TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
8 - 16 May 2004
+ guest appearance by Elena Roberts...
Firstly, I'd like to say that it was a pleasure leading you on such an enjoyable and interest-filled trip.
There is no question that the smooth running of the trip, even when 'under fire' from the weather, was down to Tudor and Elena'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.
Highlights were numerous and varied, in particular including the male Collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers and the male Wallcreeper among the individual birds, with the massed White Pelicans to the S of the Danuba Delta, the Danube Delta itself and Brown Bears on the edge of Brasov ranking highest among the wildlife spectacles. The nesting Long-eared Owls and feeding Common Dolphins just off the beach at Mamaia also got deserved attention and just illustrated how varied the wildlife attractions here are.
I very much look forward to seeing you again soon.
Saturday 8th May
We met by the check-in counter at the airport before our morning flight out. The cloudy wet conditions at Heathrow were replaced by warm and sunny conditions at Otopeni airport, Bucharest.
We drove round Bucharest, then out east on variably good roads, despite plenty of traffic. Odd birds seen from the bus included a Lesser Grey Shrike and Kestrel, plus plenty of Rooks, Jackdaws and Hooded Crows, but three nice finds turned up at a drinks stop near Lehliu. A singing Lesser Whitethroat sat out long enough for us to see, then dived into cover only to 'reveal' a fine Wood Warbler picking through a pine. Overhead, a male and female Red-footed Falcon also put in brief appearances!
Another roadside stop near Plevna overlooking a pool and marsh produced no less than four adult Night Herons, two male Black-headed Wagtails, a singing Great Reed Warbler out on view and a hidden buzzing Savi's Warbler, a Cuckoo which came past in front before landing in a field and a small flock of Bee-eaters pottering about, as well as a Dalmatian Pelican circling high overhead! We also rapidly added our first mammals to the list, with a number of European Sousliks feeding and scampering around in the grass and Green Toads sang intermittently from the cover.
A final stop just before Calarasi produced no less than eight Dalmatian Pelicans on a lake, with a couple of fly-by Ferruginous Ducks of most note, but as time was moving on, we rapidly continued on to the hotel.
Sunday 9th May
Up for a pre-breakfast wander in the little park by the hotel on the bank of the Danube. House Martins greeted our exit and were bringing mud to their nests on the hotel, having collected it from the shore of the nearby river where we caught up with them and plenty of Barn Swallows moments later. A Sedge Warbler sang from the depths of a tree canopy while on the far shore a mixed group of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls tested our long-range ID powers. Plenty of people were about already though, so things were quieter bird-wise than hoped, though song was pouring forth. Common Redstart and Nightingale were both heard then seen, but singing Golden Oriole, Icterine Warbler and even Thrush Nightingale remained deep in cover. Not so a flighty Syrian Woodpecker which at least gave us tantalising views, but a couple of Whiskered Terns and a remarkably confiding Tree Sparrow feeding just yards away kept us occupied.
Having finally made it through breakfast despite the espresso machine breaking down, we loaded up and were away before 10. Our next stop was at the Calarasi ponds we'd seen briefly the evening before on the edge of town and we stepped out of the minibus to a loud chorus of Marsh Frogs and Great Reed Warblers, with numerous Cuckoos also chasing around, including a hepatic-phase female.
We started watching at the weedy pond close to hand where at least nine Ferruginous Duck and a small flock of Common Pochard were loafing, while several Musk Rats were busily swimming around behind. Our attention soon switched to other things though, with the first of several Purple and Squacco Herons soon putting in an appearance. A small group of Common Terns popped up among the numerous Black and Whiskered Terns, with a Mute Swan also flying past of note.
The sun and warmth had also pulled out a number of butterflies including the first of several Knapweed Fritillaries, Common Blues and a superb Lesser Fiery Copper. The dark Clouded Yellows flitting about were clearly that, but the numerous paler 'lemony' ones (either Pale or Berger's) had to be left unnamed. A stunned dragonfly on the road, the only one we saw well the whole time, turned out to be a very scarce but notably migrant species in Europe, and commoner in the east than in the west: Vagrant Emperor (Hemianax ephippiger).
Some flooded pools in a nearby field held a group of Lapwings and Collared Pratincoles, the latter rising up and hawking at height over the fields, but three Temminck's Stints did their best to remain unseen, as did a Crested Lark and a sleeping male Garganey!
Unfortunately we'd just missed a ferry from the Silistra terminal, so content ourselves with a walk under nearby rookery, where a male Spanish Sparrow shreeped loudly and chased a falling piece of grass down almost to eye level in front, and a Golden Oriole flashed past at height. A pair of pink-breasted Lesser Grey Shrike clung to the top of a dead bush in the stiff breeze. Common Sandpiper and Sedge Warbler both put in a brief appearance in scrub along the river's edge.
The crossing provided little except a large Sand Martin colony of particular note, though it was optics hidden for a short time as we drove along the Bulgarian border at Silistra. We then pressed on through now rolling countryside until Lac Bugeac. A short walk along the revealed another Souslik, while on the far shore of the nearest pool were almost 30 Ruddy Shelduck along with Common Shelduck, Pintail, Wigeon, Gadwall and Shoveler, plus Avocets and some black-looking Spotted Redshanks in full breeding plumage. A Dalmatian Pelican circled slowly up in the distance before passing overhead quite close, with another fishing quietly on another pool not far ahead. Two smaller darker blue butterflies flitting through the grass here were Silver-studded Blues, a new butterfly for the spring lists.
It was now late, but the drive to take lunch in the woods at Canaraua Fetei (Girls' Gorge) was well worth it as it revealed a wealth of surprises in the 'fifteen' minutes we had while the food was set out. Firstly, as we stepped out so a Honey Buzzard circled over nearby woods. Corn Buntings were singing all around us and coming down to drink, and a male Golden Oriole flew in to land all-too-briefly in the open. A couple of Turtle Doves flew over once we'd admired no less than three Rollers on the muddy face above the quarry, where a huge number of Bee-eater holes housed a large Starling colony in frenetic activity. A few Bee-eaters were also present, and we were also treated to four or five fly-bys of Hawfinches coming to drink. A watch by the water also revealed a speckle-necked European Pond Terrapin in all its (relative!) finery hauled out in the sun in the grass.
Lunch (a super spread) was now taken at leisure, despite things breaking up somewhat at the end as the first of three migrating flocks of White Storks and a Lesser Spotted Eagle went past, plus a high-flying Red-rumped Swallow as we tried to track down a calling Penduline Tit. Then as we aimed to walk in the woods a superb Short-toed Eagle cruised over, then hovered in front for all to admire the details of its underwing pattern!
We took a walk trough the woods to look and listen for small birds in particular, with singing Song Thrush, Chaffinch and Chiffchaff all soon added. A Hoopoe dropped down onto a track where a Great Spotted Woodpecker fed, but some harsh, raptor-like calls from large trees nearby lead to the discovery of a stunning Middle Spotted Woodpecker, moving about frequently and calling raucously. The butterflies were also good in the rides, with Clouded Apollo a real treat and Small White, Brown Argus, Speckled Woods and a Wall Brown all putting in a show.
The walk back saw little as we were in a hurry, but the latecomers were able to get short views of a brief Long-legged Buzzard spiralling an drifting up and past with a Lesser Spotted Eagle!
We decided on one quick last stop, in the ruins of the Byzantine fort at Adamclisi. Among the ruins the open terrain with light scrub was attractive to a range of species including Northern Wheatears, a few Common Whitethroats and several Balkan Wall and a large Green Lizard. Flowers included some delightful purple Venus Looking-glass (Legousia cf speculum-veneris) and plenty species of vetches and milk-vetches in the pea family and a few thymes (Thymus spp.). A flock of White Storks were scouring a local hillside for food, and a stop for a roadside Souslik as we left revealed a brief Tawny Pipit, two Linnets and a few Crested Larks on the road.
We finally called it a day and headed off to our surprisingly busy hotel on the Black Sea coast at Mamaia-Sat.
What a superb first full day, the log-call taking quite some time!
Monday 10th May
Thick cloud and light intermittent rain did not bode well, but we set out at 7 am for a pre-breakfast jaunt to the nearby Nevodari refinery pools! The wet reeds actually worked in our favour, and though we noted a few duck, including a couple of Ferruginous, and a flock of 18 Squacco Herons over the open water as we arrived, small bird activity was very noticeable as warblers were coming up out of the dense new, and wet, growth to dry off on the old, and sparse stems. Great Reed and Reed Warblers were most obvious, but we spent some time watching, and soon found the first of a number of Sedge Warblers. A buzzing Savi's Warbler was just in front at one point, but flatly refused to show itself, but several nervous, very white-chinned warblers along the edge of the road were intriguing, and their rather dark, well-marked heads made them even more curious. However, after a few good views after an extended wait we were more than rewarded by fine views of several Paddyfield Warblers. One in fact at the end was a real show-off, coming up at close range to sing loudly at us, seemingly telling us to clear off!
Other small birds included a couple of Red-backed Shrikes and a few Willow Warblers in the only bush around, with a brief male Garganey and pair of Shelduck also appearing on the pool.
Back at the hotel, the sight of a large group of gulls before breakfast meant that we took an unplanned saunter down towards the beach just after breakfast. It was difficult to get there though, since several Red-breasted Flycatchers "chick"-ed at us from the trees where migrant Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Icterine Warbler, Blackcap and Willow Warblers were also present! As we watched these, so a lump in an adjacent tree materialised into a gorgeous female Long-eared Owl sat on its nest with a couple of fluffy youngsters keeping a watchful eye over them, while the male was found shortly afterwards in a nearby tree. Both remained completely un-phased by our presence, undoubtedly used to the continual comings and goings of the campsite and allowed prolonged views.
The beach was also only reached after hearing a Thrush Nightingale and seeing a Black Redstart, then our plans to only watch the mostly Caspian Gulls were rapidly trashed as we saw dolphins feeding close offshore! In fact, c. 15 White-sided Dolphins feed vigorously offshore delighting us all, though Chris and Gill 'sneaked off' successfully for views of the elusive Thrush Nightingale. Tearing ourselves away was hard, but we eventually managed it, clocking up a Little Ringed Plover and pair of Crested Larks on the way!
Histria was reached after a stop to admire several Red-footed Falcons an all-too-brief Roller, with several Spotted and Red-breasted and a single female Pied Flycatcher also joining in for good measure. A few male Spanish Sparrows played hide-and-seek in the poplars. Our drive towards the main part of the marsh was interrupted by the sight of huge numbers of White Pelicans appearing over the horizon and we moved quite quickly down into the marsh to intercept them as they passed. This was perfect and we watched well over 2000 pass us in undulating lines before they dropped onto a couple of nearby shallow pools to rest in full view! Several Dalmatian Pelicans kept a slight distance, but it was hard to know where to look given the extraordinary amount of bird life around. Great Reed Warblers "grunted and ground" from the reeds, a male Reed Bunting put in a short show, Little and Black Terns and Collared Pratincoles flitted about, a Spotted Redshank flew past followed by three Temminck's Stints, hundreds and hundreds of hirundines filled the air and the din due to a chorus of Marsh frogs was almost deafening at times! Fortunately this was flow enough at times to even hear the pelicans grunting to one another. Black-winged Stilt, Avocet and Kentish Plovers were also seen on the pools in front.
We carried on towards the ruins after another closer pelican stop, passing lots of Red-backed Shrikes and Black-headed Wagtails, Lapwings and Corn Buntings in the drier areas. The trees around the lunch cafe were also busy with migrants, including Red-breasted and Spotted Flycatchers, Icterine, Wood, Willow and Garden Warblers and Blackcaps!
Time had really run away, but we took a track inland, the 'Targusor Road', which lead across steppe and through a little sightly wooded gorge. An Isabelline Wheatear on one side was soon being admired, but while looking for it again we found no less than 6 in the end, while calling Stone-curlews as we left were also finally located! The drive was impressive, through flower-studded steppe peppered with Sousliks, plus a Common Buzzard thrown in for free, then 4 Honey Buzzards briefly rising up over a wood. Though we never eventually managed to stop to check the identity of a beautiful purple-flowered plant, it was lamost certainly the purple-flowered Mullein Verbascum phoeniceum.
We finished in the Cheia Dobrogea, where there was an amazing density of Pied and several Northern Wheatears for good measure, though Bee-eaters, actually perched on the road as we arrived, were a fine sight and a singing Ortolan Bunting or two kept us busy looking, though we never did see one! Two other single Isabelline Wheatears as we returned to the hotel were testament to the notable colonisation by this species in the area over just the last couple of years.
We saw a remarkable 108 spp during the day, testament to the range of habitats visited and extraordinary wealth of birds at Histria in particular.
Tuesday 11th May
The day dawned dark and miserable with thick cloud and light rain. A few stalwarts headed off with Tudor to look at the local Long-eared Owls again, but the rain intensified and they had to give up.
Breakfast was very welcome given the cooler conditions, and after loading up we headed for Vadu. The rain eased a bit as we arrived, so we scoped an area of pools below us, finding several Little Stints and a small group of Curlew Sandpipers of most note. The rain soon beat down again though, so we retreated on board and made for the heart of the marshes. A couple of stops en route to peer through the water-distorted windows at a few waders including Black-winged Stilts were made, and Common Redshank was added to the list, but another stop as the rain eased produced Black-headed Wagtails and several Cuckoos, including a rufous-phase individual. The rain was just about bearable so we walked the short distance to look over into an old settling pool. A large, noisy colony of Common Terns was present, plus good numbers of immature Little and Mediterranean Gulls and an adult or two of each. A Black Tern on the ground was smart, but the rain increased again and only a couple of us left at the end saw another Temminck's Stint for the trip drop down in front. We left with the rain coming down heavily.
The journey N saw a remarkable amount of rain, coming in pulses, and we reached the Babadag Forest much earlier than planned. Waiting for a slight let up, we risked it and went for a short walk, but were again beaten back by the conditions. Not before we'd seen a remarkable variety of (mostly unidentified) flowering herbs however, including 3 different sages (Salvia spp.), Iris pumila, the short, yellow-flowered Ground-pine (Ajuga chamaepitys) and some spikes of still-to-flower Violet Limodore orchids. A dead cat in the grass was a huge Wild Cat, which had probably been knocked down on the road.
Our planned lunch was now to be at Enisala, though rain still came down as we approached the first pools. Rain also dampened down the bird activity down and put us rapidly back in the van again, though a Hobby sped past just as we were about to go on. However, a few brighter patches in the sky had been seen and shortly ahead we were able to get out and gaze down over Lac Enisala with the scopes and bins. White Pelicans were simply everywhere on the lake, and commuting to and from a couple of large groups resting in nearby fields, with several thousand present, at least four Marsh Harriers quartered the reedbeds and a Red-crested Pochard male brightened up a small pool. Purple Herons flapped sedately from one area to the next, while Common and Whiskered Terns kept up a constant show. Lower down we passed though shallow marshes with numerous Ferruginous Ducks visible from the bus as we bumped along the almost flooded road!
We now put a bit more ground under our belts, stopping by Lac Sarionasuf for a latish lunch. A fine flock of Red-crested Pochards graced the water and there were hundreds of Mute Swans too. White Pelicans also put in yet another show, Whiskered Terns pottered up and down the shore in front, but surprises included a fine male Garganey asleep on the bank and also a strangely out of season White-fronted Goose there!
Another pool had plenty of feeding Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls, but a passing lorry covered us and our optics in filthy water, bringing things to a rapid end! We cleaned off as we continued to the next stop where five Black-necked Grebes bobbed on the water in front of a large colony of gulls, including Mediterranean, for which the lake is famous and a reserve, but a Long-legged Buzzard stalking around on the grass behind was also a fine sight and stole the show. The weather had suddenly cleared and now become bright and sunny with scattered cloud and we admired numerous Bee-eaters and a number of Rollers along the roadsides as we headed towards Tulcea, the gateway to the Danube Delta, and our waiting ferry.
The excitement and expectation were mounting... After a few minutes of organising, the luggage was unloaded from the van and handed to the crew of our floating hotel, or 'ponton', and we were soon away, heading surprisingly quickly downstream and 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!
Normally, the first section is not too exciting, but given extensive and now slightly receding flooding, the area was simply alive with birds. The hour and a half from 5 pm onwards revealed the amazing totals of 150+ Great and 9 Pygmy Cormorants, 42 Squacco, 10 Grey and three Night Herons, 193 Little Egrets, 2 White Storks, 18 Glossy Ibis, 1 Spoonbill, 100+ Mute Swans, 4 Greylag Geese, one Ferruginous Duck, a Greenshank, 2 Spotted Redshanks and 100s of Whiskered Terns, but all was certainly not restricted to the water, with 3 Honey Buzzards, a dark-phase Booted Eagle, a Marsh Harrier, 3 Kestrels, 5 Rollers and 2 Golden Orioles also notched up in an ever-more frenzied effort to keep the recording up to speed! However, my attempts to keep a list finally fell apart given the sheer numbers and came to an abrupt end when a pair of White-tailed Eagles were found perched in low trees off to the side of the main channel, allowing us to even scope them from the pontoon as we chugged past!! More and more birds were seen, including two Grey-headed Woodpeckers along the banks fo the main channel.
Dinner was of Wels catfish, served in a superb sauce and much liked by all. We finally moored in the dark at Mila 23, having chugged very slowly back upstream along a side channel and went to bed, all running the gauntlet of the vast numbers of (mercifully non-biting) insects attracted to the back light by the loos!
Wednesday 12th May
In order to make the most of the time in the delta we had no early walk and breakfasted on the move again. We sat back and just watched the delta unfurl before us, noting Glossy Ibis, Little Egret and Great Cormorant in moderate quantity. New birds were going to be few and far between, especially given bright but windy conditions, but that hardly mattered as we cruised along.
We moored near Lac BaclanestiiMari and hopped into the outboards. Two boatmen then took us on a long cruise, first across Lac Fortuna, then down various channels, ending up, after a quick land stop and climb up into a tower hide, passing through the first mentioned lake back to the ponton.
Birds were slow at the start given exposed and windy conditions on the open lake, but in the narrower channels the dense fringing willows provided so much cover that things got quite hot! A few Penduline Tits called from cover, but remained frustratingly unseen throughout the day, but Blue and Great Tits, Rollers, Common Redstarts and Whiskered and Common Terns were all rather more obliging. A singing Thrush Nightingale required a stop, but remained singing close by without being visible, though several Golden Orioles kept us busy with their antics as we searched.
We moved on a short distance, only to hear a calling Black Woodpecker, so pulled in again under trees 'leaking' continuously from the sap passing through millions of froghoppers! A Grey-headed Woodpecker flew in at close range but stayed behind the trunk before flying off largely unseen, though the Black Woodpecker flew all-too-rapidly past overhead in response to a little luring. We tried the tape for the Grey-headed Woodpecker to no avail, but as we pulled out, just seconds later two chased across the channel and landed in the exposed top of a stags-horn willow! Another then followed them back across the channel!
The tower hide produced breeding Blue and Great Tit and Common Redstart, perched Cuckoo and Spotted Flycatcher and a fine pair of Red-footed Falcons hawking nearby. Two Dalmatian Pelicans passed over at height, complementing two White Pelicans we'd seen passing over previsouly, and a flock of 13 Honey Buzzards spiralled up and went N. A Eurasian Hobby came over the tree-tops soon afterwards.
The best was last though, as a fine adult White-tailed Eagle came low past the bushes and to our left, coming to land on a low branch on the edge of the lake, also visible in the scope from the ponton as we started off again.
Lunch was thankfully quiet bird-wise, so we tucked into the catfish again with relish.
Things were fairly quiet after lunch, though small numbers of a wide diversity of birds were seen. However, the first of a number of Red-necked Grebes appeared, which were widely appreciated. Yours truly went off for a siesta, having been late to sleep and woken early by the unusual noises on board and this was a bad move for me, and good for everyone else! No less than five more White-tailed Eagles and a fine Black Woodpecker were added during the following hour and a quarter! I woke to find us already almost moored and we were soon off again for an evenings boating in the dinghies with outboards.
We soon went into narrow channels densely lined with willows and here we found Thrush Nightingales common as they poured forth their powerful songs. These were far from easy to see though and it wasn't until we came back that we finally saw them well. Another attempt at locating a calling Penduline Tit found the very start of a nest, but nothing else, despite a return visit. A few pairs of Roller and singing Icterine Warblers kept us busy, plus a superb male Collared Flycatcher singing from high in some large willow trees.
Time was really running on, so we headed towards the Ukrainian border (!), across a lake where a Red-necked Grebe kept us busy trying to see it between dives, then towards a row of trees just in time before a huge black cloud rolled over. A row of huge trees were simply festooned with dozens of nest of Great Cormorants high up, Grey Herons and Spoonbills about mid way, Little Egrets and Night Herons just below them, then Pygmy Cormorants lowest of all! As a strictly protected area we couldn't enter, but then wouldn't have anyway, and it was fabulous to just marvel at the extraordinary sight of so many birds mixed together, and completely ignoring our presence. Light rain stopped play and we headed back, adding a Grey-headed Woodpecker en route and got back just in time for dinner!
A remarkable day, and the extraordinary sound of dozens of Tree Frogs and several Thrush Nightingales being surprisingly easy to fall asleep to!
Thursday 13th May
The early risers saw a nice range of 'typical' species before breakfast, including a Kingfisher, but we were off at 7:30 to get back to Tulcea for 8:30. Here we were unfortunately held up before morring-up proper as a large tug was coming downstream, and though passed rapidly once it finally appeared, meant we lost some 45 minutes. This however gave us some time to watch a couple of adult Caspian Gulls, with their with pale grey upperparts, pale wingtips and long bills and 'nosy' appearance giving them a very distinctive appearance.
We changed money in Tulcea, unfortunately being fined by the 'jobs-worth' police for parking incorrectly, then headed out on the long transfer towards Sinaia in the Carpathian mountains.
The rolling fields housed a selection of typical species including Calandra Larks, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Rooks and Corn Buntings, but near the Babadag Forest a roadside stop for a raptor produced a pair of Common Buzzards, a Long-legged Buzzard and a dark-phase Booted Eagle within fie minutes! As if this were not enough, two Grey-headed Woodpeckers appeared at close range and several Clouded Apollos flew along the verge!!!
A proper stop and walk through the forest produced a new suite of species, including Nuthatch, Yellowhammer, singing Red-breasted Flycatchers (including three males, the first buff-throated, the second with a splash of dull orange but the third one a full spanking adult male), Icterine Warblers, a superb Middle-spotted Woodpecker and some elusive Hawfinches. Butterflies were a little more varied including Green-veined Whites and more unidentified fritillaries, while other insects, especially beetles and bugs were very varied and fun to look at! The hunt for a half-singing possible Black-headed Bunting was in vain, but the tapes now reveal it was another unseen Ortolan Bunting!
Lunch was taken onto the bus and we were off again. Another patch of the Babadag Forest at Andrasestiwas rather quiet (not surprising given increasing cloud and a mid-afternoon breeze), but a couple of Hobbies, two Large Skippers, four Green Lizards and sundry (!) plants kept us occupied.
Our final stop, after a brief pause to discover that the roadside 'weeds' here were not what we had been seeing on the steppe areas previously but were a purple Larkspur sp. (Consolida cf orientalis), was at a mud-fringed lake where a storm was brewing. Despite the stiff wind, a small group of waders gave us excellent views of Little and Temminck's Stints, Wood and a Curlew Sandpiper and two Little Ringed Plovers, with an Avocet off to one side.
We ploughed on towards Ploieºti in a deepening lightening-rich storm, though finally came out of this as we started the ascent up into the mountains. Sinaia was finally reached late evening. Given a change of plan, Elena couldn't arrive that evening, so Tudor was staying on. This meant Brasov for bears that evening, so despite being late, Jeremy, Mark, Letizia, John, Tudor and driver were off on the quest. Thankfully, the rain stopped just before Brasov and just a minute or two after reaching our destination we found a bear! This was the first of no less than eight! Photos, despite it being dark, were a must, but best obtained from outside, though a large cub walking silently past just yards behind John and Jeremy made us both jump! Who cares that we got back about 1 am, as this was a treat.
Friday 14th May
A dull, cloudy and mild start saw just three of us on the pre-breakfast walk! However, the dead calm conditions were perfect for observations. A Serin sang in the hotel courtyard, a male Common Redstart sat on the fence as we left, its Black cousin having been singing just moments earlier. A pair of Grey Wagtails graced a little stream beside the Palace gardens and a Dipper fed its begging youngster there too. A male and then a superb female Collared Flycatcher were also admired, as was a Fieldfare which came own to feed in the grass. A Goldcrest sang its ditty, only fleetingly glimpsed, though the first of several Red Squirrels sat out in full view at close range until we finally walked away!
We left for a full day in the mountains, though given the previously wet conditions we were forced to take the longer but somewhat less steep route. We climbed up through vast swathes of Beech forest, then mixed stands, then pure Spruce forest, onto an often very bumpy track, up towards a pass. Flowers were scattered along the banks, including numerous Oxlip (Primula elatior) and Kingcups (Caltha palustris) along the wetter stream lines.
A bird high in a Spruce meant a stop, which was somewhat providential. Steam started pouring out of the engine as we stopped, so as Costi capably sorted it out, we walked on to scan the edge of the forest in a more open area. A couple of Tree Pipits sang from the tops of isolated spruce, a Mistle Thrush sped past to quieter feeding grounds, Crossbills chipped from the forest and Coal Tits flitted along the Spruce 'wall' in front. A few taps revealed a woodpecker which was sadly only seen rather briefly in flight, but the rather dark back and wings with only finely barred pattern confirmed a Three-toed Woodpecker!
The rain set in again and on we went, pausing again for a Ring Ouzel which unfortunately shot off into the forest from where it scolded us unseen, though a fine stand of a Snowbell (Soldanella sp.) along the edge of the main track was some recompense. A singing Firecrest ahead was also only been seen very briefly in flight as it sneakily doubled back on us.
The rain slowed us down, but we persisted, finally passing where we were to lunch later and continuing past Lac Bolboc. If thoughts were beginning to run to "what on earth are we doing here?", then the amazing amounts of woodpecker damage by Three-toed and Black visible in the trees flanking the track, but little else, did little to allay this. We finally decanted at the head of the Cheile Tatarului, the rock faces towering above us. Nothing was visible at first, despite a calling Dipper on the stream and despite searching and searching, nothing was moving. The rain now set in in earnest and we sheltered under the overhang of the main crag, with an admittedly sinking feeling. However, Letizia marched out into the rain and within a few minutes had found our goal - a stunning male Wallcreeper, complete with jet black throat, which inched its way around the cliff flicking its red, white and black patterned wings! What a find and with Tudor using his hat as a mini-umbrella for the main lens, we could all see it several times through John's scope!
We took mulled wine with our soup and cake to celebrate, then as the rain was really hammering down, decided to beat a 'hasty' retreat. The rain turned to sleet, then hail, then as we rounded a corner, so we found a large lorry pulling a trailer with heavy machinery blocking the track. Completely and with hours to wait for anything possible to be done... A bit of deliberation and we decided to go back down the shorter but steeper route we couldn't come up... A risk, but better than being stuck in the mountains until who knows when... This actually worked in our favour, with a couple of Water Pipits on the grass above the tree-line and we got back in good time down a slightly faster, albeit steep descent. Costi had earned himself a beer or five!
Our slightly earlier arrival than normal was good too, since over our slightly longer than usual dinner we said our farewells to Tudor, who was leaving that evening for Calarasi to meet another group...
Saturday 15th May
Our last full day, and though I'd said that there would be a pre-breakfast walk if there was no rain, I woke to see and hear what I thought was decent drizzle. Sadly, being exhausted I went back to bed only to discover later that Jeremy had indeed been out on his own, fortunately noting a nice selection of the local species including Bullfinches in the local gardens and forest.
Breakfast saw the presence of Elena, here on a 'celebrity visit' and who acted as our guide for the day. We left Sinaia (in Wallachia) and headed north towards Transylvania 'proper', entering into an area with towns and villages with a curious and highly distinctive architecture of German origin. We headed N in still and overcast conditions towards Brasov then turned west and wound our way eventually, seeing the imposing Bran Castle, former home of Count Dracula (one hopes!) as we went, to the Cheile Zarnesti. This very narrow gorge was reached up a track alongside which the stream held a few Dippers and Grey Wagtails, while as we walked so we noted one or two high-flying Alpine Swifts, plus the songs and calls of Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Robins, Jays and even our first and only Wren! A Black Redstart kept us occupied as we scoured more rock faces, this time in vain for creepers...
We dropped down and headed to the Citadel at Râsnov. This was perched on top of the 'front row' of hills cloaked and thick woodland, and fortunately the sky cleared a little as we were there, so producing a few thermals and enticing out a few raptors. To Common Buzzards appeared first, followed by a Lesser Spotted Eagle, then after entering the museum and having a little look round, as we descended, a Goshawk circled slowly up for some time followed by five Honey Buzzards apparently moving along the ridge! We walked down through the woodland, noting singing Red-breasted Fly and Willow Warbler as we went, plus numerous flowers including a blue Ground Pine (Ajuga cf genevensis), a yellow Wallflower (Cheiranthus sp.), a Speedwell (Veronica sp.), Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) and Comfrey (Symphytum sp.), plus a single Bird's-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis).
A hot soup lunch was taken outside, which was fine until the temperature suddenly dropped as it clouded over again, and this was a good means of getting us moving on again.
Our final main stop was a walk through some meadows and orchards by a woodland at Colonia 1 Mai. A colony of noisy Fieldfares kept us busy from the start, a couple of also noisy Golden Orioles were pleasant to hear again, despite plenty of 'cat-calls' added in, and a fine Grey-headed Woodpecker was a slight surprise. Large numbers of Yellow-bellied Toads called from puddles, with a number of pairs in amplexus, and were easily caught to show the remarkable patterning underneath. A strange song from thick cover below us was a presumably migrant River Warbler, throwing forth its strange 'winding' song, but this remained unseen. The walk to look for it took us through some flower-rich wet meadows and orchards, including a couple of plants of Dusky Geranium (G. phaeum), with few birds, and another low-flying Lesser Spotted Eagle coming in to the wood carrying nesting material was a fine sight.
We fished off driving cross-country back via the Dumbrãviþa area, where a few Red-backed Shrikes, Common Whitethroats and Yellowhammers kept us busy, but very little was present apart from some noisy lads in the village, so we headed back in time for a special meal out.
This was at a restaurant only yards from the hotel, but the decor was rather special, being mainly a series of skins of various wild animals, including a number of Brown Bear and Wild Boar, but one composite skin also including bits of Lynx, Badger, Wolf and Chamois amongst others! Although seemingly appalling, we also tried smoked bear meat! There is an over-population of the species in Romania and rather than waste the carcasses deriving from the carefully controlled selective culling, the meat is cured and served as a speciality...
Jeremy had seen them once, so didn't come for another trip to Brasov, but the rest of us did, albeit in a variably tiddly state after finishing the meal off with the local firewater! Saturday night unfortunately also saw other observers 'watching' bears and getting rather too close, but several bears did their stuff and gave us superb views. I'm glad I wasn't one of the three locals walking quietly together down a pavement who were overtaken by one just two or three feet away! In fact, a single bear also crossed the main road in front of us just outside Sinaia as we arrived back a little before 1 am!
Sunday 16th May
Another dull and cloudy start, but we took a stroll up a track through the local towering Beech and Spruce forest. The lack of wind meant we could hear everything, from the Nuthatches and Marsh Tits we found near the beginning, to the singing Red-breasted Flycatchers later on. Our hopes to find a last-minute surprise were not to be, but it was a beautiful site, despite a singing Eurasian Treecreeper being the last new bird for the trip.
We finished off with a stroll roundthe Palace gardens again, this time with everyone together for once, but also half of Sinaia it seemed! Sunday was obviously for taking a walk here, including for numerous boisterous school kids, so although we noted the fledgling Dipper, several Grey Wagtails and Robins again, it wasn't until we walked back earlier than planned that we passed through a small area of much quieter woodland where a pair of stunning Bullfinches fed their hungry chicks just a few yards away. A lovely sight to finish off, or so we thought.
The drive to the airport was relatively easy and in reasonable weather, a quick stop en route allowing the mass purchase of mixed wildflower and also False Acacia honey from a roadside stand. A pool off to one side also revealed a small bird with pale wing patches flapping across, and a male Little Bittern in flight was consequently seen by a few! Whiskered Terns were rather more evident, though vastly outnumbered by the Rooks in the fields as we neared Bucharest.
We left in fine and warm conditions, having had a superb time in E Romania, taking the same flight as Elena to return to the UK.
We saw and / or heard an impressive 186 spp. of birds in the end, not the 185 I'd suggested, since I've reinstated Barred Warbler which was indeed what we heard at Canaraua Fetei just before lunch on 9th. Several of these species are new for the spring trip, a typical count for the trip despite us having rather poor weather on occasions. I hope the memories remain vivid with you all for a long time to come.
Nice to see everyone at the airport - with two trips going out from Heathrow that day, and three TN leaders including Bob Gibbons around, you could be forgiven for thinking that Travelling Nats had taken over Terminal One! We managed 170 bird spp in Poland, so OK John, you won! Jamie
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); Lehliu (L); Plevna (P); Calarasi marsh (CM); Silistra Ferry (SF); Lac Bugeac (LB); Canaraua Fetei valley (CF); Adamclisi (A); Mamaia-Sat (MS); Navodari refinery (NR); Histria (H); Targusor road (TR); Cheia Dobrogea (CD); Vadu (V); Babadag Forest south (BF1); Enisala (E); Lac Sarionasuf (LS); Lac Murighiol (LM); Tulcea (T); Danube Delta (DD); Babadag Forest (BF2); Andrasesti forest (AF); Sinaia (SI); Bucegi mountains (BM); Cheile Tatarului (CT); Cheile Zarnesti (CZ); Rasnov Citadel (RC), Colonia 1 Mai (C1M); "en route" (e.r.). Common names and order per Wells' "World Bird Checklist".
1. Red-necked Grebe: 12+ including a few young in DD on 12th.
2. Great Crested Grebe: Seen on 5 days: 4 at CM on 8th, 8-10 CM on 9th, 2 MS + 2 H on 10th, a few in various sites on 11th and a few various sites on 12th.
3. Black-necked [Eared] Grebe: Just 5+ LM.
4. Great Cormorant: Noted on 6 days: 2 P, 50+ various sites on 9th, 50 - 100 various sites on 10th, 100s DD on 11th - 12th and 12s DD on 13th.
5. Pygmy Cormorant: 20+ DD on 11th, 100+ DD on 12th, a few DD on 13th.
6. [Great] White Pelican: Seen on 4 days: 150+ CM on 9th, 2000+ H, 3000+ E + LS, 4-6 DD on 12th.
7. Dalmatian Pelican: Noted on 4 days: 1 P + 8 CM on 8th, 2 LB, 6-7 H and 2 DD on 12th.
8. Grey Heron: Noted on 6 days (8th - 13th May), with 2 P, 2+ LB, a few H, lots at several sites on 11th, lots DD on 12th and a few DD on 13th.
9. Purple Heron: Seen on 4 days: 6+ CM on 9th, 5 H, several various sites on 11th and a few DD on 12th.
10. Great White Egret: Seen on 2 days: 2 H, 2+ e.r. + 2 DD on 11th.
11. Little Egret: Recorded on 6 days: 1 e.r. on 8th, 1 SF on 9th, a few H and 40+ on migration TR on 10th, 300+ DD on 11th, lots DD on 12th and a few DD on 13th.
12. Squacco Heron: Good numbers: 6+ CM, 2 LB and 2 e.r. on 9th, 18 NR and 12 H, 50+ DD on 11th, lots DD on 12th and a few there on 13th.
13. Black-crowned Night Heron: Noted on 6 days: 4 P, 1 CM, 1 MS no 10th, 30+ DD on 11th, lots DD on 12th and a few there on 13th.
14. Little Bittern: 2 males NR, 1 LS and 1 D on 11th, 5-6 DD on 12th and 1 male e.r. on 16th.
15. Black Stork: 1 CF, and 3 DD on 12th.
16. White Stork: Seen daily and widely except on 14th, including max. 300+ on passage over CF and 100+ at various sites on 10th.
17. Glossy Ibis: In DD, 100+ on 11th and 100s on 12th.
18. Eurasian Spoonbill: 4 H, 1 e.r. and 1 DD on 11th, 10+ DD on 12th and 4-5 Danube crossing on 13th.
19. Mute Swan: Incredible numbers: 2 CM and 40 LB on 9th, 40+ various sites on 10th, c. 1000 LS + DD on 11th and 100s DD on 12th and fewer there on 13th.
20. [Greater] White-fronted Goose: 1 possibly injured adult at LS.
21. Greylag Goose: 4+ LB, 25+ LM and 15+ DD on 11th, and 6 DD on 12th.
22. Ruddy Shelduck: 27+ LB and 3 H.
23. Common Shelduck: 1 LB, 2+ NR and 30+ H, and plenty at various sites on 11th.
24. Eurasian Wigeon: 2 males LB.
25. Gadwall: Common: 6 LB, c.10 NR and c.10 H, a few at various sites on 11th, plenty DD on 12th and 13th.
26. Mallard: Quite common and widespread: seen daily in small - moderate number from 8th - 14th.
27. Northern Pintail: A pair LB were a good find.
28. Garganey: 1 male CM and 4 LB, a male NR and a pair H, 1 male LS.
29. [Northern] Shoveler: 1 male LB.
30. Red-crested Pochard: 23 H, 21+ LS and 1 E, and a male DD on 12th.
31. Common Pochard: Common and widespread and seen at most wetlands from 8th - 13th.
32. Ferruginous Duck: Good numbers: 2 CM on 8th, 9`CM on 9th, 4 NR, 20+ between E + DD on 11th, 30+ DD on 12th.
33. Common Goldeneye: Remarkably, a possibly pair (but non-adult male) DD on 12th.
34. [European] Honey Buzzard: Good passage: 3-4 CF, 4 R and 1 CD, 3 DD on 11th, 30+ DD on 12th.
35. White-tailed Eagle: Two adults DD on 11th and 6 DD on 12th and a superb total.
36. Short-toed Eagle: One wonderfully close at CF.
37. [Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: 5 H, 4+ E and 2+ DD on 11th, 2 DD on 12th and 1 e.r. on 13th.
38. Northern Goshawk: 1 RC was a great find.
39. Common Buzzard: Notably thin on the ground, possibly due to weather: 1 TR, 4 e.r. on 13th, 1 e.r. on 14th, c. 6 e.r. on 15th and 1 e.r. on 16th. Most/All were probably ssp. vulpinus.
40. Long-legged Buzzard: One CF, 1 H and 1 CD, 1 LM and one e.r. on 13th.
41. Lesser Spotted Eagle: Two singles CF, and singles RC and C1M.
42. Booted Eagle: Single dark phase birds DD on 11th and 12th and e.r. on 13th.
43. Common Kestrel: Common and widespread: seen daily except on 14th, max. 10+ on 10th and 11th.
44. Red-footed Falcon: Recorded on 6 days: a pair L, 3 MS on 9th, 20+ various sites on 10th, plenty e.r. on 11th, 20+ DD on 12th and 2 e.r. on 13th.
45. Eurasian Hobby: 2 P, 1 E and 1 DD on 11th, 6-8 DD on 12th and 2 AF.
46. Common Quail: 1 noted in a roadside field by Gillian e.r. on 13th.
47. Common Pheasant: 1+ heard CF, a pair H, plenty DD on 11th - 13th and a couple e.r. on 14th.
48. Water Rail: Singles h 'sharming' NR and also DD on 12th.
49. Moorhen: Ones and twos P, CM, NR, LS, with 6+ DD on 12th and 1 e.r. on 13th.
50. Eurasian Coot: 6+ CM on 9th, a few H and LS, plenty DD on 12th and one there on 13th.
51. Black-winged Stilt: 4+ H and 15+ various sites on 11th.
52. [Pied] Avocet: 4+ LB, 20+ H, plenty at various sites on 11th, 1 e.r. no 13th.
53. European Stone-curlew: 2 from the TR were a great find.
54. Collared Pratincole: 15+ CM on 9th and 20+ H.
55. [Northern] Lapwing: Small numbers seen on 5 days in lowland areas: max. 10+ on 9th, 12+ H and 15+ on 11th.
56. Little Ringed Plover: Singles CM on 9th and MS on 10th and 2 e.r. on 13th.
57. Kentish Plover: Just 2 at H.
58. Black-tailed Godwit: Just one at H.
59. Spotted Redshank: 6+ at LB, 5 H and 2 DD on 11th.
60. Common Redshank: Just 4 at V.
61. Common Greenshank: Just 1 DD on 11th.
62. Wood Sandpiper: 1 H, 15+ V and 2 e.r. on 13th.
63. Common Sandpiper: One SF, and 2 DD on 11th.
64. Little Stint: 7-8 at V and 15-20 e.r. on 13th.
65. Temminck's Stint: A good total: 3 CM on 9th, 3 at H, 1 at V and 3 e.r. on 13th.
66. Curlew Sandpiper: 1 NR and 6+ at H, 5 at V and 1 e.r. on 13th, mostly in summer plumage.
67. Ruff: Moderate numbers on passage: 100+ H and 20+ at V.
68. Yellow-legged Gull: Plenty, of all ages, especially on the beach at MS, but also mixed at groups e.r. on 8th and at CM on 9th.
69. Caspian Gull: All those positively IDed in the DD from 11th - 13th were of this form, in particular when moored at Tulcea. Others mixed with Yellow-leggeds, including on the beach at MS and also inland elsewhere.
70. Mediterranean Gull: 40+ MS on 10th and also seen in moderate number at V and LM.
71. Black-headed Gull: A few seen daily from 8th - 13th, with plenty in the DD.
72. Little Gull: 15+ around the V tern colony.
73. Whiskered Tern: Common and widespread in the lowlands, seen daily from 8th - 13th, including 100s in the DD, and a few e.r. on 16th.
74. Black Tern: One e.r. on 8th, 20+ between CM and LB on 9th, 6+ at H, a few DD on 11th and 12th.
75. Common Tern: Common and widespread in lowland areas, both on inland lakes and coastal sites, seen daily from 8th - 13th; max. 30+ at MS on 10th and 50+ DD on 11th and 12th.
76. Little Tern: 10+ at H.
77. Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon: Noted daily except on 12th, all were Feral Pigeons of some type.
78. Stock Dove: One DD on 11th and 3-4 DD on 12th.
79. Wood Pigeon: 6+ DD on 12th, 1 e.r. on 14th and 2 C1M.
80. European Turtle Dove: Relatively few: 6+ CF, 1 e.r. no 11th and 2-3 e.r. on 13th.
81. [Eurasian] Collared Dove: Quite common and widespread, noted widely and daily except on 12th and 14th.
82. Common Cuckoo: Remarkably common. Noted on all days, with max. 30+ in DD on 12th; single hepatic phase birds on 9th, 11th, 12th and 13th.
83. Long-eared Owl: A pair + nest + chicks at MS on 9th and 10th was a real treat.
84. Little Owl: One h at CF early afternoon and one seen distantly TR.
85. Alpine Swift: 2 high over SI on 14th and 4-5 at various sites on 15th.
86. Common Swift: Seen daily and widely from 9th - 14th in small to moderate number.
87. Common Kingfisher: One DD on 11th, 5 DD on 12th, and 2-3 there on 13th.
88. European Bee-eater: Seen daily in moderate to good number from 8th - 13th, max. 50 - 100 on 9th and 11th.
89. European Roller: Excellent numbers: 2 on 8th, 6 on 9th, 6+ on 10th, 40+ on 11th, 40+ DD on 12th and 8+ e.r. on 13th.
90. [Eurasian] Hoopoe: Ones and twos seen widely at numerous sites from 8th - 14th, max. 10+ on 9th, 8+ on 10th and 10+ on 11th.
91. Middle Spotted Woodpecker: A fine male watched in oaks at CF, then one at BF2 were excellent finds.
92. Syrian Woodpecker: Singles at Calarasi on 9th and CD.
93. Great Spotted Woodpecker: One - four at various sites on 5 days, including in the DD.
94. Three-toed Woodpecker: One very briefly in the BM seen by most.
95. Black Woodpecker: 3 singles in the DD on 12th, plus visible damage on trees in BM especially.
96. Green Woodpecker: Two h CF.
97. Grey-headed Woodpecker: Excellent numbers: in DD 2 on 11th, 5 on 12th and 1 on 13th, plus 2 BF2 and one C1M.
98. Calandra Lark: Plenty at various roadside sites on 10th, 15+ e.r. on 11th and several e.r. on 13th.
99. [Greater] Short-toed Lark: One singing high over TR.
100. Crested Lark: One CM and 3+ A on 9th, several at various sites on 10th, a few at V+ on 11th, 1+ e.r. on 13th and 1 e.r. on 15th.
101. [Eurasian] Sky Lark: Noted in small number on 4 days in agricultural areas, max. 20+ on 10th.
102. [European] Sand Martin: Common in lowland wetlands from 8th - 11th, max. 100s SF and 1000+ H. Also a few e.r. on 15th.
103. Barn Swallow: Noted daily and widely in variable number except on 14th.
104. Red-rumped Swallow: 2 hawking over CF.
105. [Common] House Martin: Noted daily and widely in variable number wherever towns and villages; absent from DD on 12th.
106. Black-headed Wagtail: All 'yellow wagtails' seen were this form: 2 males P, 3-4 LB, plenty H and plenty e.r. on 11th, plus 2 e.r. on 13th.
107. White Wagtail: Noted daily and widely in small number from 9th - 15th.
108. Grey Wagtail: At SI 2-4+ from 14th - 16th, 1 CT, and several CZ.
109. Tawny Pipit: Just one briefly at A.
110. Tree Pipit: 3+ singing in the BM.
111. Water Pipit: 3 in alpine grassland in the BM.
112. Red-backed Shrike: Common and widespread breeder and migrant: noted daily from 9th - 15th except on 14th, max. 100+ on 10th and 50+ on 11th.
113. Lesser Grey Shrike: Many fewer than R-b. Shrike, but seen 8th - 11th and on 13th, max. 30+ on 10th.
114. White-throated Dipper: 3 SI and 2 CT on 14th, 2+ CZ on 15th and a juv. SI on 16th.
115. [Winter] Wren: Just one h along CZ.
116. Hedge Accentor [Dunnock]: 1-2 daily at SI from 14th - 16th, and heard BM.
117. Ring Ouzel: 3 in BM.
118. [Common] Blackbird: Widespread in small numbers, and noted daily except on 12th.
119. Fieldfare: One SI and another e.r. on 14th, 10+ at various sites on 15th and several heard SI on 16th.
120. Song Thrush: Noted on 6 days in forested areas: 2 + several heard CF, heard DD on 12th & 13th, several in mountains daily from 14th - 16th.
121. Mistle Thrush: Just 1 in flight in alpine meadows at BM.
122. [European] Robin: After one heard in BF2, seen daily in small number in SI area.
123. Thrush Nightingale: One singing at Calarasi on 9th, one MS on 10th, 3 seen and others heard DD on 12th and plenty heard DD on 13th.
124. Common Nightingale: Relatively few: 1 seen and others heard at Calarasi on 9th, and singing birds CD and AF.
125. Black Redstart: One MS and 1-2 CD on 10th, 1 SI on 14th, 2 SI and 2 CZ on 15th and 1-2 SI on 16th.
126. Common Redstart: One male singing at Calarasi on 9th, 1 male at H, 4+ seen and lots more heard in DD on 12th, other heard DD on 13th and a male SI on 14th.
127. Whinchat: Just one briefly e.r. on 10th.
128. Isabelline Wheatear: Noted only on 10th, but 2 pairs and two singles along the TR, then two singles e.r. back to hotel.
129. Northern Wheatear: Noted on 4 days: 3-4 at A, a few at various sites on 10th, a few e.r. on 11th and 1 in the BM.
130. Pied Wheatear: Extraordinary numbers: an estimated 8 pairs in CD.
131. Savi's Warbler: One h singing at P and 2+ h singing and one seen by Jeremy at NR.
132. River Warbler: One h singing at C1M.
133. Sedge Warbler: One singing at Calarasi and another seen SF on 9th, and 6+ NR.
134. [European] Marsh Warbler: Two migrants in reeds at NR.
135. [Eurasian] Reed Warbler: plenty at NR and heard singing DD on 12th.
136. Paddyfield Warbler: At least 5 at NR were a great find.
137. Great Reed Warbler: One of the most widespread and obvious reedbed species: noted daily in small number from 8th - 13th at a variety of wetland sites.
138. Icterine Warbler: Good numbers: one singing at Calarasi on 9th, singles seen MS and H on 10th, 1 seen and another singing DD on 12th, 2 seen and 2+ heard BF2 and heard singing C1M.
139. Willow Warbler: 4 NR and 5+ other sites on 10th and heard singing RC.
140. [Common] Chiffchaff: Small numbers (mostly heard only) noted on 6 days, at CF, DD, BF2, AF, BM, RC and SI.
141. Wood Warbler: One over drinks at L, singles H and MS on 10th, 1 singing DD on 12th and 6+ BF2.
142. Blackcap: Noted in small - moderate numbers on 5 days. Max. 5+ on 10th and several in BF2.
143. Garden Warbler: Widespread in well wooded habitats where common: singles seen MS and H on 10th, and lots heard DD no 12th and 13th and on 15th.
144. Common Whitethroat: 3 at A, 1 MS on 10th and 2 e.r. on 15th.
145. Lesser Whitethroat: Two over drinks at L, 1 CF, 2+ at MS and 2+ at H on 10th and 1 SI on 16th.
146. Barred Warbler: One heard singing briefly in scrub at CF.
147. Firecrest: One seen briefly and another heard e.r. on 14th and 1+ heard SI on 15th.
148. Goldcrest: One seen and a couple heard e.r. in BM and 2+ SI on 15th.
149. Spotted Flycatcher: Noted in small number on 6 days: max. 8+ on 10th, and 6+ on 12th and 13th.
150. [European] Pied Flycatcher: Just 1 female by the road towards H, though a male apparently of this species going into a nest-hole seen by Mark en route on 8th, must have been a Collared or potentially (though very unlikely) even a Semi-collared Flycatcher (as Pied doesn't breed this far S).
151. Collared Flycatcher: Two males and others heard in DD on 12th, a male and a female early at SI on 14th and one briefly there again on 16th.
152. Red-breasted Flycatcher: Excellent numbers: 10+ migrants at MS and H on 10th, 3 males and others heard BF2 on 13th, heard singing RC and also SI on 16th.
153. Long-tailed Tit: A remarkably difficult bird to watch in Romania in my experience: one fly-by and a couple of others heard in DD no 12th.
154. [Eurasian] Penduline Tit: One heard and seen briefly at CF, then a few others heard in the DD on 12th.
155. Marsh Tit: One or two calling briefly at BF2 and 2+ SI on 16th.
156. Coal Tit: Common in mountains at SI and BM from 14th - 16th.
157. Great Tit: Noted widely and almost daily in small number, especially around SI and BM.
158. Blue Tit: Just 4+ at Calarasi on 9th, then a few daily in DD on 12th and 13th and heard SI on 14th.
159. [Eurasian] Nuthatch: A few BF2, one e.r. on 14th and 2+ SI on 16th.
160. Wallcreeper: A stunning male at CT.
161. Eurasian Treecreeper: Just one heard singing at SI on 16th.
162. Eurasian Jay: Widespread in forested areas and seen on 5 days.
163. Black-billed Magpie: Widespread, common and seen daily except on 14th.
164. Eurasian [Western] Jackdaw: Seen in moderate number daily except on 14th.
165. Rook: Abundant in lowlands, but also seen in slightly higher agricultural areas: seen daily except on 14th and 15th.
166. Hooded Crow: Common and widespread, and noted daily.
167. Common Raven: One DD on 11th, 2 e.r. into mountains on 13th, 4-5 various sites on 14th and 6+ on 15th.
168. [Eurasian] Golden Oriole: Common and widespread in lower deciduous woodland; seen daily from 9th - 13th, especially in the DD, and also 2+ C1M:
169. Common Starling: Seen daily in small - large number except on 14th.
170. Corn Bunting: Noted quite commonly and widely in lowland and steppe areas, from 9th - 11th and 13th.
171. Yellowhammer: One at CF, 1 seen and others heard BF2 and several C1M.
172. Ortolan Bunting: A couple heard singing at CD and one in partial song BF2.
173. Black-headed Bunting: A male from the minibus as we left CD was sadly the only one.
174. Reed Bunting: A fine male at H.
175. Common Chaffinch: Noted widely in woodland areas on 7 days; commonest CF and SI.
176. European Serin: At SI, one or two heard singing on 14th and 16th and 1+ seen and others heard at RC.
177. European Greenfinch: Several at Calarasi and CF on 9th, then in small number from 13th - 16th, especially around SI.
178. European Goldfinch: Just a few noted in lowlands at Calarasi, CF, CD, etc, from 8th - 11th, then 3 SI on 16th.
179. Common Linnet: Four+ at A, a few CD and 1 e.r. on 15th.
180. Common [Red] Crossbill: 6+ in BM and heard SI on 16th.
181. [Eurasian] Bullfinch: Four+ in BM, then at SI, 2 on 15th and 4+ on 16th.
182. Hawfinch: Frustratingly elusive as ever!: 5-6 at CF, 3+ BF2 and one on the road seen by Gill G at C1M.
183. House Sparrow: Noted commonly and widely every day except on 12th in DD.
184. Spanish Sparrow: One male seen and others heard SF, several near H, one male and others heard LS.
185. Tree Sparrow: Widespread in lowlands where seen on 6 days, plus 3+ on 15th.
This was slightly lower than my previous trips, but the quality in some ways was higher, as we added Goldeneye, Long-eared Owl (though we have actually heard this on a previous trip), Isabelline Wheatear and Paddyfield and River Warblers to the list, and I also recorded Ruddy Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Stone-curlew and Black-headed Bunting to my Romanian 'list' for the first time.
Wild Cat: A huge dead animal at BF1.
Brown Bear: Just amazing! 8 on the outskirts of Brasov on 13th, then another 4 there and one as we were almost back in SI on 15th.
Common Dolphin: A couple of feeding groups totalling 12+ at MS on 10th.
Wild Boar: Rootlings at BF2.
Red Deer: Slots in the BM.
Red Squirrel: One e.r. on 9th, 5+ SI on 14th and 2 SI on 16th.
European Souslik: At least 5 at P, c. 15 at various sites on 9th, 12s on 10th and a few on 11th.
Muskrat: 3-4 CM on 9th.
Mole / Mole-rat spp.: Hills all over everywhere except in the DD! While most, especially in wooded and mountainous areas were undoubtedly due to moles, the huge numbers on the steppes were probably also largely in part due to a mole-rat species.
Vole sp.: About half a dozen in the SI woods suggest a 'plague' there this year.
Amphibians & Reptiles :
Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina) - Heard 'booping' at numerous lowland sites including the DD from 9th - 12th.
Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata) - 12s in pools and puddles at C1M were a delight.
Common Toad (Bufo bufo) - One dead on the track at LB.
Green Toad (Bufo viridis) - Heard calling at both P and from the TR.
Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) - A beauty CF and lots h calling at DD on 12th.
Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) - Heard commonly and widely in wetland habitats, from 8th - 13th, with loud choruses very notable in lowland areas, e.g. H and DD.
Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis taurica) - several at A.
Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) - One at A and 4 in AF (these were not Balkan Green Lizards as .
European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis) - A good sized one at CF.
Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) - One seen swimming in the DD on 12th.
Butterflies & Moths:
Scarce Swallowtail - One over drinks at L and several in the CF area.
Clouded Apollo - Wonderfully common! 2 CF and lots in the BF2 area.
Small White - 2+ at CF.
Green-veined White - Lots at BF2.
Orange-tip - A few CF and area and lots at BF2.
Clouded Yellow - Plenty at various sites on 9th.
Pale / Berger's Clouded Yellow - Several at CM on 9th and e.r. later that day were one of these two species, and probably Pale CYs since this is much the commoner of the two species.
Small Copper - Two+ at CF and one AF.
Lesser Fiery Copper - A beauty at CM had us thinking of Large Copper, but the wing patterns are quite distinct.
Brown Argus - One at CF.
Silver-studded Blue - Several at CF and one by the road at BF2.
Common Blue - Several on both 9th and 10th and a few besides BF2.
Small Tortoiseshell - One dead in a museum window at RC.
Painted Lady - Just one at A.
Knapweed Fritillary - notably common at CM, LB etc. on 9th, and again seen at BF2.
Small Heath - Single CD and C1M.
Speckled Wood - Several CF and plenty at BF2.
Wall Brown - Several at CF.
Large Skipper - 2 at AF.
White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes) were common at AF; the Vagrant Emperor dragonfly (Hemianax eppiphiger) at CM on 9th was a rare migrant; the red-and-black striped bug (Graphosoma italicum) was a treat at BF2; the also red-and-black Ground or Fire Bugs (Pyrrhocoridae or Lygaeidae) were quite frequent at various sites, including CF and BF2; the Froghoppers (Aphrophoridae) in the DD deserve special mention, the willow trees literally streaming with sap as a result of their attentions; the day-flying Speckled Yellow moths (Pseudopanthera maculata) were quite common, being seen at CF, BF1 and AF amongst other sites; the little Dung Beetles (Scarabaeidae) at LB and BF2 though amusing, will remain unnamed; the beautiful Rose Chafer (Cetonia aurata) at AF was a fine beast; the remarkable long-horn Beetle (Morimus funereus) in BF2 was also a treat to see; only Mark saw the impressive Great Silver Beetle (Hydrophilus piceus) with huge ventral spine which had crash-landed on the back of the pontoon late on 11th.