TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
Romania in Spring
14th 22nd May 2005
Saturday 14th May Arrival
Bright & sunny, 21°C
We met up at Heathrow and the flight duly arrived at Bucharest on time. After a brief wait for luggage, we went through customs and met up with Tudor and Costi. Five of the group had flown in previously from the US and were waiting for us in the bus. We set off, heading south-east towards Calarasi. Our first stop was for coffee and restrooms near Lehliu. A Nightingale was singing from the shrubbery as we alighted, and two Spotted Flycatchers were perched up in the trees. A fine male Red-backed Shrike appeared briefly, eventually moving into a dead tree and allowing everyone to view it. We ordered drinks, just as a male Red-footed Falcon drifted overhead, then a Lesser Whitethroat appeared searching for insects in the trees. What the patrons of the restaurant thought we will never know! Other species noted en route included a Common Buzzard being mobbed by a Kestrel, and various Hooded Crows, Jackdaws and Rooks. A second stop overlooking a pond near Plevna disturbed at least five Night-herons, and there were Black-headed Gulls, Whiskered Terns and Common Terns patrolling the lake for food. With distant Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, and a Grey Heron and pair of Gadwall on the opposite shore, we hardly knew where to look next! The grassy slope on the other side of the lake had good numbers of Sousliks (a diminutive ground-squirrel, forming a major prey item for eagles and other predators). Finally a Cuckoo was spotted flying along the shore away from us, but it eventually returned and flew right across in front of us for all to see. As we travelled on, White Storks began to appear, both in the fields and on nests in the villages. Our final stop was to overlook one of the fishponds near Calarasi. The only bird of interest was a single Dalmatian Pelican, the nearest ponds being drained and dry on this visit. We arrived at the hotel in the town in time to settle in and have dinner.
Sunday 15th May Calarasi, Lac Bugeac, Canaraua Fetei & Mamaia
Mostly cloudy all day.
Our pre-breakfast walk had to be rearranged slightly as the authorities were spraying against mosquitoes alongside the river, and no access was allowed. We walked instead along an adjacent road, through a small area of parkland to the head of an inlet off the main River Danube. The star bird was an excellent view of a singing Thrush Nightingale, with great views through the telescope of this usually very reclusive species. The Tree Sparrows, as usual, were very confiding. Walking round to the other side of the inlet, the very high water levels had created an area of flooded scrub. Two Little Bitterns flew across, and a Kingfisher was present, showing briefly as we left to head back for breakfast. A really close Green Woodpecker flew down on to the concrete slope, feeding on ants and delaying our return; then a Wryneck was heard calling and showed briefly to one of the group, delaying us further! After breakfast, we loaded up and headed off, first stop being the Calarasi Fish Ponds, just outside town. Here we were very quickly into overload, with both White & Dalmatian Pelicans, all three 'marsh' terns, Ferruginous Ducks, good numbers of shore-birds, Great Reed Warblers showing well, and the odd Little Bittern. A Savi's Warbler was singing intermittently but didn't show. The shorebirds included breeding-plumaged Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Ruffs, Turnstones, Avocet and Black-winged Stilts. Ducks included good numbers of Ferruginous Ducks, a couple of drake Garganey, a pair of Gadwall and good numbers of Pochard. A Collared Pratincole flew in, landing briefly before taking off again; two more flew overhead a little later. The Marsh Frogs gave us a good display from the flooded ditches. We checked the ponds on the other side of the road, finding Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swans, a small breeding colony of Black-headed Gulls and a single Pygmy Cormorant. We had to move on, the ferry at Silistra was just unloading as we arrived and we headed across the Danube within a quarter hour. With our optics hidden for a short while as we drove alongside the Bulgarian border, we pressed on to Lac Bugeac, walking a short way out along the ridge top overlooking the lake, immediately finding several Ruddy Shelduck and a small party of Greylag Geese. A distant Honey-buzzard landed on a distant ridge and a Common Whitethroat was on territory and gave a short display flight. As we left we found a pair of Bee-eaters, cuddling together on some overhead wires. We moved on, stopping briefly for Rollers, Lesser Grey Shrikes and Syrian Woodpecker, arriving a little later than expected at Canaraua Fetei for our picnic lunch. Whilst Costi and Tudor set out the table, we were watching Golden Orioles in the trees and a dark-plumaged Long-legged Buzzard which drifted over. A Goshawk then flew across, putting up all the Starlings, Bee-eaters and hirundines to mob it. After lunch, we walked the wooded trail, finding Spotted flycatcher, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Wood Warbler, until reaching the fields at the end, where we found several Red-rumped Swallows and their nests in the shallow caves in the cliff face.
Two Long-eared Owl chicks in the hotel grounds, Mamaia
We really had to get back and head on to Mamaia, arriving rather later than expected, not helped by two stops by the border police checking for illegal immigrants. Our final species for the day was an adult Long-eared Owl in the trees outside our rooms, guarding a brood of three well-grown chicks sitting out on the branches.
Monday 16th May Nevodari Pools, Lac Nuntasi, Histria, Cheia Gorge
Fine and sunny, light breeze from NE
The refinery pools at Nevodari were full of water, with little or no mud showing. Consequently, there were very few shorebirds. Ferruginous Ducks showed well, as did Pochards, a single Tufted Duck, two broods of Mute Swans, and several Garganey and Gadwall. Three Sandwich Terns sitting on a floating pipeline just offshore were joined by several others and two Common Terns, this latter species apparently breeding in small numbers on a partly hidden mud bank at the back of the pool. We were walking along the road towards the bus, when we found both an excellent Cuckoo and a male Black-headed Wagtail perched up on some shrubs. Then an unfamiliar song took our attention and a Paddyfield Warbler showed briefly before flying further away. We arrived back at the hotel for breakfast only 15 minutes later than expected! After a leisurely breakfast, we headed northwards, stopping firstly near to Lac Nuntasi where there were many Calandra Larks on territory. Red-footed Falcons further on prompted another stop and we were treated to at least a dozen of these superb falcons flying around us and perched on machinery in the fields and on the electricity wires. As we approached Histria, we stopped to view the various reed beds and lagoons. A towering mass of White Pelicans put on a display overhead, as did good numbers of Collared Pratincoles. Three Paddyfield Warblers right alongside the road in some short reeds were chasing each other and singing, often showing well if only for brief moments. A short distance further on where the reeds increased in height, both Reed and Great Reed Warblers showed themselves and several Savi's Warblers could be heard 'reeling' deeper in. Bearded Tits made tantalisingly brief appearances, usually flying across a gap before plunging back into the reedbed. Two races of Yellow Wagtails were seen, the Black-headed Wagtail (feldegg) which breeds both here and in the wider Balkan-Turkey-Black Sea area, and the Romanian-breeding race ('dombrowskii') which has a rather greyish head, darker ear coverts and a white supercilium. The lagoon had good numbers of Little Stints and some really close Curlew Sandpipers. Also, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Collared Pratincoles, Little Terns, several Common Redshank and singles of Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, a nice male Ruff with most of his breeding finery present, and a Kentish Plover. The next lagoon held mostly Shelduck, but also several breeding Avocets sitting on nests hidden in the little islands of emergent vegetation. Two Marsh Harriers flew over and we eventually arrived at the archaeological site at Histria. As the picnic lunch was prepared and laid out on the tables in the café, the rest of the group explored the ruins.
Having seen several Northern Wheatears there, and a Little Owl perched up on a pole near the café, we moved on after lunch, heading 'cross-country' towards the Cheia gorge. We stopped several times as we crossed the steppes, for Isabelline Wheatears, Calandra Larks and a brief Tawny Pipit. As we walked down through the gorge, to meet the bus at the bottom, several pairs of Pied Wheatears showed well, as did Northern and ultimately a single pair of Black-eared Wheatears. A Black Redstart did a disappearing act, and the numerous Common Kestrels prompted a good discussion on the features of this and Lesser Kestrel. We eventually had to head back, arriving back at the hotel in good time for the call-over and dinner. The Long-eared Owl chicks were calling loudly after dinner, obviously wanting theirs'.
Tuesday 17th May Vadu, Babadag Forest, Enisala, Danube Delta
Sunny but cool, with some cloud
Before breakfast we checked on our family of Long-eared Owls, finding 2 chicks and an adult in the same group of trees. We then walked out to the beach. A pair of Little Ringed Plovers was displaying but the flock of large gulls took off before we could check them out. Returning, we saw a Lesser Whitethroat and then heard and briefly glimpsed a singing Olivaceous Warbler in the tamarisks. We managed a slightly earlier than normal breakfast and were away before 9am. First stop was Vadu where we walked a short distance along the road, viewing the reeds and salt-marsh on both sides. We found large numbers of breeding Collared Pratincoles, and had a brief view of a singing Paddyfield Warbler and excellent and prolonged views of singing Savi's Warblers. A Whinchat put in a brief appearance as we walked up the slope to view one of the ponds. Here the island in the middle was a large breeding colony of Common Terns with Sandwich Terns also in attendance and a small number of Black-headed Gulls. A small flock of Little Gulls flew past. A second pool and a shallow lagoon contained various other shorebirds including breeding Black-winged Stilts and Avocets. This excellent area, like Histria yesterday, deserved more time but we had to move on. Heading back to the main road, we turned north, stopping in the Babadag Forest for a brief 'bush stop'. Over an hour later(!), we had finished lunch, found several singing male Ortolan Buntings and got completely confused with a whole variety of flowers. We did record three orchid species, namely White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium), Toothed Orchid (Orchis tridentata) and large numbers of Greater Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera chlorantha). Moving on again, we passed a large towering column of several hundred White Pelicans thermalling over the road. A brief detour to Enisala to overlook the marshes here was relatively quiet, though Bee-eaters and Northern Wheatear nearby were followed by two male Red-crested Pochards in the nearest pool below us. A flock of this last named species flew past as we were reboarding the bus. On then to Tulcea to board the ponton.
After brief visits to pharmacy, postcards and bureau de change, we were all duly installed in our cabins and ready for the teas/coffees available. There was a slight delay before we set off along the central Sulina channel to our first overnight mooring. The Danube was over two metres above normal for this time of year, and was overflowing its banks in many places. Even so, there were large numbers of egrets and herons, and we had excellent views of many Glossy Ibis, several Pygmy Cormorants and a pair of Hobby sitting in a riverside tree. Several Red-footed Falcons were hawking for insects as the light faded. Rollers sitting up at the ends of dead branches were seen regularly. With dinner at 8pm, we were still moving towards our mooring as the sun set, and there was a quick exodus by several people for the required photograph! After the call-over, Tudor gave us his brief history of Romania.
Wednesday 18th May Danube Delta
Sunny & virtually cloudless, calm first thing, light breeze thereafter
We were awoken by drumming and calls from a pair of Black Woodpeckers right alongside the boat. On deck, we found that we had moored within sight of a nesting tree, with the adults arriving to feed well-grown young. We couldn't quite see the hole, which was just out of sight at the back of the tree, but we could watch the adults arriving every quarter hour or so and could sometimes see the young leaning out in their eagerness for breakfast. During our own breakfast, a pair of Common Redstarts landed on the tables on deck for a few minutes. We then boarded the small launches to explore the quieter channels and lakes. With the very high water level, the woodland edges were under water. Even so, there were excellent numbers of herons and egrets, and as mentioned before, Rollers were seen every few hundred metres. There were relatively few pelicans, though both species were noted. Hobby regularly gave excellent displays and we saw several pairs perched in the sunshine. Beautiful Demoiselle and both Blue-tailed and Emerald Damselflies noted together with other unidentified species. One person had a brief view of a Peregrine perched in a tree, and the very few Marsh Harriers in general were the only large raptors. We arrived near to the village at Mila 23 well ready for a short walk along the path. Searching a group of trees found only Common Redstart, Garden Warblers and a Pond Terrapin on the path. We then walked into the village where there were Black Redstart in the flooded gardens and House Martins collecting mud for nests.
The ponton had moved here and we settled down for an excellent lunch, after which we moved on for several hours, spotting several pairs of Red-necked Grebes and two distant Black-necked Grebes during this stretch. Mooring briefly to let us on to the launches for another exploration of the smaller lakes and channels, we quickly found ourselves presented with the stunning spectacle of a large breeding colony containing most of the species of waterbirds we had been seeing up to now. Great Cormorants, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Spoonbill, Night Heron, Glossy Ibis - the sight, sound and smell of a colony such as this will remain in our memories! We withdrew quietly, especially important since we realised that the attendant Hooded Crows and Rooks were waiting their chance to pick off unattended nests. We then motored on, eventually finding ourselves pushing through a very narrow channel which with normal water levels would be a tunnel under the willows but on this occasion we were pushing through between the tree tops! A Little Bittern flew across landing ahead, and allowing us to pass within 3 metres, just standing up straight in true bittern style! A pair of Hobbies looked fantastic in the late afternoon sun, as did the numerous Rollers. At one spot, a Little Crake was calling but with no chance of seeing it, we moved on. Finally a brood of small dark ducklings with white cheek patches could only have been Goldeneye, the female seen a surprising distance away from the brood. We emerged out of the 'jungle' on to the main channel to find the ponton moored up and waiting for us as arranged. Dinner was followed by a video of the Delta, produced some years ago by the BBC.
Thursday 19th May Tulcea, Cilic Dere Monastery, Babadag Forest, Lake Fundata, Balta Rodeanu
Warm but with thin high cloud, rain around Sinaia
The ponton was on the move from around 6am and we were moored back in Tulcea soon after breakfast. The river was still rising and the currents were pretty fierce. Costi retrieved the bus and we were on our way soon after 8:30. Our first brief stop was to overlook Lake Somova, just to the west of Tulcea. A Little Owl was perched on the old barn and the usual waterbirds were on the lake. A Large Copper butterfly was noted just before reboarding the bus. The Monastery of Celic Dere was most rewarding with Wryneck heard, Golden Orioles and shrikes most visible as we walked up the hill through the orchards. The wood, mostly beech, held a number of Wood Warblers, but we also noted Icterine Warbler, Nuthatch and found a nice Lady Orchid and a number of Greater Butterfly Orchids. A Hawfinch flew over but was only seen by a few of us, and a Red-backed Shrike was found on a nest. Honey-buzzards and Common Buzzards were noted as we travelled on, and the stop at the western end of the Babadag Forest for a short walk and lunch was fairly quiet though a dark morph Booted Eagle overhead as we disembarked kept us guessing until it moved off and we got a better view. A Tawny Owl called as we entered the forest, Wood Warblers were seen and Redstart, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were all heard singing. A superb Lady Orchid was found just by the path. As we were packing away the picnic things, we were watching Clouded Apollo and Green-veined White butterflies when we were interrupted by a Levant Sparrowhawk flying over. A further brief stop for restrooms and ice creams, then two further stops at Lake Fundata and Balta Rodeanu provided us with superb views of displaying Black-necked Grebes, a pair of Shelduck with a brood of ducklings and Avocets on nests. A Hoopoe showed well waiting for us to depart before entering a nest hole with food for young. We heard during the drive that a government conference had taken over our hotel and that we had been upgraded to one out of town. This meant that we had to travel about ten minutes to our restaurant for dinner (instead of walking across the road!). In any case we had a really excellent dinner at the 'game restaurant' and we all retired to bed feeling rather tired but looking forward to exploring a part of Transylvania in the morning.
Friday 20th May Zarnes¸ti Gorge, Ras¸nov & Vulcan
Overcast with cloud below the hilltops, damp with some drizzle.
Cloud was still low with intermittent light drizzle, so we all met up for breakfast at 8am as usual, but with no pre-breakfast walk. Driving north through Sinaia, we turned west climbing over the end of the Bucegi ridge, heading for Zarnes¸ti. The track up through the gorge here was only just below cloud level, so was rather damp and chilly. We stopped for a pair of Dippers in the roadside stream, collecting dead leaves for its nest under the river bank a little way downstream. While here, we found Grey & White Wagtails, Black Redstart, and most surprising of all, at least two Crag Martins quartering back & forth along the cliff face and apparently exploring nest sites. We moved on in the bus, stopping at the gate and then walking on from there. Wren, Robin, Mistle Thrush and Chaffinch much in evidence, either heard or seen or both. The vertical cliff faces revealed nothing of interest, but looking groundwards we found some nice Snowbells (probably Soldanella hungarica), Oxlips (Primula elatior), Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), and a pale cream Comfrey (Symphytum cordatum). A male Grey Wagtail sat up on a branch as we returned and Tudor found a superb Fire Salamander for all to admire. We retraced our route in the bus, to have lunch in Ras¸nov before heading on to a lovely area of orchards, woods and flower meadows near Vulcan. Only Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Forget-me-not (Myosotis sp.) and Bugle (Ajuga sp.) were in bloom, though there were plenty of spikes of White False Helleborine and other unidentifed 'bulbs'. The several pairs of Fieldfare showed well and a pair of Golden Orioles were most upset by our presence. A Common Whitethroat was feeding in the brambles, then we found a Lesser Whitethroat in one of the fruit trees, followed by good views of a female Blackcap. Yellow-bellied Toads were in the ponds and Tudor caught one to show us its amazing yellow-marked belly. We headed back to the hotel, and were ready to meet up again at 7:30 for the drive to Bras¸ov for dinner, after which we checked out the outskirts of the city, immediately finding a family group of European Brown Bears, themselves checking out the dustbins! We first saw the three cubs, only around 2-3 months of age, on the top of a retaining wall at the bottom of a wooded slope. Then mother stood up in one of the communal garbage bins! They were totally unconcerned with us parked only a few metres away and with traffic passing on the road. They ambled off up the slope into the forest, we moved on as well, doing a circuit and retracing our steps, finding a second family group at another set of bins. This was a mother with three cubs from last year, around 14-15 months of age. Once they moved off, we headed back to the hotel, getting back soon after midnight.
Saturday 21st May Poiana Reginei (Queen's Clearing), Rasnov Citadel, Rasnov Gorge
Overcast, partly sunny.
We vaguely arranged a pre-breakfast walk around the hotel for the insomniacs amongst us. Three of us managed to meet up at the rear of the hotel, finding Bullfinch, Coal Tit and a glimpse of Sparrowhawk and two Jays. A further member walked down to the village and back, also noting Bullfinch. After breakfast, since the clouds had lifted and the weather was actually quite good (unlike the television forecast!) we decided to head directly up the hill to the Poiana Reginei or Queen's Clearing. This wonderful damp sloping meadow was ablaze with Oxlips, Bugle and various other plants. White False Helleborine formed quite dense groups, dense enough for the local Ring Ouzels to disappear amongst them. Looking closely at the sward, we noted that it was rich with Crocus species and what appeared to be Snowdrops. The first Elder-flowered Orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina) caused a flurry of activity amongst the photographers, this being a cream-flowered variety. Scrutinising my photographs, the gentians were Trumpet Gentian (Gentiana acaulis) not as identified at the time. While this was going on, a cry of What's this owl? resulted in lovely views of a Ural Owl perched at the edge of the wood. A Raven came over and started croaking, both at us and at the owl. The Ring Ouzels meanwhile had reappeared in the valley below and were showing reasonably well, unlike the various Tree Pipits singing around us. Once the owl moved further into the wood, we moved up the slope towards its last position, so we could look along the slope for Tree Pipits and Ring Ouzels. We had excellent views of both. Then a second Ural Owl, this one much browner, flew across the valley below us. Turning back for the track, a stunning male Common Redstart perched on the fence, then three Ring Ouzels perched up on a small tree, allowing all to view them through the telescopes. A Jay also perched briefly on the fence. There was also a lovely patch of both cream and red Elder-flowered Orchids, which again caused a photographers' flurry! We walked on down the track to meet up with Costi in the bus, finding some more Snowbells. It was while inspecting these that we were welcomed by the local dogs, who obediently sat when told to! Quite rare to find a bilingual dog! We drove on, over the ridge and returned to the café in Ras¸nov for lunch. This was rather more protracted than expected, but even so, we managed 40 minutes at the Citadel, some going inside whilst others birded down the hill. Here we found a Red Squirrel creating or renovating a dray next to the trunk of a pine tree, and various Serins, Coal Tits, and Treecreepers were seen. We drove on to the Ras¸nov gorge, but unfortunately this was crowded with rock climbers and bungee jumpers (not the sort of wall creeper we were hoping for!), though the Dippers and Grey Wagtails here were nice. Back to the hotel then with a brief stop at a roadside market, before sorting our gear for tomorrow's flights and getting ready for dinner.
Sunday 22nd May Castle Grounds & departure
Virtually cloudless at Sinaia, heavy rain at Buchares¸ti
Our pre-breakfast trip was to explore the Castle Grounds so we met at 7am and Costi drove us into the centre of town. Checking first the high trees at the entrance, we found Spotted Flycatcher, then an unfamiliar song alerted us to a fine Collared Flycatcher. Some patience was required to get decent views, but all were successful in the end. We walked on down the road, past some fine architecture. Black Redstarts, Robins, and Song Thrushes appeared, then a fine male Bullfinch. With brief views of Coal Tit and Goldcrest in some conifers, we continued down the main drive. The mountain tops were completely clear of cloud and gave us a superb backdrop for photographs. A Nuthatch appeared under a table before flying back into the wood as we returned along a trail through the trees. After breakfast, we loaded up the trailer and got away in good time. With various stops for honey, fuel, restrooms and finally to have five minutes overlooking a lake just north of the airport (Little Bitterns and Great Reed Warblers here, with Thrush Nightingale and Cuckoo heard), we arrived at the airport exactly on time to check in for our various flights.
The various species lists below use the following references:
Birds: We have used the suggested worldwide English names and systematic order as found in World Bird Species Checklist: with alternate English & scientific names (Wells, M.G., 1998). Commonly used alternates are enclosed in [ ] or separated by / .
Collins Bird Guide (Svensson, L. Grant, P.J., Mullarney, K. & Zetterström, D., 1999)
Mammals: We have used the suggested worldwide English names and systematic order as found in Mammals of the World, A Checklist (Duff, A. & Lawson, A., 2004)
Collins Field Guide: Mammals of Britain & Europe (Macdonald, D. & Barrett, P., 1993)
Butterflies: Collins Field Guide: Butterflies of Britain & Europe (Tolman, T. & Lewington, R., 1997)
Amphibians and Reptiles: Collins Field Guide: Reptiles & Amphibians of Britain & Europe [second edition] (Arnold, E.N. & Ovenden, D.W., 2002)
Plants: Mediterranean Wild Flowers (Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C., 1993)
Collins Pocket Guide: Alpine Flowers of Britain & Europe (Grey-Wilson, C. & Blamey, M., 1995)
Collins Photo Guide: Orchids of Britain & Europe [English edition] (Delforge, P., 1995)
Little Grebe / Dabchick: Noted on 2 days with 3 Nevodari Pools on 16th, 2 Danube Delta on 18th.
Red-necked Grebe: c.40 as singles and in pairs along a particular stretch of Danube Delta on 18th.
Great Crested Grebe: Noted on 4 days, 15th & 17th - 19th.
Black-necked/Eared Grebe: Noted on 2 days with 2 Danube Delta on 18th, several pairs at Balta Rodeanu on 19th.
Great Cormorant: Noted on 6 days.
Pygmy Cormorant: Noted on 4 days with 1 at Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, seen each day on Danube Delta, 17th - 19th.
Great White Pelican: Noted on 4 days with 22 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, at least 100 on 16th, c.500 on 17th & 18th.
Dalmatian Pelican: Noted on 5 days with 1 Calarasi Fishponds on 14th, 3 again there on 15th, c.12 on 16th, several on 17th & 18th.
Grey Heron: Noted on 6 days with 1 Plevna pond on 14th, then noted each day 15th - 19th.
Purple Heron: Noted on 5 days with at least 4 Calarasi Fishponds & 1 over Canaraua Fetei on 15th, small numbers then noted each day 16th - 19th.
Great [White] Egret: Noted on 4 days with several each day 16th - 19th.
Little Egret: Noted on 6 days with several en route on 14th, 6 at Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, then many each day 16th - 19th.
Squacco Heron: Noted on 3 days with several on 17th, 18th, & 19th.
Black-crowned Night-heron: Noted on 5 days with at least 6at Plevna on 14th, 1 as we approached the ferry on 15th, several on 17th, many on 18th & 19th.
Little Bittern: Noted on 4 days with 2 at Calarasi & 4 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, 3 Histria on 16th, 2 Danube Delta on 18th, 2 on 22nd.
White Stork: Noted most days with several on nests & in fields on 14th, further nests and a flock of 20 on 15th, then regularly during 16th - 20th.
Glossy Ibis: Noted on 3 days with c.40 on 17th, seen regularly on 18th & 19th.
Eurasian Spoonbill: Noted on 3 days with 2 singles on 16th, 5 on 17th, several on 18th.
Mute Swan: Noted on 5 days with at least 30 on 15th, then regularly noted 16th - 19th.
Greylag Goose: Noted on 3 days with 4at Lake Bugeac on 15th, several on 17th & 18th.
Ruddy Shelduck: 6 at Lake Bugeac on 15th.
Common Shelduck: Noted on 4 days with good numbers 16th - 19th.
Eurasian Wigeon: 4 at Lake Bugeac on 15th.
Gadwall: Noted on 6 days with a pair at Plevna on 14th, single pairs at Calarasi Fishponds & Lake Bugeac on 15th, then regular 16th - 19th.
Mallard: Noted most days.
Garganey: Noted on 4 days with two males at Calarasi Fishponds & one at Lake Bugeac on 15th, several on 16th, a male at Vadu on 17th, several on 19th.
Northern Shoveler: Two males on 16th.
Red-crested Pochard: Noted on 2 days with a male at Histria on 16th, then at least 10 at Enisala on 17th.
Common Pochard: Regularly noted on 5 days, 15th - 19th.
Ferruginous Duck: Noted on 4 days with at least 15at Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, c.6 Nevodari Pools on 16th, small numbers then on 17th & 18th.
Tufted Duck: A single male at Nevodari Pools on 16th.
Common Goldeneye: Noted on 2 days in the Danube Delta, a female on 17th, brood of ducklings on 18th.
European Honey-buzzard: Noted on 3 days with singles over Lake Bugeac & Canaraua Fetei on 15th, Danube Delta on 17th, 2 on 19th.
[Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: Noted on 5 days with a pair en route on 15th, 3 on 16th, at least 8 on 17th, several on 18th, several on 19th.
Levant Sparrowhawk: 1 Babadag Forest on 19th.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk: 1 over hotel at Sinaia on 21st.
Northern Goshawk: 1 Canaraua Fetei on 15th.
Common Buzzard: Small numbers noted on 6 days, 14th - 17th, 19th, & 20th.
Long-legged Buzzard: Noted on 2 days with 1 Canaraua Fetei on 15th, 1 over steppes on 16th.
Booted Eagle: Dark-plumaged birds noted on 2 days, Babadag Forest on 19th, & Vulcan on 20th.
Common/Eurasian Kestrel: Noted most days.
Red-footed Falcon: Noted on 5 days with a male over the café at Lehliu on 14th, at least 10 Lac Nuntasi on 16th, up to 7 each day in the Delta on 17th - 19th.
Eurasian Hobby: Noted on 3 days with several pairs in the Delta, 17th - 20th.
Peregrine Falcon: 1 Danube Delta on 18th.
Grey Partridge: 2 on 16th.
Common Pheasant: Noted on 3 days, either seen or heard, 15th - 17th.
Little Crake: One calling alongside the launches on 18th.
Common Moorhen: Surprisingly scarce, only noted on 3 days, 18th, 19th, & 22nd.
Eurasian/Common Coot: Noted on 6 days, 14th - 19th.
Black-winged Stilt: Noted on 4 days with 2 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, 2 Histria on 16th, several pairs at Vadu on 17th, several en route on 19th.
Pied Avocet: Noted on 4 days with 4 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, at least 5 Histria on 16th, several pairs at Vadu on 17th, several en route on 19th.
Collared Pratincole: Noted on 3 days with 3 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, at least 20 at Histria on 16th, and breeding birds at Vadu on 17th.
Northern Lapwing: Noted on 5 days with at least 2 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, several on 16th, then seen in small numbers on 17th - 19th.
[Greater] Ringed Plover: 2 at Lac Fundata on 19th.
Little [Ringed] Plover: A pair on the beach near the hotel at Mamaia on 17th.
Kentish Plover: Noted on 2 days with 1 at Histria on 16th, several on 17th.
Black-tailed Godwit: 1 at Histria on 16th.
Eurasian Curlew: 1 at Histria on 16th.
Spotted Redshank: 1 in its stunning black breeding plumage at Histria on 16th.
Common Redshank: Noted on 2 days with several Histria on 16th, 1 Vadu on 17th.
Common Greenshank: 1 at Histria on 16th.
Wood Sandpiper: Noted on 3 days with at least 6 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, 1 over Histria on 16th, several Vadu on 17th.
Common Sandpiper: 1 at Vadu on 17th.
Ruddy Turnstone: 2 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th.
Little Stint: Noted on 4 days with c.30 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, then many on 16th, 17th & 19th.
Dunlin: 1 in breeding plumage at Calarasi Fishponds on 15th.
Curlew Sandpiper: Noted on 4 days with c.50 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, c.10 Histria on 16th, many on 17th & 19th.
Ruff: Noted on 3 days with at least 3 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, a male developing his breeding ruff at Histria on 16th, several on 17th.
Yellow-legged Gull: Noted on 6 days, 14th - 19th.
Caspian Gull: Noted on 3 days, 16th - 18th.
Black-headed Gull: Noted on 6 days, 14th - 19th.
Little Gull: Noted on 2 days with a first-year bird briefly at Nevodari Pools on 16th, c.10 at Vadu on 17th.
Whiskered Tern: Noted regularly on 6 days, 14th - 19th.
White-winged Tern: Noted on 2 days with several Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, Histria on 16th.
Black Tern: Noted on 2 days with 2 Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, c.10 Danube Delta on 18th.
Sandwich Tern: Noted on 2 days with 8 Nevodari Pools on 16th, good numbers on 17th.
Common Tern: Regularly noted on 5 days, 14th, 16th - 19th.
Little Tern: At least 2 pairs at Histria on 16th.
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon: Noted each day.
Stock Dove: One flew over us, Danube Delta on 18th.
[Common] Wood Pigeon: 2 Danube Delta on 18th.
European Turtle Dove: Noted on 4 days with several seen & heard on 15th, several en route on 16th, 1 on 17th, several on 19th.
Eurasian Collared Dove: Noted each day.
Common Cuckoo: Noted each day, with pairs chasing each other and several brown-morph females also seen.
Tawny Owl: One heard at the Babadag Forest on 19th.
Ural Owl: Two at Poiana Reginei on 21st; one perched at edge of wood was rather greyer than the browner bird which flew across the valley later.
Little Owl: Noted on 3 days with 1 en route on 15th, 1 Histria on 16th, 1 Lake Somova on 19th.
Long-eared Owl: Noted on 3 days with an adult & 3 chicks in the hotel grounds at Mamaia on 15th, 1 chick visible on 16th, 2 chicks & an adult on 17th.
Common Swift: Noted most days.
Common Kingfisher: Noted on 3 days with 1 at Calarasi on 15th, several on 18th, 1 on 19th.
European Bee-eater: Noted on 4 days with at least 15 during the day on 15th, then regularly noted on 16th, 17th, & 19th.
European Roller: Noted on 5 days with c.8 on 15th, then regularly seen on 16th - 19th.
Eurasian Hoopoe: Noted on 5 days with c.8 on 15th, then several on 16th - 19th.
Eurasian Wryneck: 1 at Calarasi on 15th.
Syrian Woodpecker: Noted on 2 days with 1 from vehicle en route on 14th, 1 Canaraua Fetei on 15th.
Great Spotted Woodpecker: Noted on 4 days with ones or twos on 15th, 18th, 19th, & 22nd.
Black Woodpecker: A pair feeding young in nest, plus another pair elsewhere, on 18th.
Green Woodpecker: 1 seen very close on the ground at Calarasi on 15th.
Grey-headed Woodpecker: 1 seen well in dead tree near Celic Dere Monastery on 19th.
Calandra Lark: Noted on 3 days with good views of good numbers on 16th, many around Vadu on 17th & en route on 19th.
Crested Lark: Noted on 4 days in small numbers along the roadside, 15th, 16th, several seen well at Vadu on 17th, & 19th.
[Eurasian/Common] Sky Lark: Several on 16th.
Sand Martin / Bank Swallow: Noted on 6 days with a breeding colony en route on 14th, then noted regularly on 15th - 19th.
Barn Swallow: Noted each day.
Red-rumped Swallow: At least 6 at Canaraua Fetei on 15th.
[Common] House Martin: Noted each day.
Crag Martin: A pair at Zarnesti Gorge on 20th was a surprising find.
Yellow Wagtail: The Blue-headed Wagtail of the form dombrowskii was noted on 16th & 19th. The more widespread Black-headed Wagtail feldegg was noted on 3 days, 15th 17th.
White Wagtail: Noted most days.
Grey Wagtail: Noted on 2 days, 20th & 21st.
Tawny Pipit: 2 singles very briefly on 16th.
Tree Pipit: Several singing males at Poiana Reginei on 21st.
Meadow Pipit: 1 at Cheia Gorge on 16th.
Red-backed Shrike: Regularly noted each day.
Lesser Grey Shrike: Noted on 6 days, 14th - 19th; less common than the preceding species.
White-throated Dipper: Noted on 2 days, 20th & 21st.
[Winter] Wren: Noted only on 20th.
Ring Ouzel: At least 5 at Poiana Reginei on 21st.
Common Blackbird: Noted each day.
Fieldfare: Noted on 3 days with several pairs on 20th - 22nd.
Song Thrush: Noted on 4 days, 15th, 20th, 21st & 22nd.
Mistle Thrush: Noted on 3 days, 20th - 22nd.
European Robin: Noted on 2 days, 20th & 22nd.
Thrush Nightingale: Noted on 6 days with one seen well & others heard at Calarasi on 15th, then noted on 16th - 19th, & on 22nd.
Common/Rufous Nightingale: Noted only on 2 days when birds heard singing at the coffee stop on 14th, and again on 15th.
Black Redstart: Noted on 6 days with at least 3 on 15th, 1 in the gorge on 16th, 1 at Mila 23 on 18th, and several each day 20th - 22nd.
Common Redstart: Noted on 2 days with several including a pair on the ponton during breakfast on 18th, and a lovely view of a male at Poiana Reginei on 21st.
Bluethroat: A male briefly near Histria on 16th.
Whinchat: Noted on 2 days with 1 at Vadu on 17th, & another Danube Delta on 18th.
Northern Wheatear: Noted on 3 days with several en route on 15th & 16th, and at Enisala and Vadu on 17th.
Pied Wheatear: Several pairs in the Cheia Gorge on 16th.
Isabelline Wheatear: Several on the steppes as we approached Cheia on 16th.
Black-eared Wheatear: A pair in the Cheia Gorge on 16th.
Bearded Tit / Reedling: Noted on 3 days with several near Histria on 16th, heard at Vadu on 17th, several Danube Delta on 18th.
Savi's Warbler: Noted on 3 days with one heard singing at Calarasi Fishponds on 15th, heard again near Histria on 16th, excellent views of singing males at Vadu on 17th.
Paddyfield Warbler: Noted on 2 days with several seen chasing each other right next to the road near Histria on 16th, a brief view at Vadu on 17th.
[Eurasian] Reed Warbler: Several near Histria on 16th.
Great Reed Warbler: Noted most days with birds seen or heard singing in every available reed bed a major host species for the Cuckoo.
Olivaceous Warbler: Noted on 2 days with 1 singing & seen at Mamaia on 17th, another Danube Delta on 18th.
Icterine Warbler: 1 seen near Monastery on 19th.
Willow Warbler: Noted on 3 days with ones or twos at Histria on 16th, Vadu on 17th, Danube Delta on 18th.
Common/Eurasian Chiffchaff: Noted on 5 days, 18th - 22nd.
Wood Warbler: Noted on 4 days with 1 seen at Canaraua Fetei on 15th, several seen & heard on 19th, heard singing on 21st & 22nd.
Blackcap: Noted on 5 days, usually heard singing though several also seen, 15th & 19th - 22nd.
Garden Warbler: Noted on 2 days at Mamaia on 16th, & many singing Danube Delta on 18th.
Common Whitethroat: Noted on 4 days with a male on territory Lake Bugeac on 15th, several then on 16th, 20th & 21st.
Lesser Whitethroat: Noted on 6 days with 1 at the coffee stop on 14th, thence on 16th, on the beach at Mamaia on 17th, singing at Mila 23, Danube Delta, on 18th, seen on 20th & 21st.
Barred Warbler: One briefly at Cheia Gorge on 16th.
Goldcrest: One seen briefly in the castle grounds on 22nd.
Spotted Flycatcher: Noted on 4 days with at least 2 on 14th, 1 Canaraua Fetei on 15th, several on 16th & 22nd.
Collared Flycatcher: A male on territory on 22nd.
Long-tailed Tit: Remarkably scarce, only recorded on 18th.
Coal Tit: Noted on 2 days with several on 21st & 22nd.
Great Tit: Noted most days.
Blue Tit: Noted on 5 days.
Eurasian Nuthatch: Noted on 3 days, 19th, 21st & 22nd.
Eurasian Treecreeper: One at a nest hole at Rasnov Citadel on 21st.
Eurasian Jay: Noted on 3 days with 1 en route on 15th, 1 Cheia Gorge on 16th, excellent views at Poiana Reginei on 21st.
Black-billed/Eurasian Magpie: Noted each day.
Western/Eurasian Jackdaw: Noted most days.
Rook: Noted most days.
Hooded Crow: Noted each day.
Common Raven: At least 5 on 21st was the only day we recorded this species.
[Eurasian] Golden Oriole: Noted on 5 days with several seen & heard each day, 15th - 18th, & 20th.
European/Common Starling: Noted each day.
Corn Bunting: Noted on 5 days, 15th -17th, 19th & 20th.
Yellowhammer: Noted on 3 days with a female in the wood at Canaraua Fetei on 15th, several then on 20th & 21st.
Ortolan Bunting: At least 4 singing males, several seen well, at Babadag Forest on 17th.
[Common] Reed Bunting: Noted on 2 days with several males at Histria on 16th & Vadu on 17th.
Common/European Chaffinch: Noted on 6 days.
European Serin: At least 4 at Rasnov Citadel on 21st was the only location we found this bird.
European Greenfinch: Noted on 4 days, 15th, & 20th - 22nd.
European Goldfinch: Noted on 6 days, 15th, & 18th - 22nd.
Common Linnet: Noted on 2 days with 2 at Canaraua Fetei on 15th, several on 16th.
Common/Eurasian Bullfinch: Noted on 2 days with at least 2 on 21st, a male on 22nd.
Hawfinch: Noted on 2 days with 1 near Monastery on 19th, 1 near Vulcan on 20th.
House Sparrow: Noted each day.
Spanish Sparrow: Noted at several locations on 2 days, 15th & 16th.
[Eurasian] Tree Sparrow: Noted most days.
Eastern Hedgehog: Noted only as road kills.
European Mole: Mole hills noted on 14th - 16th.
Red Fox: A road kill on 19th was our only record.
Brown Bear: Two family groups, each of mother & three cubs, at Brasov on 20th.
Eurasian Wild Boar: Diggings on 20th.
[Western] Roe Deer: Seen on 3 days in roadside fields en route, 15th, 16th & 21st.
Eurasian Red Squirrel: Seen at Rasnov Citadel on 21st, & in the castle grounds on 22nd.
European Souslik: Noted on 5 days, 14th - 17th & 19th.
Muskrat: Noted on 15th.
Fire Salamander: 1 at Zarnesti Gorge on 20th.
Fire-bellied Toad: Heard calling on 18th.
Yellow-bellied Toad: 1 near Vulcan on 20th.
Common Toad: Several noted in a water tank at Vadu on 17th.
Green Toad: One seen in a water tank at Vadu on 17th.
Marsh Frog: Noted on 3 days, 15th, 16th, & 18th.
Pool Frog: At least one in a water tank at Vadu on 17th.
Edible Frog: Noted on 2 days, 15th & 17th.
European Pond Terrapin: Noted on 2 days, 17th & 18th.
Horn-nosed Viper: A snake, approximately 0.6m (2 ft) in length, on the path Babadag Forest on 17th was thought to be this species.
Grass Snake: Noted on 4 days with small dead one on 15th, small dead one & a live one at Histria on 16th, small dead one & a live one at Vadu on 17th, 2 swimming across in front of the launches on 18th.
Clouded Apollo: Babadag Forest on 19th.
Large White: Noted on 6 days.
Small White: Noted only on 2 days.
Green-veined White: Noted on 19th.
Orange-tip: Noted on 2 days, 15th & 16th.
Pale Clouded Yellow: Noted only on 18th.
Clouded Yellow: Noted only on 15th.
Large Copper: 1 at Lake Somova on 19th.
Silver-studded Blue: Several in the Babadag Forest on 17th.
Common Blue: Noted on 3 days.
Red Admiral: Noted on 2 days.
Painted Lady: Noted only on 19th.
Glanville Fritillary: Many in the Babadag Forest on 17th.
Small Heath: Noted on 3 days.
Wall Brown: Noted on 16th.
Speckled Yellow: Several at Canaraua Fetei on 15th.
DRAGONFLIES & DAMSELFLIES:
Beautiful Demoiselle: Noted in Danube Delta on 18th.
Emerald Damselfly: Noted in Danube Delta on 18th.
As ever, this was a great trip, the more so due to everyone's good humour, dreadful jokes and unending enthusiasm. The water levels of the Danube were extremely high which enabled us to reach areas of the Delta which were normally difficult to reach, it also meant that the waterbirds and raptors here were very widely dispersed. However, we had some excellent birds during the trip, including the towering masses of White Pelicans overhead, the breeding colony of herons, spoonbills and cormorants in the Delta, the groups of Red-footed Falcons at various places, Long-eared Owls with chicks in the hotel grounds at Mamaia, and the Ural Owl sitting quietly on the edge of the wood above Sinaia. We found two family groups of Brown Bears after dinner at Bras¸ov, and I really enjoyed the exclamations from you all when mother bear suddenly appeared from inside the garbage bin just a few metres from where we had stopped! We mustnt forget the plants and butterflies, our two stops at different places within the Babadag Forest providing us with Clouded Apollo and Glanville Fritillaries, and of course the superb Greater Butterfly and Lady Orchids. It is always impossible to pick a single highlight and Im sure you have all gone home with your own special memories. I would like to thank Tudor for his enthusiasm and knowledge, Costi for his patience and excellent driving, and also all of you who made this trip so enjoyable. I look forward to seeing you all on another trip in the not-too-distant future.
Keith Grant, June 2005
© The Travelling Naturalist 2005