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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Romania: Birds and Medieval Monasteries

2016 Narrative

And so ends the tour to Romania, with a very impressive total list of 190 species seen (4 of new for this trip – which is impressive considering the trip has run for more than 16 years) and 3 species heard (Tawny Owl, Quail and Siskin). Thanks to all the participants and their keen eyes, we managed to spot and identify all these birds. With good weather on the trip we could plan and check all the good birding spots en route.

The tour started with a flight that was a bit delayed arriving (enough to ruin our plans for a nice civilized dinner) so we had to do with a quick sandwich in the airport but then the flight to the new airport of Suceava went without a hitch. We were greeted there by Adrian, our driver and Oana, who is Tudor’s trainee tour leader, then we drove to our comfy accommodation for the next three nights.

The second day of the trip we kept it relaxed, and after a leisurely breakfast we had a morning outing near Sucevita Monastery that produced a glance of a White-backed Woodpecker - unfortunately the only one for the trip. Then close to lunch, when things got quiet, we visited to the beautiful Sucevita Monastery itself - the largest and the last built of the painted Monasteries. The visit through the monastery revealed a flyby Black Kite spotted by one client while Tudor was presenting the history of the place. Lunch in the hotel restaurant was followed by a siesta and then an evening outing near the hotel in the old forests of firs, beach and spruce.

Next day, still in Sucevita, we had a pre-breakfast excursion which produced our first sighting of a Dipper and some good views of a mix of warblers and tits in the hotel grounds. After breakfast, we headed for some altitude on the Obcina Mare ridge and we spent the morning with a nice stroll and a picnic-with-a-view. Good views were had of Crested Tit and Collared Flycatcher on migration, then a visit to the Moldovita Monastery and to the workshop of Glicheria, the egg- painting lady, then back to our hotel for dinner and checklist.

On Day four, after an early prebreakfast walk that gave us good views of a Black Woodpecker in the hotel grounds, and a good meal, we started our journey south. On the way to the beautiful little monastery of Humor we were rewarded with good views of Lesser Spotted Eagle, Great Grey and Red Backed Shrikes, and Turtle Doves just from our comfortable bus. Afterwards we visited Voronet Monastery (the Sistine Chapel of the East) - as usual a bit busy but rewarding.  We had our picnic on the banks of Moldova River then afterwards for a short visit to the Neamt Monastery. The grounds proved to be as good for birding as ever with woodpeckers and flycatchers, as well as a big falling branch nearby that startled everybody!

Our accommodation for the night in Agapia was welcoming as ever and, in the morning, we left very early to visit the monastery and its workshops. After that a long drive with a picnic stop on the banks of a pond, we arrived at Galati for our first contact with the river Danube at the ferry crossing. Another hour and a half and we were enjoying our birds on the deck of the Ponton with a beer on the side, or a gin and tonic, or a soft drink depending on the taste. In the evening our first dinner on-board was something to remember.

The next couple of days were very much a repetition of each other, except for the birding was different. We had pre-breakfast birding from the deck, then breakfast itself followed by small boat outings through the smaller channels of the delta, then back on the Ponton for lunch. Again, we had more relaxed birding from the deck while the Ponton moved along. There was an evening outing in the small boats before returning to Ponton for dinner. Little Crakes and Water Rail, Dalmatian and White Pelicans, Greylag Geese, various ducks, terns (Whiskered, White-winged Black, Common etc), all the herons, grebes, and White-tailed Eagles. Although not a large number of different species were seen, it was striking to see the numbers of each species present.

On Day 8 we started early, thanks to all participants being on time, and disembarked the Ponton after breakfast which gave us time to do some good birding during our winding road trip down to the southern end of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve in Vadu. Good views were had of Sombre Tit, and Middle Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers in Babadag Forest, as well as excellent views of steppe specialities such as Tawny Pipit, Short-toed Lark, and craggy areas specialities such as Eastern Black-eared and Pied Wheatears, raptors and some good migration which made the day one with the biggest bird list tally.

Day 9 was the day for viewing waders, ducks and some steppe country. The morning on the Black Sea shore and the drive there through the marshes was good followed by our picnic and the visit to the Greek Roman ruins in Histria made for a full day.

Day 10 was a travel day back to the airport but not before seeing our first cuckoo for the trip enroute.

- Tudor Blaj

Created: 04 November 2016