A 10-day birding holiday aimed at watching and studying nearly all the European birds of prey in Bulgaria

Eastern and British Raptors

Bulgaria is one of the richest countries in Europe when it comes to raptors. In fact, together with Greece, it is the richest - 36 out of the 38 species that occur on the continent have been recorded here. Many of them have healthy populations and can be found throughout the country's various habitats. Our tour will be focused on two groups of raptors. The first one will be the species which are restricted to the east and south-east of Europe – Eastern Imperial Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Red-footed Falcon, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Black Vulture, Booted Eagle, Black Kite and more. The second group is species that occur in England but are rare or not easy to see – Goshawk, Montague's Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Hobby, Kestrel, Honey Buzzard and more.
This tour is designed to provide opportunities for good and even excellent views of most of these raptors, also of the different sexes, possibly ages and plumages, as well as behavior – active flight, soaring and hunting. As a rule, very often the way you see a raptor is just a silhouette disappearing behind a hill. That is why, we have assured enough time – the tour will be at a leisurely pace and in places where we normally spend an hour or two, we will now spend the whole day. Having reached a good lookout point in certain species territory we will sit and wait for the raptors to show up. For most of the species we have two or three territories which we will visit within the tour so we have enough opportunities to see them really well. Seeing all these species in relatively short time will allow us to understand the difference between them and improve our ID skills.
Despite the leisurely pace we will record a very good total number of bird species, around 150, including colorful ones as Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, Roller, Hoopoe, Kingfisher, Rock Thrush as well as rare ones such as Masked Shrike, Olive-tree Warbler, Rock Nuthatch etc.
During the whole tour we will be accommodated in only 2 family hotels in Eastern Rhodopes and Sakar mountains. Beside the birding we will delight of local food, tasty wine, clear air and peaceful. 

ITINERARY
 
Day 1 Arrive to Sofia airport. Three-hours driving will bring us in to the small town of Topolovgrad where will spend 5 days.

Days 2 to 4 Three full days to explore the hills of Sakar Mountain. Sakar Mt. is a small mountain in the border area between Bulgaria and Turkey. Highest point of the mountain is only 856 m a.s.l., but in the vicinities of the mountain can be found many different habitats – huge natural pastures, deep oak forests, a big river and hundreds small springs. The proximity to the Turkish border and sparse population are the reasons why the area has preserved its natural appearance quite well. Thousands of sousliks, hares and other rodents are as a food bank for the raptors. And more than 30 species can be found here all year round. Our highlight species here are – Eastern Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Black Kite, Montagues Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Pallid Harrier and Red-footed falcon (both rare only during migration time), Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Hobby, Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Common Buzzard, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk.
In the one of the days we will visit biggest reservoir in the region – Ovcharista reservoir (40 minutes driving). Here we will be found White-tailed Eagle, Hobby, Kestrel, Montagues and Marsh harriers, Pandion and Red-footed falcons are possible too during migration time. In addition to raptors we will see and many water birds – herons, egrets, ducks, waders, cormorants, Kingfisher, Penduline Tit, Calandra Lark and more.
In one evening, or more, after dinner, we will make a night tour of the area – dozens of Golden Jackals will announce the area, and we will look for species such as Scops Owl, Tawny Owl, Barn Ow, Little Owl, European Nightjar.
Beside our main targets (raptors) we`ll see and Mediterranean and south-eastern specialist as Masked Shrike, Olive-three Warbler, Isabelline and Black-eared wheatears, Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-headed Bunting, Cirl Bunting, and many more.

Day 5 After the breakfast we will move on our second base – the small town of Krumovgrad in the Easter Rhodopes Mountain. On the road we will visit the reintroduction center for Lesser Kestrel and will check the species in our list (including wild individuals). Few stops are possible along the road to Krumovgrad. Accommodation for 5 nights.

Days 6 to 9 Four full days of birdwatching in the area of Eastern Rhodopes Mountain. Eastern Rhodopes are famous as the “raptor paradise” on the Balkans. Here can be seen 36 species of raptors around the year. Deep gorges, big rivers, broad forests, high rocks and many pastures provide perfect habitats and food support of the raptors in the region. Our highlight species here are Golden Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Black Vulture, Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Eleonora`s Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, Peregrine, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk and Levant Sparrowhawk. Beside the highlights species we will see and many more interesting and rare species as Rock and Blue Rock thrushes, Black Stork, Rock Nuthatch, Olive-tree Warbler, Roller, Masked Shrike, Subalpine and Mediterranean warblers, Sombre Tit, Hawfinch, Ortolan and Cirl Bunting, Red-rumped Swallow, Syrian Woodpecker, Black-headed Bunting, possibly Chuckar and Stone Curlew.

Day 10 If the time permit birdwatching in the morning, followed by the transfer to airport (4-hours driving). Departure.


TOUR MAP: