Spring Birdwatching Trip - Bulgaria

Dates: late April/early May, middle of May & late May/early June

8 days (7 nights)

Spring is the best period for all birders, bird lovers and listers. During this time you can see almost all south-eastern specialities including Dalmatian and White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorant, Ruddy Shelduck, the desmaresti sub-species of Shag, Glossy Ibis, Purple and Squacco Herons, Little and Great Bittern, 20 species of Raptors (including Levant Sparrowhawk, Red-footed Falcon, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Booted, Lesser Spotted and Short-toed Eagles), Bee-eaters, Rollers, Masked, Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Penduline, Somber and Bearded Tits, Balkan Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, Calandra and Short-toed Larks, Paddyfield, Moustached, Olive-tree, Olivaceous, Icterine, Barred, Orphean and Eastern Bonelli's Warblers as well as many other unusual passerines like the Eastern Semi-collared Flycatcher, Rose-coloured Starlings, Pied, Isabelline and Black-eared Wheatears, Ortolan, Black-headed, Cirl and Rock Buntings, thousands of waders including Collared Pratincole, Stone Curlew, Kentish Plover, Terek, Marsh, Curlew and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Temminck's Stint, Gull-billed Tern, Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gulls, Yelkouan Shearwater, etc, etc

Day 1: Bulgaria (Varna - Durankulak)

Flight to Varna. On arrival you will be met by a representative of BRANTA TOURS. Transfer (40 miles) to our exclusive lakeside accommodation at Branta Birding Lodge situated on the Nothern Black Sea coast, just 3 miles from the Romanian border, with a stop-off en route at the resort of Albena to visit its alluvial forest Baltata.
Branta Birding Lodge, overlooking Durankulak Lake, is our base for the next four nights where we will enjoy its splendid overview and visit its exhibition including detailed photographic and cartographic materials.

Day 2: Shabla

After breakfast, we drive south (10 miles) to first major destination, Lake Shabla, Bulgaria's most important wintering location for geese and ducks. At this season we look for Paddyfield Warbler, Red-necked Grebe, Whiskered and Black Terns, Red-crested Pochard and Bearded Tit. On fields near the lake you should see the Balkan sub-species of the Yellow Wagtail, the beautiful black-headed feldegg race, while Barred Warblers often sing from patches of scrub. Likely bird sightings en route include Calandra Lark, Lesser Grey Shrike and Syrian Woodpecker.

We will spend the afternoon at Shabla Touzla - a small, high salinity lagoon, famous for the curative properties of its mud. Here we could see Little Tern, Red-footed Falcon, Barred Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Moustached and Olivaceous Warblers, Reed Bunting, Broad-billed and Marsh Sandpipers and Little-ringed Plover...
Return to our base for dinner and second night at "Branta Birding Lodge".

Day 3: Lake Durankulak

After breakfast, we spend the day exploring Lake Durankulak, a Ramsar site and "location of outstanding natural beauty" close to the Rumanian border and fringing on the Black Sea itself. The brackish waters and huge reed beds hold Pygmy Cormorant, Ruddy Shelduck, Bittern and Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Red-necked Grebe, Ferruginous Duck, while Paddyfield Warbler is among the major tour highlights. Tall hedges and windbreaks in the vicinity of the lake hold good numbers of Red-footed Falcons and Lesser Grey Shrikes. The adjacent steppe and its surrounds hold Collared Pratincole, Stone Curlew, Calandra Lark, Barred Warblers, Syrian Woodpecker, Bee-Eater and Roller.
Return to Durankulak for dinner and third night in our exceedingly comfortable fledgling base.

Day 4: Kaliakra

After breakfast, we set off to spend the day exploring Cape Kaliakra, and its surrounds. Set in the largest surviving area of virgin steppe in Bulgaria, Kaliakra is also an archaeological monument, the site of ancient dwellings and fortresses covering more than 2500 years of human occupation.
The 70-m high cliffs make an excellent vantage point for Dolphin watching, whilst the abrupt westward turn of the coast here results in concentrations of migrating birds. The steppe, which runs up to the edge of the cliffs, is rich in plant species including Narrow-leaved Peony and three endemics - two Bulgarian and one Balkan. Kaliakra is one of the best places in Europe to see Rose-coloured Starling, though numbers vary greatly from year to year. More certain species of the steppe are Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Roller and, especially in the evening, Stone Curlew, whilst some south-eastern specialties like Red-Rumped Swallow, Pied Wheatear and Long-legged Buzzard, breed on the cliffs, alongside Eagle Owl, Rock Thrush and Alpine Swift.
In scrubby areas we should find Olive-tree Warbler and we may just see a Levant Sparrowhawk.

The afternoon will be spent at Yailata, like Kaliakra an archaeological reserve, fronted by splendid sea-cliffs against a hinterland of steppe. The area holds Hoopoe, Pied Wheatear, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit and Black-headed Bunting. Two rare mammals occur here, the Steppe Polecat and Romanian Hamster and a botanical speciality of the site is the Broad-leaved Peony. An evening visit to an impressive gorge called Bolata produces views of Little Crake and Pygmy Cormorant. This is also the breeding site of Eagle Owls that we hope to see after dark.
Return to Durankulak for dinner and last night at "Branta Birding Lodge".

Spring Birdwatching Trip

Day 5: Durankulak - Bourgas

After breakfast transfer (120 miles) to the city of Burgas. Likely bird sightings en route include Eastern Bonelli's Warbler and Ruddy Shelduck, with a possibility of Imperial Eagle.
We stop off to explore the Kamchiya Reserve with its remarkable alluvial or Longoz forest, one of the most northerly of its kind in Europe. The reserve complex, totalling about 1500 ha., includes dunes, beach, estuary and small freshwater pools. This is an area of considerable botanical interest; the rare Nuphar lutea and Nymphaea alba occur in the marshy areas, whilst Silene euxina and Coryspermum nitidum are found in the dunes.
Breeding birds include Semi-collared Flycatcher, Short-toed Treecreeper, Black, Grey-headed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, Goshawk and Lesser Spotted Eagle.

For the next two nights our base is in Pomorie, a small port just a few miles to the north of Burgas.

Dinner and first of two nights in a beautiful hotel located on the shore of the Black Sea.

Day 6: Bourgas Saltpants

Today we explore Lake Atanasovsko Reserve, arguably Bulgaria's foremost birdwatching location and one of the country's five "RAMSAR" sites. The 1690 ha. complex includes extensive saltpans, freshwater pools, marshes and areas of scrub and semi-steppe. The reserve's position on the east European Via Pontica flyway attracts a great variety of migrants in spring and autumn. More than 300 bird species have been recorded here.
We will be able to enjoy the spectacle of the lake's breeding birds, including some hundreds of Avocets, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole (Black-winged have been seen here too!), Kentish Plover, Gull-billed Tern, Mediterranean Gull, Little Tern, Marsh Harrier and Penduline Tit. Caspian Tern, Slender-billed Gull and Squacco Heron are also seen at this season, and we may turn up Marsh Sandpiper. Cetti's Warbler and Little Bittern breed in the reedbeds, and Black-headed Buntings and Red-backed Shrikes are numerous on fields surrounding the lake.
So large and attractive a site in such a strategic position can also turn up surprises.
The reserve has plenty of botanical interest, including two species endangered in Europe: Coryspermum nitidum and Lepidotrichum uechtritzianum.
For dinner we sample traditional Bulgarian cuisine in a folk-tavern in the historic town of Nessebar. Return for second night in hotel.

Day 7: Poda, Ouzungeren and Mandra

We will spend the morning exploring the wetlands immediately to the south of Burgas.
The reedbeds of Poda host a mixed breeding colony of Spoonbill, Little Egret, Purple Heron and Glossy Ibis. Waders on nearby brackish pools could include Marsh and Broad-billed Sandpiper, Kentish Plover and, with luck, Terek Sandpiper, whilst Black-Winged Stilt breeds here, along with Savi's and Cetti's Warblers in the reeds.
On the neighbouring lakes of Ouzungeren and Mandra, we may see Ferruginous Duck, Bearded Tit, Squacco and Night Heron and we should watch the skies for passing flocks of summering White Pelicans.

In the afternoon we return to Varna and make a tour of the town before dinner and last night in Bulgaria. Heading north we pause at the Salinas of Pomorie to see the usual show of waders. The adjacent small village is one of the best places in Europe to see the breeding colonies of Rose-coloured Starlings. An hour will be spent in the ancient town of Nessebar featuring a great deal of traditional architecture. Birds on the scene include the Yelkouan Shearwater, Yellow-legged Gull and its sub-species michahellis. Continuing north the route ascends through the wooded hills of Eastern Balkan mountain range, bringing us to our next stop at Cape Emine. Reaching cliff-top scrub above the sea we look for cetaceans. Breeding specialities include Sombre Tit, Rock Bunting, Masked and Woodchat Shrikes, Wood Lark, Tawny Pipit, Barred, Olive-tree and Olivaceous Warblers.

Day 8: Varna Aairport

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your return flight.

Spring Birdwatching Trip - About the tour


Pavel Simeonov leads most of the tours personally. He is one of Bulgaria`s leading naturalists and ornithologists, one of the Swarovski Recommended Bird Guides. Being actively involved with conservation programmes at national and international level Pavel is able to provide a wealth of background information on wildlife matters, and indeed on cultural topics. He has conducted numerous trips as a bird-guide and tour leader in Bulgaria, Romania, Southern France (including Corsica) and Belarus. Qualified as an international expert on environmental and biodiversity conservation projects he is also the founder of the Le Balkan-Bulgaria non-profit organization.


We provide comfortable accommodation for individuals or small groups at :

*** Branta Birding Lodge (4 nights), which is a very attractive and recently built fledgling base with 8 twin-bedded and 3 single rooms, located just close to the Lake Durankulak - the world's most important wetland habitat for the globally threatened Red-breasted Goose and many other notable ducks, waders and breeding specialities including Paddyfield Warbler. Built on 2 floors, overlooking the Lake Durankulak and Black Sea, this is an ideal location for the wildlife enthusiast.

*** POMORIE HOTEL (2 nights), which is a highly attractive and recently restored, private establishment with 15 en suite twin-bedded rooms complete with TV.
Breakfast and dinner will be taken at a folk-tavern offering traditional Bulgarian cuisine.

***** VARNA HOTEL (1 night)

* Single rooms are always available, though a supplement is often charged for single occupancy.

Price: €790 per person - Base: 6-10 people

2 pax = €995,-

4 pax = €890,-

5 pax = €825,-

6-10 pax:€790,-

Single room supplement: €85,-

* Promotional statement:

We offer a 5 percent discount to anyone who books a place (and sends deposit) by 31 December.

Price includes:

B & B in twin rooms;
Seven nights dinner;
Packed lunches except for days 1 and 8;
Drinks: mineral water, fizzy drinks including Coca Cola, tea/coffee;
Transportation by 7 or 14-seater minibus (4WD);
All excursions plus transfers in Bulgaria;

Price excludes:

Lunch on days 1 & 8;
Alcoholic drinks and tips;
Transport to and from Bulgaria;
Single room supplements.

Air travel

It has never been easier to reach the Bulgarian Black Sea as British Airways now flies direct to VARNA (just south of Albena). Another option could be to take a charter flight offered by Balkan Holidays from May to September. It is also possible to fly to Burgas or Bucharest. For this we take an extra charge of EUR 150 to cover the tour leader's travel expenses.

This is entirely optional leaving you completely free to make personally your flight reservations and to pursue your travel arrangements with an airline company or your own travel agent. Please contact us if you would like further clarification: info@branta-tours.com