UK & Bulgaria

May 17 - 29, 2007

WINGS/Sunbird Leader: James Lidster

Thanks to fellow trip partipants: Mel Ab-Owain, David Biggs, Robert Bradley, Vicky Graham, Richard Gray, Paddy Harford, Jon Mercer, Naomi & Bill Murphy, Peter & Majella Pizzey, Brian Ransom and Martin Selzer

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Bulgaria Bird List

U.K. Bird List

Martin Selzer's Trip report

Butterfly List

May 17, 2007 (Thursday)
We were originally scheduled to leave Philadelphia around 7:05 PM (Wednesday night) but really bad thunder storms pushed back our flight by about an hour. However, after a short delay, our British Air flight took off and we were on our way to London. Martin, Bill, Naomi and I had planned to arrive a couple of days early to get in some birding in the U.K. before meeting our Sunbirds group at Heathrow on Saturday morning. This would take the strain off making a rushed connection and give me the opportunity to ease in European birding. Of our group, I was the only one with no European birding experience at all.

We got into Heathrow around 8:30AM and cleared customs to be met by Andy, our local birding guide. Martin knew Andy from some previous trips and highly recommended him as our UK guide. Andy works for North Kent Birding which specializes in tours of County Kent.

It took most of the morning to get to our hotel, the PREMIER TRAVEL INN, in Gillingham but we did a quick check-in, grabbed some lunch and headed out for our first birding spot, Riverside County Park. This park covers about 100 hectares along the Medway Estuary and is an extremely popular spot for visitors. There are a variety of habitats within the park: mudflats, saltmarsh, ponds, reedbeds and scrub. It is more active for birds during the winter months but we had some very nice birds anyway.

For more photos of Riverside...

Then we drove over to the ISLE OF SHEPPEY for a stop at the Elmley Nature Reserve. From here we were able to scan the surrounding fields and marshes. A highlight was spotting a Little Owl perched in a tree near a nest box. I have a soft spot for owls and this one was definitely a cutey.

Elmley and Spitend Marshes are part of the largest area of coastal grazing marsh remaining in the southeastern UK. Lying along the Swale Estuary, they comprise about 1240 hectares (3,100 acres) and are home to thousands of wintering waterfowl and waders as well as many nesting birds during the summer months.


male Garganey


Tufted Duck & Avocet

Also on Sheepey we visited the Swale at Shellness, the Capel Fleet Raptor Viewing Station and The Hartey Ferry House. Despite the wide expanses of mudflats we found very few shorebirds. The main migration seemed to have been over. Common Redshanks were the most numerous as they were breeding in the area.

For more photos of the Isle of Sheppey ...

May 18, 2007
After a quick breakfast we drove out to the Oare Marshes overlooking the Swale Estuary and Hartey Ferry Inn where we were last night. Oare has an international reputation as one of the finest grazing marshes left in the UK. A walk around the dikes at Oare can be an awesome experience. It was a bit quiet when we were there but it was a lovely walk. For more photos of Oare...
Leaving Oare we drove down the famous Wattling Road. This road was first used by the ancient Celts to connect the modern towns of Canterbury and St. Albans. It was first paved by the Romans. YIKES!!! History come alive.

Our destination was a lovely country road called Swanton Lane where we did some birding and also got some nice looks at butterflies in the scrubby fields. It's been fairly windy so it was fun to finally tackle some leps. Highlights were: Green-veined White , Large White, E. Bath White, Peacock , Holly Blue , Orangetip and Red Admiral .

We then drove through Canterbury, past the old walls of the city and the cathedral. Unfortunately there was no time to make any stops but it would have been fun to explore the city more. We drove through the "smallest town in England", past rows of lovely cottages and gardens, the old churchyards and small winding roads, the red tiled roofs and even 1 thatched roof were wonderful reminders that we were not in the USA.

Then it was on to Stodmarsh Nature Reserve , a lovely wooded, boggy area, filled with reed beds, shallow lagoons and flooded river meadows. This area was first flooded by Augustinian monks to provide grazing lands for their horses so "stud" marsh became "stod" marsh. Attempts were made over the years to drain the area but fortunately they failed.

We spent quite some time walking through these lovely woods. We then drove over to the other side of the marsh and walked in from a lovely Inn. We had some good birds, including a flock of Hobby's hawking insects with Swifts. We also had incredibly frustrating (and quite common) experiences with Cetti's Warbler and great looks at beautiful Banded Damoiselles.

My count for the 2 days.... 89 species seen and 58 Life birds.

For photos......

After this stop, it was time to begin our journey back to Heathrow. Thanks to Andy we had a great 2 days in the "garden spot of the UK". We could easily have spent far more time but that will have to be for later. Andy drove us back to London and drop us off at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza.

Birds seen in the UK

Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Great Cormorant
Gray Heron
Little Egret
Mute Swan
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Brant
Common Shelduck
Gadwall
Teal
Mallard
Garganey
Northern Shoveler
Common Pochard
Tufted Duck
Ruddy Duck
Western Marsh-Harrier
Kestrel
Hobby
Red-legged Partridge
Gray Partridge
Ring-necked Pheasant
Common Moorhen
Coot
Spoonbill
Oystercatcher
Pied Avocet
Northern Lapwing
Common Ringed Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Whimbrel
Curlew
Common Redshank
Common Greenshank
European Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull -(graellsii)
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Common Tern
Rock Pigeon
Stock Dove
Wood-Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Little Owl
Common Swift
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Sky Lark
Bank Swallow or Sand Martins
Barn Swallow
House Martin
Pied Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail - flavissima
Meadow Pipit
Wren
Dunnock
Blackbird
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Sedge Warbler
Great Reed-Warbler
Chiffchaff
Blackcap
Garden Warbler
Common Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat
Robin
Bearded Reedling/Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Coal Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Treecreeper
Jay
Magpie
Jackdaw
Rook
Carrion Crow
Starling
House Sparrow
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Linnet
Reed Bunting
Corn Bunting

May 19, 2007 (Saturday)
We left our hotel early in order to get to the airpot by 6AM. After some initial confusion we got checked in and through security, then met our group and our leader, James Lidster, at the gate. It was a short trip (only about 2 hours & 45 minutes) to Sofia where we were met by our local guides and driver around 2PM. While standing in the parking lot, I had my first lifer in Bulgaria.... a White Stork flew overhead.

The weather was gray and overcast with some drizzle as we began our long (5 hour) drive to the Central Rodopi Mountains. We made a couple of short rest stops en route... first at a McDonalds (A) and then along the roadside in the mountains (B)where we were able to pick up a few birds including a Willow Tit which was not on the checklist. We arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Dabrash, near Llubca around 7:15PM. The weather was still cold and wet but there were a few birds around the hotel (C) when we arrived. Dinner was at the hotel.

Hotel Dabrash


Birds seen 5/19

White Stork
Black Tern
Rock Pigeon
Pallid Swift (C)
Crag-Martin (C)
Barn Swallow (A)
House Martin (A)
White Wagtail (C)
Common Whitethroat (C)
(European) Robin (C)
Black Redstart (C)
Willow Tit (B)
Coal Tit (B)
Crested Tit (B)
Red-backed Shrike (A)
(Eurasian) Magpie
Hooded Crow (B)
Common Raven
European Starling
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (A)
Yellowhammer (C)
Black-headed Bunting
Species seen - 23


May 20, 2007 (Sunday)
We were up early hoping to get in some birding in before breakfast. Unfortunately it was still cold and wet and there wasn't much about. So, after a nice breakfast of eggs, cheese, bread and "meat". we left Llubca around 8:30AM for our drive to the Trigrad Gorge . The road through these steep cliffs is incredible.

This is also one of the best places in all of Bulgaria to find the equally spectacular Wallcreeper. As we drove the twisting road, looking down on the River Trigradska far below us, we kept our eyes peeled for likely spots to pullover. Fortunately, after much scanning, we were able to get great looks at this bird, plus another lovely bird, the Dipper.


Searching for Wallcreeper

Birds seen on 5/20

Black Stork
White Stork
Common Buzzard
Hobby
Common Sandpiper (1)BR> Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Gray-headed Woodpecker
Eurasian Crag-Martin
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin
White Wagtail
Gray Wagtail
(White-throated) Dipper
Wren
Dunnock
Blackbird
Mistle Thrush
Blackcap
European Robin
Black Redstart
Coal Tit
Wallcreeper
(Eurasian) Golden Oriole
Red-backed Shrike
Jay
Nutcracker
(Eurasian) Jackdaw
Hooded Crow
(European) Starling
House Sparrow
Chaffinch
(European) Serin
(Eurasian) Bullfinch
Rock Bunting

Species seen - 37

Leaving the Gorge, we continued our drive through the Rhodopi Mountains stopping along the way at Vodmypat Pass where we walked up a trail looking for Nutcrackers. The weather was still cold and rainy and Nutcrackers have a reputation of being difficult to see but we were lucky to get a good, if very brief, look at one. We also got great looks at Bullfinch (male & female) making it a very satisfying stop.

We left around 12:40PM for a drive to our lunch stop.Then it was yet another bone-jarring 5 hour drive through the mountains to our next hotel in Krumovgrad, a small town situated along the Kroumovitza River. We made a few rest stops along the way to stretch and do some birding but, mostly, we just drove.

We got to our hotel around 7:15PM and had dinner in a restaurant next door. There's not much you can say about Krumovgrad but it is a good jumping off point to some good birding spots.


Birding at Vodmypat Pass

May 21, 2007 (Monday)
We got up early again for a brief walk before breakfast. We walked down to the Kroumovitza River. (A) It was still cold and overcast, with some light rain.


Along the Kroumovitza River
We got a few nice birds before breakfast including Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Nightingale, and Woodchat Shrike. Then it was back to the hotel and breakfast.

Birds seen on 5/21

Gray Heron
Black Stork
White Stork
Honey-buzzard
Black Kite
Egyptian Vulture
Griffon Vulture
Western Marsh-Harrier
Common Buzzard
Kestrel
Hobby
Chukar
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Turtle-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Little Owl
Pallid Swift
Roller
Hoopoe
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Syrian Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
Crested Lark
Crag-Martin
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin
White Wagtail
Black-headed Wagtail
Tawny Pipit
Rock-Thrush
(Eurasian) Blackbird
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
Common Nightingale
Northern Wheatear
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Great Tit
Nuthatch
(Western) Rock Nuthatch
Red-backed Shrike
Lesser Gray Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Jay
Magpie
Jackdaw
Hooded Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Linnet
Cirl Bunting
Black-headed Bunting
Corn Bunting
Golden Oriole
Serin

Species seen - 59

After breakfast we drove out to explore the Kula Valley (B) : stopping at a field and wooded area for a walk . We made a stop at the Vulture feeding station but it was rough going because of the rain. The vultures were all perched like gargoyles on the far cliffs. So we decided to try down lower and come back up for the raptors when/if the weather cleared.

Clouded Sulphur

We drove back to the hotel to have lunch out of the rain. People laughed at us when we brought out our umbrellas earlier but, having realized how useful they can be, James went out and bought up a supply for the rest of the group. After lunch, we decided to try another spot down along the river called Studen Kladentz (C) The sun finally came out putting up the vultures so we decided to rush back up the the vulture feeding station for another attempt to see raptors in flight.

Then it was back to the hotel for dinner.

5/22/2007 (Tuesday)
It was still raining , so we skipped an early walk although I did walk down to take a look at the river which was decidedly higher than yesterday. After breakfast, we checked out of our hotel for the drive eastward to Burgas. We will be leaving the mountains after 3 days of cold wet weather and heading for the coast where, hopefully, the weather will be better. We've seen a remarkable number of birds considering the rain but we have missed a few things.

On our way out of the area, we stopped at Studen Kladentz (A) again for one last look to see if anything was flying before we left the area.

Checking out the area around the dam we found Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle and a Hawfinch . We then continued on our way, making a stop at Leskovets (B) for a very cooperative Isabelline Wheatear.


Isabelline Wheatear

Continuing on to Pastrofgor (C), we had a lovely picnic lunch while watching Imperial Eagle. There are only about 18 pairs of Imperial Eagles in Bulgaria so it was great to see this one. The weather was finally starting to clear up and it turned sunny and mild. Our picnic was in a lovely meadow beside the road which was full of blooming flowers and butterflies.

Butterfly highlights include: lots of Meadow Browns, Queen of Spain Fritillary , Black-veined White, Small Copper - male (1st brood), Blue sp. probably a Common Blue, Silver-washed Fritillary, Small Skipper and Painted Lady.

After lunch we continued on to an "unnamed woodland spot" (D) where we had a successful hunt for a Masked Shrike.

After a stop at Mandra Lake (E), we arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Lagun, at Pomorie, just outside Burgas. Pomorie is a really ugly town with tons of construction going on. There's nothing resembling a "beach" so it's hard to understand why this is considered a "resort".

Dinner at Hotel.

Birds seen on 5/22

Great Crested Grebe
Dalmatian Pelican (E)
Great Cormorant (E)
Pygmy Cormorant (E)
Little Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black Stork
White Stork
Mute Swan
Common Shelduck
Honey-buzzard
Egyptian Vulture
Griffon Vulture
Western Marsh-Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Common Buzzard
Long-legged Buzzard
Lesser Spotted Eagle (A)
Eastern Imperial Eagle (C)
Booted Eagle (A)
Kestrel
Black-winged Stilt
Yellow-legged Gull (E)
Rock Pigeon
Turtle-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Little Owl
Alpine Swift
Common Swift
Bee-eater (E)
Roller
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Calandra Lark
Crag-Martin
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin
Blackbird
Stonechat
Isabelline Wheatear (B)
Sombre Tit
Great Tit
Golden Oriole
Red-backed Shrike
Masked Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Jay
Magpie
Jackdaw
Hooded Crow
Starling
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Chaffinch
Goldfinch
Hawfinch (A)
Ortolan Bunting
Black-headed Bunting
Corn Bunting

Species seen - 59

5/23/2007 (Wednesday)
Before breakfast we took an early morning walk (6-7AM) down the street from the hotel to the Pomorie Salt Pans (A). There were not a lot of birds but we did have some nice ones like Little Terns, Crested Lark, Med Gulls, Pied Avocets and flying flocks of Curlew Sandpipers.

After breakfast, left the hotel to spend the morning in the Burgas Lakes Area (B) (visiting Vaya Lake causeway, Mandra Lake - both fresh water lakes). We walked along a long causeway lined with wild flowers blooming like crazy. A highlight in this area is when we found a Spur-winged Plover which may be a record for Bulgaria and some nice Collared Pratincoles

.

We then walked up a small hill overlooking the lake. Here we were treated to a flock of Rose-colored Starlings sitting in a bush. It was great to see these birds perched because, usually, you only see them flying by.

The sun finally came out at our picnic lunch stop in the reedbeds (C) where we had a Penduline Tit and where we also had some nice leps like Dark-veined White, Large Copper and Glanville Fritillary. We also had White-legged Damselflies.


Dark-veined White


Common Blue

After lunch we drove some very narrow roads through some deep woods looking for Black Woodpecker with no luck (D) but we stopped at a nice overlook where we had a large flight of Honey Buzzards. In with this flight we also had Short-toed Eagles and Black Storks. The scrub fields on either side of the road were filled with flowering plants and butterflies like Meadow Browns, more Dark-veined Whites, lots of Blues, Small Heaths and lots of Frits.

Along the roadside were numerous White Storks feeding young with Spanish Sparrows which nest in the White Stork nests.

With the weather getting warmer, we visited the Burgas Salt Pans (Atanasovo Salt Pans) (E) with the city of Burgas in the distance. Here we added more shorebirds although not in large numbers.

Moving along to a major roadside "bus stop" we scanned the salt pans (F) . We made a stop at a gas station for drinks and bathroom stops and then walked down to the pans to get a different view of the shoreline, walking down to a gazebo overlook (G) .

Then it was back to our hotel for dinner.

Birds seen on 5/23

Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Great White Pelican (B) (E)
Dalmatian Pelican (B) (E)
Great Cormorant
Pygmy Cormorant
Gray Heron
Purple Heron (B)
Little Egret
Squacco Heron (E)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (E)
Little Bittern (B) (G)
Black Stork (D)
White Stork (B)
Glossy Ibis (B)
Spoonbill (E)
Mute Swan
Ruddy Shelduck
Common Shelduck
Gadwall (B)
Mallard (B)
Garganey (B)
Common Pochard (B) (E)
Ferruginous Duck (E)
Honey-buzzard (B) (D)
Short-toed Eagle (D)
Common Buzzard
Long-legged Buzzard (D)
Lesser Spotted Eagle
Booted Eagle
Hobby (D)
Common Moorhen (B)
Coot (B)
Oystercatcher (G)
Black-winged Stilt (A) (B) (G)
Pied Avocet (A) (G)
Collared Pratincole (B)
Northern Lapwing
Spur-winged Plover (1) (B)
Black-bellied Plover (F)
"Kentish Plovers" (F)
Marsh Sandpiper (G)
Little Stint (A) (F) (G)
Curlew Sandpiper (A) (F)
Yellow-legged Gull (A)
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull (A)
Sandwich Tern (A)
Common Tern (A)
Little Tern (A)
Whiskered Tern (B)
Black Tern (B)
Rock Pigeon
Turtle-Dove (B)
Common Cuckoo (B)
Common Swift
Bee-eater
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Crested Lark
Bank Swallow (B)
Barn Swallow (B)
House Martin (B)
Black-headed Wagtail (B) (G)
Blackbird
Great Reed-Warbler (C)
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (A)
Short-toed Treecreeper (D)
Penduline-Tit (C)
Golden Oriole
Red-backed Shrike (B)
Magpie
Hooded Crow (B)
Rose-colored Starling (B)
Starling
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow (E)
Tree Sparrow (E)
Chaffinch (D)
Goldfinch
Black-headed Bunting (E)
Corn Bunting (B)

Species seen - 81

5/24/2007 (Thursday)
We left the hotel after breakfast for the drive north. We made a stop at some more Salt Pans around Pomorie (A) where we had the usual Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Avocets (many on nests) and Black-winged Stilts. We also managed to pull a Ruff out which was a new bird for the trip. We also go really un-satisfying looks at a Broad-billed Sandpiper. We then made another stop at a high overlook road (B) to search for raptors.

Salt Pans

Birds seen on 5/24

Great Cormorant
Little Egret
Ruddy Shelduck
Common Shelduck
Osprey
(Northern) Goshawk (B)
Long-legged Buzzard
Lesser Spotted Eagle
Black-winged Stilt (A)
Pied Avocet (A)
Common Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Little Stint (A)
Curlew Sandpiper (A)
Broad-billed Sandpiper (A)
Ruff (1) (A)
Yellow-legged Gull
Common Tern
Little Tern (A)
Rock Pigeon
Turtle-Dove
Common Cuckoo (B)
Eagle-Owl (D)
Alpine Swift
Common Swift
Bee-eater
Middle Spotted Woodpecker (C)
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Syrian Woodpecker
Barn Swallow (C)
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin
Tawny Pipit
Blackbird
Blackcap
Semicollared Flycatcher (C)
Robin
Great Tit
Blue Tit (C)
Nuthatch
Golden Oriole
Red-backed Shrike (B)
Jay
Magpie
Jackdaw
Hooded Crow
Starling
House Sparrow
Chaffinch (C)
Black-headed Bunting (B)
Corn Bunting (A)

Species seen - 51

Our next stop was at a lovely wooded area at Goritca (C) . We were searching for Semi-collared Flycatcher and, although we had several nest boxes, the birds were very elusive so we walked across the road to a lovely roadside restaurant for lunch. After lunch we returned to do some more birding in the woods. There were lots of birds singing but not a lot of species, mostly Blue Tits and Chaffinches but we were finally able to get great looks at the Flycatcher.

Goritca Woods

We drove north through Varna, a lovely busy resort City. No time to sightsee but I did grab a quick shot of the Cathedral out the bus window.

Cathedral in Varna

It's hard when you're on a birding trip. On the one hand you get into remote areas most tourists never see but, on the other hand, there's never any time to really see anything other than birds.

We finally reached our destination at Kavarna, just north of Varna. On the way to our hotel, the WHITE LAGOON, (D) we made a stop at the base of some cliffs to search for Eagle Owl. After much scanning with no luck, we called it quits and continued on to our hotel, a lovel resort hotel with an actual beach. After checking in, we had a nice dinner. After dinner we walked back to our earlier stop at the base of the cliffs to try again for the Eagle Owl. This time we found the bird perched high on the cliffs and got great, if distant looks, at the bird. We were also able to watch it later flying about before walking back to our hotel for the night.

Scanning for Eagle Owl

5/25/2007 (Friday)
We did some quick birding around the hotel before breakfast and had Syrian Woodpecker, Lesser Gray-headed Shrikes, Great Tits and some "way out there" Red-necked Grebes. (A)

After breakfast we drove out to Durankulak Lake Reserve (B) where we spent a couple of hours.The sea was thick and sludgy but there was a vast expanse of reed beds and the Paddyfield Warbler reaches its western limits in this area so that was our target bird and, fortunately, we got great looks at this bird along with Pied Wheatear, Savi's Warbler, Black-headed Wagtails, Little Bittern, Golden Orioles and a roosting colony of Cormorants and Reed Buntings.


Pied Wheatear

We then went on to SHABLA LAKE (C) for birding and a picnic lunch. We had some nice birds around the lake: Ferruginous Ducks, Squacco herons, a Common Crane, Little Grebe, Gull-billed terns and Spoonbills. We also had a fly-over Elenora's Falcon with its long, slim, 2-toned wings. On the far side of the lake we had very distant views of a Citrine Warbler which is a very rare bird for this area.

Leaving the lake, we drove to the clifftop overlook at Yailata (D) .... there were great views of the cliffs and sea and the meadows were filled with flowers, especially poppies. Lichen covered rocks were everywhere. It was a spectacular sight and a great spot to sit and enjoy the many Calandra Larks displaying overhead.

Finally we visited Cape Kaliakra Steppe Reserve (E) where we spent about 1 1/2 hours exploring the peninsula looking at the old ruins and scanning the sea for birds. Sandstone cliffs rising over 600 feet offered great views of a colony of Shags roosting on a rock island. People first began settling on this penisula in the 4th century BC.

Images of Kaliakra

Birds seen on 5/25

Little Grebe (1) (C)
Red-necked Grebe (A)
Great Crested Grebe
Eared Grebe
Great Cormorant (B)
(European) Shag
Gray Heron
Purple Heron
Little Egret (C)
Squacco Heron (C)
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Little Bittern (B)
Glossy Ibis
Spoonbill (C)
Mute Swan (C)
Common Shelduck (C)
Gadwall
Ferruginous Duck (C)
Osprey (1) (B)
Honey-buzzard
Western Marsh-Harrier (C)
Long-legged Buzzard
Kestrel
Eleonora's Falcon - (C)(1)
Hobby (B)
Common Crane (1) (C)
Coot
Black-winged Stilt
Pied Avocet
Little Ringed Plover
Little Stint
Yellow-legged Gull (D)
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Gull-billed Tern (C)
Common Tern
Little Tern
Rock Pigeon
Turtle-Dove
Collared-Dove
Common Cuckoo (B) (C)
Alpine Swift
Common Swift
Bee-eater (D)
Roller
(Eurasian) Hoopoe (D)
Syrian Woodpecker (A)
Calandra Lark
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin
White Wagtail (B)
Citrine Wagtail (C)
Black-headed Wagtail (B)
Tawny Pipit (1) (D)
Blackbird
Savi's Warbler (B)
Paddyfield Warbler (B)
Great Reed-Warbler (B) (C)
Common Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat
Barred Warbler (A)
African Stonechat
Pied Wheatear (B) (D)
Isabelline Wheatear
Bearded Reedling/Tit
Great Tit (A)
Golden Oriole (B)
Red-backed Shrike
Lesser Gray Shrike (A)
Magpie
Jackdaw
Hooded Crow
Rose-colored Starling
Starling
House Sparrow
Goldfinch
Black-headed Bunting
Reed Bunting (B)
Corn Bunting (B)

Species seen - 80

We then made the drive back to our hotel. I walked down the road a bit and found a lovely Eastern Dappled White butterfly nectaring on some lupines. Then it was off to dinner at the hotel.

5/26/2007 (Saturday)
We met before breakfast for some quick birding behind the hotel. (A) The weather was hazy and overcast but that seems to be common here along the caost and should burn off during the day.

After breakfast we checked out of the hotel. We made a quick stop along the roadside near Kavarna (B) looking for Levant's sparrowhawk against the hillside but with no luck so we continued our drive along the Romanian border stopping in the town of Silistra (C) where we found the first Rooks of the trip: a large roosting tree.

Birds seen on 5/26

Little Grebe
Red-necked Grebe (D)
Great Crested Grebe (D)
Eared Grebe
Great White Pelican (D)
Dalmatian Pelican (D)
Great Cormorant (E)
Pygmy Cormorant (E)
Gray Heron
Purple Heron (D)
Great Egret (D)
Little Egret (D)
Squacco Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron (D)
Little Bittern
White Stork
Glossy Ibis
Spoonbill (D)
Mute Swan
Common Pochard (D)
Ferruginous Duck (D) (E)
Honey-buzzard
White-tailed Eagle (D)
Long-legged Buzzard
Lesser Spotted Eagle
Kestrel
Common Moorhen
Coot
Yellow-legged Gull (E)
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern (D)
Black Tern (D)
Rock Pigeon
Turtle-Dove
Collared-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Common Swift
Bee-eater
Roller
Syrian Woodpecker
Wood Lark (A) juvenile
Barn Swallow (E)
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin (E)
Blackbird
Blackcap
Lesser Whitethroat
Barred Warbler (A)
Great Tit
Penduline Tit (D)
Golden Oriole (A)
Red-backed Shrike (A)
Lesser Gray Shrike (A)
Jay
Magpie (D)
Jackdaw
Rook (C)
Hooded Crow
Rose-colored Starling
Starling
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Chaffinch
Corn Bunting

Species seen - 64

Lake Srebarna Reserve (D) was our next stop. We were greeted by a huge White-tailed Eagle soaring overhead. This is a really great marsh area but the weather turned so incredibly hot that it made for very rough going as we had our picnic lunch and then walked along the edge of the marsh. There were some nice butterflies along the path: lots of Common Blues, Small Skippers, Glanville Frits, Purple Emperors (Lesser of Freyers?) and Grizzled Skippers but it was SO HOT!!! It made us almost long for the cool, wet weather of the Rhodopi Mountains.

We couldn't be this close to the Romanian border without making a stop at the River Danube (E) . Our stop was a very popular local hang out for boaters and people looking to enjoy a nice spot on the river but, aside from a few birds flying by (Ferruginous Ducks, both Cormorants, Black terns and Yellow-legged Gulls), it was kind of quiet.

We continued on to our destination at the tiny village of Vetren. We were too many people for the Inn so a few of us got to stay at a nearby guest house which was a lovely experience. I really enjoyed the short walk down country lanes to dinner at the Inn with the rest of the group.

5/27/2007 (Sunday)
We walked down to the inn for breakfast past lovely little houses and gardens. The weather was sunny and it promised to be another hot day.

After breakfast we walked down to the crossroads to await the bus. It was really nice to stay in a small village like this. You get a much better sense of what it's like living in the country when you don't stay in hotels.

Martin at the well ...

Our first stop of the day was at a cliffside Bee-eater colony (A). Then it was on to Nova Cerna Marsh (B) where we walked out a long road. I got great looks at a Purple Emperor which landed on my hand and refused to leave. It yielded some great photos. There's so question about the ID of these bugs. The photo guide suggests Freyer's Purple Emperor is the one found in this area.

Freyer's Purple Emperor ?

We then drove for about an hour to a picnic lunch stop along the river (C) . Lots of people, some frogs, snakes, blue (male) and green (female) damoiselles, a turtle (or terrapin) but not so many birds.

We arrived at our Hotel in Etara which sits right next to an Ethnographic Village (D) . After checking in, we walked through the village from 4-5PM doing the tourist-thing. It was very fascinating look at a way of life that is, unfortunately, disappearing. I wish we could have spoken more with the craftsmen working there.

Birds seen on 5/27

Pygmy Cormorant
Gray Heron
Little Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Stork
Common Buzzard
Lesser Spotted Eagle
Wood-Pigeon
Turtle-Dove
Collared-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Bee-eater (B)
Roller (B)
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
House Martin
White Wagtail
Black-headed Wagtail
Blackbird
Great Reed-Warbler
Common Chiffchaff
Spotted Flycatcher
Marsh Tit
Great Tit
Golden Oriole
Red-backed Shrike
Jay
Magpie
Jackdaw
Hooded Crow
Starling
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Goldfinch
Yellowhammer
Cirl Bunting
Corn Bunting

Species seen - 37

We then drove to the Sokolsky Monastary (E) . Again it was not a particularly birdy place. We were hoping for Black Woodpecker but no luck so we drove back to the hotel for our final dinner together as a group.

5/28/2007 (Monday)
Today is pretty much a travel day. After breakfast at our hotel, we began the long drive back to Sofia. We got to the airport in time for lunch before check in and boarding our BA plane back to London.

It's been a great trip. Traveling through Bulgaria has been a fascinating experience. The cities are not particularly attractive, showing the soviet-era concrete block constructions. But the countryside is lovely. Of course, many of the things we find so lovely - the fields of poppies, the lack of industrial blight, the open spaces - are the result of the extreme poverty of the country.

There is little industry. The big communal farms are gone, replaced by individual family garden plots and much of the land lies fallow. Much of the countryside looks half deserted as if much of the population has moved out. There is an eery obsession with posting the photos of the dead.

All of this will change now that Bulgaria has joined the EEU. Already you can see signs of re-building, especially along the coast where resort condos are going up at a frightening rate. It is probably too much to hope that the re-building efforts will take into account the need to preserve local environments like the coastal marshes so I am very glad we made this trip now.

The Sunbirds group has been an absolute pleasure. My thanks to everyone for their patience and for helping "the American" get on all those new European birds. I was deeply impressed with the range of interests in the group and the infectious spirit of fun that made every day a treat.

Our fearless Sunbird leader , James Lidster and our local guide, Nikolay Dilchev were extremely knowledgeable and were great at getting us on the birds. Thanks also to all the local guides who kept us well fed and made sure everything went smoothly.

5/29/2007 (Tuesday)
Although the trip officially ended yesterday with our arrival back in the UK, Martin, Bill, Naomi and I stayed overnight at Heathrow before making our connection back to Philadelphia today. After an outrageously expensive breakfast at the hotel, we got to Heathrow for our BA flight back home, arriving in Philadelphia around 2:30PM.