Route: Bansko – Kresna gorge – Melnik
Weather: hot, 30 degrees with some breeze, and overcast at lunchtime.
Today we change the mountainous habitats with the hot Mediterranean ones. We started a bit earlier and in 40 minutes we were at Kresna Gorge. A prime site for any nature lover.
Shortly after we stopped the bus, I saw our first Griffon Vultures. A few of them had perched conveniently for us to scope. There you go, the first results from the change of habitats are here.
We started our walk at our usual rate and 200m after the start we stopped to look at the cliffs with the vultures. Bird after bird we started noting some of the highlights. Golden Eagle is definitely one of those high on the list. The bird patrolled the area and showed really well. Then we saw a distant Honey Buzzard, and we had a brief view of a Levant Sparrowhawk. Further down the track, we heard our first Subalpine Warbler and Eastern Bonneli’s Warbler. Other birds we saw were Hawfinches, Golden Oriole, Red-rumped Swallow, and many others.
The herpetologists got both species of Tortoises: Hermans and Spur-thighed. The latter was even seen laying eggs which was a rather spectacular and memorable experience. It was the first time that some of the herpetologists in the group had seen this in Nature.
Further along the track we reached a lovely valley with a mountainous river all covered with Oriental Plane trees. Here we were supposed to find a Greek Stream Frog and we did but it took us some time to get one. There were supposed to be many more and we were getting only ted poles. We found our first Eastern Spectre (Coliaeschna microstigma) and a cordulegaster sp., which couldn’t catch and identify.
It was a very intense morning and we decided to stop for a long lunch in a local restaurant. It continued longer than expected. Some of us wanted to try some extreme outdoor activity riding a trolley across the river. That was super exciting not only for the lady but also for us watching her.
In the meantime, Toni had captured a Dice snake and the rest of the group spent time photographing it. It was our first one for the trip and apparently, it is fairly rare in Germany.
After all this excitement we decided to stop at one more place in the gorge but we couldn’t find anything different. Thus the next stop was well accepted as we got a few goodies. Exactly 5 minutes after our arrival, Anton arrived with a lovely viper (Vipera ammodytes). It was our first one for the trip and well anticipated. We spent a good time with it photographing it. Then he and Mo took a sidewalk and left me with the others on the track. It was right along a stone wall: the ideal place for reptiles. The results were not late. Just as we split, I heard this snake sneaking out. It was a large one. I had a minute to see its marking and noticed it wasn’t poisonous so I grabbed it immediately. It was a large Caspian Whip snake. What a lovely creature. We spent a good half an hour photographing it and measuring its internal temperature and length. It was a brilliant 140 cm! Well, this makes it the largest snake I have ever got.
We got some good birds along here as well: Ophean Warbler, Peregrine Falcon, Black-headed Bunting, Sombre Tit, and Short-toed Eagle. This made it a great end of the day.
It was getting a bit late so we decided to hit the road. We arrived at our hotel in Melnik at about 7 pm, giving us enough time for a quick shower before dinner.