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Monday, May 15, 2006

Romania: The Danube Delta

It was as a teenager that I learned of the three great European river deltas formed by the Rhone (the Camargue), the Guadalquivir (the Coto Doñana) and the Danube which flows into the Black Sea in Romania. All three wetlands are of paramount international importance for wildlife, and are especially renowned for their staggering abundance and diversity of birds.

The Camargue and Coto Doñana are easy to get to and are relatively accessible and I am fortunate to have been to each several times. However, Romania is different as, being a former "Iron Curtain" country, it has been relatively inaccessible to tourists, especially those carrying binoculars and telescopes! It was not until the demise of communism on 21 December 1989 and the ensuing execution of Nicolae Ceausescu that real opportunities for tourism opened up. Even today, independent travel is not easy, but a number of wildlife tour operators offer organised trips. It is with such a group, The Travelling Naturalist, that I have just returned (6-14 May 2006), fulfilling a long ambition to visit the Danube Delta. Details of the itinerary are here .

The Danube Delta - a vast area of wetland habitat

The Delta area (i.e. the Black Sea coast from about Constantin to the Ukraine border) was superb beyond all expectation. Our visit coincided with perfect weather conditions for migration. I shall never forget the morning before breakfast when we stood spellbound on the shore of the Black Sea where an endless parade including flocks of herons, cormorants, egrets, raptors, Pratincoles, Whiskered, Black and White-winged Black Terns, White Pelicans, and waders of several species flew along the coast, often close inshore or even overhead. The scrub and gardens along the shore had Collared Flycatchers, Olivaceous Warblers, Thrush Nightingales, Redstarts and many other passerines passing through.

Part of a huge flock of White Pelicans migrating through the Danube Delta

We had two nights in the heart of the delta itself, where accommodation was aboard a ponton (a floating miniature hotel towed by a tug boat) from which excursions were made by small boat into the depths of the tangled delta vegetation to observe nesting water birds at close quarters.

The ponton, our accommodation for two nights

Exploring the depths of the delta by small boat

The full trip report will appear here as soon as it is put on line by the travelling naturalist.

Relic of the the communist era, the once popular Trabant car can still be seen. Notice the water mark where the car was caught in the Danube floods.

Summary of Itinerary

Bucharest to Calărăşi (1 night); Calărăşi fish ponds; crossed Danube at Bulgarian border then to Constantin via Ostrov, Deleni and Basarabi for 2 nights at Mamaia as a base for visits to Istria and Cheia Gorge in the steppe area. Then to To Tulcea via Vadu and Babadag Forest. Two nights on ponton in the Danube Delta. Moored at 45°11'N, 29°21E, our furthest point East. From Tulcea to Sinaia (3 nights) via Harşova, Slobozia, Urziceni and Ploiesti as base for visits into Transylvania around Raşnov, Zărnesti and into Braşnov (for Brown Bear). Back to Bucharest via Câmpina.

My Bird List (an additional 5 species were recorded by the group as a whole).

1. Little Grebe; 2. Red-necked Grebe; 3. Great Crested Grebe; 4. Black-necked Grebe; 5. Cormorant; 6. Pygmy Cormorant*; 7. White Pelican*; 8. Dalmatian Pelican*; 9. Grey Heron; 10. Purple Heron; 11. Great White Egret; 12. Little Egret; 13. Squacco Heron; 14. Night Heron; 15. Bittern (H); 16. Little Bittern; 17. Black Stork*; 18. White Stork; 19. Glossy Ibis; 20. Spoonbill; 21. Mute Swan; 22. Greylag Goose; 23. Ruddy Shelduck*; 24. Shelduck; 25. Gadwall; 26. Mallard; 27. Gargany; 28. Shoveler; 29. Red-crested Pochard; 30. Pochard; 31. Ferruginous Duck*; 32. Tufted Duck; 33. Honey Buzzard; 34. Back Kite; 35. Sea Eagle; 36. Short-toed Eagle; 36. Montagu's Harrier; 38. Marsh Harrier; 39. Levant Sparrowhawk; 40. Sparrowhawk; 41. Goshawk; 42. Buzzard; 43. Long-legged Buzzard*; 44. Lesser Spotted Eagle*; 45. Kestrel; 46.Red-footed Falcon*; 47. Merlin; 48. Hobby; 49. Peregrine; 50. Grey Partridge; 51. Pheasant; 52. Water Rail; 53. Little Crake; 54. Corncrake x 2 (H); 55. Moorhen; 56. Coot; 57. Oystercatcher; 58. Black-winged Stilt; 59. Avocet; 60. Collared Pratincole; 61. Lapwing; 62. Grey Plover; 63. Ringed Plover; 64. Little Ringed Plover; 65. Kentish Plover; 66. Spotted Redshank; 67. Redshank; 68. Greenshank; 69. Wood Sandpiper; 70. Common Sandpiper; 71. Turnstone; 72. Sanderling; 73. Little Stint; 74. Temminck's Stint; 75. Dunlin; 76. Curlew Sandpiper; 77. Ruff; 78. Common Gull; 79. Yellow-legged Gull; 80. Caspian Gull*; 81. Lesser Black-backed Gull; 82. Mediterranean Gull; 83. Black-headed Gull; 84. Little Gull; 85. Whiskered Tern; 86. White-winged Black Tern; 87. Black Tern; 88. Sandwich Tern; 89. Common Tern; 90. Little Tern; 91. Feral Pigeon; 92. Stock Dove; 93. Woodpigeon; 94. Turtle Dove; 95. Collared Dove; 96. Cuckoo; 97. Tawny Owl (H); 98. Long-eared Owl; 99. Swift; 100. Alpine Swift; 101. Nightjar; 102. Kingfisher;103. Bee-eater; 104. Roller; 105. Hoopoe; 106. Syrian Woodpecker*; 107. Middle Spotted Woodpecker*; 108. White-backed Woodpecker*; 109. Great Spotted Woodpecker; 110. Black Woodpecker*; 111. Green Woodpecker; 112. Grey-headed Woodpecker*; 113. Calandra Lark; 114. Crested Lark; 115. Skylark; 116. Crag Martin; 117. Sand Martin; 118. Swallow; 119. Red-rumped Swallow: 120. House Martin; 121. Yellow Wagtail (4 sspp); 122. Grey Wagtail; 123. White Wagtail; 124. Dipper; 125. Wren; 126. Tree Pipit; 127. Red-throated Pipit; 128. Red-backed Shrike; 129. Lesser Grey Shrike*; 130. Ring Ouzel; 131. Blackbird; 132. Fieldfare; 133. Song Thrush; 134. Mistle Thrush; 135. Robin; 136. Thrush Nightingale*; 137. Nightingale (H); 138. Black Redstart; 19. Redstart; 141. Whinchat; 141. Stonechat; 142. Wheatear; 143. Pied Wheatear*; 144. Black-Eared Wheatear;145. Isabelline Wheatear*; 146. Bearded Tit; 147. Savi's Warbler; 148. Sedge Warbler; 149. Reed Warbler; 150. Great Reed Warbler; 151. Olivaceous Warbler; 152. Willow Warbler; 153. Chiffchaff; 154. Wood Warbler; 155. Blackcap; 156. Garden Warbler; 157. Whitethroat; 158. Lesser Whitethroat; 159. Barred Warbler; 160. Goldcrest; 161. Firecrest; 162. Spotted Flycatcher; 163. Red-breasted Flycatcher; 164. Pied Flycatcher; 165. Collared Flycatcher*; 166. Penduline Tit; 167. Long-tailed Tit. 168. Marsh Tit; 169. Willow Tit; 170. Great Tit; 171. Blue Tit; 172. Coal Tit; 173. Nuthatch; 174. Tree Creeper; 175. Jay; 176. Magpie; 177. Jackdaw; 178. Rook; 179. Hooded Crow; 180. Raven; 181. Golden Oriole; 182. Starling; 183. Corn Bunting; 184. Yellowhammer; 185. Ortolan Bunting* 186. Black Headed Bunting*; 187. Reed Bunting; 188. Chaffinch; 189. Serin; 190. Greenfinch; 191. Goldfinch; 192. Linnet; 193. Crossbill; 194. Bullfinch; 195. Hawfinch; 196. House Sparrow; 197. Spanish Sparrow; 198. Tree Sparrow.

* = Lifer