Short break aimed at the most elusive of the European birds.
Rock Partridge Special
One of the most elusive species for the European birdwatchers is the Rock Partridge. Their hidden nature, especially outside the beginning of the breeding season, well camouflaged plumage and often the inaccessible habitat mean that the Rock Partridge is amongst the least seen species on the continent.
Bulgaria boasts a relatively good population of this secretive bird - about 800 pairs. Here they inhabit the rocky mountain slopes from 700 meters above the sea level in Western Bulgaria, while the Eastern part of the country is occupied by their cousin - the Chukar.
Best period to see Rock Partridge is in the beginning of the breeding season when the birds are very active in defending their territories by patrolling and singing their harsh, but still interesting song. This happens in mainly February and March, sometimes till early April.
Our tour will bring us to Stara Planina (Old Mountain), the main mountain range in Bulgaria and one that holds considerable part of the Bulgarian species population. Here we have two sites where we stand nearly a 100 percent chance of seeing the birds. Our confidence comes from the fact that we have been feeding the local population (10 to 15) for over 5 years now, by providing the birds with supplementary food during the harsh winter months. By doing this we now know relatively well the birds - favorite sites in the area, as well as their habits. Our strategy will be to approach quietly their territories in the area, trying to locate the birds by their calls or movements. Afterwards, we will spend some time watching them in order to get really good views as eventually the birds might come to an open area allowing full view. We will need to have some walking, up to a mile or so, but this will be on flat and dry surface, so quite easy.
In order to increase our chances for good observations, the tour participants are restricted to six plus leader. We will have two full days to reach our goal and that is enough time, provided the weather is on our side. However at the end of March the winter is normally withdrawn already and the snow is long gone.
The area is very good for birding in general, especially for raptors and woodpeckers and we will give it good search once we are sorted with the Rock Partridges. Species we may found are Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Long-legged Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin plus more common species such as Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard. Woodpeckers may well include 7 out of the 10 European species - namely Black, Grey-headed, Lesser Spotted, Middle Spotted, Great Spotted, Syrian and Green! Other bird species are Black Stork, Sombre Tit, Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Black Redstart, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Crossbill, Goldcrest, Short-toed Treecreeper etc.
We will be based in the nice village of Koprivshtitsa, one of the few in Bulgaria that holds the traditional architectural style. There are 7 museums in it, as well as an impressive Thracian tumulus nearby which we can visit, provided there is an interest and time left. Koprivshtitsa is situated about 2 hours driving from Sofia airport. This will be a relaxing holiday, with only one base.