Route: Panichishte – Borovets – Musala chalet – Panichishte
Weather: 15 Degrees C., sunny, light breeze at times.
Today is our first full day of this Natural History tour around South-Westen Bulgaria and Northern Greece. Our plan for the day was to take a cabin lift to the alpine area of Musala in Rila mountains and spend the day walking and enjoying nature along the path to Musala chalet.
So we did! We arrived in beautiful weather which was much warmer than anticipated based on the forest. Everybody was keen to find and see something good. People have been checking everything that moves and sits 😊
We looked at butterflies, plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. One of the first birds we saw was a Hobby which was catching insects high up in the sky. Pallid swifts were also flying around. We noted a few common butterflies like Clouded Yellow and Small Tortoiseshell which were apparently on migration coming down the path in dozens.
At certain stage, the group dispersed, and everybody started looking at his own things. We gathered for lunch at Musala chalet where we managed to spot a distant Balkan Chamois, our first mammal). While eating our lunch I mentioned in between some discussions that the well-wanted plant Rila Primrose (Primula deorum) was in full flower right on the other side of the lake. Immediately after that, we lost half of the group who dashed to see it and an offer for a coffee in the chalet stayed in the air. I know the plants were not going to run away but people were really keen.
Upon returning, one of the group members said, “This is over the top! I can’t express how excited I am! Fantastic planning with timing and location! Thank you very much!”. Otto was truly excited by seeing this endemic plant! For me, it was a great pleasure to see the result of my work. I found this spot a few years ago during our bird id training course in Bulgaria and now it paid of. How cool is that!
After a great cup of coffee and herbal tea, the other group members went to check out Otto’s source of excitement! There were some amazing flowers covering a vast area. We spent at least 30 minutes photographing the superb plants. Some people from the group continued further to look for birds and some of us stayed a bit longer. Was there a reason? Well, an Alpine Accentor landed right by us in front of the Rila Primrose. Click, click. I managed to take a few images from a good distance and off it went. Pure luck!
We called the others from the group but the bird was gone. It was getting a bit late and we had to go. You know it is not easy to take biologists to nature, they never want to go home. There is always something interesting to see. This time it was a fantastic patch of flowering blue and yellow flowers.
In the meantime, Toni, our herpetologist had found a Viviparous Lizzard. We took some images and finally started our walk down. It took us less than an hour to get to the lift where we felt like taking a drink to enjoy the end of the day. We had some cold drinks and before we head to our hotel, there was a request to stop again at the meadows where we stopped yesterday. It was my utmost pleasure! The light was getting mild and I was hoping to take some great images.
So we did, I picked up a place in the middle of the meadows and we spend a beautiful half an hour under the golden light. We managed to find another Rosefinch, a Quail, and Whinchats. Balkan Copper was caught in the nets and Otto found a beautiful orchid. “This is the top end. I don’t have words to express how impressed and happy I am!” These were Otto’s words of appreciation. What can I say, I love it when people are happy and when I see the results of my work!
We managed to find some great grasshoppers and more interesting plants. It was a beautiful spot for macro photography and I couldn’t stop myself from taking pictures of plants and insects.
What a great end of the day! It was getting late and we headed to our hotel! It was an absolutely beautiful start to the trip! Tomorrow follows another day in Rila mountains. This time it will be around the famous Seven Rila lakes. Stay tuned to see what we will find.