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The Wildlife of Transylvania

 

Penduline Tit

Penduline Tit

Tour leader Rob Murray describes highlights of our 8-day holiday to Romania’s Transylvania region, an area steeped in legend and history, and boasting a wealth of exciting wildlife.

Transylvania is inextricably linked to the legend of the Prince of Darkness and his haunting abode at the celebrated Bran Castle. Vlad the Impaler, an equally terrifying and less mythological being from whom the fabled Dracula evolved, also lived in this sombre fortress. But as we enter the dark, forbidding forest fears of the supernatural gradually subside and strains from the chorus of 'The Teddy Bears' Picnic' enter the subconscious as we clamber up the rickety, wooden steps into a hide overlooking a clearing. Final adjustments are made to cameras; the shuffling subsides and we await the emergence of the first Brown Bear.

Down the slope it trundles and, with a sniff of the sweet flavoured air, it plods towards the goodies hidden in a hollow log. There is a collective gasp as we all try to stifle the desire to shout ‘There's one!’. Wild animals can never be guaranteed to appear, but normally we can expect bears to be on view for a couple of hours, during which time the tiered seating ensures that everyone enjoys outstanding views at breathtakingly close proximity. Anticipation heightens the excitement as you never know what else might lurk in the shadows. Occasionally we have seen Wolves; sometimes a Red Fox or a Buzzard will join the gluttonous bears; even Woodmice have the temerity to filch a morsel from under a bear’s nose. It is unquestionably thrilling to watch the behaviour of these bears from the hides; however, some visitors appreciate the unexpected bonus of seeing bears on a wild hillside. Watching the cliff face at the back of our hotel in Magura can fulfil this ambition. Bears are regularly seen lumbering awkwardly over rocks that the nimble and elegant Chamois appears to glide across so effortlessly. There is always a chance that a Lynx may reveal itself too!

The trip is far from being centred upon bears. It is ideal for the all-round naturalist and those wishing to learn more about the customs, culture and history of this beautiful Carpathian landscape. There are glorious blooms of Alpine Clematis, Hungarian Snowbells and Alpine Bells lining the track through a steep and spectacular gorge. On sunny days butterflies dance amongst the orchids and globe flowers in the scented meadows while soaring eagles and buzzards peer down upon the tranquil scene. A series of fish ponds attracts an array of waterbirds from Savi’s Warblers, Penduline Tits and Little Bitterns to Pygmy Cormorants, Night Herons and Ferruginous Ducks. Amongst the wide range of habitats visited our day in the Narcissus Forest will be especially memorable for its diversity of wildlife. Lesser Grey Shrikes, Golden Orioles, Hoopoes and Bee-eaters vie for our attention with Butterfly Orchids, Poet's Narcissus and an endemic species of Cow Wheat. Fresh tracks in the mud reveal that other woodland inhabitants such as bears, badgers, foxes and Wild Boar have passed this way too!

The picnic lunches are a deservedly celebrated part of this trip. As if on a magic carpet lunch arrives wherever we happen to be. It is always keenly awaited and comprises freshly cooked, homemade fare from local produce in prodigious quantities. Elderflower cordial and Moldavian wine complement the feast. It is no wonder that as midday approaches people switch from asking ‘What is that bird?’ to ‘Is it lunchtime yet?’

If you enjoy finding birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and flowers in unspoilt, spectacular mountain scenery at an easy going pace complemented by good, sustaining food then you shouldn't hesitate to join us next year on our ‘Romania – The Wildlife of Transylvania’ tour.

Our 8-day Romania – The Wildlife of Transylvania holiday departs Saturday 27th May, Sat 3rd June & Sat 10th June 2017. Please call Paul Stanbury for further details on 01962 733051 or email paul@naturetrek.co.uk