10 - 18 May 2003

Neil Arnold
Elena Roberts

Tudor Blaj ( Guest guide)


Marius Danila


I hope you enjoyed this holiday as much as I did. The wonderful variety of habitats enabled us to record a wide range of plants and animals. The expert leadership of Elena and Tudor also gave us an insight into the social aspects of Romania. The skilful driving of Marius enabled us to reach places of interest, especially in the mountains, which would have challenged a rally driver. I give them all my thanks. I am also grateful to you all for your alertness and good cheer. I hope I will meet you again before too long.

Neil Arnold

May 2003



The group met up in Bucharest, having travelled from four different directions. We drove to Calarasi where we stayed the night.



WEATHER Clear, sunny and still

Our first port of call was the ponds just outside the town.

Here we were greeted by a host of wetland species. Terns and herons abounded. Eleven sightings of Little Bittern were taken as a sign that the day was going to be productive. Grebes and waders were also seen in significant numbers. The most unexpected find though was four Pygmy Cormorants that appeared to be preparing to breed.

We then drove to the ferrry over the Danube at Ostrov.

A brief stop at the Bugeac Lake revealed Ruddy Shelduck and a flock of Bee-eaters.

We then made our way to Canaraua Fetei, a gorge surrounded by mixed woodland. The most obvious feature initially was the richness of the reptile, amphibian and butterfly population. The stars were two well-grown Grass Snakes. Soon we were hearing a wide range of bird song including that from a number of pairs of Golden Oriole that were obviously in territorial conflict. We also discovered a Great Spotted Woodpecker at a nest, a Wood Lark, Hawfinches, Red-backed Shrikes and breeding European Rollers and European Bee-eaters. Common and Long-legged Buzzards then performed for us.

Fine views of Northern Wheatear were obtained at the old Roman fort at Adamclesi before we made our way to our hotel at Mamaia.

A brief walk to the shore resulted in close sightings of Lesser Grey Shrike and a party of Sanderling.

That evening we were served a fine dinner as a local trio provided a pleasing musical accompaniment.



WEATHER Clear, fine, warm NW 2-3

The pre- breakfast outing was to the local refinery of all places. Here we watched birds on an arm of the Black Sea and on fresh water pools surrounded by reed beds. It was in a reed bed that we discovered a Savi's Warbler in full song, and unusually in full view. We were then treated to two surprises, the sighting of a male Smew and then a Merlin, both winter visitors to Romania.

After breakfast we set off for Histria, an area of coastal wetlands. The watching here was dominated by waders, duck and herons. Perhaps the most pleasing find was a pair of Red-necked Phalarope en route to their northern breeding grounds. A fly by of one hundred and twenty White Pelicans was also notable. Three much rarer Dalmatian Pelicans were also seen as they flew over.

Signs of songbird migration were seen on the coast as we watched feeding Common Redstarts, Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and Blackcap feeding in the trees and bushes.

We then drove inland over the open plains where we had fine views of Tawny Pipit, Short-toed Lark, Suslik and Brown Hare.

Lunch at the gorge Cheia Dobrogei was accompanied by sightings of Pied Wheatear, a very local species, breeding Kestrels and an overflying Long-legged Buzzard.

As we approached Vardu on the coast we wondered why it was that we were always visiting huge industrial sites. In this case it was necessary to pass the decaying factory to reach the ponds and flooded fields beyond. As we arrived the air was filled with over a hundred Collared Pratincoles hunting flying insects. Once again we watched waders, duck, herons and especially gulls and terns. It was exciting to see and hear the very active colony of Common Terns, Black-headed Gulls and Little Gulls. We also recorded the first Grasshopper Warbler and Mediterranean Gulls of the trip. Once we reached the coast we found that the sea was completely calm. As Sandwich Terns flew along the coast we looked out to sea. The first unexpected find was a Black-throated Diver in its resplendent breeding plumage. This was followed by a mysterious swirl in the glass like surface of the sea. It was some moments later that we realised that we were watching a pair of Harbour Porpoise fishing close offshore. This was an especially interesting event as this population of porpoise is totally isolated in the Black Sea, its nearest kin living in the Atlantic Ocean.

As we left the area we were delighted by two hunting Red-footed Falcons.


WEATHER Clear,fine and warm.

NE 2-3


We set off early to drive to Tulcea.

We returned to Vadu to discover many pairs of Collared Pratincole at the nest site; the total number of birds was estimated at one hundred and twenty. Little Terns, Common Terns and Little Gulls were also on site. They were accompanied by five Mediterranean Gulls including three adults. Waders included single Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper. The only sign of passerine migrants was the presence of a Lesser Whitethroat, a Barred Warbler and several Blackcap.

We then moved on to the Babadag Forest where the only common songbird which was willing to show itself was the Ortolan Bunting. Overhead though the situation was different as we watched five Honey Buzzard in display, a Long-legged Buzzard, a Hobby and two male Goshawk displaying. The butterflies were also active and varied.

A good cross section of waders was seen at Enisala, as were nine Red-crested Pochard.

By 16.00 we were enjoying a drink on the ponton (a floating hotel pulled by a small tug) at Tulcea. Soon after we sailed downstream to Crisan. En route we encountered a wide variety of bird species, including Common Kingfisher, ducks, herons, terns and fifty White Pelicans. Raptors included two Kestrels, a male Red-footed Falcon, six Hobby and a Marsh Harrier



WEATHER Clear.fine, warm, still.

The dawn chorus revealed the presence of Golden Oriole, Cuckoo, Great-spotted, Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers, Pheasant and a variety of warblers. No doubt much else was drowned out by the unrelenting calls of Marsh Frogs.

The whole day was spent watching either from the deck of the ponton or on short trips into shallower waters on the tug, having left the ponton behind.

As we moved along the river and through lakes we counted a selected variety of bird species.


Roller 45 Hobby 4

Go Oriole 10 RF Falcon 19

Cuckoo 30 M Harrier 7

Turtle Dove 12 WT Eagle 2

Night Heron 75 Wh Pelican 22

Grey Heron 10 Dalm Peli 1

P Heron 15 Cormorant 170

Sq Heron 17 P Cormorant 340

GW Egret 16 Co Tern 120

L Egret 57 Wh Tern 140

G Ibis 61 Blk Tern 5

Spoonbill 1 WW Tern 5

M Swan 170 Blk n Grebe 5

GL Goose 31 G Cr Grebe 60

Gadwall 12 Red n Grebe 50

Mallard 7 Coot 255

F Duck 12 Wh Stork 2

Pochard 8 Lapwing 3

Tufted D 2

We were especially pleased to see Spoonbill, Kingfisher, White-tailed Eagle, Penduline Tit and Red-necked Grebe during the day.

We arrived at Scaunele near lake Nebuno at 17.00. It was undoubtedly a good choice of site as we saw Thrush Nightingale, Great Spotted, Grey-headed and Black Woodpecker during the evening.



WEATHER Misty early. Clearing during the morning. Suddden rain shower at 16.00. Cloudy, dull, light breeze.

Fortunately we left the mooring early as after an hour the tug hit a submerged object and the drive shaft broke. Thanks to the marvel of the mobile phone we were soon rescued. At Tulcea we boarded our bus for the journey to the mountains. We lunched in the woodlands at Albetsi where we found Grey-headed and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Just as we were about to leave a Lesser Spotted Eagle soared overhead, soon to be joined by a Sparrow Hawk.

As we approached the village of Alexeni we found the only Syrian Woodpecker of the trip.

Having reached Sinaia at 18.00 we had time for a brief walk in the grounds of the Palace before dinner. Tree Creeper, Nuthatch, Grey Wagtail and Dipper were noted.

After dinner we drove to the local forest in search of Brown Bears foraging on the local tip. No luck, no bears!



WEATHER Misty. Low cloud over the mountains. 7/8 cu, sunny by 16.00. Calm.

The dull weather determined that we visit Transylvania.

After a walk in the park and breakfast we set off for the Zarniesti Gorge, arriving at 10.00. A careful search of the walls of the gorge failed to produce a sighting of Wallcreeper. The star here was a fine Salamander. We also heard a singing Wood Warbler.

We then drove to the Citadel high above the town of Risnov. We were greeted by piped music from loudspeakers attached to trees in the forest (courtesy of the new hotel chain who are to 'develop' thecitadel, no doubt!) and by youths firing paint guns at trees. Despite all this disturbance we were soon watching Serin and hearing Great Spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers. Then we found a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker feeding quietly in a branch over our heads. Two Lesser Spotted Eagles then passed over the citadel.

A warming lunch of soup, excellent local bread and mulled wine cheered us all.

Our next port of call was the Rotbav Forest where Tudor was once a forest manager. He led us through the forest explaining the ecology. A Black Woodpecker was glimpsed and a Common Buzzard and a Lesser Spotted Eagle soared over the forest.

The sun appeared as we reached the Mina 1 Mai area of Crisbav Forest. The mixture of forest edge, orchard and flower filled grasslands was rich in insect and bird life. Yet two more Lesser Spotted Eagles soared overhead.

After dinner we drove to the local city, Brasov. We toured an area where the forest abutted rows of flats. Having checked a number of rubbish skips we found what we were looking for, a party of Brown Bears. A huge female bear robbed the skips as two two-year-olds looked on. As they fed they were joined by a three year old. The caution of the newcomer suggested that it was not related to the others or, if related, had been given its marching orders. We were all thrilled as we watched at a range of eight metres. (No we didn't pace out the distance!). As we watched a local driver arrived, backed his car up and lit the scene with the full beam of the headlights. The bears didn't bat an eyelid.



WEATHER A.M. Overcast - high cloud, still. P.M. A break in the cloud, sun, a light breeze.

This was the day to explore the mountains.

As the vehicle climbed the rough road to the Bucegi Range of mountains we noted Bullfinches, Raven, Mistle Thrushes and Ring Ouzels. The Pestera Gorge was breathtakingly beautiful and the source of two great experiences. As we drove the forest road we glimpsed a Ural Owl flying through the trees. It even allowed us to leave the vehicle and watch it in flight and at rest. Later, after a careful search, we found a pair of Wallcreepers on a vertical cliff. There was also another bird and perhaps two. Two birds chased each other from one side of the gorge to the other.

Lunch was taken at a mountain lodge. Whilst there we found Alpine Newt and Minnows in a shallow pond. Tudor nearly fell into the cold water as her searched for toads! Several cameras were poised to record the event!

Our final site was at 1800m a.s.l. in the lee of Nucet peak at 1,861m. Small patches of residual snow were surrounded by swathes of Spring Crocus. Water Pipits and Northern Wheatears mixed with Linnets on the humid grasslands.

As the sun shone three Common Buzzards and two Short-toed Eagles flew along the high ridge.

The day closed with a fine meal in a local restaurant. The meal was accompanied by a very accomplished instrumental ensemble.




Before flying home there was time for a walk in the local woodland.

The flight home was pleasant.

Neil Arnold


The locations in this summary are coded:














Black-throated Diver Gavia artica one in full breeding plumage on the sea off V

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis one at H and one DD

Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena fifty DD

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus widespread in ponds, lakes and on the sea

Black-necked (Eared) Grebe Podiceps nigricollis two C, two Bugeac and five DD

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo widespread - 170 DD

Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmaeus Four C and 340 DD

(Great) White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus flocks of up to 250 DO

Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus Two Bugeac, three H, one E and oneDD

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea widespread

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea widespread, noted daily DO

Great White Egret Egretta alba relatively scarce, sixteen DD

Little Egret Egretta garzetta Common

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides widespread esp DD

Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax very widespread, peak seventy-five DD

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus nine C, two H and two

White Stork Ciconia ciconia Common breeding except in the mountains

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus widespread, sixty-one DD

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia one DD

Mute Swan Cygnus olor common

Greylag Goose Anser anser common DO

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea Five Buceac

Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna twenty H/V, twenty E

Wigeon Anas penelope a male H

Gadwall Anas strepera widespread DO

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos thinly distributed DO and a pair BU

Garganey Anas querquedula fifteen in freshwater pools DO

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina nine E

Common Pochard Aythya ferina noted daily in the lowlands

Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca common on fresh water pools

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula two DD

Smew Mergus albellus a male in full breeding plumage M

European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus Five BA and one E

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla Two DD

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus two BU

Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus twenty sightings DO and one T

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus One Albesti

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis two BA

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo widespread

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus two CF, one near Adamclisi, two CH and one BA

Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina One Albesti and five T

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus widespread

Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus two V, four scattered records DO and nineteen DD

Merlin Falco columbarius one M

Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo One near C, one BA and ten DD

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus heard throughout lowlands, seen occasionally

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus thinly distributed

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra common 255 DD

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus common H V and E

Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avocetta common H V E

Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola twelve C, twenty-five H and at least 120 V

(Northern) Lapwing Vanellus vanellus widespread in breeding pairs DO and DD

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola One C

Greater Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula singles C and V

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius three C,one H and two V

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus five H, three V and one E

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa one V

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus one H and three V

Common Redshank Tringa totanus two V

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis two E

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola five E

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos one V

(Ruddy) Turnstone Arenaria interpres ten M and five V

Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus two H

Sanderling Calidris alba three M

Little Stint Calidris minuta common on fresh water pools

Dunlin Calidris alpina one V

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea common on pools

Ruff Philomachus pugnax common on pools

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis common DO only

Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans common DD only

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus eight sightings V

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus widespread

Little Gull Larus minutus peak count 100 V

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida Comon, some 400 records

White-winged (Black) Tern Chlidonias leucoptera scarce, 17 records

Black Tern Chlidonias niger also scarce, 26 records

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis four V

Common Tern Sterna hirundo very common, peak 120 DD

Little Tern Sterna albifrons twelve H and V

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia Common in inhabited areas

Stock Dove Columba oenas Five DD

(Common) Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus Two DD, one Crizbav Forest and two at high altitude BU

European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur Three CF,12 DD and heard Albesti

Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Very widespread

Common (Eurasian) Cuckoo Cuculus canorus very common, thirty DD

Ural Owl Strix uralensis One seen well BU

Common Swift Apus apus widespread

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis ten records DD

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster seventy-five records DO and DD

European Roller Coracias garrulus Very common eighty DD

(Eurasian) Hoopoe Upupa epops common

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor a male Risnov Citadel T

Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus One female near Alexeni

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major widespread in forests

Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius one DD and one Rotbav Forest

Green Woodpecker Picus viridis heard CF

Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus common DD and also noted at Albetsi and T

Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra common on plains of DO

Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla two near CD

Crested Lark Galerida cristata common and widespread

Wood Lark Lullula arborea one CF

(Eurasian) Sky Lark Alauda arvensis heard more often than seen

European Sand Martin Riparia riparia common, hundreds moving 12th

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica very common

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica three CF

Common House Martin Delichon urbica common

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava a handful at wetlands

Black-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg common at wetlands

White Wagtail Motacilla alba widespread

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea fourteen records BR and T

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris One near CD, one V and one E

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta eight BR

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio common

Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor common

White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus recorded S and eight BR

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes only S

Hedge Accentor (Dunnock) Prunella modularis only S

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus two BU

Common Blackbird Turdus merula widespread

Fieldfare Turdus pilaris common S, BU and T

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos only CF and in the highlands

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus one BU

European Robin Erithacus rubecula scattered records in woodlands

Thrush Nightingale Luscinia luscinia two DD

Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos widespread in the lowlands

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros widespread near buildings and in rocky places

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus common migrant breeder

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe noted in gorges, on the coast and BU

Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka three CD

Bearded Tit (Reedling) Panurus biarmicus eight H

Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia heard V

Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides heard and seen M

(Eurasian) Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus common

Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus common

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus only at CD and Albesti

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita widespread

Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix one singing Zarniesti Gorge

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla common

Garden Warbler Sylvia borin heard in most woodlands

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca one V

Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria one Ostrov Ferry terminal and one V

Goldcrest Regulus regulus only V

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata one CF and two H

(Eurasian) Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus two DD

Great Tit Parus major widespread

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus widespread

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea only S

Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria three, possibly four Pestera Gorge BU

Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris only S

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius in forest at CF,S and T

Black-billed Magpie Pica pica common

(Western) Jackdaw Corvus monedula common

Rook Corvus frugilegus common

Hooded Crow Corvus cornix noted daily - common

Common Raven Corvus corax eight sightings S,BU,T

(Eurasian) Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus thirty-six sightings; more common than on any other trip that I have led (NA)

Common (European) Starling Sturnus vulgaris common

Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra widespread in the lowlands

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella only CF and Crisbav Forest

Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana five singing males BA

Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus in reed beds

Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs very common and widespread

European Serin Serinus serinus one Risnov Citadel

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris only S and T

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis common except in DD and BU

Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina three high in BU

Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula only S

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes two CF

House Sparrow Passer domesticus common

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis only Ostrov ferry terminal

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus widespread DO and DD


Brown Bear Ursus arctos four Brazov

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena two V

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris only S

European Souslik Spermophilus citellus common on open grassland DO

Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus one C and one E

Brown Hare Lepus europaeus one near C and two near CD


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra one Zarniesti Gorge T

Alpine Newt Triturus alpestris one BU

Marsh Frog Rana ridibunda common and NOISY

Edible/Pool Frog Rana esculenta/lessonae CF


Grass Snake Natrix natrix two CF and one DD

Balkan Wall Lizard Podarcis taurica lots BA


Swallowtail Papilio machaon

Scarce swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius

Large white Pieris brassicae

Small white Artogeia rapae

Green-veined white Artogeia napi

Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines

Clouded yellow Colias croceus

Brimstone Goneptryx rhamni

Small copper Lycaena phlaeas

Glanville fritillary Melitaea cinxa

Heath fritillary Melitaea athalia

Small heath Coenonympha pamphilius

Grizzled skipper Pyrgus malvae

Dingy skipper Erynnis tages

© The Travelling Naturalist 2003