That first area journey to Djerdap Gorge Nationwide Park, eight years in the past, was made as part of an ecotourism potential analysis challenge. And so as to consider its potential, my agenda was to spend the entire two days within the park and to supply the very best analysis primarily based on that go to.
Birds… nicely, extra presumed what the chances are, than truly checked…
Getting round: Test
I’ll come again to those subjects shortly. However there was yet one more factor I evaluated, the human infrastructure, the potential guides among the many nationwide park staff. It’s potential that they didn’t notice that they have been evaluated, too, and possibly they didn’t push for his or her finest, however my impression was: they probably noticed the event as having extra work for a similar pay. And there have been no native birders to contemplate. Every thing else was both working nicely or might have been simply mitigated, however you can not produce native guides in a single day, nor was it part of the challenge actions. Nonetheless, I left presents behind, two dozen copies of a standard chook information (which I wrote and printed) for native wardens. Hopefully, one thing might have modified within the meantime.
On the second day of that go to, the wardens prompt to strive the “Forgotten” Highway, as soon as the principle street to Romania, however right this moment, after a dozen tunnels and a brand new riverbank street have been constructed 4 a long time in the past, merely a observe of a derelict and crumbling tarmac winding over a mountain cross. It sounded birdy and I used to be sport.
The primary part is a steep uphill, by means of the meadows and outdated orchards of a sunny, south-facing and bird-filled slope (extra on birds shortly). There have been two vehicles utilized by challenge members, and I, the one birder within the group, drove the primary automobile. One of many issues was poor communication. We prevented utilizing the telephones due to the reduction: we have been shedding the sign of a Serbian supplier and from time to time selecting the Romanian sign from the opposite financial institution of the Danube, however with extra roaming costs. We had no walkie-talkies for a fast change, and each time I used to be braking for some chook they’d no concept the place to look or why I finished.
After which we entered a ravishing beech forest on the gentler, northern, river-facing slope. When the sign mild turned on, I found that I made a silly mistake of not visiting the petrol station within the morning. So it turned out to be a tense driving with out many stops or birds. The closest petrol stations have been about 30 km in every path (Golubac/Donji Milanovac) and I made it on time, however it wasn’t a lot of a birding.
Writing my analysis, I relied closely on enter from my ornithologist pal Bratislav Grubac, who explored that space extensively. A few years have handed by now and I’ve visited the Forgotten Highway 2 to three instances in most years, sufficient to search out a lot of the birds Bratislav talked about, however just a few of the principally nocturnal, corresponding to an Ural Owl or a Corncrake (I all the time visited within the morning). But, I did discover just a few that Bratislav didn’t, additionally firsts for the nationwide park, the Shore (aka Horned) Lark and the Woodchat Shrike.
Djerdap (aka Iron Gates, after the traditional Roman title for the gorge, Porta Ferrea) Nationwide Park lies within the north-eastern Serbia, the place the Danube has incised the longest gorge of Europe, extending for over 100 kilometers (62 mi), stretching from the medieval Golubac Fortress to the Roman castrum Diana. The nationwide park contains the river and a slim mountain space, two to eight kilometers (1.2 to five mi) in width, reaching 50 (the River Danube stage) to 800 meters (160 to 2600 ft) above sea stage (Somrda Mt.) .
In 1887, Jovan Cvijic, one of many best Serbian naturalists, observed that this space is “coated in inaccessible forests” and that it has “the looks of actual primeval forests”. Forests nonetheless cowl greater than 70% of the Djerdap Nationwide Park. Crucial edificators of the forest ecosystems are sessile oak (Quercus petraea agg. Ehrendorfer 1967), beech (Fagus moesiaca L.), white ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.), maple (Acer sp.), tilia (Tilia spp.) and so on.
The Forgotten Highway route: This can be a 19 km / 12 mi lengthy part of as soon as the principle regional route (driving alongside it, you will discover this tough to imagine). When the brand new street was in-built 1986, this one has all however disappeared from the maps, recollections and the native municipality street restore finances.
Purple – the Forgotten Highway
Crimson – the principle street
Inexperienced – the nationwide park border
My normal means of visiting this web site is to drive from Belgrade earlier than daybreak all the way in which to the Boljetinska River Canyon (by the Boljetin Village), on the downstream finish of the tour, about 170 km (105 mi) or 2 h 30 min. Then I drive upriver and slowly return to Belgrade, visiting different websites en route (and due to that D-touring, I make some 400 km / 250 mi in complete). However you possibly can come the day earlier than; there are rooms to let within the Dobra Village itself, at Stanojevic and Cvetkovic homesteads, so it’s potential to spend the evening there and begin birding if you open your eyes.
The Forgotten Highway route connects the villages Boljetin and Dobra, at first (coming from Boljetin) passing by means of meadows interspersed with oak groves and orchards (apples, pears, plums), and additional north, by means of darkish and outdated beech forests.
The flip off from the principle street is marked for Boljetin (44.540039°N, 22.030813°E), and it comes quickly after one of many tunnels – make certain to not overshoot it. In some sections (nearer to the village of Boljetin), the Forgotten Highway tarmac is closely damaged by hefty lorries filled with beech tree trunks (nonetheless illegitimate, nonetheless legally logged throughout the park), whereas within the northern, forested part, it’s potholed , however not too unhealthy.
After the Boljetin flip off, the street goes down till you attain a small bridge (marked with the worldwide Danube biking route signal for Golubac). You’ll be able to park by the facet and examine the Boljetinska River Canyon at your proper, a real geological historical past ebook.
This was the primary geological web site protected within the Djerdap space, shaped alongside a fault by incision of the Boljetinska River into the sedimentary rocks. Seen layers of sediments have been deposited from about 160 to about 145 million years in the past, when this space was part of the Tethys Ocean. Varied cephalopods (ammonites and belemnites) inhabited the ocean at the moment, as evidenced by their fossilized stays, nonetheless discovered within the sedimentary rocks.
However your cause to examine the canyon is a White-throated Dipper that breeds there and with some luck, chances are you’ll even encounter a Rock Bunting. Different species embrace Grey Wagtail and Marsh Tit.
From there, observe the worldwide Danube biking route signal, cross the bridge and proceed uphill. This can be a very productive space of principally open or semi-open habitats, the place birds are quite a few and simple to identify. Straightforward species listed below are Corn Bunting, Hawfinch, Noticed Flycatcher, Crimson-backed Shrike, Woodlark, Eurasian Golden Oriole, European Turtle Dove. Considerably more durable however lifelike finds might embrace Ortolan Pregnant, Crimson-rumped Swallow, Sombre Tit. Among the many potential species there are Rock Bunting, Eurasian Wryneck, Gray-headed and Eurasian Inexperienced Woodpeckers, European Honey Buzzard, Lesser Noticed Eagle. Native rarities included Shore Lark (early December) and Woodchat Shrike (early June, presumably nonetheless on migration).
After 8 kilometers, you’ll attain the best part of the Forgotten Highway, at 500 m / 1600 ft asl, the place there’s a Y junction, left for the Somrda Reserve (filth street), proper for the Dobra Village (and, farther, Golubac City) – preserve proper. Somrda Peak (810 m asl) is called the northernmost vary of holly (Ilex aquifolium), a relict evergreen species, in Serbia and the one web site in Djerdap.
However, as I mentioned, preserve proper, down the northern slope and into the forest for the following 11 kilometers. You’ll first encounter pure beech forests of higher slopes, mixing with sessile oak and customary hornbeam, maple and ash as you go down, and at decrease slopes, pure forests of sessile oak.
As soon as I attempted this route in January. I used to be apprehensive about ice on the street within the steeper southern slope, however additionally it is the sunny facet and it was satisfactory. Previous to coming into the gentle-sloping forested facet, I used to be fortunate to fulfill park wardens, who warned me of the deep snow contained in the shadowy forest, which was an impediment even for his or her 4x4s, so I turned again.
White-backed Woodpecker (feminine) on the Forgotten Highway by Vitrag Shah
A lot of the birds I encountered have been inside gullies, by the interior bands within the street, particularly within the greater, beech forest. I can not inform whether or not that habitat is admittedly richer, or is it due to the less facet branches, so the visibility is best (probably the second). These greater slopes are the place I discovered one of the best woodpeckers, corresponding to White-backed, Black and Gray-headed Woodpecker. Center and Lesser Noticed Woodpeckers have been principally in decrease, oak sections. Additionally, that part passes by the imposing Sokolovac Peak (626 m asl; look out for Alpine Swifts).
The extra frequent species embrace Hawfinch, Frequent Nightingale, Track Thrush, Quick-toed Treecreeper, Crimson-backed Shrike, Eurasian Golden Oriole. Considerably much less frequent however lifelike birds embrace Wooden Warbler, Collared Flycatcher, Marsh Tit, Inventory Dove, Tawny Owl. Additionally current right here, the Crimson-breasted Flycatcher is a uncommon breeding species of Serbia, inhabiting principally thickly-overgrown gullies.
Different species that I’ve not discovered there but, partially due to the morning visits, are Corncrakes, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Scops and Ural Owls.
And at last, you attain the Danube riverbank and the nice tarmac of the principle street. Donji Milanovac, the place the park HQ is located, is at your proper, whereas Dobra, Golubac, in addition to Belgrade (about 155 km / 96 mi) are at your left.
What I normally do afterwards is go to the Labudovo okno Ramsar part of the Danube on my means again. However chances are you’ll choose to show some 12 km (7 mi) to your proper to go to the Lepenski Vir, an necessary Mesolithic archaeological web site housing a big village with distinctive stone head-sculptures created 8000 years in the past. Or chances are you’ll choose to go to 2300 meters (7500 ft) lengthy Rajko’s Cave by the mining city of Majdanpek, on the southern facet of the mountains (the flip off lies between Boljetin and Donji Milanovac). And within the night chances are you’ll be again in Belgrade (or chances are you’ll keep for an additional day).
Practicalities: The riverside city of Golubac (130 km / 80 mi or two hours’ drive from Belgrade) is the doorway level to the world. It’s potential to succeed in it on the Friday afternoon, sleep there and go birding on the break of day on Saturday. Nearly each village between Golubac and the following city of Donji Milanovac (an additional 60 km / 40 mi) gives rooms to let, however petrol stations are to be discovered solely within the cities.
If you wish to do the tour from Dobra, going downriver, the upriver finish of the Forgotten Highway lies east of Dobra. Go proper after the third bridge with shiny purple railings (counting the one in Dobra as #1) and observe the worldwide Danube biking route signal for Donji Milanovac and Kladovo. The Dobra flip off from the principle street is at 44.629390°N 21.959730°E.
Panorama pictures (4) by Julien Birard
cowl photograph by Maxime Zucca