Today I start a new birding tour in Bulgaria. It will be five days long and will cover a great range of habitats between Sofia and the Black sea coast at Burgas.
The route for the day is Sofia – Burgas with stops along the way.
I collected Geoff from his hotel in Sofia early in the morning and we headed to Vitosha mountains where were going to spend the first half of the day. I wanted us to devote some time to the birds from the pine forest, namely: Spotted Nutcracker, Goldcrest, Crossbill, Ring Ouzel, Willow Tit and others.
Pine forest at Vitosha mountains.
We arrived at our first stop in good time for the morning bird activity. Once we got out of the car we started logging bird after bird: Bullfinches were calling actively from the nearby scrub, dozens of Crossbills kept flying over, Ring Ouzel, Nutcracker and Willow Tit were all calling just around the car park. Well, that was hard work! What a great morning!
After this first impression, we decided to take a walk in the area and get better views of the mentioned birds. They did perform quite well and we managed to get fantastic views of the Ring Ouzel, Dunnock and Nutcracker just a few meters away from us. We saw about 10 different Nutcrackers that were actively collecting and storing food for the coming winter. We spent a good couple of hours of relaxed birding seeing some very good birds. In this first place alone, Geoff had about 10 new birds. That has got to be a good start to the trip.
Further down the road, we stopped again to look for Crested Tit. Shortly after stopping, I heard Black Woodpecker flying past and a Crested Tit calling. All of a sudden a juvenile Golden Eagle appeared out of nowhere mobbed by two ravens and then a Goshawk dashed down the hill and a Common Buzzard started calling from the air. I am not exaggerating! They all appeared after each other.
We added a few new birds to the trip list and it suddenly was midday. We had to make our way to the coast as I had planned some good places to stop. The trip to the next place took about 3 hours because of some diversion on the road.
The Raptor hills
The Raptor Hills was one of the two sites I had planned before arriving at Burgas. It is a grassland area on an elevated hill where birds of prey often gather to feed or just fly over. As it was fairly late in the day there weren’t many birds flying around but we still managed to see a couple of Long-legged and Common Buzzards, Marsh Harrier, Kestrels, Rook, Jackdaws, Northern Wheatear, Red-throated Pipit, and Corn Bunting. As we have been scanning around I spotted two distant but very large birds. These have to be the Imperial Eagles. We drove around the hill and stopped the car about 200 m right next to them. Wow, What a great view! They were so impressive! Such a great bird! Having in mind that there are only about 30 pairs left of the country, it is a real privilege to be able to see one of these birds.
After this very strong emotional moment, we decided to go as the sun was setting. Our next target bird was Eagle Owl which lives in an abandoned quarry not far from where we were. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it and we headed to our hotel. It’s been a very long day and we needed some rest.
Well, we logged over 40 birds today which is not too bad for a traveling day. A bird of the trip so far was the Imperial Eagle, although the Nutcracker and Ring Ouzel are also quite high on the list.