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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Romania: Birds and Medieval Monasteries

2018 Narrative

At the end of the 2018 tour to Romania we had amassed a very impressive total list of 170 species, one of which was new for this trip. Thanks to all the participants and their keen eyes we managed to spot and identify all the birds and the good weather ensured we made the most of all the birding locations. The tour started with a meeting at the airport and a quick dinner followed by a flight to the new airport in Suceava. We were greeted there by our driver, Adrian, and we then drove to our comfortable accommodation for the next three nights.

The second day of the trip was relaxed given our late arrival. After a leisurely breakfast, we had a morning outing in the vicinity of Sucevita Monastery that started very well with a juvenile Black Stork in the riverbed just outside the Monastery. The trip up the valley revealed a good selection of passerines with Dipper, an opportunity to compare Marsh and Willow Tits, and our first bird of prey, a Hobby. As things quieted down around midday we visited the beautiful Sucevita Monastery, the largest and most recent of the painted monasteries. There were some birds around with a couple of Chiffchaffs, our first Blackcap, and a Black Redstart. Lunch in the hotel restaurant was followed by siesta and then an evening outing near the hotel in the old forests of firs, beech and spruce where we saw our first and only Common Redstart.

The next day, still in Sucevita, we had a pre-breakfast trip that produced a very friendly Tawny Owl, another Dipper, and a very good Nutcracker, plus some really good views of a mix of small birds in the hotel grounds. After breakfast we headed up to the Obcina Mare ridge and we spent the morning with a nice walk and picnic with a view. Good views of Crested Tit and Collared Flycatcher, a brief Red-breasted Flycatcher, lots of Spotted Flycatchers, and a lot of Black Redstarts were some of the highlights. We then paid 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 the way back to the hotel a beautiful male Black Woodpecker appeared just on the side of the road, at first on one of the fenceposts and then it flew to perch in full view on a dead spruce where it stayed to give us all a good look.

On day four after an early pre-breakfast walk, with Goldcrest and Nutcracker, we started our journey south. On the way to the beautiful little monastery of Humor we began a Lesser Spotted Eagle fiesta with very good views and a total of 7 for the day. Between the eagles we had Great Grey and Red-backed Shrike, and a male Sparrowhawk. After visiting the Voronet Monastery (the Sistine Chapel of the East) we had a picnic on the banks of Moldova River. On the way to Neamt Monastery we saw a large flock of about 300 White Storks with 3 Black Storks. The Monastery grounds provided good birding with woodpeckers, flycatchers, and Alpine and Common Swifts on migration.

Our accommodation for the night in Agapia was welcoming and in the morning, we left very early in order 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 Danube at the ferry crossing. An hour and a half later, we were enjoying our birds on the deck of our Ponton deck with cold drink in hand, followed by our first onboard dinner.

The next couple of days consisted of a pattern of pre-breakfast birding from the deck, breakfast, small boat outings along the smaller channels of the Delta, back on the Ponton for lunch, birding from the deck cruising along the waterways of the Danube Delta, evening outings in the small boats and back to the Ponton for dinner. Little Crake, Dalmatian Pelicans, a few White Pelicans, lots (more than 3000), Greylag Geese, various ducks, Whiskered, Common, and Caspian Terns, all the herons, all the grebes, and White-tailed Eagles were some of the highlights. 

On day eight we left the Ponton after breakfast it was an early start which gave us time to do some good birding in our winding road down to the southern end of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve in Vadu. First stop was in Babadag Forest near Celic Dere where we saw Grey-headed, Green, Middle Spotted, Syrian, and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and lots of Hawfinches. The next planned stop in Babadag Forest near the Byzantine Fortress of Enisala for a picnic brought good views of Sombre Tit, a speciality of the area. Later we drove through the rolling steppe with excellent views of steppe birds such as Tawny Pipit and Short-toed Lark, while rocky areas held Black-eared and Pied Wheatears. The afternoon belonged to the raptors with Montague and Pallid Harriers, Long-legged Buzzard, and a fantastic view of an Imperial Eagle taking off. By contrast day nine was a day for waders and ducks with the morning on the Black Sea shore and a drive there through the marshes. Our picnic lunch was in the Greek-Roman ruins in Histria. Our final day was spent travelling to the airport, collecting Reed and Corn Buntings on the way.

 -        Tudor Blaj 

Created: 04 December 2018