Browns Bears of Brasov (Romania)

During the summer of 2019 we went to  Brasov, Carpathian mountains, Romanian Transylvania. Romania is home to Europe’s largest population of brown bears with a total population of 6000 so I wasn’t going to leave without seeing one.

We landed in Kluj Napoca and from there headed east and with a quick look on tripadvisor, Brasov seemed like the place to go to see bears. On the first day in Brasov my dad offered to take me on a walk in the forest which I accepted and not long after, signs of bears emerged. We were walking in a forest about 50m away from a super popular ski resort and there were bear tracks just beside it so if by any chance the owner of Poiana Brasov ski resort is reading this, you have a minor child-eating security risk in the forest just next to the childrens playground. Although we didn’t see any bears that day, we knew they were there, so I remained optimistic.

The next day we went to the Libearty bear sanctuary to remind myself what a bear in the wild looked like and this was the best place to do that. It was a great place that rescues bears from very bad conditions, such as tiny bar cages as backyard pets, and takes them to their six hectare patch of forest where they are free to swim in the pools, play on the grass and take a nap far from human sight in there massive forest. It was a great place to train my eye because although there were 106 bears in the sanctuary, we only saw about ten because they were just as well hidden in the bushes and trees as a wild one. The rest of that day we visited Dracula’s castle where BBC Channel 5 were filming a documentary so hopefully i’m on TV but anyways, we went to bed but I couldn’t sleep very well for i was excited for the day ahead.

We woke up normal time to go for a walk in the mountains until 4:00pm and I had been impatient all day but the time had finally come. We drove to McDonalds where we met a guy called Grig who drove us to the gate of the bear reserve. There we met with the park ranger who drove us on a dirt track and dropped us of at a trail with the rest of the group as he went off to put the food in the feeders.

Armed with a can of pepper spray we excitedly advanced towards the hide where we would spend the next two hours. As we came close to the hide (or box of cereal if you’re a bear) A young male ran into the forest and the entire group buzzed with excitement while fighting for a space at the window. We got comfortable expecting to be there for hours until something appeared when the bear came straight back and, oblivious to our existence, it started munching on the pile of fruit and bread the ranger had left, and we all started clicking away at our cameras. After about ten minutes it walked of into the forest and didn’t come back for a while.

I got a bit bored and got off my seat to look out one of the side windows when I saw it no less than 25 meters away, the same brown bear looking at the hide in curiosity. I loudly whispered to everyone to let them know it was here but after about 5 people looking at the bear, it noticed it had been caught and scampered back into the vegetation. It was 10 more long minutes before another one emerged but this time it was a different one and 20 seconds after this bear had appeared another older black-coloured brown bear appeared. As they met there was a small brawl and their roars shook the cabin. In the end, the two settled down and set about doing bearly things. Occasionally the first bear would be seen plodding around the back but apart from that, it was just the two of them until another bigger male came, sending the third black one into a weird, derpy run but the second brown bear stayed. After two tense hours in the hide, it was time to leave and my mum, knowing there were four bears in the premises, shuffled us upfront to the guy with the pepper spray. As we walked out the cabin a bear could be seen to our right running back into the woods.

That was an amazing sighting which ill never forget but it just seemed a little fake so, even though you might question if that is a bear you’re looking at in my story about the “brown bear of Asturias”i do miss a good chase.

Seals of Blakeney Point

In the summer 2015 we visited some friends and family in England but also went to Blakeney Point to see the seals and go crabbing.

We drove away from our campsite towards Blakeney. We arrived and bought some crabbing nets. We then found the seal watching boats and booked a tour. The reason the seals where on the bay at this time of the year was because they were molting. The species found here were grey seals and harbor seals (pictured above.) Before arriving to the bay we did see some seals in the water that where playing around. In the distance you could see a line of red boats all from the same tour company. Apparently the tour company had bought a section of the bay where all the seals molted meaning that no other tour companies or rouge sailors could get in the way of us making for a well organized trip. Unlike most of the animals we see, I didn’t care about photographing a big male, instead all I wanted to see was a cute seal pup. We approached the line of boats and quickly joined it. The seals seemed to pose at the camera by kind of clapping like you see them do in zoos. As we approached the end of the line I saw a cute harbor seal pup that made for a cute and funny photo!

 

The brown bear of Asturias

During the half-term holiday of 2015 we visited a tiny village in Asturias famous for its European brown bears in an effort to conquer our top three animals of Spain: European brown bear, Iberian lynx and Iberian wolf.

We arrived at the village after leaving our luggage at the hotel, which to my surprise, had heating, and like always, a few minutes after we arrived we were already walking on a mountain trail looking for a bear. There wasnt really a certain place the bears had been seen so all we could do was scan the entire valley. For two days we did just that but we were unsuccessful. On the third day I had given up and went to spend the day exploring the village and eating Halloween sweets from the night before I found a big cow market and spent the rest of the day there. At around 3:00 I went back to the hotel to pack the bags. We set off at 5:00 and before leaving the town, we parked at the bottom of a hill and scanned the treeline. For ten minutes my dad hopingly looked through the telescope than said “”get out the car boys”s I sighed and stopped the “plants vs. zombies” game I was playing and asked if he had seen some more chamois goats. He looked at me with a relieved smile and answered “it’s a bear.” I hopped out the car and ran to the telescope and, with some guidance; I spotted one of the rarest species of moving black dots in the world.

 

The Iberian lynx of Andujar

In the half term holiday of 2015 we went to Andujar in Spain to try and see the Iberian lynx. We went there because a friend had been and said that he had seen one on the fifth day of his 5 day trip.

We arrived at the hotel and like usual we left our bags and within a few minutes of arriving we were in the car driving to the location our friend had spotted the lynx. We passed a fighting-bull farm and within 10 minutes of arriving we were at the recommended destination. We scanned the valley for about five minutes. After minutes of looking we decided to move up the road to another spot and as we buckled up we looked forward to see a distinct cat like shape moving  across the road. Nailed it. My brother held his finger on the camera as the device made a machine gun-like sound. When we reviewed the footage later it looked like a stop motion while flipping through the trillion pictures that we took in only five seconds of the lynx appearing and disappearing out of nowhere.

The story of the second lynx was that we were driving to the destination of the first lynx on the third day when we passed a man. He saw our car coming and immediately faced his telescope in another direction as if he was hiding something. This was suspicious so we drove by slowly and stared at the spot the telescope was originally facing and as we were about to leave the scene, I saw a cat shaped head and screamed “lynx!” luckily the window was closed so the lynx didn’t hear me. We backed the car up and scanned the spot again and there, to our delight, there was yet another lynx.

My mom is a teacher and therefore missed the first 3 days of our holiday at work so when she arrived we were eager to find a lynx for her. We drove down the road we had seen the first two lynx. Further up the road was group of parked vans that grabbed our attention. We drove up to the group and got out the car, whilst a man helpfully showed us where the lynx was. At the start you could just see its distinct pointy ears that the lynx is famous for, but then it got up and walked down the hill as we prepared the camera. The cat walked across the road and we got a nice picture, I don’t know if it’s ever been done before but we had completed and photographed an Iberian lynx hat trick in five days!