Monday, 7 April 2008

Country Profile: Romania

Romania is a Republic which joined the EU in 2007. The capital is Bucharest (Bucuresti). The currency is the New Leu (RON) plural Lei. Romania borders Bulgaria to the south, Serbia and Montenegro to the south-west, Hungary to the west, the Ukraine to the north and north-east, Moldova to the north-east and a Black Sea coastline of 225 km to the east. Romania covers some 237,500 km². Around a third of Romania is mountainous, a third rolling hills and the final third lowlands. The Carpathians dominate the heart of the country. There are some truely impressive upland areas here, blanketed in thick forests of spruce, fir, pine, beech, birch and rowen. The highest peak is Moldoveanu at 2544m in the Fagaras range. The Retezat Mountains have more than 20 peaks over 2000m. The high altitude landscape here is one of rugged crags, rocky scree, boulders and silent tarns. At lower elevations there are grazing pastures, meadows and limestone gorges. The wildness of the Transylvanian Alps is illustratred by the fact that its forests are the haunt of Brown Bear, Lynx and Wolf and its high peaks the home of Chamois and Alpine Marmot. Nestling in the Carpathians is the Central Transylvanian Basin, a largely rural landscape with meadows and pastures. To the east of the mountains is the Moldavian Plain and to the south the rather monotonous Walachian Plain. The flat arid region of Dobrudja lies between the Danube and the Black Sea coast from the Danube Delta in the north to (and beyond) the Bulgarian border in the south. This region is largely farmland, with some enormous crop fields, but remnants of steppe and oakwoods remain. The eastern edge of Dobrudja is formed by the 225 km long coastline of the Black Sea which its sandy beaches, dunes and large lagoons. Finally there is the Danube Delta, 82% of which lies in Romania (the remaining 18% is in the Ukraine). Romania is blessed with a number of bird species which are decidedly rare vagrants to most of the rest of Europe. Ruddy Shelduck, Black-winged Pratincole, Paddyfield Warbler and Isabelline and Pied Wheatears, though not common, are all birds that breed on the important coastal plain of Dobrudja. Europe's largest Lesser Grey Shrike population is also found here with around 40,000 pairs estimated, Rose-coloured Starlings nest most years. Levant Sparrowhawk inhabits wooded hilly areas. Romania has an important population of the threatened Dalmatian Pelican, the largest number of nesting White Pelicans in Europe (3500 pairs estimated) and the world's largest population of Pygmy Cormorant with over 7000 pairs. There is the core European population of Ferruginous Duck with 8000 pairs and in some winters almost the entire world population of Red-breasted Geese. The Danube Delta is home to a who's-who of birds which are threatened across their ranges and the importance of this incredible wetland for both breeding and migratory birds cannot be over stressed. The forests, meadows, pastures and gorges of Transylvania and the Carpathians are home to Wallcreeper, Eagle, Ural, Pygmy and Tengmalm's Owls, a range of raptors, Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel, Shore Lark, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Nutcracker, Crested Tit and all Europe's woodpeckers.

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