A week of winter birds photography targeting vultures, pelicans and passerines.

Mediterranean Winter - bird photography in Bulgaria and Greece

Saturday 21st - Sunday 29th January 2017

Winter temperatures in south-east Europe can be very cold, but they are usually combined with blue skies and bright sunshine, making it feel much pleasanter. At the end of the winter the birdlife becomes active as they start preparing for the breeding season, but they are still very much attracted by the food offered at feeding stations.

Our tour is focused on two attractive species - the Griffon Vultures and the Dalmatian Pelican, as well as passerines - Hawfinch, woodpeckers and many more.

We will start at a garden not far from Sofia which will allow us an afternoon session straight after your arrival at Sofia airport. A bit more than one hour driving will bring us to our hides set up to photograph passerines. In two days, when ready, we will move to the Eastern Rhodopes and the next three days we will be photographing Griffon vultures, again from hides.

At the end of our holiday we will also visit Kerkini Lake in Greece, situated just half an hour from the Bulgarian-Greece border. Our main target here is one of the heaviest flying birds in Europe, the Dalmatian Pelican. It has a very restricted distribution in the south-east corner of the continent and not every photographer or even birder has ever seen one, especially in the breeding season when the birds are really striking. Despite being heavy the Dalmatians are surprisingly elegant when gliding just half an inch above the water surface, or when soaring high in the sky. They are equally attractive on the water. The adults are especially beautiful in January as they gain their breeding plumage and the lower mandible turns an intensive red. This is one of the best places to these impressive birds.

During the holiday we will need to get up early only in the days we will be photographing the vultures, as we have to enter the hides when it is still dark. However, we can leave the hides early afternoon, so no full day in the hide is required. Thus, it will be rather relaxing tour, not a tough one. 

ITINERARY

Days 1 and 2
 
    Arrival at Sofia airport and drive straight to our first site with hides for passerines. Here will be photographing Hawfinches as well as woodpeckers - Grey-headed, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, and possibly Syrian; other birds will be Sombre Tit, Jay, Brambling, Tree Sparrow and other commoner species. Accommodation for two nights in the village of Mirkovo, twenty minutes drive from the hides.

Day 3 
    Option to have morning session in the hides, then we will have long transfer - about  four hours to our next site in the Eastern Rhodopes. On the way we may have the option to photograph owls at roost - Long or Short-eared. Upon arrival we can familiarize with the area, which in fact can be very good for landscape photography. Accommodation for three nights in small and cozy, family run guest house, offering excellent homemade organic food. At the dinner table, with a glass of organic red wine, we will be discussing the way of photographing the griffon vultures.

Days 4 to 6     Three days in the vulture hides - we need to enter the hide before 07.00, so an early start is a must, while leaving the hide is possible after 15.00. Beside of our main target - the Griffon Vultures, we will also photograph Ravens, Red foxes, plus we have a chance for Black Vulture, Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagle and buzzards. Option for landscape photography in the late afternoons. At the end of day 6, we will drive towards lake Kerkini and overnight on the way, in order to brake the long journey.

Days 7 and 8
     After breakfast we continue our transfer and reach the lake at noon. After check-in at a local hotel, where we accommodate for two nights, we will visit the lake and start photographing the pelicans. Although very close, and at first look very easy subjects, it takes a lot of time to get the really good shots of the pelicans. We do have one and half days to do it, so plenty of time. We will also have a boat trip into the lake. Other species may well be White pelicans, Great White Egret, Pygmy Cormorant and Kingfisher.

Day 9   Following an early breakfast we head north for a four hours transfer to the airport for our flight back home. Departure.


Additional information: Hides are comfortable, wooden construction for 4 photographers. The vulture hides have to be entered before 07.00 hours in the morning and can be left only after 15.00 hours in the afternoon. The passerines hides can be entered and left at any time.
Walking: Very easy  walking.

Clothes: Warm clothes and boots, hat, gloves etc are necessary.

Physical conditions:
You need to be in good physical conditions in order to stay most of the day in the hide.

Equipment: At least 300mm lens plus converter. Stable tripod is must. Bean bags are provided. When at the lake - wide angle, as well as a zoom of 70 - 200 will be very useful.



TOUR MAP