Carpathian Brown Bear in Transylvania’s Harghita region, June 2019

THE HOPED-FOR 2019 ROSY STARLING INVASION OF ROMANIA HAD NOT MATERIALISED, so what to do at the end of our time there? Spend it in the forests of Transylvania was the answer. Janó’s Sakertour team had finished extending their ‘stream background’ photo hide with a view to capturing some artistic against-the-light images in early morning sun and Janó was very keen to try it. Sakertour also have a new bear lodge near the lovely town of Székelyudvarhely (or ‘Odorheiu Sequiesq’), which is located in the Harghita municipality of Transylvania, 300km (or 5 hours drive) from Bucharest’s Henri Coanda International (OTP) Airport. Transylvania, which means ‘beyond the forest’, holds the largest population of Brown Bears outside Russia and thankfully they are now protected and are no longer hunted. The bears’ mating season extends late into spring so June is a good time to watch them and as food is left for them outside the photo hides, there is a very high chance of success. Ultimately we had such a good sunrise session in the ‘stream background’ hide that the rest of the guys went home after it, leaving me to my own devices and an afternoon session at another of the hides with a mature forest background. We saw two bears in the morning, one of which crossed the stream several times and I had another six in the afternoon, a number boosted by a mum and her three cubs. The bears approach the hides very closely at times and were too close for the 500, as these virtually uncropped images show. An effective focal length of 300-400mm would have been ideal. It was wonderful to stay in a place where there are bears in the forest right on the edge of town bearing in mind that we got rid of our last one here at least 1000 years ago! Fab-u-lous in fact! It was also good to have some áfonya (blueberry) pálinka again at long last. I even brought some home too and am looking forward to a reason to open it. Finally thanks to János Oláh and his excellent Sakertour team of Zsolt and Tibi for looking after me so well and to Fiteti and Manu for making our trip such a lot of fun!