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Natural history tour in Bulgaria: day 9

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Caspian Whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius)

Route: Kerkini lake, western embankment

Weather: hot, 30+ degrees C

We started the day with a pre-breakfast walk. It was supposed to start at 7 am but several keen people were out before that. I just love to see that 😊 Shortly after we gathered, we started noting all the good birds. A family of Hawfinches was sitting on a bare tree and showing beautifully. We had fantastic views of juvenile birds with yellow heads. The same trees used by the hawfinches were very popular. We had Turtle Doves coming and purring, and Bee-eaters coming and going but the highlight have to be a pair of Masked Shrikes. How amazing is that? Right in front of our hotel a pair of masked shrikes. To top it on, a dark Eleonora’s Falcon flew over only a few meters above our heads and two Rollers flew past. All of this was within the first half an hour before breakfast. We made a list of over 30 species in less than an hour! What a fantastic morning!

We had a lovely breakfast on the terrace of the hotel overlooking the lake and enjoyed the view. Shortly after that, we headed to our main site for the day. It was a track along a creek surrounded by olive-growth orchards and hills. A great selection of habitats offered superb diversity of wildlife. We started with a few good birds.

Shortly after we got off the bus we saw our first Levant Sparrowhawk. A few minutes later, Anton arrived with a Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), the slightly venomous snake which caused some anxiety: it was very active and not everybody felt safe staying around including myself. Further, along the path, we added some more great birds: another Masked Shrike, a pair of Lesser-spotted Eagles, three Short-toed Eagles, a Booted Eagle, a pair of Honey Buzzards, many Golden Orioles, Sombre Tit, Black-headed Buntings and many more.

Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)

Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), image: Iordan Hristov

Monpelier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Monpelier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), image: Iordan Hristov

The dragonfly people were very excited by a Bladetail (Lindenia tetraphulla), which they managed to catch and we all photographed. That was a truly superb dragonfly.

Bladetail (Lindenia tetraphylla)

Bladetail (Lindenia tetraphylla), image: Iordan Hristov

Shortly after that, we managed to catch two more snakes: a great-looking Caspian Whipsnake and an Aesculapian snake dark morph. It was quite unusual for this Aesculapian snake to be out in this heat as temperatures were exceeding 30 degrees. We measured the internal temperature of the snake, and it was 36.9 degrees. Way too high. We spent a lot of time photographing these amazing creatures and well worth it.

Caspian Whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius)

Caspian Whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius), image: Iordan Hristov

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus)

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus), image: Iordan Hristov

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus)

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus), image: Iordan Hristov

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus)

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus), image: Iordan Hristov

It was already quite hot and we decided to go for a picnic lunch on the bank of the lake. We followed it with a coffee from the terrace of a nice bar overlooking the lake. It was a great pleasure to enjoy our drinks from a nice and shady place.

It was already quite hot so we headed to our hotel for a brief siesta. It wasn’t long but took the time to rest and prepare for a boat trip on the lake coming up in just over an hour.

We met again at 4.45 and headed to the lake where we met my dear friend Nikos: a great guy with a great passion for conservation. Just as we arrived at the jetty at the lake we started noting birds: Squacco heron, Pygmy Cormorants, Spoonbills. Once on the boat, we visited a small willow tree with nests of Spoonbills with chicks and Pygmy Cormorants with chicks. How funny are these birds? Then, we headed to the Cormorant colony and up the Strouma river. It was absolutely packed with birds. We had hundreds and even thousands of Cormorants and Pelicans all around. Spoonbills were teaching their chicks how to hunt. Glossy ibises were in a flock of over 50 birds, Squacco Herons and Night Herons were all over the place. The masses of pelicans left the most impressive memory from this trip.

“I am speechless”, said Otto when getting off the boat. “I am absolutely amazed”, said Suzzane. Everybody was very, very impressed by the boat trip. “It was the highlight of the trip”, said Reine.

Feedback like this leaves me with great satisfaction from the job done!

We ended the day with another superb dinner in a local taverna and Golden Jackals howling right by our hotel. Tomorrow is our last full day, so stay tuned!

White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus),

White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), image: Iordan Hristov

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) image: Iordan Hristov

Spoonbill chicks on a nest

Spoonbill chicks, image: Iordan Hristov

Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus)

Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus), image: Iordan Hristov

Dalmatian pelicans on artificial platform

Dalmatian pelicans on artificial platform, image: Iordan Hristov

Dalmatian Pelican chick fallen off the nest. Unfortunately, it has very low chances to survive, image: Iordan Hristov

Cattle Egret, image: Iordan Hristov

Black Kite

Black Kite, image: Iordan Hristov

bathing White Pelicans

bathing White Pelicans, image: Iordan Hristov

bathing White Pelicans

bathing White Pelicans, image: Iordan Hristov

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