Trip Report: Balkan Countries, June 22 - July 13, 1997

Author's name withheld upon request.

Part I: Some general information, the route and dates
Part II: List of species seen
Part III: Bulgaria, Rhodopean Mountains
Part IV: Greek Thracia, Rhodopea and Macedonia
Part V: Vardar Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary
Part VI: Romania, Transsilvania

Part I

I will write this in a much shorter concept than it would deserve, because I have not too much time. Anyway, the Balkan area is very interesting, also for birding. I travelled with my brother, and my main purpose was not birding, but I can report something, because, well, we also saw some birds there. Again, the mountain trips were our only bird-oriented whole-day trips. Otherwise I tried to concentrate more in politics, which is my main subject, but I won't bore you with politics and history? If you're interested you can contact me privately and I can discuss forever.

Something general about travelling in the area. Balkans are Balkans, things are not so simple always. Or then they definitely are very simple (just some bucks). Hungary is totally western nowadays, nothing to fear about. Romania comes quickly up, and so does Slovenia. Bulgaria is quite okay, but they don't speak any languages. Croatia? rich and expensive, and externally okay, but politically? In Greece avoid calling the ex-Yugoslavian country with the name "Macedonia", and if you want to be even more polite, use names like Constantinople, Adrianople etc. In the other Macedonia, the ex-Yugoslavian one, try to avoid speaking about Greeks and Greek history. And Yugoslavia? I swore that I will never again go to Serbia before Milosevic is either dead or in prison. Try to avoid that country before the change will come if you don't want to loose your money, your patience and maybe your life. We didn't visit Albania and Bosnia, though I wanted, because my brother protested. Well, he had to survive for the Finnish army.

About politeness in general: there's no nation in the Balkans who would love the neighbour nations; and they all have minorities and regional conflicts with each others. The Hungarians hate Romanians, the Romanians hate Bulgarians, the Bulgarians hate the Turks and the Turks hate the Greeks. The Greeks hate both the Turks and the Vardar Macedonians (and besides, the Greek Macedonians don't like the Greeks of Athens). The Vardars hate the Greeks and the Bulgarians, and then there are of course the well-known relations between the Serbs and the Croats and the Albanians of both Albania and Kosovo, and the Muslims and Orthodox and Catholics and so on. There's just one ethnic point of agreement: they all hate their Gypsies, who are numerous.

Useful languages: In all the Balkan countries young people are quickly learning English, but don't except any middle-aged or older to speak it. If they speak, they are probably in tourism business, which is always alarming, if you want to save money. Old people, who lived before second world war, speak often good German, especially in Bulgaria, and so do many such people who have been working in Germany. In Romania educated people speak French, and because of the similarity between Romanian and Italian, you can easily cope with Italian. Also the Albanians can normally speak Italian. Hungarian is used in Hungary and in many parts of Transsilvania. Maybe people can speak Russian, but they do definitely not want to speak it. Any local language is useful, but not in neighbouring countries. We met even one restaurant-owner who would have spoken Norwegian and one man who spoke Spanish. I counted that we used 11 different languages during our trip (Finnish, English, German, French, Italian, Swedish, Romanian, Hungarian, Estonian, Greek and Spanish)!

Accommodations: Usually the most economical possibility is private accommodation. You find people offering such in railway stations. Good price differs a lot, 4 USD is cheap, 10 USD quite expensive. Hotels are expensive, but you can try to get special price.

Travelling: Domestic trains and buses are cheap, but international trains are expensive. Quality of trains is good. Crossing the borders can make troubles, especially in the former Yugoslavian area. Conductors and such people always try to get some extra from tourists: don't worry, you can drop the prices they demand. Student prices were available at least in Romania and in Croatia, also in Greece and in Hungary we managed to get some student prices. Using your own car is easy nowadays, if you watch where you leave it (foreign register signs catch attention). Renting a car is not so expensive. Some books like "Lonely Planet in Eastern Europe" can help a lot, but the best possible help is to have local friends.

Going to nature reserves and such areas, birding elsewhere: In most countries going to the nature is free, for example in Romania the law guarantees your right of trekking anywhere. Only military areas and such places are not available. In Romania going to the mountains for holiday is very popular, and birding gets much more positive attention than for example in Finland (where people often stare if you carry binoculars).

Our route was as follows:

22.6. Helsinki-Vantaa - Constanta - Baneasa - Bucharest
23.6. Bucharest - Giurgiu - Ruse
24.6. Plovdiv
25.6. Plovdiv - Chepelare - Pamporovo (Rhodopean Mountains)
26.6. Pamporovo - Snezhanka - Smolen - Plovdiv - Svilengrad
27.6. Svilengrad - Dikaia - Alexandroupolis
28.6. Alexandroupolis - Komotini - Xanthí - Dráma
29.6. Dráma - Kato Nevrokopi - Exokhí - Dráma
30.6. Dráma - Serrai - Thessaloniki - Veles - Skopje
1.7. Skopje - Tetovë (Tetovo) - Skopje
2.7. Skopje - Vranje - Nish - Belgrade - Croatia
3.7. Eastern Slavonia - Zagreb - Kaposvár - Budapest
4.7. Curtici - Deva - Sighisoara - Brasov
5.7. Brasov
6.7. Brasov - Predeal - Brasov
7.7. Brasov - Sinaia - Busteni - Predeal - Brasov
8.7. Brasov - Bartolomeu - Bran - Rîsnov - Cristian - Brasov
9.7. Brasov
10.7. Brasov
11.7. Sighisoara - Mureni - Copsa Mica - Sibiu - Sighisoara - Brasov
12.7. Brasov - Poiana Brasov - Brasov
13.7. Baneasa - Constanta - Helsinki-Vantaa - Hyvinkää

Part II: List of Species

During the trip we saw total number of 119 species. It's less than last year, when our East-European journey brought over 120 species, if I remember correctly. This time all the northern species are missing, and we didn't climb to over 2'000 metres altitude, but there are also many southern species which we didn't see last year. It can be worth checking what we saw in Romania and in Hungary last year. Especially about the Southern Carpathian avifauna these reports support each other, because we visited different biotopes. Therefore for example Tree Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), Rock Pipit (Anthus spinoletta) and Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) which were among the most numerous species in some places we visited last year, are totally missing in this year's list. I think, something like 300 species wouldn't be too difficult in three weeks in the Balkan area.

In any case of contradictory between scientific and English names, the scientific name is correct. If you are more interested, I also have a specified file in Excel form, showing all the places and sites of observation of each species.

English name              Finnish name         Scientific name

Great Crested Grebe       silkkiuikku          Podiceps cristatus
Little Grebe              pikku-uikku          Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Cormorant           merimetso            Phalacrocorax carbo
Little Bittern            pikkuhaikara         Ixobrychus minutus
Little Egret              silkkihaikara        Egretta garzetta
Great Egret               jalohaikara          Casmerodius albus
Grey Heron                harmaahaikara        Ardea cinerea
White Stork               kattohaikara         Ciconia ciconia
Black Stork               mustahaikara         Ciconia nigra
Mallard                   sinisorsa            Anas platyrhynchos
Western Honey-Buzzard     mehiläishaukka       Pernis apivorus
Black Kite                haarahaukka          Milvus migrans
Red Kite                  isohaarahaukka       Milvus milvus
Scavenger Vulture         pikkukorppikotka     Neophron percnopterus
Northern Sparrowhawk      varpushaukka         Accipiter nisus
Levantine Sparrowhawk     sirovarpushaukka     Accipiter brevipes
Common Buzzard            hiirihaukka          Buteo buteo
Booted Eagle              pikkukotka           Hieraaëtus pennatus
Lesser Spotted Eagle      pikkukiljukotka      Aquila pomarina
Common Kestrel            tuulihaukka          Falco tinnunculus
Common Quail              viiriäinen           Coturnix coturnix
Moorhen                   liejukana            Gallinula chloropus
European Coot             nokikana             Fulica atra
Common Redshank           punajalkaviklo       Tringa totanus
Wood Sandpiper            liro                 Tringa glareola
Northern Lapwing          töyhtöhyyppä         Vanellus vanellus
Yellow-legged Gull        keltajalkalokki      Larus cachinnans
Mediterranean Gull        mustanmerenlokki     Larus melanocephalus
Black-headed Gull         naurulokki           Larus ridibundus
White-winged Tern         valkosiipitiira      Chlidonias leucopterus
Whiskered Tern            valkoposkitiira      Chlidonias hybridus
Common Tern               kalatiira            Sterna hirundo
Sandwich Tern             riuttatiira          Thalasseus sandvicensis
Wood Pigeon               sepelkyyhky          Columba palumbus
Stock Pigeon              uuttukyyhky          Columba oenas
Rock Pigeon               kalliokyyhky         Columba livia livia
Feral Pigeon              pulu                 Columba livia domestica
Collared Dove             turkinkyyhky         Streptopelia decaocto
Turtle Dove               turturikyyhky        Streptopelia turtur
Common Cuckoo             käki                 Cuculus canorus
Black Swift               tervapääsky          Apus apus
European Bee-eater        mehiläissyöjä        Merops apiaster
Blue Roller               sininärhi            Coracias garrulus
Hoopoe                    harjalintu           Upupa epops
Black Woodpecker          palokärki            Dryocopus martius
Great Spotted Woodpecker  käpytikka            Dendrocopos major pinetorum
Syrian Spotted Woodpecker syyriantikka         Dendrocopos syriacus
Middle Spotted Woodpecker tammitikka           Dendrocopos medius
Common Skylark            kiuru                Alauda arvensis
Crested Lark              töyhtökiuru          Galerida cristata
Crag Martin               kalliopääsky         Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Red-rumped Swallow        ruostepääsky         Cecropis daurica
Barn Swallow              haarapääsky          Hirundo rustica
House Martin              räystäspääsky        Delichon urbica
Tree Pipit                metsäkirvinen        Anthus trivialis
Meadow Pipit              niittykirvinen       Anthus pratensis
White Wagtail             västäräkki           Motacilla alba
Grey Wagtail              virtavästäräkki      Motacilla cinerea
Red-backed Shrike         pikkulepinkäinen     Lanius collurio
Lesser Grey Shrike        mustaotsalepinkäinen Lanius minor
White-breasted Dipper     koskikara            Cinclus cinclus
Winter Wren               peukaloinen          Troglodytes troglodytes
Hedge Accentor            rautiainen           Prunella modularis
Ringed Ouzel              sepelrastas          Turdus torquatus
Blackbird                 mustarastas          Turdus merula
Fieldfare                 räkättirastas        Turdus pilaris
Mistle Thrush             kulorastas           Turdus viscivorus
Song Thrush               laulurastas          Turdus philomelos
European Robin            punarinta            Erithacus rubecula
Southern Nightingale      etelänsatakieli      Luscinia megarhynchos
Ruddy Bush-Robin          ruostepyrstö         Cercotrichas galactotes
Common Redstart           leppälintu           Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Black Redstart            mustaleppälintu      Phoenicurus ochruros
Northern Wheatear         kivitasku            Oënanthe oënanthe
Black-eared Wheatear      rusotasku            Oënanthe hispanica
Stonechat                 mustapäätasku        Saxicola torquata
Fan-tailed Warbler        heinäkerttu          Cisticola juncidis
Common Whitethroat        pensaskerttu         Sylvia communis
Blackcap                  mustapääkerttu       Sylvia atricapilla
Sardinian Warbler         samettipääkerttu     Sylvia melanocephala
Chiffchaff                tiltaltti            Phylloscopus collybita
Goldcrest                 hippiäinen           Regulus regulus
Semitorquated Flycatcher  balkaninsieppo       Ficedula semitorquata
Spotted Flycatcher        harmaasieppo         Muscicapa striata
Great Tit                 talitiainen          Parus major
Blue Tit                  sinitiainen          Parus caeruleus
Coal Tit                  kuusitiainen         Parus ater
Crested Tit               töyhtötiainen        Parus cristatus
Willow Tit                hömötiainen          Parus montanus
Marsh Tit                 viitatiainen         Parus palustris
Sombre Tit                balkanintiainen      Parus lugubris
Long-tailed Tit           pyrstötiainen        Aegithalos caudatus
European Nuthatch         pähkinänakkeli       Sitta europaea caesia
Short-toed Treecreeper    etelänpuukiipijä     Certhia brachydactyla
Northern Treecreeper      puukiipijä           Certhia familiaris
House Sparrow             varpunen             Passer domesticus
Spanish Sparrow           pajuvarpunen         Passer hispaniolensis
Tree Sparrow              pikkuvarpunen        Passer montanus
Serin                     keltahemppo          Serinus serinus
Linnet                    hemppo               Linaria cannabina
Spruce Siskin             vihervarpunen        Spinus spinus
Eurasian Goldfinch        tikli                Carduelis carduelis
Western Greenfinch        viherpeippo          Chloris chloris
European Hawfinch         nokkavarpunen        Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Northern Bullfinch        punatulkku           Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Chaffinch                 peippo               Fringilla coelebs
Corn Bunting              harmaasirkku         Miliaria calandra
Yellowhammer              keltasirkku          Emberiza citrinella
Cirl Bunting              pensassirkku         Emberiza cirlus
Rock Bunting              vuorisirkku          Emberiza cia
Black-headed Bunting      mustapääsirkku       Emberiza melanocephala
Starling                  kottarainen          Sturnus vulgaris
Golden Oriole             kuhankeittäjä        Oriolus oriolus
European Jay              närhi                Garrulus glandarius
Black-billed Magpie       harakka              Pica pica
Jackdaw                   naakka               Corvus monedula
Rook                      mustavaris           Corvus frugilegus
Hooded Crow               varis                Corvus corone cornix
The Raven                 korppi               Corvus corax
Besides these, there were some species seen, but the strict control I made dropped away all the notes made under inefficient conditions. Mostly the rejected notes were birds seen from a moving vehicle. This control dropped three species totally off. Also Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) and Hen (Gallus domesticus) were rejected, though seen "wild" in Romania.

Part III: Bulgaria and the Rhodopean Mountains

IIIa: Bucharest - Giurgiu - Ruse

After we had spent one day in Bucharest, we decided to head south already the next day, to be back in Romania in time to meet my friend as planned. So, we made quick inventory at Gara de Nord and found out that to be international train, the one to Ruse, Bulgaria, next to the Romanian town of Giurgiu on the other side of the Danube, was very cheap. On the way there were some interesting birds in a couple of river Cîlnistea wetlands in the Wallachian plains: There were both White-winged Terns (Chlidonias leucopterus) and Whiskered Terns (Chlidonias hybridus) in the valley. For White-winged, that's quite a southern place of appearance in breeding period. We also saw one Red Kite (Milvus milvus), and one Great Egret (Casmerodius albus), both in the Wallachian plain area. We spent the rest of the second day in Ruse and took the night train to Plovdiv, a medieval city in the middle of Bulgaria, in the valley of the river Maritsa.

Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Great Cormorant (Danube), Great Egret (Danube Valley wetland), White Stork, Mallard, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Black Swift, Skylark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Great Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Starling, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, House Sparrow, Goldfinch.

IIIb: Plovdiv - Asenovgrad - Chepelare - Pamporovo

We were in Plovdiv very early, took first beers in a non-stop Sky-Bar at 6:30 after climbing to one of the three hills in the centre. We spent one whole day, with night, in Plovdiv, and the next day headed to the Rhodopean mountains (the buses for the Rhodopeans leave at "Rhodopy" station, behind the railway station). We made a mistake in choosing the place on the Rhodopeans, because Pamporovo appeared to be a touristic place, luckily only a winter resort. Only two hotels opened, one of them very expensive, the other gave a student price (but still too expensive). On the way we passed Chepelare and another town. Chepelare is the nearest town to Pamporovo (which is only an Alpine hotel village). In Chepelare there was a Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) fishing in the middle of the brook flooding through the town. Crag Martins (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) were numerous in many places on the Rhodopeans. Also some in Plovdiv.

The next day we visited also the nearest mountain, Mt. Snezhanka. The other possibility, Mt. Murgavets, could maybe have been more attractive, because on the top of Mt. Snezhanka there's a huge Panorama tower, and the top of that mountain is "touristified", and there's a winter sport resort. But the day before there was a thunderstorm, and the forests were so wet that we preferred to climb to Snezhanka, because there we could use paths. We also got a nice dog in Pamporovo; we called it Tzappe (the most common Saamean dog-name), and it followed us for two days everywhere, from the top of the mountain, to the valley etc. Say hello to it, if you happen to meet (it's black, something like Labradorian, I think). A pity that it preferred to stay because it disappeared while we were taking our baggage from the hotel for the last time.

The Rhodopean forests were very much like Finnish spruce forests. Spruce was the main tree species. They didn't vary much, and for example the forests of the Carpathians are for me more exotic than these. So, we weren't surprised when we found a nice collection of typical Finnish forest birds, all common in Pamporovo. The most numerous species were Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), Coal Tit (Parus ater), Robin (Erithacus rubecula), Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Dunnock (Prunella modularis). Also there were many more southern species, such as Serin (Serinus serinus), Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), Crag Martin etc. There were no significant differences in different altitudes' avifauna, because actually the Rhodopean mountains are quite low. Naturally the spruce forest would cover the tops, too, but the ski resorts make there artificial "alpine meadows". Some nice species there were Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus), Crested Tit (Parus cristatus) and Willow Tit (Parus montanus), and several Black Woodpeckers (Dryocopus martius), the main woodpecker still being Great Spotted (Dendrocopos major), subspecies pinetorum. No real alpine species.

From Pamporovo we went to Smolen, in order to get first to Kardzali, then cross the border to Greece. However, in Smolen they told us that nowadays it's impossible to get to Greece from that place. The only possibility was to return for the evening to Plovdiv and find a train to either Sofia, where there's an express to Thessaloniki, or to Svilengrad, where it was possible to get to Greece, though it's mainly a border point for those travelling to Istanbul. We decided to skip Istanbul for some other time, because my brother wanted to boycott Turkey and because we didn't have more than three weeks for the whole Balkan circle (and the last week was reserved for my friends in Brasov). So we went to Svilengrad and spent the night there in a pub, because the only train for Greece, Dikea, was next morning. Svilengrad represented already the Mediterranean zone, but actually the real climate frontier seemed to be about at the border between Greece and Bulgaria.

From the Rhodopean area; all from Pamporovo, except those mentioned elsewhere: Black Stork (Chepelare), Buzzard, Kestrel, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Black Swift, Roller (Svilengrad), Hoopoe (Svilengrad), Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Crested Lark (Asenovgrad, Plovdiv), Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Tree Pipit, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Winter Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Willow Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Starling, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Raven, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow (Plovdiv), Chaffinch, Serin, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Spruce Siskin, Linnet.

Part IV: Greek Thracia, Greek Macedonia, Greek Rhodopeans

IVa: Thracia

We got from Svilengrad to Dikaia, a small town in Northern Thracia. The railroad was partly passing Turkish area, but it didn't stop on that side. The River Evros between Greece and Turkish-held Eastern Thracia seemed to be a real bird paradise - it's a pity that we didn't have time to visit the Evros delta near Alexandropolis. The delta is known to be a magnificent place for many wetland birds, e.g. thousands of herons and egrets. But the traffic connections to the delta area are very limited, and we couldn't afford a taxi. From Dikaia we took a train to Alexandropolis by the Aegean Sea. In Alexandropolis we spent one day before we left for Dráma, in Greek Macedonia, where we had friends.

When we arrived to Thracia, it was a perfect weather, and the landscape was full of birds. For example we saw hundreds of Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) which was both spectacular and corresponding to my dreams, because last year I saw just one bee-eater. Some of these we saw very near, like also Hoopoes (Upupa epops) and Rollers (Coracias garrulus). As well we saw the first Lesser Grey Shrikes (Lanius minor) of the trip. This year we didn't see any lesser greys in Romania, nor in Hungary (though this time we didn't visit the Puszta, due to an accident but more about that later). Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) was even more numerous. The first Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus) was seen in Dikaia, and nearby, a Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis), too.

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) was numerous in Thracia, but not in Bulgaria -- it was odd that we didn't see any White Storks on the Bulgarian side. Maybe just bad luck. One Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) was seen on a sand bank in the river Evros, on the border between Greece and Turkey. In its company there were eight White Storks, a few Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), and quite many Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta), which were also seen in many other places in Thracia. Great Egret (Casmerodius albus/Egretta alba) was seen once, and another probable, too. A very nice spot was a Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus), also along the Evros. It rose to flight just about four or five metres off the railroad. My brother once came to tell me he saw from another window a flock of Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) with cattle on a field, but I very much suspected that they were Little Egrets, too. I didn't see any Cattle Egrets and that species shouldn't breed in Thracia at all, whereas Little Egret is very common.

There were lots of large birds of prey, not only Buzzards, but they were mainly too distant to be identified. The same problem everywhere in Greece -- lots of good eagles, but impossible to identify with just poor binoculars. Besides the Buzzards (Buteo buteo), I identified surely just Black Kite (Milvus migrans) and Booted Eagle (Hieraaëtus pennatus). At least one unidentified Aquila eagle was seen in Thracia. As we later saw a Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) in Greek Macedonia, we thought most of the seen unidentified Aquila eagles could have been that species, but also Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) and Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaëtos) are known to exist on the area.

In Alexandropolis we added Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) and Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus) to our list -- both numerous. Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) was seen in Alexandropolis, too. Some Mediterranean seed-eater passerines were also seen: Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis), several, Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra), several, Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), a few, and Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala), one specimen. Also some Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) were seen wild in dry bushlands and on paddocks, and one bird which could have been a female Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) was seen in flight from the train window, but it was too distant, and the duration of observation was too short that it could have been positively identified.

Birds seen in Thracia: Little Bittern, Little Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Black Stork, Mallard, Black Kite, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Black Swift, European Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Syrian Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Fan-tailed Warbler, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Starling, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Tree Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Black-headed Bunting.

IVb: Macedonia and Greek Rhodopeans

To avoid confusions about the two Macedonias, and to be impartial, I use in this article the name "Greek Macedonia", when I mean the area which is nowadays a Greek province called Macedonia, and I use "Vardar Macedonia" when I mean the recently independent former Yugoslavian country, which has ethnically nothing to do with Alexander. I could say I have become an expert of this debate from all sides, so if you want further explanations what all different meanings "Macedonia" and "Macedonians" have had during the last 3'000 years, and how many groups from the Balkans to Egypt are claiming Alexander's heritage, ask it privately.

We went to Dráma (ancient Hydrama, "place with much water") in central Greek Macedonia, where we met my brother's friend Christina and her extremely hospitable family. The route to Dráma went through Komotini and Xanthi. Near Dráma, on a mountain, we saw one singing Ruddy Bush-Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes), which was both a new lifer for me, and probably one of the best observes we got on our trip. We also saw one sure Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina), and one more Booted Eagle (Hieraaëtus pennatus). Both Black-eared Wheatear (Oënanthe hispanica) and Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica) were numerous.

Birds seen in Dráma and surroundings: Little Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Black Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Ruddy Bush-robin, Southern Nightingale, Black Redstart, Black-eared Wheatear, Blackbird, unidentified warblers, Red-backed Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Starling, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Tree Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

Next day we spent in the mountains north of Dráma, in the area of Falakron Oros which are actually southern Rhodopean mountains, where we visited Kato Nevrokopi, another village and north in the border station of Exokhi, where we visited the neutral zone between Greece and Bulgaria and studied some things about the border situation. That day was also perfect for birding, as you can believe! Well, I already have some experience of using the army equipment in birding?

Besides birds, we met lots of tortoises, which seemed to have the mating season, because they were obviously committing sexual irritation. Sometimes the supposed males were pressuring the desperate females in the middle of the road so that we had to stop to take them off, to continue driving. We also saw the so-called "Sleeping Alexander", the mountain which looks like sleeping Alexander o Megas with sword in his hand on his breast.

On the way I got good sights of both Black-headed (Emberiza melanocephala) and Rock Bunting (E. cia), which were both new lifers for me. The most numerous bunting was however the Cirl Bunting (E. cirlus), which was present everywhere. Also Bee-eaters were very numerous.

At the borderline north from Exokhi there is short-grown pine forest, with some deciduous forest, too, and that area, observed from the guard tower, offered a nice combination of avifauna -- besides, you were able to watch birds in two countries at the same time. There were lots of tit flocks, consisting of Blue Tits (Parus caeruleus), Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus), belonging to some southern, strong-eyebrowed race, and also Sombre Tits (Parus lugubris) were present, which was nice. There were singing Cirl Buntings and some Rollers, too, Red-rumped Swallows and such. A flock of four Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) was also nice to see. I wished I could recognise the Mediterranean birds by their song, because that would have helped a lot. Maybe I should get some collection of tapes of the birdsong of that area, too. Now connecting some song to a certain species always took both time and patience. The same problem, even more serious, was with the birds of the rocky slopes -- lots of song, but no birds visible!

Birds seen in Falakron Oros area: White Stork, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Aquila eagle supposed to have been Lesser Spotted Eagle, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Black Swift, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Tree Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Southern Nightingale, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blackbird, Blackcap, Sombre Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Starling, Jay, Magpie, Hooded Crow, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Hawfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Black-headed Bunting.

IVc: From one Macedonia to Another

Next day we travelled to Thessaloniki, passing extremely spectacular areas in northern Greek Macedonia. The route was through Serrai, and made a curve via north. In Thessaloniki we saw one new species for the list, namely Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), before we left the Aegean coast and headed towards Vardar Macedonia. Absolutely the best bird seen that day was a male Levantine Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes), again a lifer for me, which was seen in Axios valley. The last Roller (Coracias garrulus) of the trip was seen, too. Birds seen in NW Greek Macedonia and in Thessaloniki: Great Cormorant, Little Egret, White Stork, Levantine Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, unidentified eagle, Kestrel, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Tern, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Black Swift, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Skylark, Crested Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blackbird, Red-backed Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Starling, Magpie, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Cirl Bunting.

Part V: Vardar Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary

Va: Vardar Macedonia

We didn't have much time for birding in this country, where we spent three days, two of them in Skopje. One day we went to Tetovo, situated in the Albanian region of Vardar Macedonia. The majority of the town's population are Albanians and so also Muslims. They often understand or speak Italian. In order to get to the mountains we were near the Albanian border, because I knew that area is one of the last asylums of Bearded Vulture (Gypaëtus barbatus). The whole trip was not a success. First, there were no connections to the mountain villages -- no buses, and the taxis were too expensive for us. The kind of ski lift system to the one mountain, where there's a winter sport resort, was not working. We tried by walking, but what in the map looked only 10 kilometres was in reality something different indeed. However, Tetovo (or Tetovë in Albanian) is a nice place to visit if you want to find something culturally different, waiting for the situation to calm down in Albania and Kosovo. And we actually got two new birds to the list: Rock Pigeon (Columba livia livia) and Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis), and we got a free journey by bus back to Skopje, because I showed all my student cards. If I, by the way, should choose a national bird for this country, it would be the Jackdaw (Corvus monedula).

Later, in the bus for Croatia, a Vardar Macedonian student of veterinary medicine told me that I had searched for Bearded Vulture in the wrong place. He told me a place, which should be "sure" for that kind of birds. So next time I can and I will visit there, because the place has also many other natural points of interest. For security, I don't here expose more specifically the site.

Birds seen in Vardar Macedonia: Black Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel, Rock Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Black Swift, Hoopoe, Syrian Woodpecker, Skylark, Crested Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Southern Nightingale, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Red-backed Shrike, Starling, Magpie, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

Vb: Serbia

Because of a lack of connections yet, we had to forget our main plan to go to Dubrovnik, via Montenegro, and then spent time in the Dalmatian area in Croatia. To be honest, here we made serious mistakes in choosing the route, though obviously the only possible, because it prevented us from Dalmatia, and as well from Slovenia. We had to take a bus from Skopje to Zagreb, because there were no possibilities to get anywhere in Dalmatia from Skopje, and we didn't have invitation visa for Yugoslavia, so that we couldn't stay there. The transit visa just for passing the Serbian area in order to get to Zagreb, was extremely expensive, and so was the bus. The Yugoslavian authorities made everything they could to spoil or lives and our whole journey. So I kindly recommend to anyone planning a trip to that area, to choose between either Croatia and Slovenia (which is a very interesting area, but also expensive) or just Rep. of Macedonia, with for example Greece and Bulgaria. Skipping Serbia is highly recommended, if you don't have an invitation visa to the country.

The travel by bus took one day and one night. When it was light, I watched some birds, too, but actually I have to say that I spent most of the time discussing politics with some fellow-travellers, consisting of some Vardar Macedonian students and some Albanian Macedonian students. It's a pity, thinking about birding, because the only time when my brother interrupted me, and said: "looked at those mountains -- if there's vulture somewhere, they'll be there". And almost at the same moment I saw two Scavenger Vultures (Neophron percnopterus), slowly gliding along a mountain slope. First I thought they were Bonelli's Eagles (Hieraaëtus fasciatus), but when they were closer, I saw the colours. Oh, just White Storks, I thought disappointed. No -- they were eagles, with short neck. So it became very clear what they were. The place was in the mountains of Krajiste, near Vranje. The border of Kosovo, the Albanian province held by the Serbs, was not far. Actually we saw some burning building and military helicopters over Kosovo, where the restlessness is still going on, but ignored by the west, though Kosovo claimed independence at the same time as Bosnia.

The darkness came for the northern regions, and when the dawn came again, we soon crossed the border to Croatia.

Birds seen in Yugoslavia: White Stork, Scavenger Vulture, Northern Sparrowhawk (that in Krajiste, too), Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Black Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Starling, Magpie, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch.

Vc: Croatia

We didn't have opportunity to bird in Croatia either, because, as I told, our budget was exhausted, and we had to hurry to Romania, where we got more money. That's why we only spent time in Zagreb. The following birds were seen mainly in Eastern Slavonia, which is the area where there was bad situation just some time ago. That used to be Serb area during the Yugoslavian era, but in the share it went to Croatia. There are also the notes from Zagreb. White Stork, Buzzard, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Black Swift, Skylark, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Blackcap, Great Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Starling, Magpie, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

Vd: Hungary

Because of the above-mentioned budgetary problem we had to interrupt our journey and instead of going to Dalmatian coast and Slovenia, we headed to Budapest, where we took an express train to Romania. Most of the following birds were seen from train window on the route from Croatian border to Kaposvár and to Budapest. Some birds were seen during the long stops, when we visited out of train. There are maybe two interesting species: Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) was seen like in last year, in poplar grove on puszta. During one stop, in the middle of nowhere before the township of Pusztaszábolcs I was very lucky to both see and hear a Quail (Coturnix coturnix), which was a very nice, long-awaited, but still unexpected lifer for me. Obviously the official Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) zone was passed about by the border river between Hungary and Croatia. That bunting is very common in Hungary and in Romania, and north from there, but not common in southern parts of the Balkans. South enough, the Cirl Bunting (E. cirlus) starts to be common, but in between, none of the species is very common. Interesting.

White Stork, Mallard, Buzzard, Kestrel, Quail, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Black Swift, Bee-eater (several seen this year), Skylark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Red-backed Shrike, Starling, Golden Oriole, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer.

Part VI: Romania

VIa: Journey to Brasov

We went by train to Brasov. Brasov is the Romanian name of this nice medieval city, the Hungarian name is Brassó and the German name is Kronstadt. During the Roman empire this place was called Corona. The border between Hungary and Romania we passed in Curtici, then the route went via Arad, Deva, Alba Iulia, Sighisoara. On the way we saw some nice birds, like one more Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) in Sighisoara, one Stock Dove (Columba oenas), one more Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), still many Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster), some Ravens (Corvus corax) and the first Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) of the journey. Fieldfare is a common bird everywhere in the Carpathian mountain area, and seems to be common in all parts of Transsilvania. It's resident especially where there's birch, but also in gardens. This time we saw the southernmost Fieldfares in Bucegi Mountains, in Sinaia, where it still was common. In the Wallachian plains they're suddenly missing as soon as the mountains and hills change into plains.

In Brasov the Middle Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos medius) were again in the same place as last year -- one near the railway station, more of them in the park hills beyond the old centre. Great Spotted Woodpecker (D. major) was found, too. In the deciduous forests of the hills dividing the old centre of Brasov, there are also lots of other forest birds, like Coal Tits (Parus ater), Great Tits (P. major), and European Nuthatches (Sitta europaea caesia) which is among the most numerous species. Also Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla) is common. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) is very common in Brasov, old centre, and in every rivulet in the mountains, and also in the hill areas.

Birds seen on the way to Brasov, and in Brasov: Great Crested Grebe, White Stork, Black Stork, Mallard, Buzzard, Kestrel, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Stock Pigeon, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Black Swift, Bee-eater, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Winter Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Red-backed Shrike, Starling, Golden Oriole, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Raven, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer.

VIb: Predeal

Predeal is a little town in Bucegi Mountains, not far south from Brasov. It's the northernmost of the four Bucegi villages (Predeal, Azuga, Busteni, Sinaia), which are all very spectacular and have good possibilities to go to the mountains and forests. Because it was weekend now and we had that budgetary problem referred to before, and because my Romanian friend was temporarily in his relatives' countryside cottage in Runcu, and my other Romanian friends in Cluj had holidays, too, we hitchhiked to Predeal, and then spent the day by making a long journey walking in the forests, around a couple of mountains so that in the evening we were on the other side, on a road going to Rîsnov and Bran. There we hitchhiked back to Brasov, where we were staying the entire last week, except the nights that we spent in trains.

I was surprised how much the basic species of avifauna differed between different places in Southern Carpathians, though near each other and same habitats. Some species, like Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Robin, Winter Wren, Blackcap, White and Grey Wagtail, Coal Tit were very common everywhere in the forests, almost independently on the altitude and dominating trees of the forest. But for example Tree Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) which we found the most numerous bird in beech forests of Sinaia, was this year absent in all the places we visited. Other very common species were Great Tit, European Nuthatch, Serin, in open places also Linnet (Linaria cannabina).

In Predeal we were in deciduous forests, mainly beech, but also birch, maple, alder etc. We were also in spruce forests. In both the types the most numerous species were those mentioned above. In mixed mainly deciduous forest near Predeal I was lucky to find three singing males of a Flycatcher. The song resembled quite much that of Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) but the end was different. Made me suspect Collared Flycatcher (F. albicollis). Well, they were not Collared Flycatchers but Semitorquated Flycatchers (Ficedula semitorquata), which was very nice, because it brought me the last lifer of the journey, raising my lifer number in "Enumeratio Speciorum Totalis Vitae" into 422. It seemed to be not rare there, but so the Jonsson's range map also shows.

Three species of woodpeckers were seen there: Middle Spotted in deciduous forest, Great Spotted in spruce forest, but also in deciduous -- maybe these species are not so competitive with each other, as it seemed when I last year watched the Great Spotted persecuting the Middle Spotted in Brasov. The third species was Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius).

When we came down from a hill, I saw almost at the same moment a Honey-Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) flying over us, and two Marsh Tits (Parus palustris) -- so the tit collection of our journey covered all the European tit species except Siberian (P. cinctus) and Azure Tit (P. cyaneus)! One very cute immature of Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) was seen, too, very closely. The bill was already quite respectable, if compared in the little being's otherwise quite pitiful appearance.

In Predeal you can eat in the restaurant Vulturul (means vulture as you can conclude). As if it would be "Nomen est omen"? They claim there are still Bearded Vultures in Carpathian national parks.

Birds seen in Predeal: Western Honey-buzzard, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Black Swift, Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Winter Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Semitorquated Flycatcher, Marsh Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Northern Treecreeper, Short-toed Treecreeper, Starling, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Raven, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Hawfinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Spruce Siskin, Linnet, Yellowhammer.

VIc: Sinaia

The Predeal day was Sunday, and so banks and such not yet opened. My friend still missing. On Monday we didn't get money, but were finally able to order it from Finland by DHL courier. I know it's a crime (smuggling dollars) but it was an emergency situation and the only possibility in the absence of plastic cards. On Monday we hitchhiked to Sinaia, where I spent with my two friends such a good time last year. Read there more about it. This time we had bad luck, because as we started to climb up to the mountains, a thunderstorm started. We visited before that the natural history museum (free for students) where the Red-backed Shrike was still Senator Shrike, and Kestrel was still Hobby, and the King's summer residence, and then managed to hitchhike up to the mountain. The rain went on and on, and the lifts were not in use. We had just time to spot the Ringed Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) exactly in the same place as last year (on the highest terrace, which was now closed because of the storm). The Ravens were still playing there with rubbish, throwing bones in the air and catching them again lower. There were eight wet teenagers besides us, and fortunately they had two cars. Well, it was a suicide drive down to the valley, techno in highest volume, windows opened of course, and when there was 20 metres straight road, the about 16-year-old guy driving the car that I was in wanted to show that he could drive without hands? Nice feeling when there's ravine beside you and you're at 1500 metres. His friend asked me if I liked the way his friend was driving. I replied it doesn't matter that you don't want to live too long -- I have written my will long before I came here. They managed to drop the exhaust pipe of one of their Dacia cars on the way, and we had to return to pick it up. They brought us to Sinaia, we walked to Busteni, ate some "mici cu paîne si mustar" with Silva Neagra (excellent black beer to be brewed in such southern country) and hitchhiked from there to Predeal where we got tired of the rain and took the train to Brasov, as the next day was Tuesday and maybe we could get money again.

Birds which we managed to see in rainy Sinaia: Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Black Swift, Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Tree Pipit, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Winter Wren, Robin, Common Redstart, Black Redstart, Ringed Ouzel, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Starling, Jay, Raven, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Spruce Siskin, Linnet.

VId: Bran

Tuesday didn't bring our money yet. My brother was disappointed because I couldn't show him the mountain tops of Sinaia [with those lovely Balkan Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) and Rock Pipits (Anthus spinoletta) and Booted Eagles (Hieraaëtus pennatus) and Red-billed Choughs (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and?] So I decided to take him to Bran Castle, where Vlad II Tepes Draculea is said to have lived in some time of his bloody history. I don't know the residence of Countess Elisabeth Barthory who used to have baths in her young maids' blood and drink it, too, to stay young and beautiful. The buses to Bran don't actually leave from Brasov, but from Bartolomeu, where you must go for example by trolley-bus. We went to Bran and noticed that the castle was just that moment closed for some f? reason. And it started to rain, but not very hard. The village was full of Belgian scouts, who were shocked when we said we're going to the mountains in the horizon of Bran (very spectacular mountains). With that equipment? Maybe they still believe we're dead. Anyway, there were Grey Wagtails (M. cinerea) in every rivulet coming down from the mountains. I was glad to find there one White-breasted Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), too. And there were also lots of young Fieldfares and lots of Spotted Flycatchers (Muscicapa striata). In the evening when we returned, all the buses were gone. We hitchhiked to Brasov in an army officer's car -- he listened to 60s music and was the only Romanian we met who used seatbelts and militarily ordered us to use them, too.

Birds seen around Bran: White Stork, Black Stork (several), Buzzard, Kestrel, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Black Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White-breasted Dipper, Robin, Common Redstart, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Magpie, Rook, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

VIe: Sighisoara, Sibiu, Brasov, Poiana Brasov?

On Wednesday we first met my friend who had finally returned from the countryside, and then we got our package of "documents" from DHL. There were bucks between every second page. Nice. So we spent two good days in Brasov and during these days we didn't watch birds. Then it happened that as if we had some curse over us, my friend's brother got something like a heart-attack and the family went into chaos. Luckily it was nothing so serious, but it prevented those people from going to the Black Sea, and so the house was full, and there were no space for the Finnish friends of my friend who was a guest himself, too. We decided to go to Sighisoara (in Hungarian Szegesvár, in German Schässburg) for one day. In Sighisoara, where we arrived at 2 or 3 o'clock in the night, we saw lots of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, especially on the old town hill. Later we decided to visit Sibiu, too. However, the railroads had problems between Brasov and Sibiu, and so all the trains took the Sighisoara route and those trains were in chaos. We got to a place called Mureni, where we had to stay waiting for a train to Copsa Mica, and from there to Sibiu -- so that it took six hours to get from Sighisoara to Sibiu, and the distance between these towns is not big. In Mureni we saw a Booted Eagle (Hieraaëtus pennatus). It was already evening when we were in Sibiu, so we didn't have much time.

Birds seen in Sighisoara, Sibiu and between them and Brasov: Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, White Stork, Mallard, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Coot, Lapwing, Redshank, Wood Sandpiper (these waders were seen in a wetland near Brasov - probably already on autumn migration), Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Black Swift, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit (in the same place with the waders), White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Red-backed Shrike, Starling, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Yellowhammer.

Next day we spent in Poiana Brasov, a mountain resort over Brasov, but there we didn't spend time in watching birds. The next night we had to go by night train to Baneasa, where we waited from 3 o'clock to 6 o'clock, when the airport was opened. Our plane left at 9 o'clock back to Finland.

In Poiana Brasov: Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Black Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet. (and Fox, Little Deer)

Our company was a student who spent the night telling me (in Romanian) how bad a betrayal the Americans and Germans made when they prevented Romania's NATO membership. He thought all hope was lost, because the new Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (made in Helsinki this time) had sacrificed Romania to the Russians on the altar of western exclusive welfare. Many thanks to him for keeping company to us in the middle of the night. Also enormously warm thanks to Kokozis family in Kalos Agros, and to Mihai family in Brasov, to that Professor Academician who told me about studying possibilities in Romania, and to many private accommodation entrepreneurs, and to Narcis Cesar, who handled all our travel business at Gara de Nord. And to many others who helped or in whose cars we hitchhiked.

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This page served by Urs Geiser;; September 3, 1997