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Bird ID training course 2024

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Black headed bunting

Just starting another bird ID training course around Bulgaria on behalf of a Norwegian university. A group of 8 students arrived and we left Sofia in the early afternoon.

Day 1

We start our trip with a transfer from Sofia to the Western Rhodope Mountains. The trip took us about 4-5 hours with a couple of stops for birding. We stopped shortly after Sofia to look for Ortolan Bunting, Corncrake and Lesser-spotted Eagle but got only the first of our target birds. The area has fantastic meadows all covered with orchids. It is a great place for the Corncrake but it never called. We did hear the “wet my lips” call of the Quail and had fantastic views of the Ortolan Bunting. Other good birds we saw here were Red-backed Shrike and a distant Peregrine Falcon. We spent about 20 minutes in this very rich habitat but had to go as we had another 3-hour drive to our hotel.

Along the motorway, we saw our first Montagu’s Harrier, Honey Buzzard, several Lapwings, and many White Storks. At our second stop for the day, we listed quite a few good birds. The highlights of which must be the Roller and the Black-headed Bunting which showed really well. One Black Stork made a few circles right above our heads. A long-legged Buzzard showed its beautiful white tail making it easy to identify. Our first bee-eaters also turned up and we also had Turtle Dove and Red-rumped Swallow.

Roller, image: Iordan Hristov

The road

The rest of the journey was fairly quiet except for a family of White-throated Dippers which were feeding young only a few metres away from us. Further along the road, someone shouted a Deer? I jumped on the beaks as I suspected it could be something else. So it was: Two Balkan Chamois together with their 2 cubs were feeding right by the side of the road. What a great sighting that was! Unfortunately, my camera was in the boot so no pictures.

The last part of the road was along a picturesque valley with one one-lane road and 500 m high sheer cliffs. What a dramatic landscape! I always love to come back to this area and everybody in the group appreciated the drive.

Black Stork, image: Iordan Hristov

Stay tuned for the upcoming trip reports as I will be sharing our progress regularly. Feel free to subscribe to my email bulletin here.

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