The Carpathian Mountains run in a huge arc, stretching 900 miles from the Czech Republic in the west, through Slovakia and the Ukraine to dominate the landscape in northwest Romania. Rising to 1800m (6000ft), the immensely scenic Harghita range lies along the eastern flank of the Carpathians and is home to more than one third of Europe’s Brown Bear population, with an estimated 5000-6000 animals within Romania.
We visit the area in late April, when the winter snows at lower elevations have melted and the region's breeding birds are busy establishing territories as the trees begin to break into leaf.
The European Brown Bear is one of the largest carnivores in the world, weighing up to 500kg (that's 79 stones in old money!) - and yet in spring is sustained by a diet of carrion, grasses, shoots and sedges. These shy mammals are most reliably encountered in April, when food is still scarce in the forest and the bears are hungry after their long hibernation. Sightings of wild animals can never be guaranteed of course, but on this short tour we stand an extremely good chance of seeing and photographing Brown Bears in the wild - indeed, a quite remarkable total of 21 different individuals was seen by our group on our last April tour here!
Restricted to a maximum of 6 participants, this exclusive short tour is designed to spend time enjoying Carpathian Brown Bears in their natural environment. Mornings will be spent exploring locally for birds - including visits to the remarkable Bicaz Gorge, the fishponds at Sanpaul and the great forests of the area; our afternoons are set aside for us to enter purpose-built bear observation hides. Tour participants are invited to spend all three afternoons in the hides, to wait for, watch, photograph and enjoy these impressive large carnivores in their natural habitat. Wild Boar, Red Fox, and Red and Roe Deer often come close - and hunting Goshawks passed right in front of the hide on both our April 2015 and 2017 tours!
The birdlife of this fascinating region is both varied and exciting. The dark pine forests and upland habitats are home to a range of 'boreal' specialties, including Ural Owl, Fieldfare, Great Grey Shrike and ten of Europe's woodpeckers. We will also spend time searching the limestone gorges of the region for another highly sought-after bird - the crimson-winged Wallcreeper.
By way of a nice contrast to the forests and mountains, we will also visit some productive local wetlands, which can be excellent during spring migration. In April, the fishponds can host Garganey, Ferruginous Duck and Pygmy Cormorant along with passage waders, gulls and terns. Marsh, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilt and Little Gull were present on our last tour. Warblers will also be arriving now and in song and we have been lucky to see Citrine Wagtail here, a rare but regular migrant to Romania during the second half of April.
Harghita is part of the historic region of central Romania known as Transylvania, renowned for the scenic beauty of its Carpathian landscape, its rich history - and bloodthirsty legends! Though we'll not see any vampires, there are still wolves in the mountains (shy and seldom seen), and we hope that you will want to join us on this varied short tour to Romania.
Limosa has been operating bird tours to Eastern Europe since 1992, including more than 30 trips to Romania in the last dozen years. Our April 2019 tour - our third in search of 'Birds & Bears' - is designed and led exclusively for Limosa by our English-speaking Romanian wildlife expert Zoli Baczó. Born and raised in Transylvania, he knows the birds and wildlife of this land of myth and legend like the back of his... very hairy hand!