Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Romania Part 3: House Sparrows taking Tisza Mayflies

We were in Tulcea on the edge of the Danube Delta on our floating hotel in early June. Both male and female House Sparrows were flying out from the boats skimming and hovering low over the water, to catch the recently emerged giant Tisza Mayflies (Palingenia longicauda), which are the biggest mayfly in Europe. They then flew back to the boats, stripped the wings and legs and carried off the huge yellow and black sacks of protein. The boat decks were strewn with inert wings. Fascinating behaviour.

All that scratching's makin' me itch

Romania Part 2: Carpathians & Transylvania

After leaving Bucharest, we (I was with a Ramblers Worldwide Holiday/Ibis Tours group) headed into the Carpathians, based at Zarnesti. We went to visit the small castle at Bran and headed up toward a monastery and got a bit of a feel for Romanian birds (thoguh we didn't see too many...). The Collared Flyccather at Bran Castle was our only one on the whole trip and the undoubted highlight of an all too brief walk up the Zarnesti Gorge at Piatra Craiului National Park was a lovely tawny-coloured Ural Owl. We also saw the odd Alpine Swift and later got Lesser Spotted Eagles. We went to the bear hide on our second evening.
Bran Castle, purportedly an inspiration for Bram Stoker and his Dracula, but there is apparently no evidence Stoker even knew of the castle, so that was a waste of time...
Collared Flycatcher, Bran Castle
Fieldfare, Bran
The road to Coltii Chiliilor monastery, which eventually became too muddy pass. Imagine the fields resounding with field cricket noises and gangs of friendly mongrels I tagged Carpathian Mountain Dogs...
Juvenile Black-bellied Dipper, Zarnesti Gorge
Black-bellied Dipper, Zarnesti Gorge
Grey Wagtail, Zarnesti Gorge
Ural Owl, Zarnesti Gorge
Yellow-bellied Toad on the road to bear hide
A common, spotty ladybird-like beetle. Anyone know what it is?
Chamois, Zarnesti Gorge
This daisy like (Zarnesti Gorge) flower is apparently endemic to this part of the Carpathians

Monday, June 20, 2016

Romania Part 1: Brown Bears

A the start of June I accompanied a group from Ramblers Worldwide Holidays on a birdwatching tour of Romania. We started in the Carathians, where the highlight was an evening visit to a bear hide. The bears were baited with biscuits, mainly and the first individuals came almost instantaneously. We saw about a dozen individuals, including a mother and two tiny cubs, which I didn't get any photos of.
Nearly all the bears were females of various ages plus young bears of indeterminate gender. When a male turned up, he was flirted with by one of the females, leading to a bit of a game of chase through the forest and the rest scarpered.
One of the highlights for me was hearing bears roaring in the forest. Awesome racket!
A battered older female who visited several times to the clearing. She had a round patch on her right flank and what looks like scarred skin on her left rear leg. Also her left eye looked liek it had been in a scrap...
This is the large male which appeared to have started its summer moult. He typically had the horn for females
The last couple of photos are of a ?year-old bear which was always a tad nervous
Most of the last few photos are of the battered looking female I mentioned earlier
Brown Bears can look remarkably like dogs!

Spot the Great Knot

"A Knot in Turnstone's clothing"