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A highlight of the tour was seeing a group of 18 Great Bustards, including three displaying males. Participant Joshua Horner took this lovely photo of one of the males in a field near Kiskunsag, Hungary.
Our 2019 Spring Hungary and Romania tour was our 5th to the region, and proved to be a great success finding all the main target species, and with a really good group of super people too.
As usual, we started in Bucharest where most of the group took the optional city tour, but then we were off to Tulcea - gateway to the Danube Delta, where we boarded our 'floating hotel' for a three night stay. Joined by local guide, Christian, we took the main river itself, before heading in to a series of narrower and shallower channels in our smaller boat. After each excursion we'd return to the floating hotel for meals, drinks, and of course our private cabins. This is truly a great way to start the tour where just some of the highlights were: large numbers of Grey-lag geese and Mute Swans, a variety of waterfowl including Garganey and Ferruginous Duck, Red-necked and Great Crested grebes, 3 Pallas's Gulls, Black, White-winged and Whiskered terns (all in breeding plumage), the rather localized Pygmy Cormorant, Great White and Dalmatian pelicans, 6 species of heron and egrets, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill and Common Kingfisher. Landbirds included Common Cuckoo, Eurasian Marsh and Pallid harriers, at least 11 White-tailed Eagles, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Eurasian Hobby, Red-backed Shrike, Eurasian Jackdaw, Eurasian Magpie, 2 fabulous male Bearded Reedlings, Eurasian Blue Tit, Eurasian Penduline-tit, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Common Redstart, and Reed Bunting. And though mammals are very few here, we did all enjoy European River Otter.
After returning to Tulcea, we left our boat behind and drove through the Babadag Hills to the Cheia Dobrogea Gorge, and on to our hotel near Constanta. Highlights this day were nesting White Storks, Booted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Common and Long-legged buzzards, Little Owl at a day roost, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Bee-eater, a pair of Woodchat Shrikes, Greater Short-toed, Calandra, and Crested larks, good looks at the very localized Sombre Tit, Northern, Pied and Isabelline wheatears, Eurasian Linnet, and Ortolan Bunting. Cute European Souslik were our most notable mammal of the day.
We now had mainly a travel day as we headed north-west to the historical city of Brasov, but first we spent a few hours at the Vadu Marshes and the Black Sea coast. The marshes provided further views of many species we'd seen in the Danube Delta, but we also added Common Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, a variety of shorebirds including Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper in breeding plumage, plus Collared Pratincole, and an attractive pair of Little Gulls.
After a night in Brasov (and a visit to the Black Church for those who wanted) we then went to Dracula's Castle (more correctly known as Bran Castle). Rather touristy yes, but the whole group said it was definitely worth the visit. We then had lunch at a farm in the World Heritage village of Viscri, before more birding at and around the San Paul Fish Ponds. Highlights today were Stock Dove, Little Ringed Plover, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Great Gray and Lesser Gray shrikes, Common Raven, European Robin and Fieldfare, while mammals included Red Fox and Roe Deer.
The following day had us making a trip to the high slopes of Mt. Hargita, where sadly a huge storm had brought down hundreds of trees and we were unable to follow our usual track. However the day still provided us with some good birds and we all enjoyed Eurasian Wryneck, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Eurasian Nutcracker, Coal and Crested tits, 2 striking male Collared Flycatchers, Ring Ousel, European Greenfinch, and European Siskin. One or two of our group also got to see the shy Western Capercaillie, first on the ground, and then as it was flushed from high in a tree.
Our next port of call was the spectacular Bicaz Gorge where our main target would be Wallcreeper, and it was just amazing this year as Lajos spotted 1 within just a few minutes of our arrival. And then, with a little patience, we all managed to see 3 as they chased each other around and slowly made their way down the rocks of this massive gorge. After lunch we continued on to the medieval city of Sighisoara (picking up Firecrest and Goldcrest along the way). To date we'd had nice weather, but now the rain set in, making birding the Sighisoara Forest a challenge indeed. However this group was up for it, and we slowly added Tawny Owl, Middle and Great spotted woodpeckers, Eurasian Nuthatch and Song Thrush. Luckily the rain took a bit of a break and we all enjoyed a walk in the old part of this famous city. Then it was on to Coltesti in the heart of the Transylvanian countryside, where shortly before our hotel, we found a beautiful Black Stork right next to the road.
During a day around Coltesti (thankfully the rain had now passed) we added Eurasian Green Woodpecker, Wood Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Greater Whitethroat,
Yellowhammer, and after some effort, Rock Bunting.
We now drove in to Hungary, with a birding stop at the Foldes Wetland shortly after crossing the border. We were also in the famous Hortobagy National Park - although just where the park actually begins and ends is hard to tell. Our main birds in this area were many more waterbirds, with Eurasian Wigeon, Little Grebe, and a flock of 25 Common Cranes and Dunlin being new. In the farmlands we added European Honey-buzzard, a distant Imperial Eagle, 2 Saker Falcons, Sedge Warbler, a very obliging Common Nightingale, and for 3 of our group, a rare Bluethroat.
Our final destination was KIskunsag near Budapest, here given local information, or accompanied by a local guide (and warden) Miki, we found all our main target species: Red-crested Pochard, Common Quail, about 18 fabulous Great Bustards with some males displaying, a much closer Imperial Eagle, Eurasian Nightjar, Eurasian Thick-knee, Eurasian Curlew, Mediterranean Gull, Little Bittern, Long-eared Owl, Syrian and Black woodpeckers, Short-toed Treecreeper, and Savi's Warbler. European Brown Hare and Roe Deer were also common.
For those who wanted, there were optional one or two day city tours, while the rest of us headed home. Safe Journey!
Our next Hungary & Romania tour runs 25 April to 11 May 2020.
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Our local guide, Lajos Nemeth-Boka, not only was a major force in finding birds on the tour, he took this group photo of us at Bicaz Gorge in Romania.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
GRAYLAG GOOSE (Anser anser)
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)
COMMON SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadorna)
GARGANEY (Spatula querquedula)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
GADWALL (Mareca strepera)
EURASIAN WIGEON (Mareca penelope)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (Netta rufina)
COMMON POCHARD (Aythya ferina)
FERRUGINOUS DUCK (Aythya nyroca)
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
COMMON QUAIL (Coturnix coturnix)
RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus)
WESTERN CAPERCAILLIE (Tetrao urogallus)
LITTLE GREBE (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena)
GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus)
EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis nigricollis)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia)
STOCK DOVE (Columba oenas)
COMMON WOOD-PIGEON (Columba palumbus)
EUROPEAN TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia turtur)
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto)
GREAT BUSTARD (Otis tarda)
COMMON CUCKOO (Cuculus canorus)
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
EURASIAN NIGHTJAR (Caprimulgus europaeus)
ALPINE SWIFT (Apus melba)
COMMON SWIFT (Apus apus)
We had great luck with shorebirds, finding 12 species of sandpipers, plus various plovers, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Collared Pratincole. Participant Joshua Horner got a nice shot of two species standing together at one of the wetlands we visited.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
CORN CRAKE (Crex crex) [*]
EURASIAN MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus)
EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)
COMMON CRANE (Grus grus)
EURASIAN THICK-KNEE (Burhinus oedicnemus)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-WINGED STILT (Himantopus himantopus)
PIED AVOCET (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
NORTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus vanellus)
COMMON RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius dubius)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
EURASIAN CURLEW (Numenius arquata)
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa limosa)
CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea)
TEMMINCK'S STINT (Calidris temminckii)
This lovely pair of Tawny Owls features one grey and one rufous bird. Photo by participant Joshua Horner.
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
LITTLE STINT (Calidris minuta)
COMMON SNIPE (Gallinago gallinago)
COMMON SANDPIPER (Actitis hypoleucos)
SPOTTED REDSHANK (Tringa erythropus)
WOOD SANDPIPER (Tringa glareola)
COMMON REDSHANK (Tringa totanus)
Glareolidae (Pratincoles and Coursers)
COLLARED PRATINCOLE (Glareola pratincola)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
LITTLE GULL (Hydrocoloeus minutus)
MEDITERRANEAN GULL (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
We found just two Ortolan Buntings in the Babadag Hills. Photo by participant Joshua Horner.
PALLAS'S GULL (Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus)
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (Larus michahellis)
CASPIAN GULL (Larus cachinnans)
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)
BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger)
WHITE-WINGED TERN (Chlidonias leucopterus)
WHISKERED TERN (Chlidonias hybrida)
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)
BLACK STORK (Ciconia nigra)
WHITE STORK (Ciconia ciconia)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
PYGMY CORMORANT (Microcarbo pygmeus)
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Our floating hotel in the Danube Delta was the perfect base for our exploration of this wonderful wetland. Photo by participant Joshua Horner.
GREAT WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
DALMATIAN PELICAN (Pelecanus crispus)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BITTERN (Botaurus stellaris) [*]
LITTLE BITTERN (Ixobrychus minutus)
GRAY HERON (Ardea cinerea)
PURPLE HERON (Ardea purpurea)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
LITTLE EGRET (Egretta garzetta)
SQUACCO HERON (Ardeola ralloides)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
EURASIAN SPOONBILL (Platalea leucorodia)
Participant Joshua Horner got a great shot of the male Black Woodpecker passing a food item to the juvenile in the nest hole. We saw these birds at Kiskunsag.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
EUROPEAN HONEY-BUZZARD (Pernis apivorus)
LESSER SPOTTED EAGLE (Clanga pomarina)
BOOTED EAGLE (Hieraaetus pennatus)
IMPERIAL EAGLE (Aquila heliaca)
EURASIAN MARSH-HARRIER (Circus aeruginosus)
PALLID HARRIER (Circus macrourus)
MONTAGU'S HARRIER (Circus pygargus)
LEVANT SPARROWHAWK (Accipiter brevipes)
EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK (Accipiter nisus)
WHITE-TAILED EAGLE (Haliaeetus albicilla)
COMMON BUZZARD (Buteo buteo)
LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD (Buteo rufinus)
At Hortobagy National Park in Hungary, we found a flock of 25 Common Cranes still on their way north to their breeding grounds. Photo by participant Joshua Horner.
EURASIAN SCOPS-OWL (Otus scops) [*]
LITTLE OWL (Athene noctua)
TAWNY OWL (Strix aluco)
LONG-EARED OWL (Asio otus)
EURASIAN HOOPOE (Upupa epops)
COMMON KINGFISHER (Alcedo atthis)
EUROPEAN BEE-EATER (Merops apiaster)
EUROPEAN ROLLER (Coracias garrulus)
EURASIAN WRYNECK (Jynx torquilla)
EURASIAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER (Picoides tridactylus)
MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocoptes medius)
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos major)
Bearded Reedling is always a favorite bird on the tour. We found a few in the Danube Delta, including this handsome male. Photo by participant Joshua Horner.
SYRIAN WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos syriacus)
GRAY-HEADED WOODPECKER (Picus canus)
EURASIAN GREEN WOODPECKER (Picus viridis)
BLACK WOODPECKER (Dryocopus martius)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
EURASIAN KESTREL (Falco tinnunculus)
RED-FOOTED FALCON (Falco vespertinus)
EURASIAN HOBBY (Falco subbuteo)
SAKER FALCON (Falco cherrug)
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
RED-BACKED SHRIKE (Lanius collurio)
GREAT GRAY SHRIKE (Lanius excubitor)
LESSER GRAY SHRIKE (Lanius minor)
Common Kingfishers were indeed common in the Danube Delta, where we saw 40 or so of these lovely birds. Participant Joshua Horner took this nice portrait of a female.
WOODCHAT SHRIKE (Lanius senator)
Oriolidae (Old World Orioles)
EURASIAN GOLDEN ORIOLE (Oriolus oriolus)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
EURASIAN JAY (Garrulus glandarius)
EURASIAN MAGPIE (Pica pica)
EURASIAN NUTCRACKER (Nucifraga caryocatactes)
EURASIAN JACKDAW (Corvus monedula)
ROOK (Corvus frugilegus)
HOODED CROW (Corvus cornix)
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
Panuridae (Bearded Reedling)
BEARDED REEDLING (Panurus biarmicus)
GREATER SHORT-TOED LARK (Calandrella brachydactyla)
CALANDRA LARK (Melanocorypha calandra)
The Danube Delta is the place to find many special waterbirds, including the Dalmation Pelican. Photo by participant Joshua Horner.
WOOD LARK (Lullula arborea)
EURASIAN SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis)
CRESTED LARK (Galerida cristata)
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)
EURASIAN CRAG-MARTIN (Ptyonoprogne rupestris)
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
RED-RUMPED SWALLOW (Cecropis daurica)
COMMON HOUSE-MARTIN (Delichon urbicum)
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
COAL TIT (Periparus ater)
CRESTED TIT (Lophophanes cristatus)
SOMBRE TIT (Poecile lugubris)
EURASIAN BLUE TIT (Cyanistes caeruleus)
We had a great view of this male Eurasian Penduline-Tit. Photo by participant Joshua Horner.
GREAT TIT (Parus major)
EURASIAN PENDULINE-TIT (Remiz pendulinus)
Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)
LONG-TAILED TIT (Aegithalos caudatus)
EURASIAN NUTHATCH (Sitta europaea)
WALLCREEPER (Tichodroma muraria)
SHORT-TOED TREECREEPER (Certhia brachydactyla)
WHITE-THROATED DIPPER (Cinclus cinclus)
GOLDCREST (Regulus regulus)
COMMON FIRECREST (Regulus ignicapilla)
Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)
WOOD WARBLER (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) [*]
WILLOW WARBLER (Phylloscopus trochilus) [*]
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (Phylloscopus collybita)
The Great Reed Warbler blends in very well to the wetland vegetation, but we got a very good view of a number of them. Photo by participant Joshua Horner.
Acrocephalidae (Reed Warblers and Allies)
SEDGE WARBLER (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
EURASIAN REED WARBLER (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
GREAT REED WARBLER (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
Locustellidae (Grassbirds and Allies)
SAVI'S WARBLER (Locustella luscinioides)
Sylviidae (Sylviid Warblers)
EURASIAN BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla)
LESSER WHITETHROAT (Sylvia curruca) [*]
GREATER WHITETHROAT (Sylvia communis)
Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (Muscicapa striata)
EUROPEAN ROBIN (Erithacus rubecula)
COMMON NIGHTINGALE (Luscinia megarhynchos)
BLUETHROAT (Luscinia svecica)
EUROPEAN PIED FLYCATCHER (Ficedula hypoleuca)
This pair of Eurasian Spoonbills posed nicely for participant Joshua Horner.
COLLARED FLYCATCHER (Ficedula albicollis)
COMMON REDSTART (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
BLACK REDSTART (Phoenicurus ochruros)
WHINCHAT (Saxicola rubetra)
EUROPEAN STONECHAT (Saxicola rubicola)
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe)
PIED WHEATEAR (Oenanthe pleschanka)
ISABELLINE WHEATEAR (Oenanthe isabellina)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
MISTLE THRUSH (Turdus viscivorus)
SONG THRUSH (Turdus philomelos)
EURASIAN BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula)
FIELDFARE (Turdus pilaris)
RING OUZEL (Turdus torquatus)
Common Redshank was one of the shorebirds we found in the Vadu marshes. Photo by participant Joshua Horner.
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris)
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
GRAY WAGTAIL (Motacilla cinerea)
WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL (Motacilla flava)
WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL (FELDEGG) (Motacilla flava feldegg)
WHITE WAGTAIL (Motacilla alba)
TAWNY PIPIT (Anthus campestris)
MEADOW PIPIT (Anthus pratensis)
TREE PIPIT (Anthus trivialis)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
COMMON CHAFFINCH (Fringilla coelebs)
EUROPEAN GREENFINCH (Chloris chloris)
EURASIAN LINNET (Linaria cannabina)
EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis)
Participant Joshua Horner shot this nice group photo during one of our outings.
EUROPEAN SERIN (Serinus serinus)
Emberizidae (Old World Buntings)
CORN BUNTING (Emberiza calandra)
ROCK BUNTING (Emberiza cia)
YELLOWHAMMER (Emberiza citrinella)
ORTOLAN BUNTING (Emberiza hortulana)
REED BUNTING (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus)
SPANISH SPARROW (Passer hispaniolensis)
EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus)
EUROPEAN BROWN HARE (Lepus europaeus)
EUROPEAN SOUSLIK (Spermophilus citellus)
EUROPEAN RED SQUIRREL (Sciurus vulgaris)
RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes)
EUROPEAN RIVER OTTER (Lutra lutra)
ROE DEER (Capreolus capreolus)
Other notable creatures seen on the tour included;
Edible Frog; hundreds heard and a few seen in the Danube Delta.
Pond Frog; 1 in the Danube Delta.
Yellow-bellied Toad; 1 near Sighisoara.
Alpine Newt; about 10 at Bicaz Gorge.
European Pond Terrapin; 6 at Kiskunsag.
Green Lizard; 1 at our hotel at Kiskunsag.
Grass Snake; 1 in the Danube Delta.
European Adder; some of our group saw a fox kill 1 at Mt. Hargita.
Totals for the tour: 196 bird taxa and 6 mammal taxa