Winter birding in Bulgaria:
two days birding around Bourgas wetlands
Winter birding in Bulgaria started today as a new assignment for monitoring the Red-breasted Geese at Bourgas wetlands. Other than the Geese i will be covering some of the wetlands around the town to monitor the White-headed duck numbers, Bewick and Whooper Swans, Dalmatian Pelicans and Pygmy Cormorants. Of course i will be looking at all other birds but these species are a priority.
Day 1: Red-breasted Geese and White-headed Ducks
The day started early way before sunrise with a nice cup of coffee. Got ready and arrived at the spot for geese at 6.30 am ready to wait for them to take off from the lake and go for grazing. Upon arrival a Barn Owl was hunting around the fields. What a promising start! And was that true? Oh, well, see for yourself!
Shortly after some light started appearing birds started moving around. One of the highlights of the day must be a flock of Dalmatian Pelicans that flew right against the blood red sky! Wow, what an experience!
Visibility improved and birds started appearing. Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard, Ruddy Shelduck, 30+ Curlews, 300+ Lapwing, Flamingoes, Avocet, and there they were: 13 Red-breasted Geese! What a start! What a superb bird that is! Distance was too high for a photo but the moment was unforgettable!
About an hour after i arrived i decided to move to another place and check the birds there. Added Pygmy Cormorants, Cirl Bunting, Teal and 80+ Egrets and herons.
For the afternoon i had planned to check the White-headed duck (WHDs) numbers. I had information that there was about 800+ ducks on the lake which sounded promising.
Upon arrival at the lake i had a few Pochard and only about 20 WHDs which puzzled me a bit. Thus i decided to drive around the whole lake and look for the birds. By the end of the day, I managed to find quite a few of the WHDs in different parts of the lake and the total number reached about 700 individuals. Considering that the species is listed as Endangered, finding this high number is pretty good for the bird.
Pochard is traditionally wintering in huge numbers on the lake and it take me quite some time counting them. Distance to the birds didn’t help either. The huge number of birds and great distance to them, make the lake one of the hardest to cover during monitoring activities. Anyway, I ended up with nearly 27 000 individuals for the whole lake. This diving duck is another species listed as Vulnerable thus having this number here is a real treat for us. Hope we will not loose them!
Dalmatian Pelicans were feeding in a huge group of about 250 individuals. Two White Pelicans were also around which is a bit late for them. Cormorants were helping the Pelicans feed and their number was also stunning! 5000+ Greater Cormorants were certainly taking care of the fish in the lake.
At the end of the day, i checked a few more areas for wintering Whooper Swans and wasn’t disappointed. About 200 birds were sitting on the lake and enjoyed them in great afternoon light. Together with them a late Whiskered Tern made a show fishing right in front of me. In amongst the swans i found about 20 Bewicks. A few minutes later, I spotted a male Merlin roosting on a tree and sun bathing in the last evening light. For the end of the day, i added a few White Storks that are late in their migration and will probably stay here for the winter.
That is how i ended the day with 68 species. Not bad at all!
Day 2: Duck and swans
On the second day of the monitoring my task was to visit Mandra lake at Bourgas and see the number of swans there. It was a beautiful day with clear sky and calm waters which made the experience even greater.
At the first spot which is a little bay on Mandra lake, i added 11 Pallas’s Gulls. They often stay here and the place is a personal favourite of all spots around Bourgas. Other than the gulls, Bewick Swans started arriving to drink water from the lake. A total of 40+ individuals arrived to my greatest pleasure. A wonderful surprise was a female Snow Bunting which had stopped on a sand spit right by the bank of the bay. These buntings seem to bein a bit of an influx now with about 13 individuals staying for 10 days at another spot. What a treat it was! Snow Buntings are rare visitors for us and seeing them especially in good numbers is a real pleasure.
Right when i was ready to leave the area, decided to check the birds along a dike leading to the lake bank. Bushes around were full with berries suggesting full with birds. Loads of Bramblings, Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings and a superb looking Redwing. Whereas not a rare bird it is always great to see an individual around.
Spent about an hour or so at the spot to list about 40 species and continued further.
The next spot at Mandra lake was really steaming with birds mostly ducks. I had three different pools to cover and all of them had hundreds of duck. Northern Shoveller, Gadwall, Ferruginous Duck, a few White-headed Ducks, Common Teal, and some real treats: 5 Red-crested Pochards, several Penduline Tit, Bearded Tit, Pygmy Cormorants, Dalmatian Pelican and a belated White-winged Black Tern in full breeding plumage. All these birds made it quite a day!
The day tally showed 73 species and 96 for the weekend. What a cracking start of the monitoring! Stay tuned for more birding stories from my monitoring of the lakes.
If interested in joining me for a day or more birding around the lakes, just drop me a line or check the description of tours that i do.
|44||Great White Egret||152|
|55||Great Black-headed Gull||11|
|80||Great Crested Grebe||421|
Read your inventory with the greatest interest. And – interestingly described. Next year I will stay a little longer before we go back to the Netherlands. Incidentally, a day after our return here in Helmond, a Black Sea Duck (Melanitta nigra) was spotted. A rare sighting here. I will send your mail to birdwatching friends in Bulgaria who may be interested in coming with you.
Thank you very much for your kind words, Frank!