European Brown Bear
We set off under a clearer sky south towards the resort town of Sinaia, where we met up with Calin and set off in the cable car, which took us high above the wooded mountainside. The first cable car took us to 1,400m, and on boarding the second we could see the leaves of White False Helleborine Veratrum album and the ruffled pink flowers of Alpenrose Rhododendron ferrugineum below as we neared the cable car station at 2,000m.
Unfortunately the weather was not on our side and despite valiant efforts we managed just a handful of alpine plants before dense fog, driving rain and cold temperatures directed us back to the cable car station and a welcome cup of coffee. We managed to find Trailing Azalea Kalmia procumbens , Least Primrose Primula minima , Golden Cinquefoil Potentilla aurea and Alpine Pasqueflower Pulsatilla scherfelii , while a Water Pipit optimistically sang out into the fog.
After lunch in the cable car station we reverted to Plan B and took a walk through the sheltered woodland around the Peles Castle. Our first find was a large patch of the equally washed-out Toothwort Lathraea squamaria and Bird's-nest Orchid Neottia nidus-avis . Tall spikes of Nettle-leaved Speedwell Veronica urticifolia were joined by Yellow Anemone Anemonoides ranunculoides , Sanicle Sanicula europaea , and a couple of plants of Herb-paris Paris quadrifolia . We found a pair of interesting brassicas with the round black bulbils of Coralroot Bittercress Cardamine bulbifera and Narrow-leaved Bittercress Cardamine impatiens . A ditch was full of Alpine Newts, and birds singing included Blackcap, Robin, and high in the canopy, Collared Flycatcher.
Reaching Peles Castle just ahead of more heavy rain it was time to head for our last appointment of the day. We headed north, back in the direction of Braşov and on towards Predeal. Following a lift deep into the woods in a four-wheel drive, and after spotting a small patch of One-flowered Wintergreen Moneses uniflora we struck off through the trees towards a bear hide, the song of Firecrest and Goldcrest accompanying us as we walked. Unmistakably large footprints in muddy patches told us we were getting close as we made a final ascent into the trees.
On reaching the hide, the bears had beaten us to it, and a group were already feeding in a small clearing. The bears are provided with food in the wood to draw them away from nearby urban areas such as Braşov, in an effort to avoid conflict. There are an estimated 6,000 bears in the Carpathians and we were lucky to see a range of ages from immature bears to large adults, some with mottled patches on their fur. With camera memory cards comfortably full, we set off back to Măgura in the fading light.
Extract from Wildlife Travel Transylvania trip report, Laurie Jackson, June 2019