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The Danube Delta


michael-ibk
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Since nobody seems to have covered this area so far on Safaritalk I´ve decided to do a mini-report on our Danube Delta trip this May (6th-13th). This is one of Europe´s best-known birding paradises. It´s the second largest river delta of the continent (after the Volga). The greater part of it lies in , while its northern part, on the left bank of the Chilia arm, is situated in Ukraine. Its approximate surface area is 4,152 km2 (1,603 sq mi), of which 3,446 km2 (1,331 sq mi) is in Romania. Many rare species have found their home here, and having seen quite a few documentaries on TV I was eager to see the place. We used Discover Danube Delta, a company we were happy with and would use again.

 

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We were picked up in Bucarest early morning, it´s about a four to five hours drive to Tulcea, a sleepy town with about 90,000 inhabitants which serves as the entry point to the Delta. From there we were transported by boat to Milla 23, one of the few small villages right in the middle of the area where we stayed four nights. It´s exclusively boat activity here, driving is not possible. After returning we stayed another three nights in Tulcea to explore Dobruja, the mainland part of the eco-system, quite a different habitat which naturally hosts different species.

 

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Not to raise false expectations, this is definitely a birding trip, one cannot expect to see lots of mammals. While the Delta certainly is "wild", probably one of the most pristine areas one can find in Europe, it has a long history of human interference. Fishing is still very popular here, and hunting has only been banned for good seven years ago - and from what I´ve heard it´s still going on nonetheless. And Dobruja is of course a classic rural landscape with lots of settlements and agriculture, which is becoming more and more "modern" - and therefore more intense. But birding is really, really excellent, and I would recommend this to anybody who likes to see some of the more flashy species like Pelicans or Eagles or in general just enjoys seeing a lot of different kinds of birds. Even though the weather was far from ideal (pretty awful in fact at times, with lots of heavy rain) I left Romania with a decent list of 140 birds seen.

 

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These are the Macin "mountains" (a slight euphemism for me given that I am living in the middle of the Austrian alps), some 30 or 40 kms West of Tulcea where we spent a few hours before properly starting the Danube trip. The hope had been to get raptors here, it is a famous area for migrating birds of preys and on a good day one can get dozens here, including interesting species like Greater and Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Levant Sparrow-Hawk and more. Unfortunately this was not a good day. It was extremely windy and therefore not a single bird was seen in the sky. We also tried to get Blue and Common Rock Thrush here but our timing was far from ideal, noon is rarely very productive.

 

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But these beautiful European Green Lizards were a nice divertion.

 

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And it´s hard to complain about the lack of raptors when at every other junction you get to see Bee-Eaters. :)

 

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European Bee-Eaters are still delightfully common in this part of Romania. Even if you have no clue where to look for them their colonies are so widespread and often so close to the roads that it´s virtually impossible to miss them.

 

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Our timing was pretty good for these - they only arrive at the start of May, and our guide Iliuta (also the company´s boss) told us that they had not been here only three days prior.

 

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Iliuta saw a baby Common tortoise on the road and picked it up - death was inevitable here for the little guy since it would always come back to the warm asphalt. So we had it hitch a ride, drove a few kilometres away from the road into a suitable area and freed it again there. It was not too appreciative of this, actually it showed its gratitude by shitting and peeing on my hand.

 

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And the Bee-Eater colonies had quite a few other inhabitants - Kestrels, Starlings, Jackdaws but most excitingly also Eurasian Rollers. One of my prime targets. Another one there was really no need to worry about - they are quite easy to see in Romania, we´d get several each day.

 

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And then it was time for the Delta proper. We had a small private boat (three rows) with a guide and a boatman. There are certainly more comfortable options, especially in the bigger boats, but we were very happy with it since it provides you with the option of even pursuing the smallest waterways - and some of them are tiny in the Delta indeed. It´s also possible to get very close to birds if one of them happens to be stoic enough not to fly when anything approaches. The weather was a mixed bag - our drive into the Delta was fantastic, sunny, warm, fantastically pleasant. The next day was also very good but then we had to realize that, these days, unfortunately the weather forecast is mostly right. And so we had hard rain for our second morning, impossible to go out, and also the afternoon was very grey and often rainy although we put on our raingear and still were rewarded with some nice moods when the sun managed to fight through the clouds now and then. Our last full day was marginally better, it only rained heavily at noon, and while it was mostly grey and damp there were some short sunny streaks at least. Our drive back to Tulcea on the last morning was again pretty uncomfortable in the open boat, our rain gear was put to the test and I only put out my camera once. But nothing you can do about the weather, and even though the circumstances were often far than ideal for photography we still enjoyed just being in this fantastic environment - and would see lots of stuff even then.

 

 

At first we were pursuing one of the three main channels of the Danube, and lots of others ships were there. But once we had left the "main traffic lane" and were following the many small streams and channels we were mostly alone. This was one of the most pleasant surprises for me, somehow I had expected there would be lots of other tourists and fishermen there, but it could happen that we would not see another boat for hours.

 

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Cormorants were abundant. Still pretty wary, like everywhere in Europe fishermen hate them with a passion, and I bet they are still being hunted. But not difficult to get at all. We´d also see lots of their little cousins, the Pygmy Cormorants, but to my surprise those were super-shy and would fly straight into the reed as soon as they would notice any human activity, so not a single keeper photo for this species.

 

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The king of the Delta, the White-Tailed Eagle. We´d see this majestic bird every day, probably more than 10 individuals all together, but our best sighting was right at the start. The area is an important stronghold for this species. While not rare as such (Least Concern worldwide) they were extinct in many European countries and are only slowly making a comeback. It was fantastic to see them in good numbers.

 

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His majesty often looked decidedly less dignified when he was hunted by Crows. B)

 

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The Black-Crowned Night Heron was another bird which is quite an exciting find back home but was pretty common here in the Area, seen every day several times.

 

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This was our homebase, Mila 23, a small village right in the middle of the Delta, completely surrounded by water. Without winning too many points for originality, the village has this name  because the Sulina channel measured exactly 23 miles at this point (measured from the river’s mouth) following its old course, before the European Commission of the Danube straightened it over a century ago.  Our boatman told me the settlement had been more or less dying not too long ago, almost all young people had little interest in the hard life of a fishermen and left. But since soft tourism started to kick in they began to see a future here again and many have come back and established small businesses.

 

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The house in the middle was our accommodation, Casa Pescaralui ("Fisherman´s House"). Very nice, much better than expected, spacious and clean rooms with en-suite shower/toilet and proper wifi, and good food. And - as everywhere in Romania - far too much food, the amount of things we were served was just unbelievable, there would have been more than enough for four not two.

 

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I enjoyed sitting on the balcony and watching all the Swallows, Martins and Gulls come and go. Pelicans and Spoonbills were often seen in the distance, Herons and Egrets flying by - a very idyllic place.

 

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House Martin

 

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Caspian Gull. Almost identical to Middle Europe´s Yellow-Legged Gull but the Caspian is the default one here.

 

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Barn Swallow

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Our first morning in the Delta was without a doubt the most beautiful one. We got up very early (five or something like that) to catch the sunrise on one of the lakes. While it was a bit cloudy first and @AndMic had already resigned to the fact that the light would not come ultimately we would be rewarded.

 

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Great White Pelicans are the signature birds of the Delta. This is their most important breeding area in Europe, about 4,500 pairs, which is almost half of the entire population of Eurasia.

 

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One of my favourite things of the Delta were all the Terns. Their hue and cry, whooshing about to catch some fish, collecting nesting material - they were always active and great fun to watch. We visited a colony of Marsh Terns in the morning on one of the lakes - they breed in the middle of all these water-plants, and obviously the three different species get along well.

 

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Whiskered Terns were the most common ones. Migrating birds, they winter in Africa.

 

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Some of them flew by very closely and were highly cooperative flying posers.

 

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It was hard to decide on which Tern to focus - but a Purple Heron gliding by in the background made me forget about them. For me this is definitely our most attractive Heron. They were much rarer than the other species, we saw maybe four or five in all our Delta time, and never very close.

 

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I was particularly pleased to see the White-Winged Black Tern, a new species for me in Europe. When seen in Africa all the Marsh Terns are pretty hard to tell apart but in breeding plumage they are very distinctive.

 

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And the third one, the Black Tern. This bird also occurs in America.

 

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Common Terns were also abundant but because of their familiarity they were far less interesting to us and so we tended to ignore them.

 

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Domestic animals have a pretty happy life in the Delta. They are free to go (or rather swim) whereever they please and are caught when their time has come. They have to be pretty sturdy though - winters in Romania can be tough. Our guide told us that there had been efforts to introduce different species of cattle but they all perished.

 

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I´m not very good with reptiles and animals, I think this is a Grass Snake but not quite sure. Anyway, I´m sure it would have loved to get this little guy:

 

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I mentioned that the Delta is not really a place to expect exciting mammal sightings. But we did have two excellent ones.

 

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Otters are extremely shy in the area. But these two males were having a really vicious fight and were so busy snarling, biting and plummeling each other that they only noticed us when we were fairly close. I was thrilled about this, my first European Otters in the wild. :)

 

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He was obviously not happy that we had disturbed him.

 

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And the other highlight came at the very end of our first day, when our eagle-eyed boatsman spotted some movement on the shore when we were already going home:

 

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A European Wild Cat! I had never expected this, and this little fellow was very relaxed about us, a really great sighting which gave us grins all over.

 

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It was so chilled that I at first doubted it was a wild one but our guide assured me it definitely is. The bushy tail confirms that.

 

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Some more assorted bird and landscape pictures:

 

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Mute Swans behaved very uncharacteristically - they are familiar park birds normally, and in most places they don´t care one bit about human visitors. Not here - they are shy and tend to flee early.

 

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Ducks were not as numerous as I had expected. Mallards of coure were there, and a few Pochards and Gadwalls now and then. I was told many more are around in winter. Ferrugineous Duck was my main target anywhere, they are more of a Eastern European species and can only be found in select few places in Austria.

 

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Red-Necked Grebe is another attractive species which is breeding here. We´d see them every day. Their cousin, the Great Crested Grebe, is far more numerous but even though I like this bird a lot I did not take a single photo - more than enough of these back home.

 

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Reed birds were quite difficult. The songs of Great and "normal" Reed Warblers was everywhere, and we also saw some Bearded Reedlings, but sightings were few and far between. The enormous reed belt area provides more than enough shelter for them. This is a Savi´s Warbler here.

 

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Good old Grey Heron, anywhere in the Old World you go to it will be there as well.

 

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Spoonbills are delightfully common as well and though I would not exactly call them relaxed approachable enough. Since all species were in breeding plumage all birds looked their very best.

 

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Rollers were regularly seen in the Delta though they tend to stick more to the areas close to terra firma.

 

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As a native Romanian who never got to visit the Delta, I am grateful for this report. I hope someday I'll go back and visit. Glad to hear tourism is picking up, I hope they will be smart to protect this area, its birds and wildlife. The wild cat was gorgeous! And my favorites, the bee-eaters. Thanks for posting and sharing.

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Picture pretty, your description of Danube Delta! And what is best, only a short fly from our home!

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A wonderful start with beautiful photos. You have had good light so far! Lovely Red-necked Grebe and an amazing Wild Cat. Not to mention the otter!

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@xyz99

 

Thanks, you really should (go back), it´s something to be proud of as a Romanian. While I have gotten the impression that things are (relatively speaking) quite ok with the Delta, the ancient man-made environment of Dobruja is another story, Romania is quickly catching up with the rest of Europe doing all the stupid things we have already perfectioned here in Middle Europe to the point of no return (pesticides, intensified "modern" agriculture). More Bee-Eaters coming up in this report for you btw a bit later.

 

@xelas

 

Indeed, it´s only a quick hop for us.

 

@TonyQ

 

Thank you! Good light because almost all the picures will be from the first day! B)

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Just to give an idea of the huge, complex crisscross of the many lakes, ponds and waterways of the Delta here´s a map:

 

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The area is enormous, even with all our time there we only covered parts of the North and did not get a chance to venture much South of Mila 23 even once. Our longest excursion (a full day trip) took us to Letea, a protected forest at the North-Eastern fringes of the Delta.

 

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Weather was like this most of the day but fortunately it was not raining too much while we were on the boat. Once we reached the small village of Letea it started raining heavily though, and we got quite wet indeed. We were transported on the back of an old-remodelled tractor, one of the few working vehicles here - this village felt like we had done a step back into time, at least a century. There are no road connections to anywhere here, the water channels are small, so bringing "modern" stuff in is quite complicated. Some clever people in the village have discovered tourism as a source of income, and day trips to Letea seem to be quite popular. Our lunch here was excellent but the amount simply grotesque. First we had a huge bowl of very rich soup, then a platter with stewed fish, polenta and potatoes was served. We managed to eat maybe a third of that and were full. Then we were told it was time for the main course. We thought they were joking but no, Romanians take their food very seriously - and so another, even bigger platter with fried fish and sides was served. And then, to finally finish us off, they brought dessert, Gogosi. A very rich dough which, to make sure it´s not too healthy, is then deep-fried in oil and iced with an unbelievable amount of sugar. Saying no would have been impolite. We were sleeping and holding our aching stomachs on the way back (until the otters woke us up).

 

On the way to the village we passed a Lake which is home to many, many Pelicans - a great sight.

 

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We saw Hobbies a couple of times this day:

 

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After a while we entered a small sandy channel, quite a different habitat from the other Delta parts we had seen so far. Obviously Great Egrets much preferred this type, we had seen few of them so far but here they were quite common.

 

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Many Caspian Gulls were standing guard for us on the sand hills.

 

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A Glossy Ibis - one of our few sightings of this bird. I had expected to see more of them based on the reports I had been reading.

 

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The area around Letea has some soda lakes with a lot of wader activity going on. Unfortunately the access roads were unpassable because of the rain the weeks before and since the weather became really quite bad now photography was quite pointless anyway.

 

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It was obvious we were much closer to the sea now - this was the only place where we saw Caspian Gulls.

 

Lots of Common and Wood Sandpipers, Greenshanks, Stilts and Avocets could be seen in the many submerged meadows along the road, I particularly enjoyed seeing the Ruffs in their mating costumes, the size difference is quite striking.

 

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The Letea Forest, and these are actually wild horses. They have been roaming free here for a long time apparently, our guide was a bit unclear about since when exactly. I felt almost a bit guilty about seeing them, they seem to be quite an attraction for many tourists, and many people come all the way here and never see them because they often keep to inaccessible areas close to the forest. For us, they were parading around right at the entrance gate. A bit undeserved - I know a lot of people enjoy seeing feral horses but they don´t excite me much. The horses are quite controversial, many biologists feel they should not be here in this sensitive environment at all, and even advocated culling them. But since people love horses this led to an public outcry and nothing ever came of this.

 

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Letea was interesting, a proper primeval forest with minimal human interference. Very wet too:

 

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Which of course means Mosquitos, Mosquitos, Mosquitos. The Kafue is nothing to this, they eat you alive here. Fortunately they always like @AndMic much more than me. :P

 

Forest birding is challenging on the best of days, so while everything was full of song here we actually saw very little.

 

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A unique habitat. Letea is the most Northern subtropical forest in Europe and a protected area since 1930. The dunes are more than four metres high in some places.

 

When we drove back the sun managed to peak through at least  a bit which presented us with some interesting moods.

 

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Last batch of Delta photos before I move on to Dobruja.

 

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Grey Woodpeckers were quite common, they love this habitat.

 

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I was particularly delighted to see a Black Woodpecker. A bird which has long been "on my list", I´ve seen them (rarely) back home a couple of times but never ever could get a photo.

 

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Our company provided us with these mobile hides. Quite handy, easy to bring along, but at least here it was a total bust. We wanted to get some waders and while plenty of them were there they stubbornly kept far, far to the other side of this submerged meadow between two channels - I did not take a single photo.

 

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Wood Sandpiper

 

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Excuse the poor quality of this one, extreme crop here. I just could not believe the size of this frog this Grey Heron was stubbornly trying to divulge.

 

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Cuckoos are everywhere in the Delta. It´s good to know what they actually look like, back home I´m only ever hearing them. B)

 

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A special bird to see - Little Bittern, our only sighting. I could still kick myself for this photo - this was in the heavy rain when we were going back to Tulcea. Just before I had taken some (useless) photos of Red-Footed Falcons sitting high up in a tree against the sky and overexposed heavily to get more than a back blob. Then I hastily put the camera under the raincoat again and of course did not change back settings. Which is the reason why this shot was taken with ISO 12,800!

 

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This is Kingfisher territory, they excavate their nests in areas like this.

 

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Our guide put a stick into one of the sides, hoping the Kingfishers would accept them and we could return the other day, maybe use the hides. No need for that - only ten minutes afterwards both male and female inspected this new vantage point and gave us fairly good photo opportunities from a relatively close distance.

 

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Little Egret, another one of the common Delta inhabitants.

 

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One of the most common sights - Squacco Heron, we´d see dozens of them each day.

 

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Great White Pelicans were a frequent sight but we had to work harder for their cousins:

 

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The Delta hosts two different Pelican species, the Dalmatian can also be found here. Much rarer, less than 500 pairs are found in the Delta, one of their last two remaining strongholds in Europe. (The other one is in Greece). We´d only see them twice, and they were much shier than the Great Whites.

 

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Edited by michael-ibk
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We spent the last 2 1/2 days of our trip in Dobruja, using a hotel in Tulcea as our base. Not a protected area as such, this is basically the whole area South of the Danuba Delta along the Black Sea till the Northernmost part of the Bulgarian coast. A very different habitat from the Delta, soda lakes are home for waders and the rural meadows to dry country birds and the vicinity of the Sea makes sure some maritime species can be seen. We covered a lot of ground here, going as far down as Lake Techirgiol, more than 140 km from Tulcea, even South of Constantia, the major town in this area. Our guide Iliuta, the owner of Discover Danube Delta, worked very hard to show us a lot, he´d pick us up at 05:00 in the morning and delivered us back to the hotel by 20:00 in the evening. The weather followed the same usual pattern, some sunny streaks but mostly clouds and intermittent rain showers.

 

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Some of the areas were quite easy to get to and would be absolutely suitable for self-drivers, like the Murighiol area close to the Delta, with some soda lakes and assorted species.

 

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We had a lot of fun watching the Avocets who were in the middle of their mating dances.

 

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Felt a bit like the Hidden Tiger Crouching Dragon flick, they certainly have the moves.

 

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Many other places were far more difficult to get to. Most roads are not in the best state, and the frequent rains made some parts look more like the setting of the recent Bots adventures of @Peter Connan and @xelas:

 

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We got stuck here and were quite relieved that Iliuta knew somebody who knew somebody who could tow us out. B)

 

Our Avocet shots were taken from one of the mobile hides presented shown in the last post, they were far more effective here, especially since we had our best light on our first afternoon.

 

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No need for a hide for this Goldfinch, after we had already finished with the Avocets and put the tents back into the car this little guy just fluttered around before me.

 

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Black-Winged Stilts are very common in this area.

 

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Murighiol also hosts a colony of Mediterranean Gulls. I´ve mostly seen these birds from very far away, and always thought they are tricky to tell apart from the familiar Black-Headed Gulls but they really look quite different. And far more striking I´d say.

 

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A comparison picture with their Black-Headed cousins. Note the far more blackish head and the redder bill.

 

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Iliuta took us to a little forest where a colony of Red-Footed Falcons can be found.

 

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A female.

 

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Their name is far more self-explanatory with the males. These birds of prey are abundant in the area, we´d see them all the time, often apparently hunting together.

 

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This one had found himself some juicy snack.

 

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They are beautiful little raptors. Back home in Austria they are making a small comeback, a few pairs are breeding again in our country, and I even saw one last year.

 

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If you love Hoopoes (as I do) Dobruja is the place to go. Never ever have I seen so many of them, they seem to thrive here and we´d see seem them basically all the time in all kind of habitats.

 

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Lunchtime! (And damn those twigs!)

 

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Edited by michael-ibk
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This is the area where we´d get stuck, wader paradise, but most of them were quite far from the road and because of the state of the roads we could not get to the best vantage points.

 

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Greenshank

 

The area around Vadu was more productive, we had very nice and close sightings of Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints here especially.

 

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Curlew Sandpiper

 

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Little Stint, looking very handsome in breeding plumage.

 

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I never realized while there but my photos proved that a much-sought and quite rare species was among the flocks - a Red-Necked Phalarope (right in the middle).

 

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Crested Lark

 

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Yellow Wagtails (in quite a few different variations) were abundant in the grasslands between the wetlands and the Black Sea.

 

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White Stork

 

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Northern Wheatear

 

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Whinchat

 

This area was incredibly productive for all kinds of Warblers, every bush seemed to have a different one, especially the sylvia type but they were a bit too far (in the greyish weather) for good photos.

 

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I was delighted to see my very first Ortolan Bunting.

 

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The Black Sea - we hoped to find some Pallas´ Gull here but apart from the more common species we did not find that much here.

 

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In the village of Sacele Iliuta spotted a Little Owl - I was quite impressed that he managed to see this while driving.

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This area is impressive, and we are so sorry we could not join you two :(, but you might want to revisit it one day?! 

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@xelas

 

Sure thing Alex, we liked it a lot, and I think it´s definitely a place which deserves multiple visits. Given that boat/guide are the lion´s share of total costs it´s also good value for four people, I´d say about EUR 1.000,-- pp for seven nights including pretty much everything except drinks.

Edited by michael-ibk
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The grasslands of Dobruja are the home for another European specialty which is hard to find these days, and we were very happy that Iliuta managed to get us one of my most sought-after targets.

 

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The Eurasian Stone Curlew, very similar to the African Thick-Knees. Pretty much extinct in most of Europe these days, their populations everywhere on the continent have crashed catastrophically. Even though they are still classified as "Least Concern" because they are still doing well in Asia. But where in Europe could a ground-breeding bird like this still find enough undisturbed habitat?

 

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Another sighting, we watched this one nest from the road. It must be so difficult for them to breed successfully, livestock is everywhere, cats and dogs are a danger, it´s no wonder they are fading also here. This was a sad scene, a shepherd with 100s of sheep and a few dogs was walking right towards this nest. We had no desire to see what would happen and left.

 

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Isabelline Wheatear, the Eastern European cousin of our familiar Northern one, not too difficult to get here in Dobruja.

 

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Red-Backed Shrike, another character bird of these rural areas. Positively everywhere!

 

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A far more interesting find - the Lesser Grey Shrike. We saw a couple of them, they are not rare but by no means as numerous as their cousins. Not sure if I´ve ever seen one before (could well be, they are wintering in Africa, and I have no "master list" of all birds I´ve ever seen.)

 

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We saw a couple of Grey Partridges but all were extremely shy. This one just could not decide which way to flee.

 

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European Ground Squirrels are very common in Dobruja. It needs short turf in order to dig its tunnel system. It finds this on the steppes and in pasture, in dry banks, on sports fields, parks and lawns. These conditions are lost when changes in agricultural practice convert grassland into arable land and forest, or grazing ceases and the grass grows coarse and scrubland develops. Habitat like this is becoming scare, so they are endangered or even gone from many countries they used to live in.

 

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Very approachable in some places where they have become used to people.

 

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But in more remote areas they are very shy and retreat to their burrows as soon as they notice humans.

 

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Standing guard like the Meerkats.

 

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Edited by michael-ibk
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Very interesting report and so many great birds....another area I certainly had no familiarity with!  Lots of European species that would be new to me and some not new, but never seen in breeding plumage. And Wildcat, wow, what a nice unexpected treat!

 

My heritage is Romanian/Hungarian so maybe a trip to Eastern Europe will be in order one day....back to the roots as it were.

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Thank you, @janzin, I´m sure you would enjoy it here. Yes, the Wildcat definitely was an unexpected highlight, we were smiling the whole evening because of that.

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Lake Techirghiol was another very good area for waders but we did not find any new ones here.

 

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An overlooked bird which can be quite beautiful in the light - our well-known Common Starling.

 

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This was the best place for Shelducks, one of the prettiest ducks IMO. (Just to get a bit nerdybirdy, technicallly they are an intermediate species between ducks and geese).

 

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At first I did not even take note of these Black-Headed Gulls swimming on the lake - but in fact these are not Black-Headed but Little Gulls, pretty much a new species for me (saw it in the Ebro Delta before but only got an ebc-picture then which is laughably bad even for an ebc-picture).

 

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This gorge was spectacularly beautiful. Apparently an arm of the Danube used to flow here a long time ago. Unfortunately this was a Saturday, and the area is very popular, people come to have weddings here, or simply a barbecue. And many of them love to play loud music. I will never get that, why get out to such a beautiful place and then spoil it? Naturally, birds preferred to go far away, and so we failed to find most of our targets like Rock Thrushes and (proper) Rock Pigeons.

 

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This Kestrel was bringing prey for its young ones, we could see their nest in the rocks.

 

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This bird had me jump out of my car and start climbing the rocks.

 

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I finally managed to get a bit closer and take a recognizable shot of this Pied Wheatear, another new one for me. Involved a lot of running, climbing and huffing and puffing, so this less than brilliant shot felt extremely satisfying.

 

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So it was almost a letdown when we´d see this bird a bit later close to the Sea, patiently posing not too far from the car.

 

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We failed to find a Short-Toed Snake Eagle in Babadag forest where they are known to nest but at least there were some nice orchids there.

 

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Rollers were not very common close to the Sea, they are much easier to find a bit inland.

 

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This Whinchat apparently liked to swing in the wind.

 

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It was a very cooperative poser.

 

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This idyllic place got us another cool target - a Long-Legged Buzzard.

 

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@michael-ibk, thanks for naming me in this report, as I wouldn't have found it otherwise, and I am really enjoying it!

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Especially for @xyz99. :)

 

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There can only be one bird to cap this report off - the beautiful Bee-Eater, Europe´s most gorgeous bird. Don´t think there can be any contestants, or does anyone disagree?.Lots of sightings, as mentioned at the beginning of this report, they are very easy to find in this region of Romania.

 

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This was probably our nicest sighting, early morning at the shore of Lake Techirghiol.

 

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Should they rather be called Butterfly-Eater? No, they do deserve their name, bees do constitute between 70 and 80 % of their diet. Which is a problem for them - bee-keeping is a huge thing in Romania, and bee-keepers are less than fond of the birds divulging their base of income. This antipathy is certainly much exaggerated, studies have shown that while Bee-Eaters do have an influence on bee populations they eat less than one percent of any given swarm. Does not really help, the bee-keepers still think they are a major danger to them - and therefore kill them. We saw quite a few colonies with bottles stuck into the holes. They just wait until the young ones fledge, and then block the holes. The nestlings miserably starve. Outrageous, but sadly though this is well-known nothing is really done about this. Bee-Eaters are protected in Romania, but only on paper not in the real world. And so Iliuta told us that every year fewer and fewer Bee-Eaters come back and more and more colonies are uninhabited. :(

 

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Let´s just hope something can be changed about this situation, it would be such a shame to see Romania go the way of Europe´s more "developed" countries, and thereby losing these wonderful jewels of nature.

 

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And so I´ve reached the end of this mini-report. We really enjoyed Romania, even though the weather was from ideal this was a very successful trip for us. I knew that the Delta and around is a good birding area, read enough reports to be sure about that. But very often a "good birding area" is very cool for people who are thrilled if they can count some exotics through some scope but terribly frustrating for us photo folks. I need not have worried, lots of options both in Delta and in Dobruja to get close enough, and especially our guide Iliuta, a keen photographer himself (with a scary bazooka of a camera in the car) did his very best to show us everything. Again, I can really recommend Discover Danube Delta, and I´m sure that we´ll return one day, more than enough to explore for a future visit. And not to forget - credit! As usual, many pictures (especially but by no means exclusively) were taken by @AndMic!

 

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@Peter Connan

 

Thanks, Peter, glad you´re enjoying it. And I was definitely thinking of you and Alex when we got stuck there! B)

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So many close-up photos, @michael-ibk! And the cost is very affordable one. So who is going there next May?! Or even earlier? Is end of October still feasible to find some birds? The weather, of course, would be much worse ...

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