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Birding break in Bulgaria: day 1

birding break Bulgaria

Just started a new birding break in Bulgaria with a group of 15 keen students on bird identification. We shall spend 4 days in the Eastern Rhodope mountains looking for local specialities.

Day 1: Bessapari hills

Our birding break in Bulgaria started from an area about an hour drive east of Sofia called Bessapari Hills. The site is well known for its open landscape and steppe habitat. As we were driving into the site, the people from the leading car heard an Eastern Orphean Warbler and Common Whitethroat. When driving along we spotted our first Calandra and Crested Lark. Right from the car park, we spotted the local Little Owl which was waiting for us. What a wonderful place!

farmland habitat, image (c) Iordan Hristov

We started our walk along an old track overlooking the fields covered in blossoming rape flower seeds. Shortly after that we spotted a beautiful male Montagu’s Harrier hunting low over the fields and a swarm of swallows and all 3 species of swifts were flying right above our heads. It was great to compare Common and Pallid Swift, and the Alpine was dominating in silhouette.

Alpine Swift, image (c) Iordan Hristov

Further along the track, we spotted our first Black-eared Wheatear. A beautiful male was sitting right on top of a rock showing nicely to the group. Two distant hoopoes flew across the valley and linnets were calling from different sides. A few metres up the track we spotted several Northern Wheatears and Calandra Larks were singing from nearby perches. Tawny Pipit was also singing actively! Cracking!

I spotted a large distant bird gaining height on the thermals! Goshawk! Wow, what a great bird! Shortly after that, we added Long-legged Buzzard to the list.

distant juv Goshawk, image (c) Iordan Hristov

It was time for lunch so we headed to a nearby shelter to have our picnic. Driving along the track we spotted several Whinchats and a Hoopoe which posed nicely for a picture to some of the group.

Break from birding?

At the lunch spot, I just couldn’t leave the binoculars and there was a reason for that. We always spot something. This time it was a pair of Short-toed Eagles that were hunting and intruding the territory of a local pair of Common Buzzards. They weren’t happy! We saw numerous attacks of the Buzzards onto the eagles trying to chase them away! What a spectacular sighting!

imm. Short-toed Eagle which has not fully developed his brown hood yet, image (c) Iordan Hristov

Just as we were resting, we spotted a Little Owl sitting in the chimney of the shelter where we had our lunch! Yet another touching experience for people from the group. This was the first sighting of Little Owl for some of the group members and they were literary hugging each other in congrats of the observation!

Little Owl, image (c) Iordan Hristov

Just as we were to leave the place we decided to stop for a while. A few seconds later we spotted a large group of about 30 Calandra Larks flying low above the field. Wow, there must be a raptor! A Saker Falcon! Shouted out one of the group members! Oh my! This was superb! Seeing Saker Falcon chasing Calandra Larks is not something you see every day. By the time we managed to take a picture, the Saker gained height and we couldn’t take a proper one. Anyway, it was great to see this spectacle of nature!

very distant Saker Falcon, image (c) Iordan Hristov

Travel to Eastern Rhodopes mountains

The rest of the day was fairly quiet but what a start! En route, we saw a Collared Pratincole flying above the car on the motorway and more Montague’s Harriers along the road.

Once in the Rhodopes we had some rain and spotted only two Little Owls sitting on chimneys as they do. We stopped at a roadside layby shortly before we arrive at our lodge to enjoy the bird song. Absolutely stunning listening to all the birds singing: Woodlark, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting, Eastern Bonneli’s Warbler, flying over Hawfinch, and Nightingales! I love this place!

What a superb day! We had an amazing list of raptors seen: Montagu’s Harrier, Goshawk, Long-legged and Common Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Short-toed Eagle and Kestrel! Don’t forget this is just the start of our birding break in Bulgaria!

Stay tuned for more raptors. We are going into their heaven!

3 thoughts on “Birding break in Bulgaria: day 1”

  1. Hello Jordan, always interesting to read your messages. I’m already looking forward to your next post and I get the feeling that we are traveling together in my favorite area. Have fun with the group, get them excited about bird watching and nature conservation.

  2. Pingback: Birding break in Bulgaria: day 2 - Birdwatching and Photography in Bulgaria

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