Day 2: May 25th
Route: Yagodina village – Trigrad Gorge – Smolyan – Krumovgrad
We started the day with a BANG!
We met at 7.00 for a pre-breakfast walk. The second half of the group arrived late last night and the morning wasn’t very easy but we tried to be as active as possible. Just around the hotel we noted the usual birds: Pallid Swift, Serin, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Redstart, Linnet, Tree Sparrow and others. Later during the walk we heard a Willow Tit, Marsh Warbler and a distant Black Woodpecker drumming and calling. One of the participants managed to see a Goshawk but the bird didn’t perform for the whole group.
Just when we were on our way to the hotel, I heard the famous “Pleased to meet you”… Rosefiiinch! Shouted I and tried to get everybody on the bird. Oh my, I haven’t seen this bird for ages. Although a regular nesting bird I don’t have the chance to visit the nesting grounds of the species. But what is more important is the discovery of the species in this new location (at least for me).
After a lovely breakfast with home made jam from wild berries made by our hotel owners, we drove to the place for our main target for the day: the Wallcreeper. Along the way we saw several Dippers and Grey Wagtails. Once we arrived at the site, there were dozens of Alpine Swifts which were filling the air. They were up and down the narrow gorge creating an amazing whistle with their wings when they fly past. What a sighting!
And the Wallcreeper… Within 3 minutes of our arrival I managed to get on the bird! I love it when it works like this! Then the second bird from the pair turned up and they started displaying. The male was giving small presents to the female! Well, job done! Everybody was very, very happy! The bird was new to most participants and certainly a main target for them to join the trip. Shall I say we are already successful? Not yet, we have many more birds to come.
After enjoying this fantastic bird for some time we headed to the high mountains to look for birds from the conifer area: Nutcracker, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest and Crossbill. Did we get them? Read on!
About an hour after we left the Wallcreeper area we arrived at superb pine tree forest. As usual I travel with my window open and heard the call of the Nutcracker. Pulled out quickly and there it was! A Spotted Nutcracker was sitting on the top of a spruce tree doing its usual loud call. Check!
At the same time, a Firecrest was singing from the nearby trees! Further up the road two Ring Ouzels were communicating with each other and competing who will sing louder and with higher variety of its song. Mistle Thush flew past and a brief call of a Tree Pipit were noted. Then out of nowhere a hail storm started and ended this magnificent show of the local birdlife! Boy, it was full with bird song! I love this place!
We had to press on and headed to the nearby town of Smolyan where we had lunch. Couple of hours later we were already in the Eastern Rhodopes. The drive was exhausting and I had to stop at my traditional place in the town of Kardzhali for a rest. Pygmy Cormorants and several Great White Egrets flew over.
My plan for the rest of the day were ruined by another heavy rain storm so we had to drive on. Shortly before we arrive in our hotel the people from the second van spotted couple of Rollers and pulled over. Luckily by the time we checked in our hotel weather improved and we took a walk to the nearby park. Just by the hotel we noted the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and further along we had two more joined by two Common Redstarts! This is the first time I see these Redstart here here and hurried up to record them for our national atlas of breeding birds!
This was the end of a pretty exciting day. I didn’t even ask the group which would be their bird of the day as it was clear that the Wallcreeper will be the one. For me though, it would be the Common Rosefinch. We counted a total of 71 species which I reckon is pretty good for this route.
Stay tuned and check tomorrow’s birding story!