Mike spent some quality time in Romania, enjoying the abundant birdlife Mike travelled to Romania thanks to Ramblers Worldwide Holidays.
Mike extols the virtues of birdwatching in Romania
TIME FOR AN early morning walk, and a stroll through scrubby, damp grass to a narrow, willow-lined, reed-fringed water way, serenaded by a Cuckoo. A Bittern is booming, Garden Warblers bubbling and Lesser Whitethroats rattling, and Chiffchaffs chiffing and chaffing. Half a dozen Cormorants take flight from a dead branch as I reach the water’s edge and follow the muddy footpath. A small family of Great Tits are begging for food, Starlings pass overhead bringing food to youngsters and a Tree Sparrow is ‘chipping’ away. Overhead, Little Egrets, Grey Herons and Gadwalls are waking up and flying off to their feeding grounds. A Common Tern lazily drifts by. So much is typical of a 21st Century walk along any given bird-rich area of East Anglia. But there is something in the air that is just not typically British. It is not just the buzzing Savi’s Warblers, the raucous, shouty Great Reed Warblers or the gentler slurred whistle of Penduline Tits. It is the overwhelming cacophony of a million frogs and toads. That, and the fact the Cormorants are accompanied by Pygmy Cormorants, and fly off to join a small raft of White Pelicans. Oh, and the familiar warblers are out-sung by Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, and Black Woodpeckers are screaming out their calls. Over there, on that raft of Water Soldier, 100 Whiskered Terns are dancing and perhaps nesting. Plus, the overhead wake-up fly-over features Ferruginous Ducks, Glossy Ibises, Squacco Herons, Rollers, Great White Egrets, Night Herons. And it would be a very odd day in Norfolk or Cambridgeshire when you meet a baby Hooded Crow looking up at you from the path. This early morning stroll was not in the UK at all, of course, neither was it a flight of fancy or one of those pleasant bird dreams we have from time to time… No, I was in Romania in the Danube Delta. The odd confusion of the familiar
Gigantic quantities of fish and amphibians... keep the herons, ibises, cormorants and pelicans in such numbers
and the exotic was real enough, though and not just a function of it being 5.30 in the morning. In June, I spent five nights on a ‘floating hotel’ in the Delta, with the days spent on a smaller vessel exploring the myriad channels of the area. The number of birds there is overwhelming. In the few days on the water, I comfortably saw more Cuckoos than ever before in my life (we even saw a ‘flock’ of five chasing each other at one stage), the males’ familiar call and the females’ bubbling, Whimbrel-like reply being a constant droning backdrop. But I had never seen so many Rollers, Squacco, Purple and Night Herons, Ferruginous Ducks, Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, White and Dalmatian Pelicans… you name it. Pygmy Cormorants were almost constantly visible, as were Whiskered Terns. It is an amazing place and an abundant ecosystem, with the ‘land birds’ well-fed on abundant insects, which must also be feeding gigantic quantities of fish and amphibian life to keep the herons, ibises, cormorants and pelicans in such numbers. Back home, things seem somewhat tame. But as a bird addict, I am always up for a bit of weekend action, which saw me on Sunday once more at March Farmers on the Nene Washes, Cambridgeshire. The first bird I heard was a Cetti’s Warbler (which we didn’t hear at all in Romania) and the first bird I saw was a Short-eared Owl (it is mid-june!). A Great White Egret in full breeding finery was towering over Little Egrets (some of more than 100 in a mile stretch) picking small fish or perhaps Marsh Frogs from the flooded fields. A Bittern was booming, distantly and another flew nonchalantly by. A male Marsh Harrier was carrying a large ‘stick’ and a male Cuckoo was shouting out his familiar song. A pair of Cranes was feeding in the distance. The Danube Delta it was not, but what a place! And what birds, most of them unthinkable around here just 15 years ago, but now part of a routine morning’s birding in the fens. The Nene Washes are brilliant and probably the main reason why I love birding around good old Peterborough. Try it, and definitely try Romania, it is superb for birdwatching.
VIBRANT Rollers are abundant in eastern Romania