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Romania's Danube Delta & Carpathian Mountains

An entry to our 2019 Writing Competition, Wendy Dickson travelled on our 'Romania's Danube Delta & Carpathian Mountains' tour.

Drifting down the Danube on our viewing barge – what better way to enjoy the wildlife, quiet and as unobtrusive as possible. Egrets, Little and Great, flying off, plus magnificent, if elusive, Purple Herons. And all the while to a background of Cuckoos calling, seeking females in order to continue parasitizing the noisy Great Reed Warblers.

Around every corner a new experience, a new vista. A fork in the river, which way would we take? All so new, so exciting, so full of expectation.

Then, on our right, a mass of twigs atop a waterside tree. "Old Crow's nest" declared our excellent Romanian guide, Alex.  But hold on: if it's a Crow's nest, albeit an old one, why did we just see a large, furry tail swish across the skyline? Something interesting here. Then a pair of pointed ears and, gradually a tabby face, peered over the parapet – a cat! A Wild Cat!

But that wasn't all. A much smaller version of the same appeared, then another. Exciting! Yes, a Wild Cat had had her kittens up here. The couple of small faces bravely looked through sticks and twigs to stare at us in wonder, tiny eyes wide with incredulity at these strange, ecstatic beings below, little tails flicking: was that in anger at this, albeit not too close, encounter, or a natural reaction to a new experience?

Little wide-eyed, cute faces on small bodies, that would grow up in a world where they would have to hunt and defend themselves. But for now, to us, utterly charming and unexpected. Mother had seen it all before. Seemingly unfazed as her young ones became a little bolder, she nevertheless kept half an eye on us in case things changed.

Then, one of what turned out to be three kittens, set off down the slightly sloping tree trunk, followed by its sibling. But the second one got cold feet, turned and scampered back up to the safety of mum. Not long after, down it came again, this time followed by the third.

It was then that it dawned on us that this tree appeared wholly surrounded by water, the only way out was to swim. Presumably the mother did that to go off hunting but I suspect her young hadn't yet progressed that far. That meant they were probably a bit safer from predators while she was away. She had chosen a well concealed place.

Of course, our skipper had stopped the vessel as camera shutters clicked furiously. But eventually it was mum who called time, not in a fearful or frightened way but more a dignified exit, as she followed her three young down the tree and round the back where she probably had another hideout. The matinee was over. We were all much richer for our frisson with the felines and we, too, moved on – delighted.

Read more about our 'Romania's Danube Delta & Carpathian Mountains' holiday.

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