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Birdwatching trip in Bulgaria 2023: day 8 of 10

Booted Warbler

Day 8th: May 31st

Route: Shabla and Durankulak lakes

Today was another absolutely memorable day! Something more, it is a day that will take us in the history of birding in Bulgarian ornithology! Read on to the end to see why.

Tuylenovo rocks. View from my balcony, image: Iordan Hristov

We started with the pre-breakfast walk at 7.00 around the hotel surroundings. Weather was sunny but windy. Just outside our hotel we saw a fantastic looking Black throated Diver in summer plumage. What a stunning bird that was! The Pied Wheatear was just outside our hotel and we had fantastic views of males singing from roof tops. We saw a distant Long-legged Buzzard but the highlights were at breakfast time.

We were just drinking our coffee when a dozen Rose-coloured Starling flew above our heads. Oh, my! How often have you had that? A few minutes later when the excitement settled down a little bit and we managed to sip from our coffees, about half a dozen Red-footed Falcons flew over! Most people from the group had left their binoculars in their rooms and had to use mine. “Never leave your binoculars behind”, a hard learnt rule that everybody will remember.

This has got to be a lucky day! Some of the group had already gone to their rooms and missed them so I was hoping we get the birds one more time.

Tuylenovo village, image: Iordan Hristov

After breakfast we headed to Durankulak lake where our main target bird was the Paddyfield Warbler. It was a bit breezy so I didn’t have a great hope. We spent about half an hour on the spot and had fleeting views of small warblers but never managed to see them well and be sure. We continued down the path along the sand dunes when I heard strange noise from one of the bushes. There was a bird song which was not familiar to me. I checked a few different birds but neither was fitting the song of the bird in the bushes. I walked around the bush and saw a Sedge Warbler. All good but “the bird” was still singing and not showing. We spent another 30 minutes at the spot and a part of the group finally gave up and continued for the promised coffee and ice-cream. Four people and I decided to stay. The bird calmed down and showed up nicely for a few pictures. We managed to record the song.

The bird was very different from anything I had ever seen! It was warm brown in colour, the size of a reed warbler but the bill shape and an obvious supercilium made it look very different! To me it looks a lot like a Booted Warbler but is it possible? I sent the pictures to the ornithological community and nobody could tell immediately what the bird was. Later on during the day, various experts from abroad started confirming one by one: Booted Warbler. One, two, three, four, experts were in one opinion, Booted Warbler. The head of the Bulgarian Ornithological Centre looked at the sonogram and confirmed. The most authentic confirmation came from Killian Mullarney (the illustrator of the Collins bird guide) who confirmed that is undebatable Booted Warbler! Ohhh, My God!


Booted Warbler

Booted Warbler, image: Iordan Hristov

The last report of the species was about 20 years ago and it was not confirmed!

After this excitement we continued to the western end of Durankulak lake but couldn’t enter because of vegetation and we moved over to Shabla lake. Water level was quite high but we managed to add some more birds to our list: Slender billed Gull, Pintail and Greenshank. A Barred Warbler was singing right next to us. There weren’t that many birds so we headed to the nearby lighthouse for seawatching. We saw several Shags and a distant Arctic Skua.

Our plan was to have earlier dinner and head out again to look for an Eagle Owl and Nightjar. So we did. On our way we saw a Grey Partridge which was right on the road.

Once we arrived at the Eagle Owl site i heard the alarm call of Blackbirds. That has got to be it. Just made a small step for better look and an Eagle Owl took off. That was a quick tick. We continued down the path to try and relocate the bird and managed to have another view of the bird in flight. It wasn’t the best view but it was an obvious Eagle Owl.

It was getting dark and the right time for Nightjar had come. Unfortunately it didn’t turn up. However when were right by the cars we heard a Little Bittern calling. It flew right over our heads. Made a few circles and disappeared. What a fantastic moment! It was nearly 22.00 so we called it a day. It was a long and full with emotions day.

On the way to our hotel we stopped the cars for a Golden Jackal and a Red Fox both of which were by the side of the road. Time for bed and getting ready for our last full day of birding.

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