Birds and Mammals:

Bird tally - 223, including three wagtail subspecies

Notable highlights:

Birds: Mediterranean Shearwater, Dalmatian and White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorant, Black Stork, Ferruginous Duck, Great Snipe, Marsh Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Collared and Black-winged Pratincoles, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, Pallid Harrier, Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, Red-footed Falcon, Levant Sparrowhauk, Little Crake, Wryneck and 7 species of Woodpecker, Eagle Owl, Roller, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Tawny and Red-throated Pipits, Black-headed and Citrine Wagtails, Calandra and Short-toed Larks, Wallcreeper, Crested, Penduline and Sombre Tits, Orphean and Barred Warblers, Pied, Finsch's, Isabelline and Black-eared Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, Nutcracker, Firecrest, Ring Ouzel, Rock and Cirl Buntings...

Mammals: Jackal, Balkan Chamois, Souslik, Black Sea Harbour Porpoise

Trip report 2007


BULGARIA - Black Sea Coast and Rhodope Mountains + an extra visit to Romania

19 - 28 April 2007;

Guides: David Kent (GGW) and Pavel Simeonov (Branta-Tours)

Participants: Stephen Alcock, Alan Grindley and Margaret Matthews

Day 1; Thu. 19 April: After rendezvous and check in for our flight at London Heathrow, Terminal 2, we enjoyed unlimited complimentary T/coffee, biscuits or whatever else one fancied in the Serviceair executive lounge, before boarding our aircraft for the scheduled 09:30 flight to Vienna with Austrian Airlines. Although take off was slightly late we arrived on time; our onwards flight to Varna arrived ten minutes early (16:40). Passport control and baggage reclaim was expedited fairly quickly and we had soon linked up with our local guide Pavel Simeonov, Tour Leader of Branta-Tours Birdwatching Company, in the arrivals hall. After changing money in the city centre we were on our way north by 17:40, Wood Pigeons, Jays and Magpies being the first birds noted. The weather was somewhat chilly, the sky overcast over the land with patches of sunlight breaking through over the sea.
Heading along the Black Sea coast towards Albena a first stop produced several Alpine Swifts, a Hobby then a Levant Sparrowhawk. Towards an escarpment where Eagle Owls are known to nest a flight of about 150 White Pelicans appeared ahead, searching for lift from updraughts and thermals. Catching the early evening light they were a spectacular sight. Out to sea a number of Great crested Grebes were seen.
Skylarks, Crested and Calandra Larks lifted from roadsides as we continued on to Krapetz, where we reached our sea-front hotel at 20:15. Following an appetising meal in the company of Pavel's wife Tatyana (owner and manager of Branta-Tours) and son Pavel jnr., we went outside to discover a clear sky featuring very bright moon in the vicinity of the planet Venus.

Day 2; Fri. 20 April. A chilly but very clear and sunny start to the day. Birdlife seen from and around the hotel included Black-winged Stilt, Little Gull, Caspian Tern, Spanish Sparrow and Linnet. 08:00 breakfast preceded departure at 09:10 for an unscheduled visit to Romania. A detailed account of the day's bird sightings would fill pages - our outstanding end-of-day tally of 108 birds herewith reported in condensed form.
Hen Harrier (female), Red-footed Falcon and Syrian Woodpecker were among birds noted towards the border, a two-and-a-half hour journey bringing us to a wetland zone at the fringe of the Danube Delta. Early stops produced flocks of Glossy Ibises descending into reedbeds, while a few Purple Herons flew lazily by, and yellow/blue-headed wagtails of diverse races (feldegg, flava, bema, thumbergii, including the beautiful supercilliaris and dombrowskii hybrid forms) appeared at every turn - stimulating Pavel into a paroxysm of enthusiasm. Crested and Calandra Larks were numerous along tracks, plus a few Short-toed Larks.
By lunch time the wader count had included Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Ruff (the most numerous species); Dunlin, Curlew, Wood and Marsh Sandpipers, Redshank, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank. While enjoying our alfresco lunch flocks of Collared Pratincoles hawked insects all around, close scrutiny by Pavel disclosing two rare Black-winged Pratincoles among them. A one and only Black-tailed Godwit of the tour was also seen. Wildfowl thus far included Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler and Gadwall; Spotted Crake and Moorhen were heard. Reed and Great Reed Warblers had been seen pre-lunch, while Cetti's and Savi's Warblers were spotted by Margaret & DK during a lunchtime stroll - also good views of Beaded Tit.
A few kms. north we next reached a favoured foraging area of Gull-billed Terns. Approaching a lightly reed-fringed lake we found our birds roosting by the waters edge in the company of a few Caspian and Little Terns plus the three marsh terns (Black, White-winged Black and Whiskered). Great and Little Egrets, Spoonbill, Avocet and Golden Plover were incidental birds noted. The approach track to the lake had produced several close range Hoopoes and, during the exit drive, a very close Red-throated Pipit was an extremely rewarding find, a Wryneck a short way on adding icing to the cake.
Finally heading south again a call was made at fishponds at a protected area where White-tailed Plovers had nested here two years previous, our visit producing many species of birds already seen plus two Squacco Herons, numerous Garganey, four Red-crested Pochards, four Ferruginous Ducks and a number of Coots.
Among incidental wildlife seen during the course of the day at least ten European Sousliks were a positive highlight, with Sand Lizard, and Swallowtail and Peacock butterflies in support. Sand Crocus was a notable wild flower.
Setting off back at 18:10 we reached Shabla at 20:30, where we were invited to Pavel's home for a splendid meal of Turbot - accompanied by entertaining banter.
The day had gradually warmed up, though a wind persisted throughout.

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