route: Sofia – Plovdiv – Pazardzhik – Plovdiv
Birding trip today starts at 5,30. I start a new 5 day long birdwatching trip with a small group of 2 American birders. Our main areas will the Western Rhodope mountains and the wetlands around Sofia.
The alarm rang at 5,30 a.m. I had a long way to travel to arrive in Plovdiv where i had a meeting with my guests. The early morning travel went smoothly and arrived on time for the meeting. Loaded the luggage of my guests and off we went out birding. The day was going to be spent around the area of Plovdiv and Pazardzhik where we were after birds of the open landscape.
Our first stop was by Maritsa riverside with a huge colony of Sand Martins and Bee-eaters. I counted over a 1000 nests of the Martin ands at least a dozen nesting holes of Bee-eaters. Along the track to the colony we had our first Hoopoe, Crested Lark and distant Black-headed Bunting. Once at the colony we also noted a wonderful Kingfisher which had just caught a fish and a single Little Ringed Plover.
After we enjoyed the riverside birding we headed towards an abandoned quarry. Along the road we logged our first Roller which was rather obliging and sat nicely on the wires to be scoped. Just before we arrive in an abandoned quarry we had wonderful views of the Black-headed Bunting, Corn Bunting, Calandra Larks and Black-headed Yellow Wagtail. Once we stopped we looked at a Long-legged Buzzard which was sitting at its usual position. Here we also noted a Black-eared Wheatear, Woodchat Shrike, Spanish Sparrow with well marked black chest and Short-toed Eagle. A small group of Rose-coloured Starling flew over but too fast so not everyone managed to see them.
I didn’t feel how time passed and soon it was time for lunch. We stopped by a local garage to get some supplies and off we went to the field overlooking some pseudo steppe habitat looking for Stone curlew but in vain. We did see Isabelline Wheatears and a few Short-toed larks but no Stone Curlew. A Lesser grey Shrike turned up struggling with the wind which had built up in the last hour. A Hobby flew over rather low down for our delight although it did find it difficult to fly against the wind.
A short off-road drive took us around the fields where we had superb views of several Ortolan Buntings that visited a little water pool for drinking and bathing. We also had good views of Red-backed Shrikes and a short view of a Masked Shrike which didn’t stay long enough for our guests to enjoy it.
It was already the middle of the afternoon and the early start was saying its word. It was time to go home. We did stop one more time but with no result so we headed to our hotel in Plovdiv.
“It was wonderful day”, said one of my guests.