THE DANUBE DELTA
"Thanks again for a great trip and I hope your next trip goes equally well"...... Miss R. Sept 2013
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The Danube Delta, formed where Europe's largest river meets the Black Sea, is by far and away the most impressive wetland site in Europe. Both in surface area and numbers of birds, other more frequently visited areas just do not compare.
Many species such as White Pelican, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Squacco Heron, Pygmy Cormorant, Whiskered Tern and Ferruginous Duck are found in higher numbers here than anywhere else in Europe. At the time of this visit, breeding birds will be augmented by yet more on migration. The most obvious of these are the waders and we have found one site which is perhaps the best place in Europe to see Broad-billed Sandpiper.
Our explorations will take us to marshes, reedbeds, willow-lined channels and bird-filled lakes of the delta, followed by forays to riverine woodland and forested hills. We shall spend seven nights in Tulcea, on the edge of the delta. From here we can explore the area by boat, as well as making excursions by road to the other sites.
THE DANUBE DELTA
We will fly to Bucharest, landing in the late afternoon. From here we drive to our lovely guest house in Tulcea, arriving in time for an evening meal.
Situated immediately west of the delta, Tulcea is ideally placed to explore the many willow-fringed channels, lakes and reedbeds. Our holiday is land-based, but we will also take a full day boat trip into the delta.
From the boat it is possible to see hundreds of White Pelicans wheeling overhead, with similar numbers feeding on the lakes. It is often difficult to believe that you are still in Europe. Pygmy Cormorants, Glossy Ibis, Little Egrets, Squacco and Night Herons are all very numerous.
In the delta quantity is the watchword, but there is also great quality. Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes are found on the larger lakes and the herons, including Purple Heron, Great White Egret and Bittern are well represented. Good numbers of Spoonbills can be seen and the prehistoric-looking Glossy Ibis is nowhere more common. Black Storks soar high above the forests of the delta and large flocks of White Storks will be passing through. Pochard, Garganey and Ferruginous Duck are amongst the most numerous wildfowl. They are occasionally disturbed by a hunting White-tailed Eagle.
Caspian Terns are always present, alongside numerous Black and Whiskered Terns. Coots are the commonest birds on the lakes, often numbering in their thousands, while Water Rails and Moorhen keep to the reedy edges. We can stop on the dry banks to picnic and look for birds in the willows. The diminutive Penduline Tit is best found this way and shares this habitat with Grey-headed and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Eurasian Treecreeper and the white-headed race of Long-tailed Tit.
Just south of the delta, near Murighol, there are two lakes which are always worth a visit. Avocets number in the hundreds. They are joined by passage waders, which include Ruff, Grey Plover, Turnstone and Curlew Sandpiper. The prize here on our recent visits has been groups of Red-necked Phalaropes spinning on the water. Great Black-headed Gull, once a great rarity in Europe, is now frequently seen.
THE BABADAG FOREST
The whole area inland of Tulcea is hilly and much of it is still forested. The hills rise to almost 500 metres at Mount Greci and as a consequence the bird life is quite different to the other areas visited. In the dry oak forests we shall look for the localised Sombre Tit. At a drinking pool in the forest we should get close views of Hawfinch, Yellowhammer, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Marsh Tit.
A full day will be utilised exploring a superb area of forest near Mount Greci. Our visits here have produced sightings of Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Grey-headed and Black Woodpecker, Serin, Hawfinch and Yellowhammer. Raptors breed more commonly here than in other areas and we have been rewarded with good views of Levant Sparrowhawk, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Goshawk and Short-toed Eagle.
We shall see species which are absent from much of coastal Romania and these include Turtle Dove, Syrian Woodpecker, Hoopoe, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Nightingale, Icterine Warbler, Jay and Golden Oriole. Equally smart are the Bee-eaters which occur in large numbers. Red-backed Shrike is one of the commonest birds, their numbers swollen by young. In the surrounding farmland Lesser Grey Shrikes can be found.
To the south of the delta lies Lake Sinoie, a huge bird-filled lake. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of pelicans feed here, mostly Whites, but with a few of the rare Dalmatians. On a previous visit we were fortunate to watch a large flock of White Pelicans round up shoals of fish, in a large circle moving inwards all the time. Once the fish were sufficiently concentrated, the pelicans began feeding, as did an opportunistic Caspian Tern overhead. Another rare European breeding bird here is the Ruddy Shelduck.
At the southern end of Lake Sinoie is Histria. Hundreds of Whiskered Terns breed here and at the time of our visit the last few young will be about to fledge. There are also good numbers of both Black and White-winged Black Terns, offering useful lessons in identification. Gull-billed Tern is numerous throughout the whole area and migrant Caspian Terns provide one of the highlights. Waders are literally everywhere. Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ruff, Ringed and Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Marsh Sandpiper are among the most numerous. We also have a good chance of finding Broad-billed Sandpiper. This scarce bird, which breeds in Scandinavia, is quite difficult to find in Europe. In the drier areas Collared Pratincoles and Stone Curlews occur alongside Tawny Pipits and Calandra Larks. Nearby, there is a site where we have found Pied Wheatear.
Raptors are frequently seen, mainly the numerous Marsh Harriers which quarter the marshes along with smaller numbers of Montagu's Harriers. Saker, Pallid Harrier, White-tailed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Hobby, Red-footed Falcon, and Short-toed and Booted Eagles have all been seen on our previous visits.
Stopping frequently along a road which leads to Lake Sinoie, we will check the reedbeds which hold a good population of Little Bitterns, a few crakes, Bearded Tits and a lot of warblers. We have been lucky in the past to have had excellent views of Little Crake. With a little patience good views of the warblers can be obtained. These include Great Reed, Reed and Sedge, as well as a few localised Paddyfield Warblers, which breed here in their westernmost outpost. On a previous visit the spectacle of bird migration was very evident when, in the evening, large numbers of birds were seen to fly south along the coast. In just over half an hour we counted a staggering 1040 Purple Herons, 260 Glossy Ibis and 120 Pygmy Cormorants!
On day eight we will leave the hotel after breakfast and make our way back to Bucharest, in good time for our flight home.
CLIMATE AND PACE
We are visiting at the end of a hot summer. Normally it is quite hot and dry, although on occasion we have found that autumn has arrived, with a distinct drop in temperatures and some rain. Breakfast will be taken at about 7am most mornings, perhaps later if the previous day has been tiring. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and short/medium length walks on the flat will be undertaken regularly. There will be little or no uphill walking.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation will be provided with seven nights in a lovely birdwatchers guest house in Tulcea. All rooms are very comfortable, and the owners pride themselves in the excellent food they prepare. All rooms are en suite.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 24th, ending with breakfast on 31st), soft drinks at meal times, bottled water throughout, local transport by mini-bus, boat trip into the delta, and international flights.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Flights are from London Heathrow to Bucharest using the scheduled services of British Airways. Outbound flight departs late morning, return flight arrives back early evening. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are available on this tour. See booking form for details.
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