Romania: Nou Săsesc – Wildside

June – August 2016

After a week of sliding up and down impossibly sheer slopes, I am not surprised that so much of Nou Săsesc’s wildlife is winged. Amongst them are middle-spotted woodpeckers – I crossed paths with the bird team one morning, just as they were studying this elegant chiseller of Romania’s trees.

Middle spotted woodpecker

And red-backed shrikes – they’re everywhere, watching for prey. They are songbirds with the heart of hawks.

Red backed shrike RI

The rooftops host special guests. A family of little owls roosts on the farm next to our camp, watching our work between their snoozing.

Little owl NS

And then, of course, there are the hawkmoths.

Hawkmoth NS

Down at ground level, the trail cameras caught a beech marten carrying off a frog.

Marten with frog

Overall, mammal records are low here compared to Richis; and yet, the sense of being away from the over-developed world is still strong. An excerpt from my diary dated July 2nd:

…in the evening, I tag onto the wildlife spotting group, going for a long drive up the same road which we clattered down in the morning. It seems even further in the car. After winding through wonderful hilly scenery, passing livestock and many trees, we stop at a meadow. There are signs of bear diggings on ant hills, and for a brief moment I wonder; but the charm of the evening is the utter absence of human noise. Sitting in the long grass, the world is very alive. Moths fly and bugs buzz, and a bee is being eaten by some species of false widow spider. You could forget the human voice altogether if you spent too long in a valley like this; instead there are roe deer, barking in a hoarse retch. One steps through the new growth of dense trees on the hillside above. Another barks at close range but cannot be detected with the thermal imaging camera. One student sees a fox, and we all observe two red deer bounding away. I spy a glow worm on the way back.

But mostly it is the silence, the sense that nature continues even when humanity forgets it.

This is Romania, land of contrasts.

One night you may be taught by the silence of nature, and the next giddy with rich human culture. The week ends with Romanian dancers and musicians performing in our camp. A video is here.

Next stop: Mesendorf. The land is gentler…but it is also much richer in bears.

4 thoughts on “Romania: Nou Săsesc – Wildside

  1. The woodpecker is very nice, but for real elegance and style, the shrike is first-class. Very handsome!

    I suspect that the extreme relief of the terrain is largely responsible for the area being “left behind”, as it were … the difficulty of moving about acts as a cultural retardant. I rather imagine that such cattle that are found are primarily dairy animals. The growing of vegetable crops is quite difficult in such areas.


    1. Red-backed shrikes are stunning birds. The North Downs was one of their last strongholds in the UK but sadly they’re a very rare sight here now. It was good to see so many in Romania.

      Crops are grown in narrow strips in the flattest parts of the valleys. It is very much old-style agriculture, with a line of maize, a line of corn, and so on. Fallow fields are covered in flowers because the wild seed bank is still intact. Most of the land is either pasture or wildflower haymeadow, with the woods on the highest ridges.

      Yes, the cattle that I saw were overwhelmingly dairy. Cattle grazing is less damaging to this ecosystem than sheep, so conservationists are keeping an eye on recent increases in sheep flocks.


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