Romania 2009 Tour Report 12th- 22nd June    
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Species List 2009 Species List for 2009 Tour

12th June Day 1 Group
An early start for us all to catch our Wizz Air Flight to Bucharest from Luton Airport! Unlike the previous year, all this years participants were from the Sheffield area so we were able to arrange a single mini bus taxi and we all traveled down together. The airport was similarly effortless as we were checked in and our baggage conveyed effortlessly within 15 minutes of arriving at the airport! This gave us all time to relax and have breakfast before boarding our plane which for the second year running was on-time and free from hassle. We arrived at Baneasa airport 30 minutes ahead of schedule which surprised our Romanian Tour Guide, Andu who was waiting to meet us and convey us to our mini bus. This once again went effortlessly, after our luggage was safely reclaimed and retrieved within 20 minutes of passing through customs.
As always, Andu ensured that we all had a packed lunch and plenty of refreshment for our four hour journey from Bucharest to Transylvania! To break the journey we stopped for a walk through a pine wood on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains at Sinaia. This produced Nuthatch, BuGroupzzard , lots of White Stork by the roadside and a single White Pelican. The rest of the journey took us deep into Transylvaniaand gave beautiful scenic views as we cut through the Carpathian mountains. Eventually we arrived at our destination- a beautiful villa in Bran itself, only a short distance from Dracula's castle. The villa was beautifully furnished and we had it all to ourselves- enjoying a superb home cooked meal to end the day.

13th June Day 2
A relaxing day spent in Bran and the surrounding area. After a superb continental breakfast of cheeses and meats we first explored the grounds around our villa, soon locating Black Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher. We then climbed aboard our mini bus and headed out into Bran, where we spent the rest of the morning in the grounds of Bran Castle. Here, we had superb views of a party of4 Hawfinch, a pair of Pied Flycatcher and a beautiful Serin among the commoner woodland species. We then braved the legends of vampires to take a look round the castle itself, which turned out to be beautifully furnished with incredible wood carvings and towering gothic themes. Sqacco hero
After a quick look round Bran market we then boarded the bus for an afternoon at Rasnov Gorge. Here we had our first picnic lunch- as sumptuous and varied as ever and plenty of different foods to tempt every taste! This beautiful gorge was'dressed' with an array of wild flowers and butterflies were plentiful. Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Wood White, Woodland Ringlet and Duke Of Burgundy were among the highlights. Also found on the grassy slopes were several Sand Lizards and a Smooth Snake- which Andu dutifully caught to allow the whole party good photographic opportunity. As we walked up the valley we then located a relatively rare bird in Romania, Green Woodpecker. We alsohad Red- backed Shrike, 6 Fieldfare, more White Stork and 2 Raven. We returned to our villa for another superb meal before some of us ventured out into the darkness to look for owls in the woodlands with Andu. An excellent end to an excellent day.

14th June Day 3Honey Buzzard
After another big breakfast we ventured out further this morning to Fundata and two more nearby gorges in the heart of the Carpathians. The weather couldn't have been better, with blue sunny skies and hardly a cloud in sight all day! Consequently, the wildlife afforded great views and the incredible mountain scenery seemed even more beautiful bathed in sunlight and rich with wild flowers. The birds soon became spectacular, with an immature Golden Eagle, 20 Common Buzzards, 6 Alpine Swift, a White- backed Woodpecker and 4 Crag Martin being a few of the many highlights. At Damboviciorae Gorge butterflies were also plentiful, a beautiful Purple Shot Copper was ahighlight as well as Hungarian Glider, Small Blue, Mazarine Blue and Silver Studded Blue. Amphibious and Reptile highlights included Yellow- bellied Toad and Common Wall Lizard. The 'star' bird though for the second year running was a male Wallcreeper which at Dambovita Gorge was observed feeding on a rock face and a pile of gravel! affording great views for over thirty minutes. A day total of 6 Black Redstart was topped bya single Collared Flycatcher, single Honey Buzzard and 2 Sombre Tit. Everyone agreed that today would take some beating as we returned to our villa for another superb home cooked evening meal (with complimentary brandy and wine) and a good night's sleep (partly thanks to the latter).

15th June Day 4Grey- headed Woodpecker
Another day in Transylvania but this time we would travel deeper into the heart of the mountains, taking the mini bus into the villages and valleys and some really remote and unspoiled countryside. Pestera was our first stop where the butterflies such as Heath Fritillary and wild flowers were once again the highlights. These areas had all the characteristics of the Swiss Alps with deeply cut valleys framed by snow capped mountains and belts of woodland. Collared Flycatcher was observed here, 2 more Green Woodpecker and 3 Little Owls as well as Red- backed Shrike, Redstart & 4 Raven. After another picnic on a mountain meadow, not unlike a scene from 'The Sound Of Music' we spent the afternoon in Magura before heading to Zarnesti for our bear watch! Once again we all swapped vehicles, into the back of a Land Rover and headed deep into the Alpine Forests of The National Park where the public are usually forbidden. We set up our vigil in the hide and waited for dusk... Eventually we were treated to incredible views of Wild Boar and Brown Bear from the safety of the hide, before fading light and rumbling stomachs forced us back to the Land Rover and our villa for our evening meal.


16th June Day 5Lunch
After another comprehensive breakfast we said our good-byes to the Villa and Bran (and the Black Redstarts)and boarded the bus for our long journey to Tulcea and the Danube Delta. Of course there was plenty to see on the journey from 15Bee- eaters and a Roller on the power lines to Lesser Spotted Eagle flying overhead. As we left Transylvania the landscape became more agricultural with steppes and plains the predominant habitat. We stopped at Malu for lunch, where a lake, a meadow and a woodland provided us with plenty more opportunities to find birds. There were Golden Orioles calling in the woodland, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker and 5 Sombre Tit. Whilst on the lake there were 7 Black- winged Stilt. It was also a good day for Hobby and Night Heron, with a total of 6 and 20 respectively seen throughout our journey. We stopped at Harsova before arriving in Tulcea at The Danube Hotel late afternoon. During the day we also recorded Pygmy Cormorant, many Little Egret, Great White Egret, Lesser Grey Shrike, Long- legged Buzzard, Spoonbill and a single Ruddy Shelduck. After settling in at our new hotel we had another superb three course meal whilst overlooking the Danube and watching the sunset over the harbour. Those of the group that weren't ready for bed after the big meal then went for a walk along the harbour and took in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city.

Danube Delta17th June Day 6
A slightly more windy day than we have being used to this trip but still plenty of sunshine and plenty to see as we explored the variety of habitats around Tulcea and the Dobrogea area. These areas included several large lakes and reedbeds and a superb woodland habitat that boasted 20 Red- footed Falcons nesting in the tree canopy and several Cardinal butterflies. The lakes produced good numbers of birds with 6 Marsh Harriers, 180 White Pelican, 4 Dalmatian Pelican and 60 Little Egret. We also had Avocet, Black- tailed Godwit, 27 Spotted Redshank, Icterine Warbler, 4 Lesser Grey Shrike, Little Bittern, Marsh Sandpiper, Tawny Pipit and Wryneck being just a small sample of the birds seen. Flying overhead we thought we may have seen a White- tailed Eagle but its positive identification eluded us on this occasion. Duck numbers were also high and today gave us a chance to see many species previously unseen on this trip such as Gadwall, Garganey, Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Black- necked Grebe and Ferruginous Duck. Huge numbers of Gulls and Terns boosted the wow factor with 600 Whiskered Terns, 50 Caspian Gull,Dalmatian Pelican 200 Mediterranean Gull and 300 Common Terns being particularly impressive. We were also fortunate to see our first Grey- headed Woodpecker of the trip.

18th & 19th June Days 7 and 8
After an extremely impressive buffet breakfast in the hotel we packed our suitcases once again and walked the short distance down to the harbour. Here our boat was waiting for us to take us into the Danube Delta itself and two days of exploring the channels and lakes of this unique habitat. Our boat was quite luxurious, with a cabin below decked out with a comfortable sofa and bathroom facilities whilst the top deck afforded great views and a great place to sit and admire the scenery in the open air. This is where the bird life suddenly becomes breathtaking. We watched groups of thousands of White Pelicans spiraling through the air and dropping down to feed in the Danube right in front of us as well as more Dalmatian Pelicans. We were right amongst the birds and the sheer numbers and spectacle of whaLittle Bitternt we saw was often mesmerising. 3000 Great Cormorants, 400 Pygmy Cormorants and 700 Little Egrets were part of the spectacle but together with 15 Spoonbills, Red- necked Grebe, Little Tern, and 40 Glossy Ibis there was no shortage of birds to see. A total of 5 White- tailed Eagles, were seen on the first day with 3 more on our second day. Herons were also plentiful, with up to 80 Squacco Heron, 40 Purple Heron, 300 Great White (including a modesta (eastern race, which has been split), 10 Little Bittern and 200 Night Heron seen as were 150 Ferruginous Ducks, 18 Garganey, 50 Black- tailed Godwit, 15 Green Sandpiper, 30 Roller. Thrush Nightingale and 4 Savi's Warbler. We also cleared up on Woodpecker species with 3 Black Woodpecker, 3 Grey- headed Woodpecker, 2 Lesser Spotted and 2 Syrian, the latter two in the farmland surrounding our hotel in Crisan Village. We also hadclose views of Penduline Tits and Bearded Tits on the reeds and the constant sound of Great Reed Warbler, Hoopoe and Sedge Warbler surrounded us everywhere we went. Our hotel during our two days in the Delta was in the village of Crisan in the heart of the Delta. Here we occupied a farmhouse annex on a working farm surrounded by woodland, reedbeds and on the edge of the Danube. The food was all home cooked and the cheese and yogurt were made on the premises! Apart from some bad news on the second day that part of our route was blocked by a fallen tree we Great White Egretcouldn't have wished for better. As well as the birds, Freyers Purple Emperor butterflies were commonly seen flitting in the surrounding White Willows.

20th & 21st June Days 9 and 10
Back to dry land today and more exploration of the Dobrogea area and the areas towards the Black Sea coast. These included the fortress at Grindul Lupilor and the huge reeded area at Istria before exploring the vast woodlands and heathlands of Babadag Forest, the quarries at Somova and the Linden Tree valley (Niculitel) Cooler, windier weather was experienced on day 9 which kept some birds hidden but in the reedbeds at Istria we were still fortunate to hear or see our two target species, Moustached Warbler and Paddyfield Warbler plus Bittern, Bearded Tit, Calandra Lark, 6 Collared Pratincole, 4 Lesser Grey Shrike, . At the Fortress at Grindul Lupilor we searched for Stone Curlew and saw Kentish Plover. Away from the Delta, there were still large areas ofSwallows water and a further 1500 White Pelican were observed on day 9 as well as 12 Spoonbill, 5 Purple Heron and a Night Heron. Whilst at the spectacular Babadag Forest Ortolan was the highlight, together with Hawfinch, Short- toed Eagle and Sombre Tit. Butterflies here were also impressive with Great Banded Grayling and Grayling particularly numerous and a huge Stag Beetle provided entertainment at the lunch stop! It was another good day for Woodpeckers, with 5 Great Spotted, 2 Syrian, 2 Middle Spotted, 2 White- backed, and 3 Lesser Spotted. On Day 10 the huge quarry at Somova soon gave us another of our favourite moments of the trip as we watched 80 Rose- coloured Starlings move from one area to another, their pink body flashes catching the sun. A newly fledged Woodlark looked lost and forlorn on the quarry floor which we safely ushered into the vegetation whilst a further 7 adults were observed nearby. We also had several Steppe Buzzard, Booted Eagle, 20 Red- backed Shrike, 2 Honey Buzzard, Glossy Ibis and a highlight of 4 Pied Wheatear, The evenings were spent back at the Danube Hotel in Tulcea, where the food continued to be of a consistently high standard. On the evening of day 10 we were presented with a celebratory cake with a huge fizzing candle (not dynamite as someone remarked) to celebrate the final evening of another sucPenduline Titcessful tour.

22nd June Day 11
Because we were fortunate to get a later flight back to the UK than usual, we were able to enjoy almost another full day on day 11. We stopped at two places en route from Tulcea to Bucharest Baneasa airport which were the wooded valley of Ciucurova on the edge of Babadag Forest and the a woodland area on the banks of the Danube. At the first stop we saw at least 2 Lesser Spotted Eagles flying above us, 2 Steppe Buzzard, 3 Red-footed Falcons and a Hobby as well as Spotted Redshank, Isabelline Wheatear, Kentish Plover and 2 Ortolan. Once again though it was the butterflies that were the highlight here, Cardinal, Silver Washed Fritillary (var. valesina), High Brown Fritillary, Queen Of Spain Fritillary and the rare Marbled Fritillary all feeding on the hedgerow flowers. Elsewhere a single Sandwich Tern was seen and 19 Ruddy Shelduck. Our last picnic lunch on the banks of the Danube was the most memorable of the trip. Specialty Romanian-TurkishSamosas, rice dishes, cheeses and to follow traditional Romanian cakes were all provided to tempt even the most stringent of diets. After our lunch we then boarded the bus to take us back to Baneasa airport, where once again our Wizz Air flight left on-time with noSpoonbill delays. Back in UK, our taxi was waiting at Luton Airport to take us back to South Yorkshire and we could reflect on what had been another successful and memorable Gone Birding Tour to Romania.

Thanks to everyone who went on the tour this year and to Andu and Diana of Diana Travel, our ground agents in Romania for making it so memorable.
Ben Keywood Nov 2009.

 

Green ToadCricketOrtolanWoodlarkBig Bug

PikeGrey- headed WoodpeckerDalmatian PelicanPenduline TitToad

SpoonbillLesser Spotted WoodpeckerJuv. SwallowJuv Spotted FlycatcherSyrian Woodpecker

RollerGreat White EgretNight HeronPurple HeronGroup

White PelicanWhite PelicanWhite PelicanWhite Pelicancastle

MeadowDragonflyHungarian GliderGroup- mealRose- coloured Starling

Sunset over TulceaGroup birding

All photo's © Irene Shentall & Ben Keywood 2009

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