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 Post subject: Romania 2017
PostPosted: June 9th, 2017, 8:36 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:53 am
Posts: 55
Location: Stroud , UK
The planning for this holiday began in the summer of 2016 when we booked our flights via a cheap booking company. In December we received an email asking us to contact the company to confirm things as our flight times had been changed. Suzanne was having medical treatment and we were unsure if we could go so didn't bother getting in touch, however, late spring 2017 the doctor told us that it would be ok, I managed to get time off work and so we decided to contact the company. I looked them up online only to find a thread on Tripadvisor that was 70 pages long saying "Do not use this company"!. Suzanne spent an hour on the phone and managed to sort it all out and changed our flights to a Sunday with better arrival times.
The day before our holiday we saw that British airways had suffered an I.T failure and advised not to go to the airport unless we had a confirmed booking .The next day as we entered Heathrow we received a text saying our flight was cancelled ! We queued for 2 hours to try and rebook but the queue went nowhere so Suzanne got online and booked the last 2 seats on an evening flight to Bucharest, 2 hours later this was cancelled and we returned home.I managed to book an outbound flight with another airline from another airport leaving the next afternoon and arriving around midnight.
We finally arrived in Bucharest collected our hire car and started our long drive east to Constanta, we left the main highway after 2 hours to check out some ponds I had seen on Google earth. In the dark I could only find one and was guided in by the sound of frogs calling, I walked around the pond with a torch but could only see Marsh frogs Pelophylax ribidundus despite searching the rushes etc for Eastern tree frogs Hyla orientalis.Suzanne had stayed in the car and I had probably outstayed my welcome here so turned back almost stepping on a Green toad Bufotes viridis.As I walked back I was attracted by the sound of frogs calling from a run off from the pond and so I shone my torch down the bank looking for a route down and spotted a H orientalis sitting on a stone. That was a good start, first new species of the trip

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2 days later than planned we met the owner of the apartment at 6 am, collected the keys and managed to get a few hours sleep. In the afternoon we drove to a beach hoping to see the Steppe runner Eremias arguta , the main target of our trip. We stopped at a few ponds finding just P ribidundus and marvelled at the amount of birds on view, Cuckoos,Shrikes ,Hoopoes, Harriers etc. We walked along the edge of the dune area but saw no sign of any lizards, a Dice snake Natrix tessellata was found beneath a stone. After an hour or so of searching on a hot day we headed back for food and sleep.

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View from apartment

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Celebrating last night's Tree frog success with a nice cup of Earl grey tea.

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Wednesday 31st May
I have been promising Suzanne for years that I will find her a V ammodytes and I have always failed, well this year was going to be different and today was going to be the day (fingers crossed). We rose at 6 am on a cold grey morning and drove east to some Roman ruins which were supposed to be a stronghold for them.The sun was out by now and it was already getting warm, the first herp seen was a Green lizard L viridis sunning itself on the wall and then Suzanne spotted a Spur thighed tortoise Testudo graeca, another new species for us. Continuing our viper search I spotted an adult Caspian whip snake Dolichophis caspius another new species and after photographing it I spotted another a few feet away on a wall, both about to shed their skin.We carried on around the ruins finding another D caspius, lots of T graeca and more L viridis. A Balkan wall lizard Podarcis tauricus was found in the car park beneath a stone.

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Romanian traffic hazards

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We stopped at a nature reserve on the way back to check out a pond, it was part of a pumping station but the guard allowed me to have a look and I quickly caught a Grass snake Natrix natrix.

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We returned to the Steppe runner beach but took a different track through the dunes seeing a few N natrix and a European pond terrapin Emys obicularis. We parked the car and walked towards the beach seeing our first E arguta which quickly disappeared. The mosquitoes here were TERRIBLE and we were bitten repeatedly but I managed to stop and photograph an E arguta and another T graeca. We had a swim in the Black sea which threw the mosquitoes off our trail and then headed for home feeling very happy with three new ticks on the list. On the way out of the site we saw a Stork eating a large snake and many hatchling N natrix crossing the track. A few Stork nests were seen and Sousliks were common along the track edges.

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Thursday 1st June
Today is my 53 rd birthday and I have got in the habit over the last few years to find a species to tick off the European list. I may be a bit ambitious this year as we ticked off three yesterday, we headed North to the Roman ruins at Histria where we soon spotted a Sand lizard Lacerta agilis crossing our path. Walking through the site we spotted several P tauricus and a few T graeca before heading down to the lake where we saw several Dice snakes N tessellata peering out of the water at us like periscopes, one was seen bringing a fish back to shore. It was a very hot day and so after a birthday drink we headed back, driving through town a gull landed directly in front of the car , picked up a dead snake and flew off with it!

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Friday 2nd June
After reading other trip reports from Romania we thought we would visit Babadag forest today, it took longer than expected to get there and it was already a hot morning by the time we arrived. I noticed the foundations of an old building and headed over hoping to find building materials that I could search beneath, I flipped a lump of concrete to reveal a hole leading to a cellar maybe 2 metres deep. I leaned in with a torch hoping to find snakes but all I could see were 2 Green lizards L viridis, I got some string from the car and managed to free one of them using a noose but I could not rescue the other one.Giving it about 2 seconds thought I slid into the hole only to find myself jammed around my chest, I tried to come back but my thick belt stuck against the edge of the concrete, I was stuck!!. I was twisting and turning but could neither go up or down, I had visions of the fire brigade and local tv crews arriving to free me.After ten minutes struggling I finally managed to reach in and undo my belt which Suzanne pulled out, I then slid my trousers down and managed to heave myself out. As I stood up I heard a dull thud and looking back into the hole realised that our Sat nav had fallen back in. Suzanne (my claustrophobic wife) then had to squeeze in and recover both the Sat nav and the lizard.
Panic over, we carried on walking through the woods finding lots of L viridis but eventually deciding that it was just too hot for herping and headed back. En route we passed some beautiful wheat fields full of poppies and a small stream where we found some juvenile N tessellata.

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Out again at 22:30 and a drive to Vadu, driving into town we saw and photographed our first Spadefoot toad sitting in the road, another tick.Driving up the track towards the beach we saw several more and when we got back and compared their hind feet to the drawings in the field guide decided they must be Eastern spadefoot toads P syriacus. Lots of Firebellied toads Bombina bombina were calling from a large pond but I could not get close to them which was very frustrating as we had never seen them before.

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Saturday 3rd June
Up early again and a return to the roman ruins hoping to find a V ammodytes, we began at 8 am and quickly found the 3 D caspius in the same places as before, the 2 larger ones slipping into the wall but we managed to photograph the smaller third one. Despite a good search we once again only found T graeca and L viridis.Maybe we should have been here at first light, I certainly didn't want to be searching at night with a torch through ancient ruins.A B viridis was found beneath a stone in some waste ground outside the apartment and the rest of the day was spent relaxing in town and preparing for our 3 am departure.

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 Post subject: Re: Romania 2017
PostPosted: June 9th, 2017, 9:56 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 9:22 am
Posts: 302
Cool post, I like your t-shirts!

Bart


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 Post subject: Re: Romania 2017
PostPosted: June 15th, 2017, 6:10 am 
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Joined: June 29th, 2011, 12:56 am
Posts: 777
Location: Belgium
RenoBart wrote:
I like your t-shirts!

:mrgreen:

They show drawings made for our book.
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=23502

You can buy them here.
https://www.redbubble.com/people/IlianVelikov/shop

Or am I violating forum policy now........?


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 Post subject: Re: Romania 2017
PostPosted: June 15th, 2017, 6:24 pm 

Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am
Posts: 372
great post I love to see representation from areas where I'd not even considered to be good herping spots. Now I know better. Love a good spadefoot as well, Pelobates is a really interesting looking genus.
Also like the shirts.
Thanks,
Nick


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 Post subject: Hello from Pacific NW USA
PostPosted: June 15th, 2017, 9:01 pm 
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Joined: June 10th, 2010, 4:57 pm
Posts: 52
Location: Portland/Vancouver
I always enjoy video travel logs like yours, but this was especially nice because of the focus on the herping couple.
Often, herpers have spouses who prefer to stay at home. Your photos of the lady "going all out" in the field were impressive.
I should be so lucky to have such travel companions.

Colors on the lizards were dazzling. I found the whole lot of photos to be quite charming.

Thanks for the vicarious tour.


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 Post subject: Re: Romania 2017
PostPosted: June 16th, 2017, 12:03 pm 
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Joined: March 19th, 2011, 6:43 pm
Posts: 1785
Looks like a fun trip :thumb: I'm digging those t-shirts! That field of red and purple flowers looks surreal... I don't know if it reminds me more of Strawberry Fields or Heart Shaped Box. Nice photos :beer: I enjoyed seeing the spadefoot.


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 Post subject: Re: Romania 2017
PostPosted: June 16th, 2017, 11:12 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:53 am
Posts: 55
Location: Stroud , UK
Thanks for the replies, I am very pleased with the t-shirts, they are made of a good quality material and available in many designs (European herps). They are also in various styles of t-shirt and Hoodies plus posters of the snakes,frogs and newts.
Here is another pic of my wife exiting the hole.
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 Post subject: Re: Romania 2017
PostPosted: June 17th, 2017, 7:12 am 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1664
Great story, thanks for sharing your words and pictures!

Congrats on finding a very compatible and competent spouse. That man-trap adventure was off the hook. Must have felt ridiculous at times. Ha ha, all's well that ends well. Speaking of which - hectic start to this one eh? Jeez.

Curious about how you first settled on Romania. Don't get me wrong, from mountains to sea and with its species diversity it's an appealing destination. Just one that's easily overlooked. Like someone else said, I appreciate posts from places such as this.

Best luck getting your vipers. Ammodytes are sweet, I'd like to field herp those some day. Maybe Croatia...maybe Austria...maybe Greece...sigh. Maybe Romania!

cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Romania 2017
PostPosted: June 17th, 2017, 8:04 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:53 am
Posts: 55
Location: Stroud , UK
I am trying to slowly work my way through all the European herp species and the Steppe runner lizard only lives in Europe on the black sea coast of Romania so basically that's where we had to go. An expensive lizard for sure but the few other new species for us offset the cost and the thought of visiting a big tourist resort seems like hell to us.


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