A week of winter birds photography targeting Golden eagles and other raptors as well as passerines

Golden eagles and winter birds photography

Sunday 8th - Saturday 14th December 2019

Bulgaria boasts a healthy population of Golden eagles and more than 160 pairs inhabit its mountains. Our tour gives you the opportunity to take photos of these impressive raptors. From a distance of 25 to 35 meters you can photograph their natural behavior - feeding, preening and even mating without disturbing them. In the winter, when the food is scarce, the eagles visit willingly the bates in front of our hides. The great advantages of Bulgaria when it comes to Golden Eagle photography are the various options for background, as well as light and perches. Here you will not photograph the eagles only in snow, but also on the ground, on junipers bushes, on mountain hay meadow or on a wooden branch properly situated by us. The light in Bulgaria, even in the winter, can be excellent for photography and in fact gives you opportunity to be creative even with a difficult subject as the Golden Eagle. There are also opportunities for flight shots of the eagles when they land and take off from the bait or the perches. We have been running this tour successfully for over 15 years now and so far we have build up a number of hides giving various options for photography and avoiding obstacles as bad weather, no access due to a deep snow, recent disturbance etc. All of the hides are different in terms of setting, access, distance to the birds, perches, background etc. Every pair of Golden eagles visiting the baits is also more or less different - some birds prefer to feed in the morning, others in the afternoon; some are feeding individually, some pairs usually come together.
The same is true for the other species visiting the baits �  one has a constant flock of 30 + Ravens, a Common Buzzard pair and few Jays etc. We have also established few bird feeders around the hides and these are constantly visited by Hawfinch, Sombre Tit, Willow Tit, Brambling, Yellowhammer, Bulfinch, Goldfinch, Fieldfare, Jay and many more commoner species. Weasel is possible too.
The Grey Wolf is perhaps the most appealing and misunderstood animal in Europe. For a number of years, we have been trying to include the option to reliably see wolves into our program and finally we have succeeded. We built a hide, especially aimed at seeing them. It is situated in one of the best areas for the wolf in Bulgaria, and in order to maximize the chances to see them, it is designed to allow comfortable overnight stays.
The itinerary provided below is provisional in terms of sites and species that can be photographed, beside the Golden eagle of course which is the main target. If you are interested in that tour, please let us know what your preferences are as well as the period convenient for you, and we will be happy to suggest you what we think is the best option. That tour is possible from late October till the middle of March, and we have four scheduled tours, plus we run few tailor made ones.

ITINERARY

Day 1
Arrival at Sofia airport and an hour and a half transfer will bring us at the area where we will spend the following week. We will first check in at a local hotel, followed by an exploration trip in the area - by 4x4 and walking, in order for you to get familiar with the site.

Days 2 to 6  Early start so we can enter the hide in the dart. The hide has a proper toilet and small kitchen with a wood stove and gas heater. There are beds, table and chairs, as well as shelves - all very cozy and comfortable. On two of the sides there are two large windows 180x50 cm (with four openings in total). You can shoot through the glass or directly.
The hide is spacious; temperatures should be very pleasant, so staying in the hide will not be tough work. However, prepare for spending long hours in the hide, keeping a low profile and being very quiet - could have unforgettable prizes.
Golden Eagles can come in every time of the day. If the wolves are around, there will be no Foxes, but a Wild Cat is possible, plus a Weasel which has its home near the hide.
We also have a passerines hide in the area so in case you have taken enough good photos of the eagles, or want to take a break, we shall spend a day or two there.

Day 7 Morning session in the passerines hide or walk around for some portraits or landscape shots, followed by transfer to the airport.

Additional information: We must be very quiet in the hide. It`s forbidden to leave the hide during the day. There is electricity from solar panels, enough to charge the batteries. No need of tripods here, but we need them for the passerine hide. We will prepare our breakfast and lunch in the hide, with hot drinks. Warm clothes, hat, gloves etc are necessary. Smoking is absolutely forbidden in the hide.

Equipment: At least 300mm lens plus converter. Stable tripod is essential or only gimbal head or other tripod head. Full frame and crop-sensor cameras with fast "frame per second" rate are the best for this trip. Teleconverters: 1.4x , 1.7x, 2x teleconverters are very useful. Batteries: At least one extra battery.

Extension: The Golden eagle photo tour can be combined with a short extension trip for Dalmatian pelicans photography. Depends on the winter, there are several sites where we can do this in Bulgaria. Alternatively, the best site for that species is Lake Kerkini in Greece, just next to the Bulgarian border. Here we can also photograph Greater Flamingo, Pygmy Cormorant, Great White Egret etc. Best period is end of January and February when the pelican's bills lower mandible turn into a bright red color. Within two to three days you can get excellent photos of the pelicans in breeding plumage - feeding, resting, flying etc. Please contact us if you are interested in that option.