From Sofia, we travel first to the picturesque Eastern Rhodope Mountains, close to the Greek frontier where Griffon Vultures, Long-legged Buzzards and Western Rock Nuthatches await our discovery. Black Storks and Egyptian Vultures also nest on the cliffs, Chukars chuckle as they forage amongst the crags and Eastern Subalpine Warblers sing from scrubby slopes. With luck, we may also find Wallcreeper in the region’s limestone gorges, along with nesting Alpine Swifts. Aside from the birds, these lovely hills are simply brimming with plants and butterflies.
Leaving the mountains, we will continue East towards Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, pausing as we search for tricky Balkans specialities such as Masked Shrike, Eastern Orphean Warbler and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. Eastern Imperial Eagles nest in poplars close to open Souslik fields, White Storks share their nests with gangs of noisy Spanish Sparrows and roadside wires can be peppered with colourful Black-headed Buntings, Bee-eaters and Lesser Grey Shrikes. Another highlight on our recent tours has been a visit to a Lesser Kestrel breeding colony.
Bulgaria’s Black Sea coastal wetlands are of international importance and hold the prospect of Great White Pelican, Little Bittern, Ferruginous Duck, Pygmy Cormorant and the sought-after Paddyfield Warbler. Inland, the thickly wooded valleys and rugged limestone hills are the haunt of Lesser Spotted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk and Semicollared Flycatcher, whilst Rosy Starlings and Pied and Isabelline Wheatears can be found on coastal headlands, with Yelkouan Shearwater a possibility offshore.
A May visit also offers exciting opportunities to find migrating waders before our route swings back inland, across the rolling steppe of Dobruja, to the fertile valley of the River Danube where wonderful Lake Srebarna (a World Heritage Site) hold an important breeding colony of the rare Dalmatian Pelican.
Our tour concludes with two nights in Vetren, allowing us both the chance to explore the Srebarna and Nova Cherna wetlands in a more thorough and relaxed way, as well as dramatically reducing our return journey time as we loop North to Bucharest for our flight home (rather than having to make the long haul back to Sofia).
Full of Eastern promise (and with some surprisingly good local wines!), our May tour to Bulgaria is sure to surprise and delight for the timeless countryside of the Balkans is simply bursting with birds.
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