an extraordinary sight as they came low along the beach or over the water. Single male Marsh and Montagu's Harriers also struggled north low over the waves, where small groups of Black-necked Grebes fished. Small birds were few, but a Grasshopper Warbler reeled from the scrubby cover near the hotel as we went back for breakfast.
Despite the windy weather, we stuck with our plan of going to an inland steppe area and a coastal wetland site. However, we didn't get very far before what was probably a Lesser Grey Shrike on a wire caused us to reverse-up near Lake Siutghiol and which led to the discovery of a heavy passage of birds there. First a female Marsh Harrier quartering a nearby field caught the eye, then a flock of c. 14 Squacco Herons passed directly overhead, followed by a group of a dozen Pygmy Cormorants battling against the wind. As if these were not enough, as we scanned again for the shrike, 4 Caspian Terns revealed themselves, fishing over the northern edge of the lake, as yet more marsh terns of all three species pushed north!
We forced ourselves away, and headed to Cheia Dobrogea, a patchily wooded and rocky valley in grassy steppe. The wind however, proved to be a problem, causing everything to keep down and small birds difficult to locate, but persistence proved a virtue when a pair of nest-building Long-legged Buzzards gave us a superb display. Tree Sparrows, a couple of Whinchats, Skylark and Crested Lark all appeared, while the first Sousliks made an instant impact (Aren't they just gorgeous?!). A pale phase Booted Eagle made a brief appearance, while another Lesser Spotted Eagle was more than welcome. We carried on down into the gorge 'proper', where more Sousliks provided entertainment, and were a close second fiddle to 2 male Pied Wheatears, while a very pale male Northern Wheatear seen head-on at first caused brief confusion. Two more Long-legged Buzzards drifted over.
Moving on towards our coastal stop at Histria, we first passed through more Souslik steppe, where a stop for Tawny Pipit yielded Greater Short-toed Lark, and several fly-by Red-footed Falcons gave fine views, and then through open arable fields, where several close Calandra Larks showed that not all larks are small, brown and difficult!
As we approached the wetlands, Elena's advice that single flying pelicans are usually Dalmatians, was rarely proven wrong, whilst a white 'smear' in the distance turned into a large resting group of Great White Pelicans in the binoculars. We tried listening for small birds, but the wind allowed nothing except a reeling Savi's Warbler, so we soon moved towards the open pools and mud areas, which were full of birds though. A flock of fly-by Collared Pratincoles make an early appearance, and amazing numbers of Spotted Redshank very evident. Numerous other waders were also present though, including close Little Stint and Wood Sandpiper and Ruff. A small group of Spoonbills appeared, all three marsh terns were again present, and at one point 30+ sat together on a mud spit giving wonderful views. Plenty of duck (including lots of Garganey) were present, and a deep-water channel in the reeds was packed with Mute Swans.
We tore ourselves away to have lunch and hoped for the wind to abate. Walking towards the little café on the sand dunes, Stephen's sharp eyes picked out movement in a large tree abutting the building. Careful watching from both outside and inside (at just a few feet!) the cafe revealed both male and female Pied and Collared Flycatchers, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Common Redstart, while a Spotted Flycatcher appeared on a different fence as we left.
After another excellent and enormous lunch, we crossed the marsh again, and when reversing to try and see an odd-looking bird glimpsed in a roadside ditch, flushed a Red-throated Pipit. We again scanned the massed birds for new species, adding 2 Little Terns as they 'bounced' their way in and settled for a while, and several solitary Dalmatian and now mobile flocks of Great White Pelican made an impressive sight in flight. Various Yellow Wagtails also provided interest, including the Romanian 'dombrowskii' type, Black-headed feldegg, and also a fantastic 'superciliaris'-type bird having a black head but brilliant deep yellow supercilium.
With it still so windy, we opted for a slightly earlier return, but shortly after we left the marsh several Rollers on roadside wires delayed and entertained us and then a stunning adult Lesser Grey Shrike flew down onto a field and perched and fed there for us to admire for at least 10 minutes.
We reconvened back at the hotel, and went down to the beach again to see what was new. Numerous terns were still passing, but well offshore, so we turned our interest to the gulls on the beach, and here I started confusing everybody (but I can hopefully explain in the following section)! To cut it short, we had 3 adult Baltic Gulls, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, lots of Yellow-legged Gulls and a few Pontic Gulls.
Large gulls in Romania - a simplified attempt at a confusing situation!: We had two basic types - 'Yellow-legged' and 'Lesser Black-backed' Gulls. Yellow-legged (Larus cachinnans) is a generally central and southern European species (but also extending eastwards into Asia), and has fairly recently been treated as different from Herring Gull (Larus argentatus). However, Yellow-legged also varies markedly from west to east, so recent suggestions are that it should in turn be split into at least two species, roughly speaking, those from the Black Sea eastwards compared to those west of this. The ones from the Black Sea eastwards would need to be renamed, so Pontic Gull (Larus cachinnans) has been suggested. These are on average larger, but slimmer and longer -winged and -billed, with dark eyes, pinker legs and a different wing-pattern to the western Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis). We saw what I would consider to be a few very good examples of Pontic Gull on the beach here, mixed with large numbers of I would consider to be 'typical' Yellow-legged Gulls (this ratio, being on the Black Sea is clearly the reverse of that expected!). The Lesser Black-backed Gull is also now considered by some to really refer to two similar species, the western Lesser Black-backed (Larus graellsii/intermedius), and a small, very black-backed form which only breeds in the Baltic, now called, not surprisingly, Baltic Gull (Larus fuscus). These differences in size and colour were very evident when we had one next to a considerably larger and paler Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus (graellsii) intermedius). Finally, as a short note, Pontic Gull is also often referred to as Caspian Gull, just to keep up the confusion!
At the evening log (before another excellent meal) it rapidly became evident the extent of the number of birds we'd seen. A notable 109 species for the day, the result of exploring a mixture of habitats, and being on a migration flyway during the peak migration period.
Wednesday 3rd May
A fairly uneventful pre-breakfast walk in cold, but clear and sunny weather, until a flock of 11 Bee-eaters rushed past low over the beach, and an elusive Red-breasted Flycatcher proved difficult to spot low in thick scrub.
We packed the vehicle with our bags as we were transferring to the north, but again via two excellent areas. The first was Vadu, another part of the vast area of coastal marshes in the area, where fortunately a military post was unmanned, allowing us free bird-watching. Here, a stunning variety of species was present and we walked slowly down the road checking the pools, reedbeds and open gravelly areas as we went. Waders were especially evident, giving fine views of Marsh, Wood, Curlew, Common and Green Sandpipers, Kentish Plover, several summer-plumaged Red-throated Pipits, Squacco Herons and overhead, passing Collared Pratincoles, Red-footed Falcons and Dalmatian Pelicans. We then found a mixed colony on an island in a pit, with numerous Common, several Little and a Gull-billed Tern amongst Black-headed, Little and some stunning adult Mediterranean Gulls, while Collared Pratincoles added an exotic flavour.
We headed out towards the Black Sea shore along tracks, finding groups of Great White Egret, some very close Glossy Ibis, iridescent in the sunshine, amazing numbers of Squacco Herons everywhere, a few Spoonbills and a couple of close Kingfishers. As if this were not enough, Stephen again picked out a special bird on some bushes just in front - a superb male Woodchat Shrike - which turns out to be a rarity in Romania! We carried on, picking our way on foot across the last stretch of partly flooded dunes, then onto a gorgeous white-sand beach, stretching as far as the eye could see in both directions. A fantastic cross-section of contrasting habitats, and even the beach provided memories, with Costel collecting shells of Black Sea whelks for us all.
We pushed on north to the Babadag Forest, where we stopped well before the military barracks which featured in last year's trip (!) and went for a walk while lunch was prepared. A singing male Ortolan Bunting stopped us after just a few yards, and we saw lots more, while a pair of Lesser Spotted Eagles and a dark-phase Booted Eagle circled overhead giving fine views. A couple of Turtle Doves added interest, as did another Spur-thighed Tortoise to Sarah, while on the opposite side of the road several Lady and Monkey Orchids and numerous Green Lizards made a break from the birds and took our minds off the heat. Another fine lunch, and with drowse-inducing wine...
However, soon afterwards we were at Enisala, the edge of the Babadag Forest on nearby hillsides (presumably from where two Red Deer running under trees had come from), looking out towards the remains of a sewage treatment works and its pools, but with the fine hilltop fort of Cetatea Heracleea dominating. We paused first under the roadside poplars for shade, and to the sound of Golden Orioles watched a Red-backed Shrike on the roadside, then a large flock of Bee-eaters 'prooping' and insect-catching over and around an orchard behind us, with a couple of Rollers as a supporting cast. Moving out to look over the pools, where a large colony of gulls and Common Terns was present, a pair of Red-crested Pochard, a pair of Teal and numerous Ruff were soon found amongst the other species, while a brief Long-legged Buzzard and a lingering dark Booted Eagle passed overhead.
We then prepared ourselves for a slow rough (but not really so bad) road for the final stage of the journey towards the Danube Delta. There was little of note until was passed the edge of Lake Razim, where 6+ pairs of Red-crested Pochards, 30+ Garganey, a Ferruginous Duck and the now largely-ignored Black-winged Stilts and Avocets made a fine display!
Our arrival at the delta was surprising, since all that was visible was a 'wall' of trees. however, the excitement mounted as we prepared for our journey out on a type of hotel barge, called a ponton, from near the village of Murighiol. The extremely high waters levels produced the curious sight of large stands of trees growing out of the water, and almost no land visible at all. We cruised smoothly out along several wide channels, noting Little Egrets and Black-headed Gulls under the trees, but a brief Grey-headed Woodpecker gave a foretaste of things to come. Then, just yards before docking, a Black Woodpecker flew low across in front of the ponton, giving excellent views. What a herald!
We installed ourselves in our rooms, and came out to a glorious sunset and superb meal of Danube Zander. Our daily round-up revealed the astounding total of 117 species for the day.
Thursday 4th May
Here we were, in one of Europe's greatest wild areas, and anxious to explore. A (very!) cold pre-breakfast watch from outside the hotel produced fly-over Grey and Black-crowned Night Herons, Glossy Ibis, Little Egret, and Great and Pygmy Cormorants, plus singing Golden Orioles and a fine Grey-headed Woodpecker.
After breakfast, and to the sound of Marsh Frogs and Fire-bellied Toads, we took two small boats out from the hotel, and steered expertly by two local boatmen, headed slowly out towards Lake Uzlina and Lake Pojarnia, down a maze of small channels though woodland, the ground completely flooded. Common Redstarts, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Great Spotted and a couple of brief Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Kingfisher, Chaffinch, Great Cormorant and a couple of Rollers were all noted before we suddenly exited into reedbeds with pools and a large Great Cormorant colony in dead trees. Hooded Crows and Grey Herons were also in attendance looking for untended eggs (mainly of the local coots), so we worked our way gently round the edge of the colony, watching the jump-and-dive escape tactics of adult and very large young Great Cormorants. The strong (but not overpowering) smell and noise, will remain vivid memories. We pulled out to minimise disturbance, only to find a distant large raptor, which slowly glided towards us, eventually turning out to be a Greater Spotted Eagle, a rare breeder in the Delta. We wound our way back along the route we'd come, first hearing, then seeing Penduline Tit, having seen a half-built nest earlier, and then trying to locate a singing Firecrest en route.
Another fine lunch, then out for the afternoon, this time along the first main channel, where a fine female Grey-headed Woodpecker was excavating ants from one of the few banks protruding above the water, but then out across several open lakes (Gorgova, Gorgovaþ and Potcoava - at least that's what we were told!!!), often presenting an amazing distant, and very narrow horizon beyond dead flat water, and a complete contrast to the close woodland and tall reeds of the morning. Here bird were fewer, but as we crossed we noted both pelicans, several Red-necked Grebes, all three marsh terns which on several times were feeding around the boat, a Pontic Gull or two, and both cormorants were seen well. As we continued, we entered ever thicker reedbeds with floating islands including willow scrub, at one point which had evidently blocked a channel towards our final destination. After several attempts to find it, the boatman pushed, cajoled and wound his boat through (and sometimes even over!) to patchily reeded open water (which seemed to be many miles from where we started), where more Red-necked Grebes, abundant Ferruginous Ducks and fly-over Pygmy Cormorants and Glossy Ibis were frequent, coming from a nearby colony (which we didn't go into to avoid disturbance). Although our attempts to see reedbed warblers were thwarted, we did have more and closer views of a couple of Muskrats, first seen at Vadu.
Although we were lost, our boatman was not, and despite pausing for displaying Rollers, a couple of fly-over Hobbies and Red-footed Falcons, and several woodpeckers including a fine male Grey-headed excavating on the same bank where the female had been earlier, within just 50 minutes we were back at the hotel. The discovery that all of us had sore rumps from the hard boat seats caused mild amusement, but this was largely forgotten when a speciality dish of the Delta was brought out to us - stuffed Pike - and absolutely delicious it was too!
Friday 5th May
Having basically covered the possible options coverable in a day from the hotel, we sent Elena to catch a Fire-bellied Toad, the skin toxins of which sent her hand numb later, and marvelled at a beautiful specimen of Europe's largest moth - the Giant Peacock. We cruised out on the ponton back to Murighiol, noting a range of typical species feeding under the trees and on the exposed ground just appearing as the waters receded slightly, including Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis and Squacco Heron, though 7 Bearded Tits performed beautifully in reeds where we disembarked, providing a fitting end to our visit here.
We then started the day-long transfer over to the Transylvanian Mountains, largely through rolling countryside with huge arable fields, but also past the edge of the Babadag Forest again. A bar stop at Hirºova for refreshment (thanks Costel!) provided a welcome break and chance to observe a White Stork on its nest. The next point of interest was when we crossed the River Danube shortly afterwards, seeing a couple of (sadly, illegally fished) Sturgeon 3'-4' long hung from poles supported by their seller on the roadside, and ready for a passing buyer. A reminder, albeit sad, that this is one of the very few remaining rivers in Europe where sturgeon can still be found.
We continued, passing South Fork (yes, as per JR fame!), stopping at the 'remarkable' Hotel Paradis in Slobozia for a good lunch. Then the final stretch to Sinaia, reached by passing Ploieºti and then climbing gently up into the mountains along the valley of the river Prahova, and entering extraordinary, tall mixed woodlands of Beech and Norway Spruce. Sinaia itself was a fantastic town, with a wealthy look and many fine houses. We wound our way up through the town to the magnificent hotel a short walk from the Peleº and Peliºor Palaces.
A short walk down into the local woodlands revealed how difficult it was to birdwatch there, with towering trees hiding plenty of calling birds in the tops, though Fieldfare, Firecrest, Goldcrest and Coal Tit were noted, while a quieter side-track produced a fine black Red Squirrel and a singing Wood Warbler.
We relaxed at another excellent meal, of pollenta, trout and doughnuts with rose-petal jam, and caused Elena and Costel to laugh by eating bread with the pollenta (apparently something the British always seem to do, but a Romanian never would!). However, the day was far from over. We picked up a spotlight and headed up steep tracks through the forest for c. 15 minutes, heading, bizarrely for the local rubbish tip... Drawing up, the beam came on and in front, c. 70 yards away were no less than 4 Brown Bears!!! These rapidly scrambled up the steep slopes and into the surrounding forest, so we switched off to wait for them to reappear. However, just as our eyes began to accustom to the dark, Costel noted a movement in front of the vehicle, on came the light, and there, just yards from the minibus (close enough to make Stephen nervous having his hand out of the window with the light!) was a medium-sized bear, totally unperturbed by the light. INCREDIBLE! Another then joined it before they both ambled gently away in front to feed somewhere quieter and darker. This was the culmination of another great hope for all of us, but the views were simply amazing.
We pulled away ecstatic, scanning the track and road in front in case a stray was caught in the headlights, but this time, a Polecat, frozen in the lights for a few seconds gave a couple of us views before it slipped away into the darkness. WHAT A DAY!
Saturday 6th May
A complete change of habitat for most of the day as we climbed up through beech, then mixed, then spruce forest, onto a bumpy track and headed for the high rather bare mountain tops and some special species. Our first stop on short grass at theªaua Dichiului pass produced a couple of Water Pipits, a Woodlark and several Northern Wheatears. We pushed on, dropping into a high valley and then along by a reservoir until the low, narrow Cheile Tatarului gorge where a stream fed in. Almost immediately, two Wallcreepers flew across, and we leapt out to superb views of a female, feeding on the rocks for c. 20 minutes. Suddenly, a stunning back-throated male flew in and joined the show, before both flew off and round the corner. This was justice for Frank and Dorothy who'd looked for them several times, and deserved them, a rich reward for driving across to this area from the coast the day before. We explored a little more here, finding some lovely close Dippers on the stream (one brown, the other black-bellied...?!) and a couple of Grey Wagtails.
Heading back, we stopped for tea at the 'cabana' at Cheile Zanoagei and explored the immediate area for some time before lunch, finding various new species, including Sparrowhawk, Crossbill, a Nutcracker (found by Elena), a couple of high-flying Alpine Swifts, and singing Dunnock, while in a small pool, 'orange-bellied' toads and several colourful Alpine Newts provided an interesting distraction. Later, we continued, and a Jay, a Red Squirrel and a brief pair of Bullfinches revealed themselves, while a diversion at the pass onto higher ground was made in the hopes of finding some new species. We reached the small Buçegi Plateau, noting two Ring Ouzels, Mistle Thrush and a displaying Lapwing (!), plus lots of Water Pipits and Northern Wheatears, while a couple of Alpine Swifts raced around well overhead.
Working our way back down, we met surprising numbers of locals (until we realised that it was the weekend and still Easter celebrations!), and was livened up with a brief stop when the back of the bus suddenly began to fill with exhaust fumes! However, a roadside puddle provided surprise with a huge Common Toad and several more Orange/Fire-bellied Toads and a quick fix-it by Costel and we were on our way. The grounds to the castles were packed, so we (I?) rested in the hotel instead.
We had another great meal, then went out again to look for bears. There were even more this time -at least 10 in total - including a mother with three cubs which ran off into the woods early, but then it went rather quiet. Switching off the light, we waited, and hearing a crunching sound, the light revealed a young bear running in stages across the dump, before disappearing off to the left, only to be followed shortly afterwards by a LARGE adult, which worked its way closer and closer to the bus and light (OK Stephen, I started to get nervous too!), until it stopped about 30 yards way, before turning and disappearing off into the darkness. Just an amazing experience!
Back at the hotel, we bade farewell to Costel, since James was coming with the minibus in the morning.
Sunday 7th May
We left Sinaia and headed north into Transylvania 'proper', passing Braºov and towns full of fascinating architecture, reaching the Dumbraiþa woods and fishponds. Here we stepped out to the sound of singing Golden Oriole and Icterine Warbler, both of which refused to be seen. However, a new sound lead to the discovery of a singing Wryneck, first in the top of a bramble, then up on dead twigs in an oak in full sunlight. A couple of singing Tree Pipits showed well, as did a male Common Redstart, while several fly-over Hawfinches and fly-by Great Spotted Woodpeckers were less obliging. Some small toads in a pond here proved to be Yellow-bellied.
Crossing the road we went down into some meadows to scour bushes there, where several warblers were present. However, the very warm, sunny conditions and stiff breeze made it very difficult, and although Marsh, Icterine and Barred Warblers were present, they were only seen very briefly at best, while numerous Whitethroats and a Lesser Whitethroat were rather more obliging.
Heading further north, passing two hunting Lesser Spotted Eagles en route, we reached a grassy area overlooking the fishponds at Vadu Roºu, and took a very gentle stroll as Elena fixed lunch. Although things were quiet, we still saw Fieldfare, Yellowhammer and most notably, a couple of Goshawks going over, while as we sat for lunch, a quick check revealed a Black Stork going over.
Exploring the fishponds in the afternoon heat proved a little too much for Frank and Dorothy who wisely sat in the shade of a building, but not before having seen a superb female Crane which was a very late migrant, sitting on the raised banks. A White-fronted Goose, though capable of flying, had the tip of one wing in a sorry state, probably from winter shooting. The rest of us struggled across to the river bank, seeing an amazing number of Grey Herons of all ages en route, and paused on the far side. Suddenly, the 'crrruu' call of Crane floated by, and we watched amazed as for several minutes it started dancing in response to the close attention of a Hooded Crow - I was left wondering if the similar colour-pattern of the crow and its repeated close approach to the Crane caused this fascinating reaction. We were startled out of this by a harsh 'crex-crex' call almost at our feet in long grass. Corncrake! What was even more remarkable was that Sarah even captured it on tape as she was recording the Crane in a hand-held 'walkman'! Sadly, it didn't show, but did call well again.
We reached the river, at which point the fishpond guards (including two ex-KGB types) appeared and walked over to Frank and Dorothy, who calmly feigned ignorance and pointed them in our direction. After a short discussion, Elena dragged a smile and a grudging verbal permission out of the head, and we carried on without incident. Fish poaching is obviously big business... A Lesser Spotted Eagle hunting soon reoriented our thoughts, however.
Back in Sinaia, to celebrate our last evening, we went for a special meal in a remarkable restaurant, decked out with animal skins, including those of various Brown Bears and sampled the local drink : þuica. More than one comment about Vlad the Impaler (a standing joke with the group) came out, but the gypsy violinist was a treat, even imitating the bagpipes for us.
However, we still had a visit to the rubbish dump to make (how could we not?!), and despite (?) James's presence, we watched at length just one medium-sized animal feeding. Perhaps there's no tipping on Sundays and it's less interesting to the bears, though at least 3 Red Foxes added variety.
Monday 8th May
We awoke with that 'last day' feeling, but marvelling at what we'd seen. However, a Goldcrest sang by the hotel, and we went for a walk on the edge of Sinaia, ostensibly to find Serins, but also any other woodland birds, having spent little time in the woods until now. Several Common Redstarts showed well, Chiffchaffs and a Serin sang distantly but did not show. However, after a bit of coaxing, several Firecrests finally came down from the tops and showed themselves superbly, while two Red Squirrels ran across the road in front.
We moved to the northern edge of the town and took a cobbled track up into the woodland. This was quite remarkable, and no sooner had we stepped out, than a Red-breasted Flycatcher was heard singing its beautiful if somewhat melancholy song. As we continued, straining to see anything in the towering canopy a few Chaffinches and Blackbirds disturbed the peace and a nice variety of plants lined the trackside. Fortunately, we were all looking up and in the same direction when a large dark shape loomed silently out, low down in the shade of the beech canopy. When level with us, it lifted to perch for a few seconds, with its flat, grey face and dark eyes peering at us... "Ural Owl!!!". We stood, in disbelief, as it glided off silently into the undergrowth and disappeared. What an incredible bird! We pottered on elated, finding Marsh Tits and Nuthatches and after listening to what was a probable young Black Woodpecker in its nest, several flycatchers appeared, including male Collared and a female Red-breasted. Back at the vehicle, more coaxing brought the singing Red-breasted out into view, only to find it was a young bird without any red! (I'm not complaining though!).
We said good-bye to Sinaia, and without too much incident (some very fine driving by James avoided a potentially nasty situation) made our way to Otopeni airport, but not before buying examples of the local honey from the roadside, where the huge mobile hives were a fascinating sight. We said goodbye to James and Elena, and after buying a few other goodies in the airport, had a simple flight to the UK, where I said goodbye.
All I'd like to add is that although we'd set ourselves the mental 'target' of seeing as many species as the year before, we've created a major problem for subsequent trips, since not only did we see an exceptional range of birds, and many very well (which is more important after all), we not only saw more than the previous year, but the most for any single tour to the country to date and for a Travelling Naturalist group anywhere in Europe! A truly astonishing 195 spp. of birds. While Vadu was my favourite site, the Danube Delta is unforgettable, the Brown Bears were my personal highlight, while the Ural Owl was just a stunning finale to an amazing tour.
Romania bird list 30 April - 8 May 2000:
This is the combined list for the whole group. Given the complexity, I've had to reduce it to codes, with the dates given in the main report, except for sites where birds were seen on more than one day: h = heard only; Bucharest (B); Calasari marsh (CM); Ostrov Ferry (OF); Lake Bugeac (LB); Canaraua Fetei Valley (CF); Mamaia-Sat (MS); Lake Siutghiol (LS); Cheia Dobrogea (CD); Histria (H); Vadu (V); Babadag Forest (BF); Enisala (E); Lake Razim (LR); Murighiol (M); Danube Delta (DD); Sinaia (S); ªaua Dichiului (SD); Cheile Tatarului (CT); Cheile Zanoagei (CZ); Buçegi Plateau (BP); Dumbraiþa (D); Vadu Roºu (VR); Sinaia woodland track (WT). Common names per Wells' "World Bird Checklist".
1. Little Grebe: Noted on 3 days, with 3-4 CM, 1+h V and 1 h DD.
2. Red-necked Grebe: c. 10 in full breeding plumage at DD.
3. Great Crested Grebe: Seen on 4 days: 8 at CM, c. 10 H, 3 MS on 3rd, 20+ DD and 8+ VR.
4. Black-necked Grebe: Noted on 3 days: 10+ CM, 6+ MS on 2nd and 3 there on 3rd.
5. [Great] Cormorant: Noted on 5 days, with 5+ CM, then abundant H, DD and present VR.
6. Pygmy Cormorant: 20 MS and 15 LS on 2nd, 100+ MS and 20+ V on 3rd.
7. [Great] White Pelican: Seen on 4 days: c. 500 H, 30+ en route on 3rd, 100+ DD on 4th and 1 there on 5th.
8. Dalmatian Pelican: Noted on 4 days, in much lower number than GWP: 1 H, 5+ V, 5+ DD on 4th and 1 there on 5th.
9. Grey Heron: Noted on 6 days (1st - 5th and 7th), with max. 21 LB and 25+ VR.
10. Purple Heron: Seen on 4 days: 5+ CM, various at V and DD on 3rd, 2+ at M on 5th, 2 at VR.
11. Great White Egret: 20+ V, 2+ DD on 5th.
12. Little Egret: Seen on 4 days: 3 MS and 10+ H on 2nd, 10+ V and 10+ DD on 3rd, various DD on 4th and 5th.
13. Squacco Heron: Very notable numbers: 9 MS and 14+ LS on 2nd, 4 MS and 30+ V on 3rd, 15+ DD on 4th, where 4+ on 5th.
14. Black-crowned Night Heron: One en route on 1st, 1 MS on 2nd, 3 MS and 5+ DD on 3rd, 20+ DD on 4th, where one on 5th.
15. Little Bittern: A good fly-by female and superb male at CM.
16. [Great] Bittern: One h at H.
17. Black Stork: One DD on 4th and one VR.
18. White Stork: Seen daily (5+) with occasional nests from 1st to 5th, with 15+ VR plus 5+ on same day.
19. Glossy Ibis: 34 LB, 4 V and 10 DD on 3rd, 100+ DD on 4th and 10+ DD on 5th.
20. [Eurasian] Spoonbill: 3+ H, 6+ V and 2 DD on 3rd, 10+ DD on 4th.
21. Mute Swan: Seen daily from 1st - 5th, with max. 60+ H and during day at DD on 4th.
22. Greylag Goose: 2 H, 35 V, 5+ DD on 4th and 1 M on 5th.
23. [Greater] White-fronted Goose: One rather sorry-looking individual at VR.
24. [Common] Shelduck: 20+ H and 2+ MS on 2nd, various en route on 3rd.
25. Gadwall: 20+ H, frequent V, 10+ DD on 4th.
26. [Common] Teal: A pair at E, 2 calling VR.
27. Mallard: Seen daily in small numbers from 2nd - 7th, max. 20+ DD on 4th.
28. [Northern] Pintail: A pair at H.
29. Garganey: Two males CM, 15+ H, 50+ at various sites on 3rd and 10+ DD on 5th.
30. [Northern] Shoveler: A pair CM, c. 30 at H, 10+ V and one male VR.
31. Red-crested Pochard: 3 E and 6 pairs LR.
32. Common Pochard: Seen in moderate numbers at various sites in 1st - 5th, max.30+ CM and 1 VR on 7th.
33. Ferruginous Duck: Excellent numbers: 2 pairs CM, 3 V and 1 LR, 50+ DD on 4th and 1 there on 5th.
34. Tufted Duck: A male at DD on 4th.
35. Black Kite: Just 2 singles, at CF and CZ.
36. [Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: Noted daily in small numbers, from 1st - 5th and on 7th, with max. totals of 10 on 2nd and 3rd.
37. Montagu's Harrier: Two from minibus en route on 1st, a male at MS and one at CD on 2nd, and an injured 2nd-yr bird at V.
38. Levant Sparrowhawk: An all-too-brief male at CF.
39. [Eurasian] Sparrowhawk: A female BF, one (?at DD) on 5th, a total of 4 in mountains on 6th and one S on 8th.
40. Northern Goshawk: Just 2, but both together at VR.
41. Common Buzzard: Seen daily in small number from 1st - 8th, with max. 3+ on each of last 2 days.
42. Long-legged Buzzard: A pair each at C and CD, one at E, and one en route on 5th.
43. Lesser Spotted Eagle: One CF, 1 CD, 2 BF, and 2 en route plus one VR on 7th.
44. Greater Spotted Eagle: One adult DD on 4th.
45. Booted Eagle: One pale phase CD, and single dark phases BF and E.
46. [Common] Kestrel: One to four noted daily from 1st - 7th.
47. Red-footed Falcon: Two females CM and a male CF, 10 at various sites on 2nd, 5+ at V, 10+ DD on 4th and one DD on 5th.
48. [Eurasian] Hobby: Just 5+ at DD on 4th.
49. Common Pheasant: 5+ h at CF, several at various sites on 3rd, 1 h at DD on 4th and 5th.
50. Corn Crake: One 'grating' VR.
51. Moorhen: Noted in moderate number at almost all wetlands from 1st - 5th and 7th.
52. Common Coot: As Moorhen but somewhat commoner.
53. Common Crane: A female at VR.
54. Black-winged Stilt: One at CW, 10 at H, 50+ V and 6+ LR.
55. [Pied] Avocet: Three CW, 20 H and 30+ at various sites on 3rd.
56. Collared Pratincole: At least 12 at H and 25+ at V.
57. [Northern] Lapwing: Seen on 4 days: several at MS on 2nd and 3rd, 5+ at H and also V, singles en route on 5th and BP.
58. Grey Plover: A single summer-plumaged bird at MS on 2nd.
59. Little Ringed Plover: One CW and 3 CF (quarry), 2 at MS and 1 H on 2nd, a few at various sites on 3rd and one at VR.
60. Kentish Plover: 4+ at V.
61. Black-tailed Godwit: One CM, 20+ H and 5+ V.
62. Curlew: One at H.
63. Spotted Redshank: Amazing numbers on the coast, with 30+ at H and probably over 40 at V.
64. Common Redshank: Just 6+ at V.
65. Marsh Sandpiper: 2+ in summer plumage at V.
66. Greenshank: Just one at H.
67. Green Sandpiper: Just two at V.
68. Wood Sandpiper: 2+ at H and 2 MS on 2nd, with 15+ V.
69. Common Sandpiper: Singles at MS on 2nd , at V, E and VR.
70. Little Stint: 40+ in total at MS and H on 2nd and 30+ V.
71. Sanderling: One+ at H (this was another we missed off the list!).
72. Dunlin: One attaining summer plumage at CM.
73. Curlew Sandpiper: 6+ inc. 2 in summer plumage at V.
74. Ruff: Big numbers on passage: totals of 100+ on 2nd, 200+ on 3rd and 100+ on 4th.
75. Lesser Black-backed Gull: A single adult ssp. intermedius at MS on 2nd.
75a. Baltic Gull: 3 adults MS and one H on 2nd and 1 adult MS on 3rd. (Sometimes considered a seperate species).
76. Yellow-legged Gull: Plenty, of all ages, especially along the coast from 1st - 5th, mostly looking like western ssp. michahellis.
76a. Pontic / Caspian Gull: A few with characters of this form at MS on 2nd and 3rd and a sub-adult in DD on 4th.
77. Slender-billed Gull: A superb pink-breasted adult at MS on 2nd and a 2nd calendar-year at H.
78. Black-headed Gull: Seen daily from 1st - 5th and on 7th, with large colonies at a few sites.
79. Mediterranean Gull: 22 MS on 2nd, 30+ in total at V, E and near M on 3rd, and 5+ DD on 4th.
80. Little Gull: Two adults and two immatures at CM and 6+ resting in gull colony at V.
81. Whiskered Tern: c. 100 at CM, 100's in total between MS, LS, H and V, 10+ on 4th and 5th in DD and one at VR.
82. White-winged Black Tern: Huge numbers moving through on passage and the commonest tern: 50 at CM, 100's in total between MS, LS, H and V on 2nd and 3rd, 50+ DD on 4th and 20+ there on 5th.
83. Black Tern: The least common marsh tern, but still probably 40 CM, 20+ H, a few H, 30+ in total on 3rd, 15+ in DD on 4th and 5th, and 4+ VR.
84. Caspian Tern: 4 late migrants at LS were a nice surprise.
85. Gull-billed Tern: One trying to hide in the mixed gull and tern colony at V was good.
86. Sandwich Tern: 3 at MS and 2 LS on 2nd.
87. Common Tern: Common and widespread in small number, both on inland lakes and coastal sites, seen daily from 1st - 5th, max. 15+ at V.
88. Little Tern: Two at H and 2+ pairs at V.
89. Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon: Noted daily, all were Feral Pigeons of some type, on 1st - 3rd, 5th, 7th and 8th.
90. Wood Pigeon: One MS on 2nd, and 3+ DD on 4th.
91. European Turtle Dove: 3+ at various sites on 1st, and 4 at BF.
92. [Eurasian] Collared Dove: Noted abundantly and widely (I nick-naming it "Romanian sky-rat") seen daily except on 6th.
93. Common Cuckoo: Noted on 6 days: max. one at CM and 3 h at CF, 6+ at various sites on 2nd, and several singing in DD on 4th.
94. Ural Owl: A stunning bird at WT on the last morning.
95. Alpine Swift: 2+ at CZ and 2+ at BP.
96. Common Swift: Seen daily from 1st except on 6th: heavy passage on 3rd when 200+ MS.
97. Common Kingfisher: At least 2 V, 10+ DD on 4th and one h M on 5th.
98. European Bee-eater: Passage seen on 3rd, when 11 MS, 15+ V and 40+ E.
99. European Roller: Excellent numbers: 5+ various sites on 1st, including 3+ at CF, 5 near H, 6+ at different sites on 3rd, 10+ in DD on 4th and two on 5th.
100. [Eurasian] Hoopoe: Small numbers noted daily from 1st to 5th, with max. 3 on 1st and 3+ on 3rd.
101. Wryneck: One watched singing at D.
102. Great Spotted Woodpecker: 5+ at CF, 5+ at DD on 4th, where also 1 on 5th, 2+ at D.
103. Black Woodpecker: A male at DD on 3rd, and one heard calling WT.
104. Green Woodpecker: One or more h CF.
105. Grey-headed Woodpecker: One h CF, one at DD on 3rd, where excellent views of two, but 10+ for day on 4th, and one h there on 5th.
106. Calandra Lark: 10+ along roads through arable areas on 2nd.
107. [Greater] Short-toed Lark: Just one on roadside after steppe at CD.
108. Crested Lark: Several along roadside en route after CM, 5+ at CD and one at V.
109. Wood Lark: Two singles noted: on wires at CF and on alpine grassland at SD.
110. [Eurasian] Sky Lark: Noted on 4 days: 30+ in total on 2nd, several at V, 1+ h at BP and 2+ h at D.
111. [European] Sand Martin: 100+ at various sites on 1st, inc. CM, 'squillions' (thanks Elena!) on 2nd and 3rd at coastal sites, and small numbers on 4th in DD.
112. Barn Swallow: Noted daily in variable numbers, except on 6th. Notable passage at MS.
113. Red-rumped Swallow: 10+ around quarry and crags at CF (plus one flew from a road culvert near Negureni).
114. [Common] House Martin: Noted daily, except on 6th, with notable passage at MS, etc.
115. Yellow Wagtail: Noted daily from 2nd to 7th, with very good numbers of migrants along coast, but even two on alpine grassland at SD as well. Apart from those forms mentioned in the text at H and 115a, other subspecies identified included beema (1 behind hotel in DD on 5th), flava and thunbergi.
115a. Black-headed Wagtail: Several seen in groups of Yellow Wagtails, e.g. at MS on 2nd and 3rd, H and V. This is sometimes now considered a seperate species.
116. Grey Wagtail: Two at both CT and CZ, 2+ north of S on 7th, and 1 at S on 8th.
117. White Wagtail: Noted daily in small number from 2nd - 8th, max. 10+ on 3rd and 6+ on 6th.
118. Tawny Pipit: One briefly at CD, but 2+ well at V and 1 at E.
119. Red-throated Pipit: Two briefly at H, but 8+ well at V.
120. Tree Pipit: 3+ singing in scrubby grassland by wood at D.
121. Water Pipit: 10+ in alpine grassland at SD and BP.
122. Red-backed Shrike: Just single males at H, E and behind hotel in DD on 4th.
123. Lesser Grey Shrike: Just a single (stunning!) male near H and one at V.
124. Woodchat Shrike: A single male of the grey-backed, eastern niloticus subspecies was a real find at V; a Romanian rarity.
125. Dunnock: 2+ h in high forest around CZ, and 2+ h in forest around S on 8th.
126. [Winter] Wren: 2+ h in forest around S on 8th.
127. White-throated Dipper: Two on stream at CT.
128. Ring Ouzel: Two fine birds on alpine meadows at BP.
129. [Common] Blackbird: Widespread in small numbers, and noted on 1st, 3rd and 5th - 8th at various sites.
130. Fieldfare: Seen daily in small number in and around S (max. 3+ on 8th), plus 2 at VR.
131. Song Thrush: Noted on 4 days in forested areas: 3+ CF, and 3+ at S on 5th, 6th and 8th.
132. Mistle Thrush: 2+ in alpine meadows at BP.
133. [European] Robin: One h CF, 5+ at S on 5th and 3+ at S and WT on 8th.
134. Thrush Nightingale: 3+ singing along River Danube (OF) and 1 singing CF on 1st.
135. Common Nightingale: Heard singing daily from 30th April to 4th May at various sites.
136. Black Redstart: A male at CF, another in DD on 4th, several S and mountains on 6th.
137. Common Restart: A male at H, 20+ in DD on 4th, a male at D and 2+ at S on 8th.
138. Whinchat: 5 at various sites on 2nd, 1+ at V, 3 at BP and 2 on 7th.
139. [Common] Stonechat: Remarkably, just a single male seen from the bus by Stephen on 1st.
140. Northern Wheatear: Noted on 4 days: 6 at different sites on 2nd, 5+ in total on 3rd, 2 on 5th and 10+ in alpine areas, especially BP on 6th. Some notably pale birds, e.g. at CD.
141. Pied Wheatear: A male + possible female in quarry at CF and 2 males at CD. Superb!
142. Bearded Tit: 5+ in DD on 4th, and a lovely flock of 7 at M on 5th.
143. Grasshopper Warbler: One h singing scrub and reeds at MS on 2nd.
144. Savi's Warbler: One h singing at H, 1+ h at V and 5+ h in DD on 4th.
145. Sedge Warbler: One seen briefly H, 2+ h at V, 1 h in DD on 4th and 1 h at VR.
146. [Eurasian] Reed Warbler: One h at H, 3+ h at V, 10+ in DD on 4th, where also h on 5th.
147. Marsh Warbler: Three+ singing in bushes at D.
148. Great Reed Warbler: Two at CM, 2+ at H and 3+ at V.
149. Icterine Warbler: Two+ singing in wood and scrub at D.
150. Blackcap: Noted in small numbers on 6 days, though max. 5+ h at CF, 3+ on 7th, and plenty heard at S and WT on 8th.
151. Common Whitethroat: 2+ en route on 3rd, and 6+ D.
152. Lesser Whitethroat: One at H, 3+ in total on 7th (especially at D) and 2+ at S and WT on 8th.
153. Barred Warbler: One heard calling twice and seen very briefly in flight at D.
154. Willow Warbler: One h singing at CD, one at V and 2 in hotel trees at MS on 3rd.
155. [Common] Chiffchaff: One h singing at CF, one h at V, then daily from 5th - 8th, with max. 3+ S and WT on 8th.
156. Wood Warbler: Singles h singing at CF, DD on 4th and S on 5th.
157. Firecrest: Singles singing DD on 4th and S on 5th, with 3+ at S on 8th giving fine views.
158. Goldcrest: 3+ h singing S on 5th, and singles h singing there on 7th and 8th.
159. Spotted Flyctcher: One at H and one en route on 2nd, 2+ at BF, and 1 h at S on 5th.
160. [European] Pied Flycatcher: At least 1 male and 1 female at H.
161. Collared Flycatcher: At least 2 males and 2 females at H, and 2+ at FT.
162. Red-breasted Flycatcher: One female-type at MS on 3rd, 3+ including 2 singing males at FT.
163. Long-tailed Tit: Small numbers of the white-headed europaeus subspecies: 10+ in DD on 4th, 2+ at D and 2 at FT.
164. [Eurasian] Penduline Tit: A nest and two adults at different sites in the DD on 4th.
165. Marsh Tit: 3+ at FT.
166. Coal Tit: Singles at S on 5th and 7th, 10+ in S mountains on 6th and several S and FT on 8th.
167. Great Tit: Noted daily in small number, especially around S.
168. Blue Tit: One at CF, then noted daily from 4th - 7th at a number of sites.
169. Eurasian Treecreeper: One seen by hotel at S on 6th.
170. [Eurasian] Nuthatch: Two+ at FT.
171. Wallcreeper: A superb pair at CT.
172. Eurasian Jay: 3+ at CF, 2+ S mountain forests on 6th, 1 on 7th and 2+ FT.
173. [Spotted] Nutcracker: One perched obligingly on the tip of a conifer at CZ.
174. [Black-billed] Magpie: Widespread in moderate numbers, seen 1st - 5th and 7th.
175. [Eurasian] Jackdaw: Seen in small number daily from 1st - 8th except 6th.
176. Rook: Abundant in lowlands, noted from 1st - 8th, except on 4th and 6th.
177. Hooded Crow: Common and widespread, and noted daily.
178. Common Raven: 3+ at CZ and 3+ at S and FT on 8th.
179. Golden Oriole: 3+ h at CF, 3 at MS and 1 LS on 2nd, 2+ h at E, and 2+ at D.
180. Common Starling: Seen daily in small number from 1st - 7th except for 6th.
181. Yellowhammer: A female at CF, 1+ h at BF, and several at VR.
182. Ortolan Bunting: 10+ including many singing males at BF.
183. Reed Bunting: Three at H, 2+ at V and 3+ in total on 4th.
184. Corn Bunting: Noted quite commonly, especially in steppe areas, and widely, from 1st - 3rd.
185. [Common] Chaffinch: Noted from 1st - 8th, except 2nd, at various sites; commonest DD and S.
186. European Serin: Just one h at S on 8th.
187. [European] Greenfinch: Seen in small number on 3 days, on 1st, 2nd and 5th.
188. [European] Goldfinch: Noted widely in small number, on 1st, 3rd - 5th and 7th.
189. [Common] Linnet: Seen on 2 days: 2 at CD and 4 in S mountains on 6th.
190. [Eurasian] Bullfinch: Several heard and 2 seen very briefly SD, and 2 at FT.
191. Hawfinch: Sadly elusive!: 1 at CF, and 5+ at D.
192. Red Crossbill: 10+ at CZ and 2 at S on 7th.
193. House Sparrow: Noted commonly and widely every day.
194. Spanish Sparrow: 5+ at both OF Terminal and CF.
195. Tree Sparrow: Widespread and noted on 6 days, with max. 100+ behind hotel at DD on 4th.
Thus, counting only the traditionally accepted species, we recorded an incredible 195 species during the trip (we missed Curlew, Slender-billed Gull, Sanderling and Wren off the list during the log-calls).
Eastern Hedgehog: Two dead on road on 2nd and one on 3rd.
Brown Hare: Singles on 3rd and 5th.
Red Squirrel: One black one at S on 5th, one in S mountains on 6th and 4 around S on 8th.
European Souslik: Plenty on steppes around CD, 3+ en route on 3rd and a few en route on 5th.
Muskrat: One or two at V, then several in DD on 4th.
Wood Mouse: One at S on 5th.
Brown Bear: Just amazing! 6 near S on 5th, 10+ the following night, but just 1 on 7th.
Red Fox: 1 in DD on 3rd and 3+ near S on 7th.
Western Polecat: One very briefly on roadside on 5th at S.
Wild Boar: One young one 'paddling' in DD on 4th.
Red Deer: One at CF, then 2 at E.
AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES :
Alpine Newt (Triturus alpestris) - 3 in a shallow pool at CZ.
Common Toad (Bufo bufo) - 1 in a puddle by roadside near S.
Green Toad (Bufo viridis) - singles trilling at MS on 2nd and VR.
Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata) - a few in a pool at D.
Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina) - several h at CM, lots h at DD on 4th and 5th, when 1 also caught.
'Orange-bellied Toad' - several in shallow pool at CZ.
Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) - several h calling at CF, and lots in DD on 4th.
Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) - heard commonly almost anywhere from 1st - 8th, except on 6th, with loud choruses very notable in lowland areas, e.g. CM, MS and DD.
Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca) - 5 on 1st at various sites and 1 on 3rd at BF.
European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis) - one at V.
Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) - 2+ on 1st, but 6+ at BF.
Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) - 2 near LB and 10+ at V.
Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) - 2 small ones at CF and 2 tiny ones dead at V.
BUTTERFLIES & MOTHS:
Swallowtail - 2 at CF, various at V and a couple at WT
Scarce Swallowtail - 1 at CF, and 2+ at BF
Small White - several in DD on 4th
Green-veined White - 1 at CF
Orange-tip - a male and a female at CF, and several at D
Brimstone - a female at CF, a male at BF and 2+ at D
Common Blue - 2+ at CF, 1 at BF and 2 at D
Peacock - one at D
Red Admiral - 1 at CF
Large Tortoiseshell - one at VR
Dingy Skipper - 2+ at CF
Mountain Ringlet - 3+ at VR.
Also a Giant Peacock moth at DD on 5th.