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Natural history trip in Bulgaria: day 1

Common Rosefinch image

Today, June 20th,  starts a new 11-day Natural History trip around South-Western Bulgaria and Northern Greece. After postponing this trip for several years, it is finally a fact! A group of 14 German naturalists arrived in Sofia!

Jurgen and mates landed on time and after the warm welcome and great joy of meeting each other, we headed directly to the mountains. Our first hotel is only couple of hours away so we had plenty of time for at least a stop along the way.

The place that I had in mind for our stop was about an hour away along a slow winding road. Along the way some people that were not asleep managed to see a Lesser-spotted Eagle that was hunting in the fields along.

Red-rumped Swallow,

Red-rumped Swallow, image: Iordan Hristov

The place for our first stop was on the edge of a beautiful grassland. Our main target here was the Rosefinch which was known to live in the willow trees around. Before looking for it, though, we had to have lunch which I had prepared in advance. We ate our sandwiches right by the side of the road and shortly after we finished, I heard our first Rosefinch. Horray! Hard work that was! That is right, it was the first one! We walked along the road and added a few common birds like Spanish Sparrow, White Stork, Tree Sparrow and Red-rumped Swallow which caused some excitement in the group.

Common Rosefinch image

Common Rosefinch, image: Iordan Hristov

A few moments later a heard our first Garden Warbler. Well, it may be common in Western Europe but not here in Bulgaria. And guess what was singing right by the Garden Warbler? Yes, that is right, another Rosefinch, and then another one responded a few meters away. Well, these were three Rosefinches. Then a Hobby flew over, a distant Whinchat was singing accompanied by a Marsh Warbler. Well, we are getting some excitement there! We managed to tick about 30 birds for an hour.

In the meantime, the herpetologist that will be accompanying me during this trip managed to find a Smooth snake. Great find, mate! What a great start that was!

The botanists in the group were very impressed by the richness of species in the grassland. Such meadows are getting extremely rare in Western Europe and it is great if we can appreciate them a bit more.

species rich grassland in Bulgaria

species-rich grassland in Bulgaria, image: Iordan Hristov

Most participants in the group hadn’t had much sleep and they were very tired. We decided to head to the hotel for an early dinner and night ready for the first full day out in Nature. We arrived in our hotel in mid-afternoon and enjoyed some cold drinks. The hotel is based in the middle of a pine forest offering some great walks around. We will be here for three nights which will give us some free time to look around.

Some of us took a walk around the hotel and managed to see Ring Ouzel, Firecrest, Nutcracker, Lesser Whitethroat, Pallid Swift, and a few other common birds in this habitat.

That’s how we will call it a day. We did go to bed early ready for a hike tomorrow.

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