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Birdwatching in Bulgaria: tailored trip 8-15 March, day 5

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Day 5 or should I say day and night 5 with an extension into the night. Today we started at 3,30. Our main aim for the day was Capercaillie. We wanted to be at the lekking site at 5 a.m. so we needed to plan accordingly. We grabbed a coffee along the way and got onto a superb 4X4 Lada Niva. This was the car that was going to take us to the lekking site or at least near it. There was still some snow up in the mountains so we needed a 4WD car. The car was coping with the snow and ice with no problems whatsoever. This costed about 12 l  of petrol / 100 km.

At 4.30 am we were at our starting point to the lek. We paced in full silence. The snowflakes were reflecting the light from our head torches and we walked in nice confidence. A “falling star” witnessed our way to the lek. Soon we were there. We switched off the torches It was only us, the tall pine trees and the stars. It was 5 a.m. and still totally dark. We were going to wait for the first calling birds as people usually do at the prime time for lekking. It is now 5,20; 5,30; 5,40; 5,50; 6.00 the time never passes. We started moving around and our local guide was like a statue. This is what the dynamic contemporary life does to people. We can’t even stand still for an hour. We can’t enjoy Nature. We are not comfortable even with our own thoughts. And that is just for an hour with no computers, internet, facebook, or mobile phones. This was quite a test that can make you think about the way people live in cities and small towns. Not a single call from the birds. Occasional screech of the trees blown from the wind made us hop and think about the Capercaillie call. Could have been?! Soon we started walking aiming to at least flush a bird. No. Not this time. We tried around the lek. Visited a second lek. We walked in the snow with lots of tracks from wild animals. Walked along the tracks where our guide has seen them before but no luck. It was still early in the season. We were aware that the lekking time is about a month later than now but we were still willing to try. This was the only time we had. After a couple of hours walking we decided to give up. We had already spent 7 hours on the field and was just 11.00 a.m. What a morning!

The snow is too much for a Capercaillie. Beautiful morning though

On the way down from the mountains we stopped for a while to enjoy the view of at least 4 Balkan chamois.

Having missed the Three-toed and the White-backed Woodpeckers we wanted to make another attempt for the first species. our guide assured us that the site is not accessible but we still wanted to try. Well, we asked for it. The track was quite snowy, stony, slippery and everything but accessible. We quickly gave up and got off from the car. A big silhouette showed from round the corner. It was the Lord of the Sky: a Golden Eagle. It was really close.

Golden Eagle by Iordan Hristov
Golden Eagle by Iordan Hristov

After this unsuccessful attempt we decided to try for the White-backed Woodpecker. We walked for about half an hour along a track by a river until we reached a suitable beech forest. Stayed there for a while and…No. Not this time. It was really an unsuccessful day. Every our attempt was doomed.

On the way to the car we saw two Balkan Chamois that were calmly grazing by the river.

After lunch we decided to leave the area. It enough of snow, mountain roads and cold weather. It was time for a little bit of warmth. Soon we were the lowlands where the life was different: Sun.

Along the way we logged a Long-legged Buzzard, Calandra Lark, Syrian Woodpecker, Little Owl, Stonechat and the first for the year Crag Martins.

We arrived in our hotel in the late afternoon to enjoy a deserved rest.

Tomorrow we are trying again for the White-backed Woodpecker and then we travel to Greece where we hope to see Black Vultures and other birds of prey.

Tomorrow’s start is 7 a.m. We shall sleep more 🙂

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