Only the brave ones can live a special experience, which is a winter tour to the Danube Delta.
Very many people keep asking me: why should we come to the Danube Delta during the winter? What can we see?
It might seem a little odd, but in the winter one can see around 100 bird species that cannot be seen in the summer. You can see a frozen frosted water world or a world of waters mysteriously coming to light from the mist, step by step.
This is the time of geese and ducks; it is the time of large birds of prey going after flocks of ducks and geese, it is the time of bushtits and long-tailed tits that look like fluffy little snowballs, and many other birds. Let’s see them one at a time:
Swans: Put on real shows when they gather standing on the ice or on lakes. This is when one can see the whooper swan, which is visible during the winter, as its Romanian name indicates (winter swan).
Geese: The greater white-fronted goose and the lesser white-fronted goose (which is getting ever rarer), we can see large flocks of geese crossing from their sleeping sites (on the water) to their feeding spots (in the field). Among them, we may have the luck to see a few red-breasted geese, which are splendid birds that get scared very easily.
The red-breasted goose: Stays in our country only between November and March. During the day, it grazes in the fields of Dobrogea, and during the night it sleeps on the water. In the morning, we can easily see the flocks migrating from their sleeping sites to their feeding spots as well as when they come back to the water about noon. The greater white-fronted goose and the scarcer lesser white-fronted goose can be seen at the same time, as most of the times these species flock together. The red-breasted goose is an endangered species.
Ducks: Apart from flocks of mallards that we are used to from the summer, we can also see the velvet scoter, the red-crested pochard, the tufted duck, the ferruginous duck, the common teal, the smew, the common merganser and many other duck species.
Large birds of prey: The white-tailed eagles, which are the largest birds of prey in the Danube Delta gather in small flocks that dominate the flocks of geese and ducks. There are many Northern individuals that stay for the winter here in the Delta so it is almost certain that you will see a few of these majestic birds. Apart from them, one can also see the common buzzard, the long-legged buzzard, and the rough-legged buzzard. This is the time when we can see them very clearly standing on the branches of barren trees.
Herons: Not all herons leave this place – the great heron, the great egret and the great bittern remain here, and they can be seen very easily from the banks of thawed waters, which become scarce when the temperature drops.
Pelicans and cormorants: No, not all pelicans leave for Africa, as so many of Dalmatian pelicans remain here and winter is the best time of the year when they can be seen. It is now that they have the most beautiful plumage on, which is their nuptial plumage; males have wavy feathers that are many and long and the colour of their beaks and of their throat pouches is very deep. Both the pygmy cormorant and the great cormorant are present here.
Small birds: Blackbirds are present now in large numbers here and they can be easily seen and admired, as well as all kind of birds of the genus of Parus (tit), goldcrests and other small birds that are nice and easy to notice.
They are much more easily to notice during the winter, as the scant vegetation exposes them to the watchers’ view and thawed waters attract them like a magnet. Now we can see otters coming out of the ice with fish in their mouths, raccoon dogs with their winter hair, jackals sneaking, roe deer and wild boars, wildcats and many others.
Mosquitoes are NOT present!
Winter trip to the Danube Delta
This requires appropriate equipment. You cannot get here in your town shoes or dressed in thin sweaters. Boating is very different from riding a car, as the boat is open, and you may sometimes feel the strong wind, while the boat moving forward may cause you to feel this even more poignantly.
You need equipment that is equivalent to the ski equipment: waterproof cold weather trousers and jacket that would keep you very warm, boots with very thick socks (special ski socks are excellent) and enough room to have a layer of air between the foot and the boot; do not use boots that fit tightly on your feet and legs.
You need to wear a knit cap on your head possibly with ear flaps. NO, a baseball cap won’t do, even if there are “winter” models, because after a few hours in the Danube Delta you will feel frostbite on your ears, regardless of how well you may handle the cold.
Gloves or mittens are also mandatory especially if you want to take snapshots or if you want to take videos.
Don’t forget you need something to hydrate, water or tea in a thermos so that it would not freeze. Alcoholic drinks are not recommended.
What you can do:
What is NOT advisable:
Walking on ice or ice skating, as the ice thickness is not the same everywhere and you may get to the water stream that is barely frozen, where ice may be very thin.