The second day of my current birding tour in Bulgaria was going to be around Burgas wetlands. We started with a prebreakfast birding at the nearby saltpans which resulted in a few good birds. Immediately upon arrival as we got out of the car I heard a Syrian Woodpecker. It took me a minute to locate it and we enjoyed it for a while before it disappeared. Shortly after that, I heard a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Another minute and it was “in the bag”. There were quite a few flamingos, distant Ruff, a single Dalmatian Pelican, Avocets, and Black-tail Godwits. Well, for this one-hour birding before breakfast we had seen 39 species. Not a bad start, is it?
After breakfast, two American birders joined us. Sandra and James are going to be with us only for the day. Our first stop was at Vaya Lake where I was hoping to see the first arriving White-headed Ducks but we were not lucky. We continued searching on the eastern side of the lake but the birds had just not arrived yet. Anyway, we had good groups of White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Little Grebes, Pygmy Cormorants, Common Kingfisher and a few Whiskered Terns.
We continued south to Mandra Lake where we stopped at the dam and at one of the river estuaries. At the dam, we had a well posing Red-backed Shrike and I heard a Penduline Tit but it did not show itself. The river estuary was more exciting. Shortly after one of the villages I saw a small group of falcons and had to jump on the breaks. Pull out, got out of the car and there they were. Three juvenile Red-footed Falcons were circling right above us. Then, just as we turned around two Turtle Doves flew away. Wow, this was quite a late observation! From a nearby hill, we scanned the lake but there wasn’t much to note on the water. Instead, we logged our first Lesser-spotted Eagle and a few Eurasian Sparrowhawks.
It was already midday and I wanted us to spend some time at the local migration watchpoint. I had some preliminary information that the pool by the watchpoint holds a good number of Slender-billed Gulls. We collected some snacks and drinks on the way and arrived at the watchpoint to see other birders doing migration counts. How nice was that? The pool was indeed full of Slender-billed Gulls and quite a few Little Gulls in a whole variety of plumages. I love Little Gulls, they are really smart-looking birds with their short bills.
Looking at the sky for an hour we managed to see an Osprey, a few Lesser-spotted Eagles, Short-toed Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawks, several Common, and a few Steppe Buzzards. What a great experience! Birds were flying very high but even though it was great to see them.
Our next stop was in the fields by the lake where I was hoping to see a group of Ruddy Shelducks but we could not find them although we spent quite some time there. Thus we headed North to Pomorie to visit yet another habitat.
First, we stopped by the sea. People in the car had been talking about it all the time so I had to stop. Anyway, I wanted us to look for birds on the sea. I was hoping to see Black-throated Diver, Red-necked Grece, and Yelkouan Shearwater but none of these was there. We only got a few sandwich terns. Even though, people were still happy to see the Black Sea. Coming from far, it was important to them.
We then moved to the lake itself where we noted Grey Plover, Common Redshank, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Redstart, a single Little Stint, and a Dunlin. Around the western end of the lake we had a huge flock of Common Starlings which had covered the wires. Over 5000 birds were chirping and ready for their superb flights. We could not see these flights but winter is just coming so will need to come back again for the starling murmurations.
A great surprise here was a late Hoopoe which posed nicely. We did a long walk along the dike of the lake to look for waterbirds under the beautiful evening light. It was really beautiful. A flock of about 100 flamingos stole the show. Their pink colour was really shining. Half a dozen Caspian Terns were the other good birds here as well as several Wood Sandpipers.
Well, it’s been a long day and we decided to head back to our hotel. We ended up with nearly 100 birds for the day. The Flamingos from the last place were voted for birds of the day followed by the Red-footed Falcons. Stay tuned for my next story tomorrow!