After a trip to Morocco, I wanted to have a few more warm days in mid winter.When I landed in Sofia, there was some 20 cm of snow. This made me think for the coming weekend when the weather was promising to be warm-ish, as for mid February.
I quickly wrote an email to a friend and planned a trip to the North East part of Bulgaria. Since the coming month is the time when some birds start their breeding, I wanted to set up some nestboxes.
On Thursday it turned out that my friend was going to travel to a city not far from where I live. Then, a colleague turned out to be traveling to that same city. That’s how my trip started. I knew it was going be a hell of a trip but didn’t expect to travel for the whole night. Just because we started late in the afternoon, we expected to arrive at about 1a.m. However, we did a fairly long stop for dinner and were at our last destination at about 3 a.m. We were in hurry to set up a photo trap for mammals in a woodland not far from a place where we were going to stay. It was quite an insane idea but we wanted to have the trap set for at least two nights to increase our chances of ‘catching’ something. We put some bait a few metres in front of the trap and went to our place. It was 5 a.m. A whole night traveling with a devotion to the photo trap idea and the willingness to peep into the wilderness secrets :).
We woke up a few hours later in the ‘next day’. Took out 4 nest boxes we had built beforehand and off we went to put them up. Weather was fantastic. Sunny. Probably about 5-6 degr. C. The first nestbox we set was for a Sombre Tit. A species seen only in SE Europe and onwards to the east. While having a chat with a very amusing local shepherd I heard the call of a Sombre Tit. This gave us good guidance about the area and we quickly selected a place for the nestbox.
Pleased by our job we selected another place. This time for a different bird: a Roller. A bird well loved for its absolutely fantastic blue colours. We wanted to support its population because it decreases in the last several years because of farming practices. While setting up the nest box two birds of prey suddenly showed up. A Common and a Long-legged Buzzard soaring together reminded us how wild the area is.
After we put a third nestbox for a Sombre Tit we wanted to check the suitability of the area for setting up a photography hide. We want to provide photography opportunities for Golden Jackal and various other mammals and birds. Initially we looked towards an area with my new Swarovski binocular. The area looked quite appropriate so went to check it. It was superb. We’ve been trying to find such a place for a long time and we knew what we need. There were tracks from lots of animals. The sunlight conditions looked superb for both winter and summer photography. The place for the hide was in a shallow depth which was going to save us some digging. We were really happy with the found location and started making plans for the hide construction. In winter we think that the hide will be suitable for photographing Golden Jackal, Common Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Sombre Tit, Hawfinch and possibly Pine Marten. In summer the area of the hide should be attractive for Badgers, Pine Martens, Hawfinches, Sombre Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Black-headed Bunting, etc. See what happens…
Pleased by the success we went to our place. It was still early in the day so we decided to do a nestbox for a Tawny Owl. Quickly collected a few boards and it wasn’t an hour when were ready. Then we mounted a nextbox for a Little Owl we had prepared before. It’s kind of late for the Owl’s nestboxes but we just couldn’t make it earlier. If they don’t work out this year, we hope they will do next one.
On the next day we set up another nestbox for a Roller and one for Tawny Owl. It was a great experience planning the photography opportunities for these fantastic birds. At certain moments it was quite a challenge but we succeeded and this is most important.
Now on my way home while writing these notes a go through every moment of the weekend and realise what a pleasant holiday it is for someone’s free time.
Setting up the nestboxes and the photography hide are a part of a project I recently started with a friend. We aim at setting up a guest house for renting in a pretty well preserved wilderness area in Bulgaria. We aim at providing various services for outdoor activities including wildlife photography, birdwatching, kayaking, cycling, etc. You can see more for the project at its website here: www.naturetravel.eu
For the two days of the weekend we had quite a good list of birds seen. The highlights were:
White fronted Geese – three flocks of about 200 each passed by the village on their way north
Common Buzzard – hunting at several locations
Long-legged Buzzard – hunting in the area
Middle spotted Woodpecker – courtship calls
Grey-headed Woodpecker – a female
Great spotted Woodpecker – several at different areas. Including one pair with courtship displays
Syrian Woodpecker – heard from the cottage yard
Sombre Tit – three singing birds
Jay – common
Chaffinch – everywhere
Hawfinches – quite abundant all around
Brambling – several in the cottage yard
Corn Bunting – by the village
Yellowhammer – several groups still in winter flocks
These are only a few of the birds people can see around.
It was an amazing weekend. Spring is on its way