TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
29th April - 7th May 2001
Oana Coinac ("Wana")
+ guest appearances by Elena Roberts...
Firstly, I'd like to say that it was a pleasure leading you all on such an enjoyable and interest-filled trip.
There is no question that the smooth running of the trip was down to James' and Oana's fine efforts and organisational skills, not only to get around, but also with aspects such as the timely drinks and lunches and the good food we ate.
Finally, my sincere apologies for the delay in getting this report to you, but on my return home was faced with a computer virus and (a thankfully already over) family problem to resolve. I missed my report-writing 'window' between trips, but can now concentrate on writing it up now that I'm home in June...
I very much look forward to seeing you again soon.
Sunday 29th April
We met by the check-in counter at the airport before our morning flight out. Arriving to warm and sunny conditions at Otopeni airport, Bucharest, we were met by a small gang of 'porters' whose main job was to extract as much cash out of us as possible for minimal effort, which they did fairly well. However, they did help load up the roof-rack, so I wasn't complaining too much...
We drove into Bucharest, where James stopped twice to give us a brief tour of the city highlights plus a potted history of the more notable historic events, before we headed to the hotel.
Our excellent evening meal out, where we also met Oana and Elena, was at a splendid venue where behind a sliding door with peeling black paint in deep shadow, opened by pulling a bell three times, we were waited on by ladies in black... The strings of garlic on the walls and dimly lit cavern below set the scene, while a 'surprise' visitor from Transylvania made an appearance...
Monday 30th April
Up for a prompt breakfast, and we soon packed to be on our way on our transfer to the Black Sea coast. Little was visible in Bucharest and the cool, overcast and misty start didn't exactly bode well, though once we passed Plevna, a number of waders in a roadside stream provided our first excuse to stop.
Feeding in the marsh were a number of Wood Sandpipers, but plenty of other birds put in an appearance, starting with a fine male Red-backed Shrike, 2 'grunching' Great Reed Warblers, while some sparrows in poplars behind us included a male Spanish Sparrow and a hybrid 'Italian' Sparrow! Suddenly, a pair of falcons chasing through the trees revealed themselves to be Hobbies, quickly followed by a third, with two Cuckoos also flying past and then 2 Syrian Woodpeckers putting in a brief appearance. It was difficult to leave, though 2 Sousliks delayed us even further, though on we went as the weather gradually improved.
Our next stop was more planned, at the Calasari marsh. Stepping out of the minibus, we were surrounded by a loud chorus of Marsh Frogs and Fire-bellied Toads, though given the number of birds it was difficult to know where to look!
One group started watching some waders and a Little Egret in one pool while the others concentrated on the reedy pond closer to hand. Here, Ferruginous Duck, Black-necked Grebes, a male Garganey and the first of several Purple and Squacco Herons were admired, though as we joined to watch the other group, so the summer-plumaged Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Terns and also Ruff they were watching were enjoyed by all. A single Temminck's Stint trying to hide at the back kindly came much closer, though some Whiskered Terns vied for attention.
Time was already beginning to run away from us, so we forced ourselves back into the bus. However, we didn't get far before pulling over to the side to get very close views of a large flock of marsh terns hawking over the reed-filled pool. While most were Whiskered, there were good numbers of White-winged and also a few Black Terns, giving a magnificent display. Other birds received a little attention, especially several Red-footed Falcons hawking overhead and 2 fly-by Rollers! Again, just as we tried to drag ourselves away, so a large raptor drifted over, just in time to be seen by all - a Lesser Spotted Eagle!
We 'hurried' down to the edge of the Danube at the Ostrov Ferry, only to find we'd 'just missed the boat', but this gave us time for a drink, where despite the military presence, we were invited to wander round as long as we didn't take any photo's. Tree Sparrows and some more Spanish Sparrows were new to some, while the hot sun had brought out a number of butterflies including several whites and lots of Dingy Skippers. A singing Nightingale attracted most attention however as it perched in the open on several occasions for all to come and admire. Teasing us, a Pygmy Cormorant flew behind the trees as it headed upriver, though best was a small group of birds passing high over just as we were trying to board - 4 Dalmatian Pelicans!
The crossing provided little except some 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. We then pressed on to a stop deep in the woods in the at Canaraua Fetei Valley for lunch after an 'interesting' drive, though the 'ten' minutes we had while the food was set out revealed a wealth of surprises. Firstly, several Red-rumped Swallows graced the crags in front, while two more Lesser Spotted Eagles passing over pulled up two others from the woodland, and while watching these, 2 Alpine Swifts flew into the view! A brief Long-legged Buzzard drifted over, a Golden Oriole sang from the trees and a rustling in the grass revealed a large, though rather smelly Spur-thighed Tortoise! Repeated "LUNCH!!!" calls were now heard so we thought we'd better participate...
Even during lunch however we had to remain alert, the biggest surprise being listening to two different owls! Firstly, two single hoots signalled the presence of an Eagle Owl (I'm now 100% certain having heard tapes of this and Ural Owl, I think I'm used to birds with a Spanish and not Romanian accent... J ), while even more surprisingly, a Scops Owl 'peeped' from its daytime cover for some time! We walked back through the wood, listening to more Golden Orioles, Greenfinch, 2 Wood Warblers, Jay and Spotted Flycatcher as we went meeting James on a more solid part of the track. The metallic-green Maybugs here were also fascinating as they zoomed around the forest.
We decided on one quick last stop, walking down through drained fishponds to look over the edge of Lake Iortmat, where a couple of Squacco Herons and Cuckoos kept us occupied, though a Quail which flushed from a bank was very well seen in flight.
We finally called it a day and headed off to our surprisingly busy hotel on the Black Sea coast at Mamaia-Sat - it was a bank holiday weekend after all.
What an amazing first day, the log-call taking quite some time!
Tuesday 1st May
The day dawned clear and fine, so no hoped-for 'falls' of birds in the scrub, but visible migration of a variety of birds was still evident, with numerous hirundines, marsh terns, Common Swifts and Rollers all passing northwards.
Unfortunately, the beach was being graded in preparation for the day's sunbathers, so very few birds were close-by, though intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull and a flock of scoter offshore were of note. The fairly fresh remains of a dead Harbour Porpoise on the beach was of special interest however.
The noise form the machines drove us a little further and we found a flooded patch behind the beach where Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper and Short-toed Lark were all found, though continued migration included a fine male Montagu's Harrier and just as we neared the hotel before breakfast, 3 close Rollers and two Caspian Terns passed overhead!
Breakfast was welcome, though afterwards as we tried to board the bus to leave, a snatch of song revealed a male non-red-breasted Red-breasted Flycatcher in the hotel grounds which was eventually seen by all. We headed for Vadu, though several Calandra Larks and a Hoopoe further delayed our arrival to the marsh area. Where to look was the recurrent problem! Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes perched on concrete posts and on wires, a few Northern Wheatears and 2 Tawny Pipits, all cried for attention, but the waders stole the show. Visible from just a few yards of road, Marsh Sandpiper, Temminck's and Little Stints, c. 10 Red Knot, Ruff and two of Black-tailed Godwit delighted us all, though a fine supporting cast was made up by Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Common Shelduck!
Not everything was on the ground however, with Rollers and Red-footed Falcons passing over intermittently, 2 Dalmatian Pelicans moving between fishing pools, and the sounds of booming Great Bittern and reeling Savi's Warblers adding to the variety. A flock of Spoonbills, glowing white in the sun spiralled up high overhead, while the 'finale' here was the sight of a group of Greylag Geese flying off, dwarfed by a flock of Great White Pelicans going over!
We forced ourselves down to some old settlement pools, where despite the antics of some day-trippers to spoil the fun, a large Common Tern colony provided plenty of interest. Other birds picked out here included several Little Terns, Little Gulls, Collared Pratincoles, all three marsh terns and 2 Spotted and several Common Redshanks. The sights and sounds of the flocks going up and around as the 4WD circumnavigated the pond will remain a vivid memory.
Tony had gone off for a spot of undisturbed photography on an adjacent pool, but his wild arm-flailing signified something out of the ordinary. "White-tailed Plover" came across on the breeze and we shot across to take a look. There, amazingly, following last year's first successful breeding of the species in Europe in Romania, were at least 5 adults, some stalking around in the shallows and mud (with a Temminck's Stint at their feet barely noticed!), while 2 'lazed around' on top of a the bank amongst the flowers. Dropping down, we moved around to get the sun behind us and hopefully some super photos... Walking back to the bus elated, 5 more Rollers passing over highlighted the massive passage of the species going on.
We moved on towards another coastal stop, this time at Histria, where as lunch we laid out, so we admired the extraordinary sight of clouds of thousands of Sand Martins around us. As were getting out of the vans though, so I received a bit of a shock as something tickled, and as I looked down, so a long brown invertebrate leg reached up over the back of my hand! Fortunately, though I jumped, the animal didn't and we all got to admire a fine Horned Praying Mantis (Empusa pennata), first in the hand, then in the grass as we released it unharmed.
We split our time between looking at fishing Great White Pelicans, a fly-over Great White Egret, singing Great and Eurasian Reed Warblers and a couple of Bearded Tits in adjacent reeds. apart from a short walk through reed-marsh, where we flushed a Common Snipe, we continued to scan a few more pools and channels, where 2 more Marsh Sandpipers, 4 Kentish Plovers, 4 Gull-billed Terns and a pair of Red-crested Pochards were of special note.
We now couldn't ignore the clamours for drinks and ice-creams so continued to the carpark and bar at the end, where large numbers of people were milling about. While some elected to take a walk round the ruins of the ancient town of Histria, so the rest of us prepared to relax. However, as last year, the "lone tree" in the fenced-off garden proved to be a migrant magnet, containing one female Pied, a male and 2 female Collared and 2 Spotted Flycatchers, c. 6 Willow Warblers, a male Common Redstart, a female Blackcap, and incredibly, below it, a Thrush Nightingale resting in full view for c. 15 minutes!!! And all this from the edge of the carpark while trying not to drip drinks onto the optics...!
With a little time left, we detoured back towards Cheia Dobrogea, a patchily wooded and rocky valley in grassy steppe country to look for a couple of specialities. Our plans were somewhat thwarted however, for as we approached the site, so the traffic began to build, and as we came round the corner to enter the gorge, so we were left aghast at the sight of several thousand picnicking Romanians spread all over the site! "So much for being a nature reserve!" commented James. As if this were not enough, so we got caught up in a traffic jam to get through it! Naturally, we aborted the attempt and headed for the hotel, where large numbers of revellers were also present, though thankfully not until late...
The log call was also naturally rather long given the variety of birds seen, with a tremendous total of 111 species for the day...
Wednesday 2nd May
Whilst some went for a pre-breakfast walk, others tried to catch up on some sleep, hence reports of 5 Oystercatchers, various gulls and terns, and a light passage of hirundines. However, at least the singing Golden Oriole was audible from bed...
A relatively early exit after a 7:30 breakfast and a return to Cheia Dobrogea for a second attempt. A totally different scene greeted us, though litter and an active 'boom-box' were legacies of the previous day's festivities. The wildlife was not so perturbed though, and there were dozens of Sousliks to enjoy as they scuttled around or stood on their hind legs watching us.
We climbed up to a high point as the first thermals were teasing up a few raptors, and a passing female Montagu's Harrier was soon followed by two fine Long-legged Buzzards over adjacent woodland, though as these came down to wander round in a field, so attention turned to the interesting spectacle of a Lesser Spotted Eagle being mobbed by a group of Hooded Crows. Small birds were also noted though, with a nearby Crested Lark, and the melancholy song of a male Ortolan Bunting perched in a small dead tree as accompaniment to modern Turkish rap...
We walked down to the main part of the gorge, watching a couple of pairs of Northern Wheatears en route, though a superb male Pied Wheatear stole the show as he flicked from rock to rock.
As we were transferring to the north, so we got some mileage under our belt, but headed for another fine lunch stop on the edge of the Babadag Forest, but not before we'd admired several Calandra Larks and a Red Fox en route.
Wandering round the scrub before and after lunch revealed a wealth of species, including a fine singing male Barred Warbler, Sombre Tit, Honey and Common Buzzards for comparison, and for one lucky individual, a female Levant's Sparrowhawk! Butterflies, plants and reptiles also added to the all-round interest of the site though, with several Balkan Green Lizards, Pale or Berger's Clouded Yellows, Scarce Swallowtails and Dingy Skippers common. A Red-winged Grasshopper on the track was an intriguing find. Botanical highlights, especially among the abundant Firebush (Cotinus coggygria) included Lady, Monkey, Greater Butterfly and Green-winged Orchids, Sword-leaved and Violet Helleborines, while in more open areas, the large, yellow-flowered pheasant's-eye Adonis vernalis , red-flowered Adonis annua, both blue and yellow-flowered forms of Iris pumila., and the short, yellow-flowered Ground-pine (Ajuga chaemaepitys) The strange brown-flowered plant with dark-veined petals appears to be a species of Hesperis, possibly tristis, though quite unlike the Dame's-violet we're used to in the UK.
Leaving somewhat reluctantly, we went further north, stopping at Enisala to watch over a loess pit, where c. 6 delightful Bee-eaters played in the air currents, a pair of Rollers sat in full sun to be admired in the scope, a Great White Egret fished below us, a Common Gull dropped-in to bathe, a male Marsh Harrier drifted past, and after some wading around in a leech-ridden pool, a Grass Snake and Fire-bellied Toad were caught for all to admire at close range.
The excitement and expectation were mounting, so we transferred the short distance to our final stop for a few days, Tulcea, the gateway to the Danube Delta. After a few minutes of organising, the luggage was unloaded from the van and handed to the crew of a tug, onto which they, and we, were soon loaded. A short transfer downstream to our floating hotel, or 'ponton', and we were soon away, heading E towards the delta... We rapidly installed ourselves, and although I thought that I was quick, I came back onto the viewing deck to find most with glasses already in hand - of both sorts!
Not too many birds species were noted, but a pair of White Wagtails accompanied us, while riverside wires produced and extraordinary number of Rollers and Cuckoos, Common Terns and Red-footed Falcons passed occasionally, a few Caspian Gulls were noted and as we reached shallowly flooded meadows, so a few Glossy Ibis, Little Egrets and Squacco Herons appeared. True to James's prediction, we had also seen Pygmy Cormorant fly-over before a fine dinner of Wels catfish.
A remarkable day, though after we'd moored in the dark, the remarkable sound of thousands of Marsh and Tree Frogs was surprisingly easy to fall asleep to.
Thursday 3rd May
Here we were, deep in the Delta in one of Europe's greatest wild areas, and anxious to explore. A pre-breakfast wobble across the gang-plank to watch from outside a partially-built hotel was rewarded with a singing male Common Redstart. Although few birds seemed to around, quality was high as a Grey-headed Woodpecker flew onto some logs, while its mate appeared later on some nearby dead willows. Several Rollers battled with Jackdaws for nest-sites and as we returned to the ponton, a Kingfisher put in a brief appearance while Golden Orioles sang from the far bank. A Poplar Hawkmoth by the front lights was moved to a rather safer position.
We unhitched from our moorings over breakfast and began a cruise down channels, seeing gradually more as we went. A few Red-footed Falcons and Eurasian Hobbies were noted, but Cuckoos and Rollers were almost never out of sight on the wires, Redstarts sang at regular intervals and a few Penduline Tits called from the willows, though resolutely refused to show. Not surprisingly, however, water birds were the most notable, with Pygmy and Great Cormorants sitting on channel-side trees or fishing along the woodland edges. Both Purple and Grey Herons stalked the shallows, along with occasional Great White and Little Egrets and rather more Squacco Herons. The sunny conditions provided opportunities to study the green and copper sheens on the Glossy Ibis, while the first Black-crowned Night Herons, many in full breeding plumage were also picked out, hiding in or under bushes along the banks. A noisy group of Black-headed Gulls and Whiskered Terns, provided alternative interest, with a large number of Common Terns perched on overhead wires being an odd sight, while a group of larger gulls were mostly adult Caspian Gulls, with their long bills and 'nosy' appearance.
Having cruised for some time, we moored beside Mila 23 and transferred to the tug. Taking a small side-channel, so we headed for Lake Ligheanca, where among the numerous Great Crested were a couple of fine Red-necked Grebes. The hoped-for pelicans were off fishing elsewhere though. Back to the ponton where we were delayed slightly as lunch (freshly caught) was brought onboard, several watched as a 4'-long Grass Snake slithered out onto a frog-covered log before disappearing into cracks in the bank.
We continued on, with more views of most of the same species until lunch, though during which we transferred into rather narrower and clean-water channels. Increased amounts of reedbed and increased numbers of waterbirds were immediately evident, Greylag Geese, several ducks, Moorhens, Coot and even a Little Grebe or two appearing, while Red-necked Grebes became ever commoner. Occasional Grey-headed Woodpeckers called from the fringing willows. The lunch, of soup followed by a platter of Wels catfish, carp and pike, followed by chicken was just amazing, especially given A. the size of the kitchen, and B. the size of the chef occupying it leaving little room for anything else. This sent James down for a sneaky siesta, but also heralded some fantastic birding, with a wide range of waterfowl in small number providing almost constant interest, though a large raptor off to one side spotted by George was an immature White-tailed Eagle, a corvid-like bird noted by John ahead a fine Black Woodpecker glimpsed again in a bush as we chugged past, a Grey-headed Woodpecker clinging to a willow in the open, and even a fly-by Little Bittern. As if this wasn't enough, as we came round a bend, so a large raptor perched in a tree ahead turned into a superb adult White-tailed Eagle, and despite flying off was visible again perched in another dead tree-top off to the side. Other wildlife interest included numbers of snakes swimming across the channels, and a Muskrat on a log.
Unbeknown to us, we were now close to the Ukrainian border, and though several hours of daylight were left, we moored-up for the night beside a tiny plot of formerly cultivated land, where there was a fine display of Birthwort (Aristolochia clematitis).
We chugged off in the tug again for some more birding. Another adult White-tailed Eagle sat in an arable field off to one side, a pair of Red-crested Pochards graced the channel ahead and more Red-necked Grebes and a few Black-crowned Night Herons gave excellent views as the cruised past to the squeals of a few Water Rails. As we came back on a circular route, so we moored by the open fields to take a short stroll on terra firma. The White-tailed Eagle flew up a couple of times before flying across in front at close range, while a Lesser Spotted Eagle, followed shortly after by a Honey Buzzard also gave excellent views. A very close Grey-headed Woodpecker played hide-and-seek in willows just on front, though we were then shepherded off the area by some rather bemused border guards given the close proximity to the readily visible Ukraine.
Back at the ponton, a queen Hornet in the bathroom delayed showers, while the muggy conditions heralded a summer shower rolling in, though not before drinks were enjoyed on deck. The orderly and civilised queuing for the shower unfortunately left Rosemary in the right place but at the wrong time when a Black Woodpecker flew in at close range to smash a large stump to bits for a few minutes in an adjacent meadow. We rounded off the day with a mercifully light dinner and went off to bed to chorus of frogs and Fire-bellied Toads, though the odd mosquito reminded us of the fame of the area in summer...
Friday 4th May
We pulled away from our moorings at 5:45 and chugged back towards Tulcea, noting large numbers of Kingfishers and several warblers, including a Garden Warbler, while at least one Thrush Nightingale sang from scrub. Sleeping until late, I met the group at breakfast, though with Tulcea almost already in sight!
James retrieved the vehicle rapidly, we loaded up and were off smartly along good roads. Given the good time, we stopped for a "half-a-mile" walk through tall woodland on the NW part of the Babadag Forest, James having gone on to meet us at the far end. Although birds were audible, they were surprisingly difficult to spot on many occasions, though Eurasian Nuthatches, Great Tits, and singing Wood Warblers and Blackcaps were well seen. Suddenly, a large grey bird flapped-off almost silently up into the tree-tops, leaving doubt as to its identity. We crept back through the carpet of woodland plants and flowers including Coralroot (Cardamine bulbifera) and Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) to scan almost tree-by-tree, and there it was, a superb grey-phase Tawny Owl, perched high in the canopy for all to admire. We continued, eventually emerging from a gorgeous piece of woodland having listened to singing Lesser Whitethroat, Collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers and a calling Grey-headed Woodpecker, only to find that George, who'd gone on ahead, had seen a Black Woodpecker and Wood Lark! A bite of cake and a drink were warmly welcomed, though more than one comment noting "Remind me never to go on a walking trip with James" was heard...
A few birds were present along the roadsides, including Roller, Red-backed and a Lesser Grey Shrike, and Cuckoos, with a flooded field by the R. Danube at Giurgeni producing a large number of Little Egrets, and several White Storks and Glossy Ibis.
Our lunch stop at Andrăşeşti almost immediately produced singing Barred Warbler and Red-backed Shrike. A calling Pheasant and later a singing Thrush Nightingale added further interest, though a heavy rain shower caused mild amusement and a rapid turn-around, but ensured speedy progress.
I suppose that the rest of the day was fairly uneventful (asleep in the back it was difficult to tell!), and we reached Sinaia in heavy rain. However, any dampened spirits were soon lifted when we saw Oana's smiling figure, and we installed into a separate and private section of the hotel. In addition, a magnificent brew-up of tea (thanks to all) provided a chance to relax and chat.
Dinner was preceded by a drink in the bar, though was followed by a quick change of clothes before we headed off into the depths of the Transylvanian woodlands in the pitch-black. Our destination had a particular fragrance, as mist and smoke swirled over a local rubbish tip... However, the area is a hotspot for Brown Bears, and though visibility was poor to start with, it soon cleared and we got several views, firstly close, but briefly, then later at range in the spotlight.
Everyone finally got reasonable views, though as we turned and started to pull out of the tip, so two cubs, feeding on the edge of the track seemed to jump out into our path and gave us some excellent views for several minutes dead-ahead at close range!
Saturday 5th May
A pre-breakfast walk was a good introduction to the cool conditions prevalent at higher altitude here, and although there were relatively few species, Gold- and Firecrest, Fieldfare, and Lesser Whitethroat reflected this complete change, further emphasised by the local houses with their distinctive architecture.
We left for a full day in the mountains, mercifully largely fine and dry, despite forecast of rain for two days! We climbed up through beech, then mixed, then pure spruce forest, onto a sometimes bumpy track, up over a pass then down into a high valley, into which fed some deep gorges.
We took the short walk from the vehicle into the Cheile Zanoagei (gorge), where almost immediately, a group of Alpine Swifts 'trilled' their way up and down the gorge, and a pair of Grey Wagtails graced the river. The track, though difficult, looked promising, so we continued. This looked like a good decision as Oana called out "Wallcreeper" as a tiny speck fluttered across at great height from side to the other, but was lost amongst the huge expanses of rock above. However, we contented ourselves with looking at the local flora and non-avian fauna, including Mezereon, Hepatica, a delicate blue-flowered anemone, an Agile Frog, odd snails and a Glow-worm.
We moved on to another likely location, passing a largely empty reservoir until reaching the low, narrow Cheile Tatarului gorge where a stream fed in. here we stood, scanning the rocks in hope, though a brief Dipper and a Black Kite crossing rapidly over provided some relief. However, after c. 30 minutes we decided to move on to one last site, but as we turned to head to the vehicles, so a pair of Wallcreepers flew high past, but landed to give intermittent views above, eventually to all. Feeling satisfied, I headed back towards the vehicle, only to have a second pair fly in and land in front giving superb views for c. 5 minutes! Elated, we started back to the vans, Patience even giving me a hug for having finally seen the species after so many attempts, only to have the remarkable sight a male Sparrowhawk flying up the gorge towards us, being mobbed by a male Wallcreeper in a truly spectacular red, black and white display-flight! This over, he decided to land on a tiny ledge for c. 20 minutes, though when not moving was almost impossible to pick out. A wing-stretch at one point produced a high ranking in the 'Ohh / Ahh' stakes from the group...
Lunch was taken at a 'cabana' surrounded by wooded ridges, though as we had plenty of time, James took us up again to a 'new' locality on the upper edge of the tree-line in the hope of one or two special species and some fantastic views. As we pulled up to park, so a woodpecker flew out of a nearby dead tree, revealing a white back, but was only seen by me...
No sign after we were out, though, so we climbed gently up a track, noting Common Kestrels and the alpestris race of Ring Ouzels below us, though a small bird which flew across to land on a rock outcrop was revealed as an Alpine Accentor in the scope! A singing pipit landed in a tree and we were all able to watch a fine Water Pipit, though a Chiffchaff which passed it at one point seemed decidedly out of place. George had taken the option to sit in front of the van, looking out over some superb views ahead, and later perfectly described a Three-toed Woodpecker which had flown past in front...
We cut out a couple of curves in the track by walking down a short section of track, where several colourful Alpine Newts provided an interesting distraction. he rest of the route down was fairly uneventful except for some excellent and prolonged views of a vixen Red Fox feeding off to one side in grass.
Though I can't remember exactly where most were seen, we also saw a number of interesting plants in the area, including Oxlip (Primula elatior), Cowslip (P. veris) and Birdseye Primrose (P. farinosa), Spring Squill (Scilla verna), Crocus ?vernus, Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifage (Chrysosplenium alternifolium), Kingcup (Caltha palustris), and the here pinkish Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria).
We had another fine meal, before going out again to look for bears. There were probably about the same number, though we saw them more often, despite a car containing a photographer present at the far end, possibly using food to attract them closer. The two cubs were again present, and though interesting, it was rather sad to watch them fighting off a group of the local dogs, marks in their hides indicating that they were receiving some punishment.
Sunday 6th May
The pre-breakfast walk was led by James, and in addition to a typical selection of species, a couple of Serins were the highlight.
We left Sinaia and headed north towards Transylvania 'proper', pausing briefly to buy some presents and reminders of our visit, before passing Braşov and towns with a curious and highly distinctive architecture. Reaching the Rotbav Fishponds, we were met by Tudor, a forest engineer who worked in the area, and his girlfriend.
Plans were not quite as hoped, since access to the public part of the ponds was not worth it with dozens of fishermen present, so we eventually made do with being escorted almost to the edge of a private part of the ponds, with an 'escort'. However, all was certainly not lost, with a couple of Lesser Spotted Eagles, singing Common Whitethroat and a pair of Linnets en route and two singing Marsh Warblers finally giving excellent views at close range in small willows in a ditch. Birds in the reeds here included a singing Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting and booming Great Bittern and just visible through the reeds on the edge of the mud were several waders, including Black-winged Stilt, Ruff and Wood Sandpiper. Despite the predominance of Whiskered Terns amongst the terns present, individuals of all three marsh terns were present, a superb White-winged Black Tern being outstanding.
However, the S breeze and warm conditions were also ideal for birds of prey, and as we stood and watched, so a large number of Marsh Harriers and 'Steppe' Buzzards (the east European migratory form of Common Buzzard, though sometimes treated as a different species) passed over, providing multiple opportunities for ID tests... However, other large birds also found the conditions perfect, with a flock of thermalling White Storks and an adult Black Stork which passed close by, followed by two others, though later, three (possibly different) were soaring together... As we turned to leave, so a bird hovering almost overhead caught our eye - a superb and very close Short-toed Eagle, and a big surprise here!
We drove the short distance to the Crizbav Forest, parking at the junction of different tracks where lunch was set out. However, there was lots to see, and while some watched Marsh Tits and listened to Golden Orioles, others concentrated on the lovely butterflies, including eastern species such as Common Glider and Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell, while calls of Slow-worm were misheard as glow-worm, but "Fire Salamander" were not mistaken, a fantastic, large adult found by John swimming in a puddle in the track, despite the dry conditions.
Lunch was hardly straightforward, with a Roe Deer crossing close to, but hiding too well in the adjacent undergrowth, though a wander here revealed a wealth of plants of interest, including Wood Anemone, Wood Sorrel, Solomon's-Seal, May-lily, a yellow-flowered ?Lungwort, Herb Paris, Helleborus purpurascens, Geranium 'xiphioides' and Dusky Geranium (G. phaeum), while Rosemary flushed a Woodcock as she went off on a diversion.
A short drive on and we took a walk up a hill towards a bear monitoring site. The heat and slope rather strung us out, but a fly-over Hawfinch was seen by most and a few singing Garden Warblers were picked out from amongst the Blackcaps. Tudor was now whistling loudly as we approached the site, to help avoid a meeting with a bear, though after a couple of stories regarding their enormous strength and on occasions size, I also felt happier about not meeting one. Here, in a small clearing we picked our way through the rather gruesome remains of various domestic animals picked clean by bear and other scavengers, though the skeleton of a Badger was a curious find. The walk down produced two Wood Larks collecting food for their young and fine views for all at last.
We took one more drive, this time to an area of fairly mature oak woodland, particularly in the search of a woodpecker, but with time to look at the extraordinary damage being wreaked on the oaks by several 'pests' - the large Chafers flying around commonly, plus also the caterpillars of Green Oak Tortrix and a geometrid moth, the 'looper' caterpillars of which were abundant.
After negotiating a couple of small pools filled with Yellow-bellied Toads and a few Alpine Newts, we went to the edge of the forest where a Tree Pipit sang from an exposed branch. The return saw us looking at a large Agile Frog, the traps to measure the frass produced by the caterpillars and though a singing Wood Warbler remained out of sight a Marsh Tit was seen by most right by the vehicle.
We took a final walk into the woods, where a few Hawfinches flitted through the canopy, though proved as elusive as ever, a Eurasian Treecreeper sang a few times before disappearing off, though a 'pik' call stopped us dead in our tracks. Almost immediately, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker flew through the canopy over our heads and out of sight... However, a rapid bit of organisation by James and with a little help from his CD-player, it was rapidly coaxed back into view and then fed and preened visibly for over 10 minutes! Fantastic! Time was now pushing on, but a movement in the vegetation on the way back led to the discovery of a fine European Tree Frog in all its green finery.
Back in Sinaia, we went to a special local restaurant to celebrate our last evening, which was decked out with animal skins, including those of various Brown Bears... The musicians were great and remarkably versatile.
Monday 7th May
We awoke with that 'last day' feeling, but looking forward to some local birding in the forest near the hotel.
On the edge of Sinaia, we noted a typical selection of usual birds, though Firecrest and especially Ring Ouzel and Fieldfare were particularly well seen.
We moved to the northern edge of the town and took a cobbled track up into the forest. This was remarkable, the whole place sounding like an English woodland, with singing Song Thrushes, Robins and Coal Tits, calling Nuthatches, Marsh and Long-tailed Tits and a Eurasian Treecreeper which inched its way up some trees. A few Bullfinches also finally appeared. However, the similarity ended there as the beech and spruce trees towering over us also contained 'cronking' Ravens, a couple of Goldcrests, and a fine male Collared Flycatcher, which was first located on song, but which then showed high on dead twigs, the first for several members of the party. In addition, at least two Red-breasted Flycatchers sang their melancholy song from deep in the beeches, one, without a red breast, being the only one fleetingly visible.
Another call from deep in the woods heralded a Black Woodpecker, but this could not be lured out by whistles.
We loaded up rapidly, bade our farewells to Sinaia, and made our way towards Otopeni airport, buying examples of the local honey from the roadside en route, where the large mobile hives were a fascinating sight. One last stop was in order, to have lunch in a patch of mixed woodland, where Great Spotted Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Blackcap, Nightingale and even a brief chatter from an Icterine Warbler were all noted. A couple of Common Gliders and Swallowtails just helped to round off this all-round wildlife bonanza.
We said goodbye to James and Oana, 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 I'd set ourselves the mental 'target' of seeing as many species as last year, this seemed to be an impossible goal. Remarkably however, we actually saw or heard exactly the same number of species, even though a moderate number of them were different! Not only did we see an exceptional range of birds, and many of these very well (which is more important after all), we equalled the most for any single tour to the country to date and for a Travelling Naturalist group anywhere in Europe! An amazing 195 spp. of birds. I hope the memories remain vivid with you all for a long time to come.
Oh yes, and before I forget, some comments on 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 breeding from the Black Sea eastwards compared to those south and west of this (i.e. the Mediterranean Sea basin). The ones from the Black Sea eastwards would need to be renamed, so Caspian 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-tip pattern to the 'western' Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis). We saw what I would consider to be a several very good examples of Caspian Gull in the Danube Delta, with moderate numbers of what I would consider to be typical Yellow-legged Gulls on the Black Sea coast (Mamaia-Sat), where the latter form breeds. Finally, Caspian Gull is also often referred to as Pontic Gull, just to keep up the confusion!
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), the only one we saw, and a small, very black-backed form which only breeds in the Baltic, now called, not surprisingly, Baltic Gull (Larus fuscus), which occurs in Romania as a migrant.
Romania bird list 29th April - 7th May 2001
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); Plevna/Mihai Viteazu (P); Calasari marsh (CM); Ostrov Ferry (OF); Canaraua Fetei Valley (CF); Lake Iortmat (LI); Mamaia-Sat (MS); Vadu (V); Histria (H); Cheia Dobrogea (CD); Babadag Forest south (BF1); Enisala (E); Tulcea (T); Danube Delta (DD); Lake Ligheanca (LL); Babadag Forest north-west (BF2); Andrăşeşti (A); Sinaia (SI); Cheile Tatarului (CT); Cheile Zanoagei (CZ); Bušegi 'horseshoe' range (BH); Rotbav Fishponds (RF); Crizbav Forest (CV); Sinaia forest track (FT). Common names per Wells' "World Bird Checklist".
1. Little Grebe: Noted on just 2 days, with 1 CM and 2 DD on 3rd.
2. Red-necked Grebe: 40+ in full breeding plumage in DD on 3rd.
3. Great Crested Grebe: Seen on 5 days: 3 at CM, 5+ H, 40+ DD on 3rd, 1+ DD on 4th & 1 RF.
4. Black-necked [Eared] Grebe: 5+ CM, and 2+ MS on 2nd.
5. Great Cormorant: Noted on 5 days: 1 P, 1 CM, 10 OF, 1 LI, several MS on 1st & 2nd, common Histria, and abundant DD.
6. Pygmy Cormorant: 1 OF, and 8+ DD on 2nd, common DD on 3rd & 4th.
7. [Great] White Pelican: Seen on 3 days: c. 500 V & H, 1 E, 15+ DD on 3rd.
8. Dalmatian Pelican: Noted on 2 days: 4 OF, 2 V and 1 H.
9. Grey Heron: Noted on 6 days (30th April - 5th May), with 3 P and 5 en route on 30th, several V and H, lots DD and several RF.
10. Purple Heron: Seen on 5 days: 3+ CM, 1 LI, c. 6 V & H, several E, 10+ DD on 3rd, 15+ DD on 4th.
11. Great White Egret: Seen on 4 days: 1 H, 1 E, c. 10 DD on 3rd & 10+ DD on 4th.
12. Little Egret: Recorded on 5 days: 3+ en route, 1 CM and 1 LI on 30th, 6+ at V & H, 30+ DD on 2nd and 50+ DD on 3rd, and 40+ Giurgeni (by R Danube) on 4th.
13. Squacco Heron: Good numbers: 5+ CM, 2 LI, 10+ V & H, 4 DD on 3rd, 100+ DD on 4th, and plenty DD on 5th.
14. Black-crowned Night Heron: One MS on 1st, 30+ DD on 4th.
15. Little Bittern: One, probably a male in flight DD on 3rd.
16. [Great] Bittern: Singles h booming at V and RF.
17. Black Stork: 3-6 over RF.
18. White Stork: Seen daily from 30th to 5th, (5+) with max. 30+ en route on 30th, and 40+ at RF.
19. Glossy Ibis: In DD, 13+ on 2nd, 150+ on 3rd and several on 4th, several Giurgeni (by R Danube) on 4th and 1 RF.
20. Eurasian Spoonbill: 10 V, 8 H and 1 DD on 3rd.
21. Mute Swan: Seen daily from 30th - 4th, with max. 70+ Topraghiol on 2nd and H and c. 20 DD on 3rd.
22. Greylag Goose: 5 of dubious origen en route on 29th, 35+ V, 2 DD on 2nd and 15+ there on 3rd.
23. Common Shelduck: 12+ V and c. 30+ H.
24. Gadwall: 15+ V & H, 20+ DD on 3rd.
25. Mallard: Seen daily from 30th - 6th, max. 20+ DD on 3rd & 4th.
26. Garganey: One male CM, 3 LI, 1+ V, 6+ H, 1 male E, 1 male DD on 3rd.
27. [Northern] Shoveler: 7+ H.
28. Red-crested Pochard: A pair H, 3 males + a female DD on 3rd.
29. Common Pochard: 3 males + 2 females CM, 2 V, 2+ H, 10+ DD on 3rd and 1 male RF.
30. Ferruginous Duck: Good numbers: 7+ CM, 1+ DD on 2nd and 30+ there on 3rd.
31. Tufted Duck: A male at CM.
32. Scoter sp.: A raft of c. 30 distant ducks at MS on 1st were probably Velvet Scoter and not Common Scoter as noted at the time.
33. [European] Honey Buzzard: 1 BF1, 1 DD on 3rd, 2 BH, 1 RF.
34. Black Kite: Just 2 at BH.
35. White-tailed Eagle: Two adults and 1 - 2 immatures at DD on 3rd.
36. Short-toed Eagle: One wonderfully close at RF.
37. Hen Harrier: A female at CM.
38. Montagu's Harrier: One male MS on 1st, one female CD on 2nd.
39. [Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: One Otopeni Airport on 29th, 1 en route on 30th, 6+ V & H, 1 male E, 6+ DD on 3rd and a remarkable 15+ RF.
40. Levant Sparrowhawk: An all-too-brief female seen by Tony at BF1.
41. Eurasian Sparrowhawk: 2 BH and 1 SI on 5th.
42. Common Buzzard: Seen daily (except 29th) in small number, with max. 10+ DD on 3rd and 10+ RF and other sites on 6th. Most/All were ssp. vulpinus.
43. Long-legged Buzzard: One briefly CF, 5+ CD on 2nd.
44. Lesser Spotted Eagle: One CM, 4 CF, 1 CD, 1 DD on 3rd, c. 6 RF and area on 6th.
45. Booted Eagle: One pale phase and one dark phase bird CF.
46. Common Kestrel: One to four noted daily from 30th - 6th, max. 10+ DD on 3rd and 6+ BH.
47. Red-footed Falcon: Recorded on 5 days: 7+ CM, 2+ OF, 3 MS on 1st, 6 V, 2+ H, 1 female CD, 2+ DD on 2nd, 30+ DD on 3rd and 2 RF.
48. Eurasian Hobby: 3 P, 1 V, 10+ DD on 3rd.
49. Common Quail: 1 in flight LI.
50. Common Pheasant: 3+ CF, 1 MS and 1 en route on 1st, 1 h at MS on 2nd, 3+ DD on 3rd and 1 A.
51. Water Rail: 4+ h 'sharming' DD on 3rd.
52. Moorhen: 3+ P and noted V, H and DD on 3rd.
53. Common Coot: Noted CM (50+), V, H, E, DD (locally abundant) and RF (common).
54. [Eurasian] Oystercatcher: 5 at MS on 2nd.
55. Black-winged Stilt: Two P, several V & H, 4 E, 2+ en route on 4th, and 2 RF.
56. [Pied] Avocet: 6 at V and 20+ at H.
57. Collared Pratincole: 6+ briefly at CM, 50+ at V and 6+ H.
58. [Northern] Lapwing: Small numbers seen on 7 days: max. 4 MS & 20+ H on 1st, 5+ DD on 4th.
59. White-tailed Lapwing: At least 5 adults at V.
60. Little Ringed Plover: 5+ CM, 2 LI, and 6 MS and 10+ V and H.
61. Kentish Plover: One at V, 4 at H.
62. Black-tailed Godwit: Two at V, 40 at H.
63. Spotted Redshank: Just 2 at V.
64. Common Redshank: Just 6 at V.
65. Marsh Sandpiper: One at V, 2 at H; all in summer plumage.
66. Green Sandpiper: Just one at MS on 1st.
67. Wood Sandpiper: 12+ at P, 15+ CM, 5+ MS and 20+ at both V and H on 1st, and 2 at RF.
68. Common Sandpiper: One at CM, 10+ V and 1 DD on 3rd.
69. Common Snipe: 1 at H.
70. Eurasian Woodcock: 1 flushed by Rosemary in the woods at CV.
71. Red Knot: 10 in summer plumage at V.
72. Little Stint: 20+ at CM, c. 20 IL, 40+ V, 25+ H and 100 RF.
73. Temminck's Stint: A good total: 1 CM and 3+ V.
74. Curlew Sandpiper: 20 mostly in summer plumage at CM, 15 V, 20 H, 10 RF.
75. Ruff: Moderate numbers on passage: 5+ CM, 50+ V, 200+ H and c. 15 RF.
76. Common Gull: A sub-adult at E.
77. Yellow-legged Gull: Plenty, of all ages, along the coast at MS, V and H from 30th - 2nd. Most looked like typical ssp. michahellis. See comments in text about these forms/species. 2+ birds in Bucharest and those at OF apparently of this form, but not seen sufficiently well.
78. Caspian Gull: All/Most in DD from 2nd - 4th with characters of this form, also 2 at E. Often now considered to be a different species.
79. Lesser Black-backed Gull: A single adult ssp. intermedius at MS on 1st.
80. Black-headed Gull: Seen daily from 30th - 4th and on 6th, with just 15 at E and 30+ at RF.
81. Mediterranean Gull: Just 1 adult in the DD on 3rd.
82. Little Gull: 6+ resting in tern colony at V, 7 imm. feeding over RF.
83. Whiskered Tern: 200+ CM, 50+ at V & H, 2 at E, 100+ DD on 3rd, 30+ DD on 4th and c. 20 RF.
84. White-winged Black Tern: 150+ and CM, 100's on passage through MS, V and H, and 1 at RF.
85. Black Tern: The least common marsh tern: 1+ CM, 20+ V, 20+ DD on 3rd, and 25+ RF.
86. Gull-billed Tern: 4 rather distant birds at H.
87. Caspian Tern: 2 migrants almost over hotel at MS early on 1st were a nice surprise.
88. Common Tern: Common and widespread in small number, both on inland lakes and coastal sites, seen daily from 30th - 4th; max. 30+ at V and 100+ DD on 3rd.
89. Little Tern: 6 at V and 2 at MS on 2nd.
90. Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon: Noted daily, all were Feral Pigeons of some type.
91. Stock Dove: One DD on 2nd, and 3 DD on 3rd.
92. Wood Pigeon: 4+ DD on 3rd and seen there on 4th, and 2 CV.
93. European Turtle Dove: Very few: 3 MS and 2 V on 1st, and 2 en route on 2nd.
94. [Eurasian] Collared Dove: Noted abundantly, widely and daily. AKA "Romanian sky-rat".
95. Common Cuckoo: Surprising numbers. Noted on all full days, with max. 15+ on 1st, c. 10 on 2nd, and 35+ in DD on 3rd.
96. European Scops Owl: One h at CF early afternoon!
97. Eagle Owl: One also h at CF early afternoon!
98. Tawny Owl: A lovely grey phase bird in BF2 on 4th.
99. Alpine Swift: 2 at CF and 12+ at BH (CZ).
100. Common Swift: Seen daily except in DD on 3rd and 4th, with moderate passage along Black Sea coast on 30th - 2nd.
101. Common Kingfisher: 20+ DD on 3rd and 30+ there on 4th.
102. European Bee-eater: 2 en route on 30th, 6 at E, and 2 at CV.
103. European Roller: Excellent numbers: 9+ various sites on 30th, 25+ on 1st, 2 at E and 6+ DD on 2nd, 60+ DD on 3rd and 10+ (mostly in DD) on 4th.
104. [Eurasian] Hoopoe: One (seen by Tony) in Bucharest on 29th, 1 CM and 2 en route on 30th, 2 V, 5+ H, 1 CD, 1 E, 1 DD on 2nd, 4+ DD on 3rd and 1 h CV.
105. Three-toed Woodpecker: One high in mountains at BH seen by JM and George.
106. Middle Spotted Woodpecker: A fine male watched at length in oaks at CV.
107. Syrian Woodpecker: Just 2 (an adult + fledgling) at P.
108. Great Spotted Woodpecker: 2+ at CF, 2+ DD on 3rd, 1+ BF2, 2+ CV, and 1+ en route on 7th.
109. Black Woodpecker: 2 in DD on 3rd, 1 seen by George in BF2, and one heard calling FT.
110. Grey-headed Woodpecker: Approx. 10 in DD on 3rd, one h BF2 , 1 h BH and 1 h CV.
111. Calandra Lark: 6+ at V, 10+ along roads north of CD on 2nd.
112. [Greater] Short-toed Lark: Just one at MS on 1st.
113. Crested Lark: 2 en route on 30th, 2 at V, 1 at H and a few en route on 1st, 2 CD and 1 en route on 2nd and 1 en route on 7th.
114. Wood Lark: One BF2 (George) and 2 CV.
115. [Eurasian] Sky Lark: Noted on 5 days with a max. 6+ on 1st.
116. [European] Sand Martin: 5+ LI, 5000+ H, a few CD and 2+ at E on 2nd, and 10+ DD on 3rd.
117. Barn Swallow: Noted daily in variable number. Notable passage along Black Sea coast, especially at MS.
118. Red-rumped Swallow: 5+ around crags at CF and 2 en route nr BF2.
119. [Common] House Martin: Noted daily, with notable passage at MS, etc.
120. Yellow Wagtail: Very few really good sightings, but noted on 6 days. 1 LI, 2+ H, present MS and en route on 2nd, 2+ DD on 3rd, 10+ RF and seen en route on 7th. Most remained unidentified at subspecific level, but ssp. flava and ssp. thunbergi were seen.
120a. Black-headed Wagtail: 10+ at V and H, several MS on 2nd, and 1 at RF. This is sometimes now considered to be a separate species.
121. White Wagtail: Noted daily and widely in small number from 30th - 6th.
122. Grey Wagtail: Six at BH (both CT and CZ), 2+ SI on 6th, and 1 at CV.
123. Tawny Pipit: Two at V, 1 at CD on 2nd.
124. Tree Pipit: Two at MS and 2 h at V on 2nd, 2 in BH and 1 at CV.
125. Water Pipit: 3+ in alpine grassland at BH.
126. Red-backed Shrike: Good numbers this year: seen on 30th - 4th and 6th, with small numbers at P, CF, V, MS, BF1, DD, A and CV.
127. Lesser Grey Shrike: Many fewer than R-b. Shrike, but 4 at V, 1 at H, and also 1 en route on 2nd.
128. White-throated Dipper: Two on stream in BH (at CT).
129. [Winter] Wren: 6+ h along FT on 7th.
130. Alpine Accentor: 1-2 high in BH.
131. Hedge Accentor [Dunnock]: 2+ SI and 3+ BH on 5th, 1 SI on 6th and several SI on 6th.
132. Ring Ouzel: Six+ in BH and 2+ SI on 7th.
133. [Common] Blackbird: Widespread in small numbers, and noted on 29th, 30th, and 2nd - 7th at various sites.
134. Fieldfare: Three - 4+ seen daily at SI from 4th - 7th, plus 1 en route on 5th.
135. Song Thrush: Noted on 5 days in forested areas: 5+ CF, and at SI on 4th - 7th.
136. Mistle Thrush: Just 2+ in alpine meadows at BH.
137. [European] Robin: Two+ at CF, and daily SI from 4th - 7th.
138. Thrush Nightingale: A superb bird perched in the open at H, and 1 h singing during lunch at A.
139. Common Nightingale: Heard singing widely in moderate number from 30th - 4th and on 7th, max. 10+ at BF1.
140. Black Redstart: 6+ in BH and noted SI on 6th.
141. Common Redstart: 2 at H, 20+ in DD on 3rd, a male at SI on 7th.
142. Whinchat: 2 at V and 3 at CD on 1st and 3 at BF1.
143. Northern Wheatear: Noted on 5 days: 1 en route on 30th, 1 pair at V, and lots at H, 2 pairs CD on 2nd, a surprise female in DD on 3rd and 3 BH.
144. Pied Wheatear: A stunning male at CD on 2nd.
145. Bearded Tit: 2+ at V and 5+ H.
146. Savi's Warbler: One h singing at V and 2 h singing at H.
147. Sedge Warbler: Just one, singing at RF.
148. [European] Marsh Warbler: Great views of three+ singing in bushes at RF.
149. [Eurasian] Reed Warbler: 10+ at H, and 1 at MS and 1+ at E on 2nd.
150. Great Reed Warbler: Noted daily from 30th - 4th: 2 at P, 1+ LI, 3+ V, 6+ H, 1 E, 15+ DD on 3rd, and several h DD on 4th.
151. Icterine Warbler: Just one alarm-calling in woodland en route to Bucharest on 7th.
152. Willow Warbler: Singles h singing at OF and CF, 5+ at H and 3 BF1.
153. [Common] Chiffchaff: Small numbers (mostly heard only) noted on 6 days, at CF, BF1, BF2, BH, SI, CV and also en route on 7th.
154. Wood Warbler: Two h singing at CF, 6+ at BF2, and 3+ at CV.
155. Blackcap: Noted in small numbers on 6 days. Max. 3+ at CF, and plenty h at CV.
156. Garden Warbler: One h DD on 4th and 2+ at CV.
157. Common Whitethroat: 1 at BF1, and 1+ at RF.
158. Lesser Whitethroat: Noted in ones and twos on 30th and from 2nd - 7th, at CF, BF1, DD, BF2, SI, BH and CV.
159. Barred Warbler: A fine male at BF1 and another heard singing and seen briefly at A.
160. Firecrest: At SI, 2 on 5th and 2+ 7th.
161. Goldcrest: At SI, 3+ daily from 5th - 7th.
162. Spotted Flyctcher: One at CF, 2 at H and 1 at CV.
163. [European] Pied Flycatcher: Just 1 female at H.
164. Collared Flycatcher: A male Ficedula, probably this species, at CF, 1 male and 2 females at H, 1 h singing at BF2 and 1 male at FT.
165. Red-breasted Flycatcher: A singing female-type male at MS on 1st, 1 h singing at BF2 and 2+ h singing at FT.
166. Long-tailed Tit: A few of the white-headed ssp. europaeus: 2+ in DD on 3rd, and 2 at FT.
167. [Eurasian] Penduline Tit: Several h in the DD on 3rd.
168. Marsh Tit: 4 at CV and 2+ at FT.
169. Sombre Tit: A fine male twice at BF1.
170. Coal Tit: Common in mountains at SI and BH from 5th - 7th.
171. Great Tit: Noted widely and almost daily in small number, especially around SI.
172. Blue Tit: Also noted widely and almost daily in small number, especially around SI.
173. [Eurasian] Nuthatch: Four at BF2, 2 at SI on 6th and several along FT.
174. Wallcreeper: In BH, one very high over CZ and 2 pairs (possibly + another male) at CT.
175. Eurasian Treecreeper: One at CV and 1 along FT.
176. Rook: Abundant in lowlands + at RF. Noted from 29th - 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th.
177. Eurasian Jay: 1 h at CF, 1 BH and 1 en route on 5th, 2+ CV.
178. [Black-billed] Magpie: Widespread in moderate numbers, noted daily except on 5th.
179. [Eurasian] Jackdaw: Seen in small - moderate number daily except on 5th.
180. Hooded Crow: Common and widespread, and noted daily.
181. Common Raven: 6 in BH and 24 at SI rubbish dump on 5th, and noted SI on 6th and 7th.
182. Golden Oriole: Frequent and widespread in deciduous woodland: 3+ CF, 2 males between V & H, 1 h at MS on 2nd, 5+ DD on 3rd, 2+ h DD on 4th, 4+ CV and 2+ en route on 7th.
183. Common Starling: Seen daily in small - moderate number except on 5th.
184. Yellowhammer: 2+ h at CF, 3 at BF1, and a few at CV.
185. Ortolan Bunting: 1+ at CD and 6+ including singing males at BF1 on 2nd.
186. Reed Bunting: Three+ at V and 3+ at RF.
187. Corn Bunting: Noted quite commonly and widely, especially in lowland and steppe areas, from 30th - 2nd with odd singles also h en route on 4th and 6th.
188. [Common] Chaffinch: Noted widely in woodland areas on 7 days; commonest CF, DD and SI.
189. European Serin: At SI, one h on 6th and 2 seen on 6th.
190. [European] Greenfinch: Seen in small number on 5 days, at CF, DD, SI and RF.
191. [European] Goldfinch: Noted widely in lowlands in small number, at P, OF, CF, V, DD and A.
192. [Common] Linnet: Seen on 2 days: 2 at CD and 2 at RF.
193. [Eurasian] Bullfinch: At SI, 2 h on 5th, 1 seen on 6th and 4+ along FT.
194. Hawfinch: Frustratingly elusive!: 3+ at CF, and 6+ at CV.
195. House Sparrow: Noted commonly and widely every day.
196. Spanish Sparrow: 3+ at P, where 'Italian Sparrow' (hybrids with House Sparrow) also present, 1+ at OF Terminal and 1 at H.
197. Tree Sparrow: Widespread in lowlands and seen on 4 days, with max. 100+ in DD on 3rd.
Thus, counting only the traditionally accepted species, we recorded an incredible 196 species during the trip (exclude Caspian Gull as a full species), pipping last year's total by one!
Mole sp/spp.: Hills at CF, various sites on 1st and 4th, in BH and CV.
Red Fox: Singles seen from the bus en route on 30th and 2nd, near SI on 5th and at CV.
Brown Bear: Just amazing! 5+ near SI on 4th, 5+ there the following night, and paw marks in CV.
Badger: One dead at bear-watching station on 6th.
Harbour Porpoise: Fairly fresh remains of one on beach at MS on 1st and 2nd.
Wild Boar: 'Rootlings' at BF1, BF2, BH and CV.
Roe Deer: One + numerous tracks at MS on 1st and 2nd, and 1+ at CV.
European Souslik: 3 at P, plenty on steppes around CD on 1st and 2nd.
Muskrat: One+ in DD on 3rd.
Brown Hare: One en route on 4th.
AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES :
Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) - a superb adult in a puddle at CV.
Alpine Newt (Triturus alpestris) - 6 in a shallow pool in BH and 6+ at CV.
Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina) - several h at CM, lots h at V and H, lots h at E where one also caught, and lots h in DD on 3rd.
Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata) - 1 in BH and 20+ in trackside puddles in CV.
Common Toad (Bufo bufo) - 1 small one in CV.
Green Toad (Bufo viridis) - a single trilling in SI rubbish dump on 5th (George)!
Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) - hundreds h calling at DD on 2nd and 3rd, with 1 caught in CV.
Agile Frog (Rana agilis) - 1 in BH and 1 very much larger one in CV.
Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) - heard commonly and widely in wetland habitst, from 30th - 4th and on 6th, with loud choruses very notable in lowland areas, e.g. CM and DD.
Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) [probably this species and not Green Lizard L. viridis] - one en route on 30th and several at BF1.
Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) - 1 at MS on 1st, 1 CD and lots BF1 on 2nd and 1 at CV.
Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) - 1 + another dead in CV.
Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca) - Singles at CF and BF1.
Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) - 1 small one caught at E, 10+ including a large one in DD on 3rd.
BUTTERFLIES & MOTHS:
Swallowtail - 2 at CV.
Scarce Swallowtail - 20+ at BF1 and 2+ en route on 7th.
Large White - 3+ on 30th, lots at BF2, several at CV and 2+ en route on 7th.
small white sp. - several unidentified to species-level at OF, etc.
Orange-tip - Two at CF, 2 at BF1 and several at CV.
Clouded Yellow - One at CF, and lots at V and BF1.
Berger's Clouded Yellow - 10+ at BF1 and 1 DD on 3rd.
Brimstone - 4+ at CF, and several at CV.
Small Copper - One at CF.
Holly Blue - One+ at CF.
Common Blue - 2+ at CF and OF.
Common Glider - 3+ at CV and 1 en route on 7th.
large tortoiseshell sp. - One at CF. Probably the following sp.
Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell - Two+ at CV.
Peacock - Several at both CF and CV.
Red Admiral - Several at CF and area.
Painted Lady - A few seen on 5 days.
Pearl-bordered Fritillary - 2+ at CF.
Heath Fritillary - One at BF1.
Ringlet sp. - 2+ at BF2.
Small Heath - 2+ at CF, 3+ at BF1 and several at CV.
Speckled Wood - 1+ at BF2 and several at CV.
Wall Brown - One at CF.
Grizzled Skipper - One at CF.
Dingy Skipper - 20+ at OF, 10+ at BF1 and 1 at CV.