A 9-days natural history tour in the mountains of Bulgaria
Birds, butterflies and bears
Sunday 4th - Monday 12th June 2017
This tour is focused on birds, butterflies and bears. Our route passes through different wildlife habitats - mountain forests, steep gorges, wetlands, river valleys and even some pieces of steppe-like areas and provides opportunities to observe more than 90 bird species including rarities as the Wallcreeper, Hazel Hen, Imperial Eagle, White-backed Woodpecker, Nutcracker and Isabelline Wheatear.
The period we have chosen for that tour is excellent time for spring birdwatching as well as it is the peak activity for bears with their cubs. Despite a bit early for getting the most species of butterflies, it will give us a chance to find some of the early ones which we normally miss out on the classical butterfly tours in July. These are some of the most beautiful European butterflies, such as Eastern and Southern festoons, Southern White Admiral, Yellow-banded Skipper etc. It will be a relaxing tour, with plenty of time to observe the wildlife, as well as some interesting cultural sites we will visit.
Day 1 Arrival at Sofia airport and transfer to the town of Koprivshtitsa. Accommodation, short evening walk and dinner.
Day 2 In the morning we will explore the meadows south of the town where we can see Imperial Eagle, Goshawk, Isabelline Wheatear, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Rock Thrush and Suslicks. Our next stop is near the Central Balkan National Park where we can see Long-legged Buzzard, Peregrine, Golden Eagle, Rock Bunting etc. and possible Scarce and Balkan coppers. We continue east and early in the afternoon will arrive in our base for the next two days - a family run hotel in the village of Gabarevo, right in the middle of the famous Valley of Roses. After accommodation we will go into the hides for our first evening of Brown Bear observation. There are two options here - spent the evening in the hide and about 22.00 o'clock drive back to the hotel, or spend the whole night in the hide, as the early morning is also suitable time when the bears are active in their searches for food.
Day 3 Today we will explore wonderful meadow only a few miles from the hotel where we can find Wryneck, Syrian Woodpecker, Red-rumped Swallow, Sombre Tit,Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes, Golden Oriole, Black-headed Bunting, Isabelline Wheatear, Black Stork, Rock Thrush, Goshawk, Short-toed and Golden eagles, Peregrine Falcon and many more. Butterfllies will include Large Copper, Southern and Eastern Festoon, Yellow-banded Skipper, Cardinal, Marbled Fritillary and Common Glider etc. After a lunch we will visit another site looking for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Grey Shrike, Tawny Pipit, Ortolan and Black-headed Bunting. Early in the evening we go for our second evening in the hide waiting for the bears.
Day 4 In the morning we drive south and in about two hours we will reach the Dobrostan ridge, in the Rhodope mountain. Here we will look for Rock Thrush, Rock and Ortolan Buntings, Sombre Tit, Black Woodpecker, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Alpine Swift and many more. Hazel Hen and Rock Partridge are also possible. Butterflies expected are the Apollo, Twin-spot and Niobe fritillaries etc. Overnight in a beautifully situated family run hotel.
Day 5 Transfer to Trigrad gorge, one of the best places in Europe to watch the Wallcreeper. We will have few stops on the way, along the river Chaia looking for both festoons, Camberwell Beauty, Camberwell Beauty, Large Tortoiseshell etc, and the birds we will see include Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Alpine Swift, Goshawk and many more. We will reach the Trigrad gorge in the late afternoon and accommodate in a local hotel for two nights.
Day 6 We will spend the morning looking for the Wallcreeper in the gorge and other birds will be Grey-headed Woodpecker, Alpine Swift, Grey Wagtail, Crag Martin, Dipper, Rock Bunting, Black Redstart, Honey Buzzard and Peregrine. Afterwards we will have a short walk around the village where we can see Black Woodpecker, Serin, Bulfinch, Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting etc. The nearest gorges are very good for butterflies and we will also pay a visit there.
Day 7 After a second call in the gorge for the Wallcreeper we head north and two hours of driving bring us to a hilly area where we might see Imperial, Short-toed and Lesser Spotted eagles, Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Stone Curlew, Calandra, Short-toed and Wood larks, all the four species of shrikes - Red-backed, Woodchat, Lesser Grey and Masked, Cirl, Ortolan and Black-headed Bunting. The area is very good for butterflies, including Little Tiger Blue, both Swallowtails, many fritillaries etc.
Late in the afternoon we drive to Sofia and our hotel is situated on the slopes of Vitosha Mountain. at 1 700 m. a.s.l. If time permits we will explore the area around the hotel for Nutcracker, Ring Ouzel, Water Pipit, Crossbill, Firecrest, Grey Wagtail, Black Redstart, Pallid Swift etc.
Day 8 One and a half hours of driving bring us to the wetlands west of Sofia. Here we will look for Bittern, Little Bittern, Ferruginous Duck, Purple Heron, Great White Egret, Squacco Heron, Black Stork, Great Reed, Cetti's, Marsh and Savi's warblers, Bearded
Reedling, Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, possibly a Red-necked Greebe and many other wetland birds. The wetland surroundings will provide some raptors - Long-legged Buzzard, Peregrine, Hobby, Marsh and Montague's harriers, Booted Eagle, as well as many other birds - Quail, Corncrake, Rock Thrush, buntings, shrikes etc. On the way Syrian and Middle Spotted woodpeckers, Bea-eaters and Hawfinch can be seen. Back to the hotel for our last overnight for the tour. Farewell dinner.
Day 9 Early breakfast followed by a short walk in the area for a species we might have missed the previous day. Afterwards we come back to the hotel to pack the cases and one hour driving will bring us at Sofia airport. Departure.
Bee-eater by Mike Walker
Eastern Festoon - one of the most beautiful European butterflies.
Photo by Dobromir Domuschiev.
Southern White Admiral by Dobromir Domuschiev
"We thank everyone at Wild Echo for arranging such a good holiday for us. It is one we shall never forget."