Trip organiser – SAKERTOURS:
DANUBE DELTA AND DOBRUDJA BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR IN SPRING (8 DAYS)
Friday 16th May 2014, Glyn Sellors and myself headed off down to London, to stay overnight before our flight the next day to Bucharest, Romania. To be honest, before, we’ve driven down in the morning, to catch a flight, but you only need a delay on the M25 and you can easily miss a flight, or be close to it, as we found in February 2014 – very stressful. My advice – book a night at a Holiday Inn near Heathrow, including car parking for the week [approx. £100 – an extra room normally additional £50 or so], an easy trip down, a relaxing evening, a no-panic breakfast the next morning, then a shuttle bus to the terminal.
The British Airways flight got off late, as normal, but 3 hours later, arrived at Bucharest, almost on time. We had met Gordon, who was the 3rd of the 4 photographers on the trip, at Heathrow and when we arrived at Bucharest, we were met by our young guide Zoltan [Zoli] Nagy and the 4th photographer on our trip, Abdul, a lovely chap from Kuwait.
We packed all the gear into the minibus [it had done 280,000kms, but was a VW], then we were off on a 3.5hr transfer to Sinoe, near Constanta, east of Bucharest, and on the edge of the Danube Delta. We checked into a nice hotel called the Grindul Lupilor Pension, our base for 2 nights.
The next 2 days were spent at the estuarine area near Sinoe, which was really good birding and not bad for photography. We had several good encounters – a full summer adult Great Black-headed Gull [ superb], Broad-billed Sandpipers, Paddyfield Warblers, Cuckoos, Purple Heron, to name a few – see the full 2-day’s list below;
Mute Swan, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pochard, White Pelican – 500, Dalmatian Pelican – 4, Cormorant, Bittern – head-only, Little Egret, Great Egret – 2, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Heron – 1, White Stork, Glossy Ibis – 15, Spoonbill – 2, Marsh Harrier – male, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Red-footed Falcon – 10, Hobby – 2, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt – 10, Stone Curlew – 3, Collared Pratincole – 25, Ringed Plover – 1, Little Ringed Plover – 1, Kentish Plover- 6, Lapwing, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper – c100, Broad-billed Sandpiper – 60+, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper.Redshank, Greenshank – 1, Curlew,Ruff, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull – 2, Yellow-legged Gull, Caspian Gull, Little Gull – 50+, Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern – 2, Common Tern, Caspian Tern – 4, Black Tern – 17th, Whiskered Tern – 17th, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo – heard only, Little Owl – Abdul only, Hoopoe – 6, Bee-eater, Roller – 2, Skylark, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark – 4, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow – 1, House Martin – 20+, Tawny Pipit – 1, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail – feldegg, Yellow Wagtail – flava, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Blackcap – 1, Savi’s Warbler – 1, Reed Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler – 20+, Great Reed Warbler – 20+, Garden Warbler – in garden , Lesser Grey Shrike – 15, Red-backed Shrike, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Starling, Golden Oriole – 1, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Black-headed Bunting 6, Corn Bunting, 3x Savi’s Warbler, 3x Great Reed Warbler, Bee-eaters, Black-headed Buntings.
On the afternoon of Monday 19th May, we headed off to a disused quarry and despite it being one of the most dangerous places to take a tour group [200ft sheer drops, un-fenced], the birds were superb, with even more ticks for me – see below:
Northern Wheatear, Pied Wheatear, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear, Saker Falcon [probable], Long-legged Buzzard, Red-backed Shrike – numerous, Lesser Grey Shrike, Bee-eaters, Rollers on wire.
We then drove to a place in the hills called Macin – we arrived really late, had to eat at a local restaurant, then check ourselves in to the Hotel Tourist Macin – a bit rustic, but a good night’s sleep – probably because I was knackered!
The next day, Tuesday, we spent 4 hours in a sweaty hide, seeing Golden Orioles, Corn Buntings and Starlings, but not much else, and not much photographable. We were asked to go back in and spend a further 2 hours in the hide – which proved a good idea, as we had a good encounter with a couple of Turtle doves, with a mating display – very amusing.
In the afternoon we headed up the Macin valley and had good views of Ortolan Buntings, Rock Thrush, Barred Warbler, a superb pair of Levant’s Sparrowhawk, and a few decent butterflies and an obliging Green Lizard.
We then headed off to Tulcea, a port next to the Danube Delta. We had an overnight here at the Hotel City, having arrived at 10pm. To be honest on this trip, I have never eaten so late and got up so early – very tiring !!
Early next morning, we headed down to the port in Tulcea and met our boat guide fior the next 3 days – a nice Russian chap called Romi. We saw the boat – blimey, it sure looked small, to be on the enormus Danube. We thought it was a small boat to take us to a bigger boat, but no, that was it. It took us 2.5 hours to travel 23 miles downstream, to the next hotel for 3 nights, the Paradise Pension at Mila 23. A nice hotel, but like all eastern european hotels, the plumbing was shite!
As it turned out, the small boat was brilliant for moving us around the Danube Delta’s back canals and onto it’s many shallow lakes, taking us up close to water birds, such as, Squacco Herons, Glossy Ibis, Night Heron, Black Tern, Whiskered tern, to name a few. A list of those birds, shown below:
Day 1 on the boat:
Honey Buzzard?, Cuckoos, Black woodpecker, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Penduline tits, Pygmy Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Caspian Gulls – full adults and 2nd summer birds, Black-headed Gulls, Rooks, Hooded Crows, Great egret, Night Heron, 2x Redstart, Swallows, House Martins, White Pelicans, Dalmatian Pelican, 2x Glossy Ibis, Hoopoe, Black Redstart.
Day 2 on the boat:
Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Caspian Gulls, Pygmy Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Grey-headed Woodpecker [heard], Great Spotted Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpecker, Night Heron, 4x Glossy Ibis, White Pelican, Dalmatian Pelican, Glossy Ibis, Cuckoos, Penduline Tit, Kingfisher, Black-headed Gulls, Common Terns, Black Terns, Whiskered Terns, Little Terns, Red-necked Grebes, Black-necked Grebes, Great Crested Grebes, Pochard, Mallard, Gadwall, Ferruginous Ducks, Blue Tits, Wrens.
After 3 nights in the Paradise Pension, we headed 2.5hrs back back upstream to Tulcea [ a bit dodgy with this tiny boat, when tankers go past – scary].
Transferring to the minibus and saying our goodbyes to Romi and the boat, we headed off for a 3hr trip back to the airport at Bucharest. En-route we saw;
Purple Heron, Great Egret, Hoopoe, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier [ Glyn only – ringtail], Bee-eaters, Rollers, Red-backed Shrikes, Common Buzzards, Red-footed Falcon, Magpies, Skylarks, Hooded Crows, Ortolan Bunting.
Then, the flight home, £23 taxi ride to the hotel [!!], then a 3 hour drive home, via a chippy in Kegworth [filthy, but tasty], I arrived home late and slept like a baby.
A great trip, very tiring, lots and lots of travelling, hot weather, no aircon in the mini-bus, dodgy plumbing [in more ways than one], but overall a good trip. I had 14 new bird ticks on this trip.
Total cost, including flights, food, etc., approx. £2100 – not cheap, Saker could reduce it by €300, but overall good value for money.
Thanks to Zoli, Gordon, Abdul, Romi and Glyn, for their company.
A few images for you to peruse – I was pleased with them generally.