Babadag and Histria

May 2008 we visited Romania, after Bulgaria our second step in the eastern part of Europe. First of all we want to acknowledge the Romanian herpetologists Alex Strugariu and Iulian Gherghel for sharing their knowledge and for being so committed to showing us the species that are the most special to the region.
And off course we are grateful to our Belgian friends Jeroen Speybroeck and Jan Van Der Voort for providing helpful information during the preparation of this trip. This is a trip report of 4 items (klooiplekken): Bagadag and Histria 1, the Danube Delta Sfantu Gheorghe 2, Macin and Iasi 3 and Karpatians and Piatra Neamt 4.

First impressions

Our first impressions of the Romanian landscape were the extensive cereal plains on our way from Bucharest Airport to Tulcea. Rows of trees along the country roads and workers in the fields were the only marks. Sometimes patches of red coloured poppies catched the eye. From a “klooier’s” perspective, the nonexistence of fences or barbed-wire gave us a feeling that wandering around here was going to be very easy.

Despite the monotonous impression of the landscape, there is much nature to be enjoyed. Rollers, for instance, seemed to occur here in the highest densities anywhere in Europe. They were best spotted on telephone wires along the road. In the more natural steppe grasslands we soon discovered sousliks. And the first road victim we found was an otter!

Babadag forest

South of the village of Babadag, the flatlands turned into more hilly country. We soon entered an attractive Mediterranean forest. Babadag forest is a deciduous forest dominated by oak species, mixed with lime, maple, and elm. The open parts are good for Mediterranean reptile species. We observed large whip snake, spur-thighed tortoise, snake-eyed skink, Balkan wall lizard and green lizard. Unfortunately we missed horn-nosed viper and Aesculapian snake. The impressive bush cricket Bradyporus dasypus was commonly seen in vegetation near the ground.

Spur-thighed tortoise in full action: devouring its “prey”
reptiles & amphibians babadag forest
Fire-bellied toadBombina bombina3 +call
Green toadPseudepidalea viridis1
Edible frogPelophylax kl. esculentusseveral
Marsh frogPelophylax ridibundusseveral
Spur-thighed tortoiseTestudo graeca10
European pond terrapinEmys orbicularis2
Green lizardLacerta viridis>20
Sand lizardLacerta agilis10
Balkan wall lizardPodarcis taurica>30
Snake-eyed lizardAblepharus kitaibellii>40
Large whip snakeDolichophis caspius2
Dice snakeNatrix tessellata2
Grass snakeNatrix natrix6
Other highlights
long-legged buzzardButeo rufinus1
Pallid HarrierCircus macrourus1
RollerCoracias garrulusabundant
Rose-coloured starlingSturnus roseus>45
Red-footed falconFalco vespertinusseveral
PratincoleGlareola pratincola1
OtterLutra lutra1
European souslikSpermophilus citellusabundant
“Bush cricket” Bradyporus dasypusabundant
Violet limodoreLimodorum abortivumx
Red helleborineCephalanthera rubrax
But also up in the trees there’s interesting wildlife. Like this Large whip snake (Dolichophis caspius)
It was an excellent occasion to get good shots of these slender and extremely agile 
Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis taurica).

Histria wetlands

After the forest near Babadag, we explored the wetlands and steppes near Histria. The Histria ruins attract many visitors, for ancient Histria was the first, and best preserved, Greek colony on the western shores of the Black Sea. It is also the oldest town in present day Romania.Our main interest was the salty steppe near the ruins. The marshes and steppes are in good condition here and harbour many interesting bird species. We observed, for example, pallid harrier, Dalmatian pelican, pratincole and red-footed falcon. The higher, more sandy parts, were full of sousliks that were easily approachable

European souslik was very teasing: abundant from the bus, but less easy to approach
with the camera

Sand lizard and Balkan wall lizard are the ground dwelling species here. In contrast to the Dutch situation, sand lizard occurs in a wide variety of habitats, including moist places. In fresh the water marshes fire-bellied toads produced their pleasant sounds. But the observation that really made our day was undoubtedly a group of rose-coloured starlings.