Route: Panichishte – Kocherinovo – Blagoevgrad – Bansko
Weather: hot with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees
Today was a traveling day. Our plan was to change the mountains and travel to Bansko for a visit to Pirin mountains on the following day. Along the route, I wanted us to stop at a couple of sites that were aiming to diversify the species seen.
Shortly after we left the hotel we stopped at a small pond in the mountains. This is the only non-drowning lake in Rila. Our aim was the Alpine and Crested Newts. We stopped the van and ran down the path toward the lake. It was the first opportunity for dragonfly lovers and they were all excited. Shortly after we arrived at the pond they started seeing different species. A Water grass snake was seen by some and in the forest, we heard Nutcracker, Great spotted Woodpecker, and Eurasian Treecreeper. Some of the dragonflies we noted were Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) and Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense). We spent about an hour at the place and it looked like we had exhausted the opportunities for new species.
Just before getting on the bus, Anton found a fantastic-looking Newt of Bureshii or Balkan Crested Newt as they also call it. We spent another 20 minutes photographing it in various settings. It performed like a real model and gave us all kinds of looks and head turns. How nice is that!
The next place I wanted us to stop was down in the lowlands at Kocherinovo meadows. They were very dry and weren’t as rich as I expected them to be. The main target bird here was the Corncrake but only one person managed to hear it. Initially, it was fairly quiet but then we started ticking bird after bird: Golden Oriole, Hawfinch, a distant Hobby, several Red-backed Shrikes, Stonechat, Nightingale, and Cetti’s Warbler were some of the birds seen. One of the highlights was a European Pond Turtle (Emis orbicularus) which Anton managed to catch in a nearby canal. The butterfly people got Knapweed, Spotted and Marbled Fritillary, Large Copper, Black-veined White, and a few other common butterflies. Well, I think everybody is happy with this stop.
We stopped for lunch at a roadside garage where we had nice sandwiches with cold drinks. The temperature was already reaching 30 degrees and it was really hot. Nevertheless, we were keen to visit riverside marshes by Struma River. Unfortunately, the road to the place was closed so we took a walk right across the river from the planned site. Just as we got off the bus we started noting bird after bird: Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Syrian Woodpecker, Lesser spotted Woodpecker, Penduline Tit, Kingfisher and Cirl Bunting. The dragonfly people were also quite happy. They found several damselflies and dragonflies: Spearhead Bluet (Coenagrion hastulatum), Blue Featherleg (Platycnemis pennipes), Scarce chaser (Libellusla fulva), and a few other common species. Alton and Mo managed to catch a Balkan Green Lizzard but that is not what got everybody’s attention. A few minutes later I saw Anton jumping over a wooden structure as he was after something. Yes he was. The agility of his guy is amazing. With one movement he managed to catch a Caspian Whip snake. Wow, our first proper snake if we don’t count the tiny Viper he got the other day up in the mountains. It was a beautiful female about 70 cm long.
We spent the next hour photographing this beautiful creature in a variety of settings and always thinking about how to keep it from overheating. It was a superb experience!
We left the air at about 3.30 and headed towards our hotel in Bansko. Checked in a had a well deserved rest with a nice cold beer. Dinner was served right on time and everybody enjoyed the delicious food. Some of the group members requested an evening walk into Bansko and I was happy to provide it so we went for a walk around town. The old part of the town has a wonderful spirit with its old buildings. If you happen to visit Bansko, do visit the church which is very photogenic. The bell tower has a White Stork nest which adds to the spirit of the place.
It has been another great day! Time for a rest!