Twelve days 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 and Black Kite. The second group is species that occur in England but are rare or not easy to see - Goshawk, Montague's Harrier, Golden and White-tailed eagles, Hobby and Honey Buzzard.
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 behaviour - 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 spent 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.
Day 1 Arrival at Sofia airport and one hour drive eastwards bring us to the small village where we will stay for the first two nights. Enroute we will stop for migrating Red-footed Falcons and local Lesser Spotted Eagle pair. After accommodation, time permitting, we explore the area for Golden Eagle and Honey Buzzard. Other birds will be Marsh Warbler, Stonechat and Whinchat, Black-headed Yellow Wagtail.
Day 2 We will spend the whole day in the area, looking for Goshawk, Honey Buzzard and Golden Eagle. Beside these we will look for woodpeckers - Black, Grey-headed and possibly Lesser Spotted; also Golden Oriole, Sombre Tit, Hawfinch, Ortolan and Cirl Bunting, Redrumped Swallow, Dipper and many more.
Day 3 Today we will move further east, our next base for the holiday is about two hours drive. On the way we will have one major stop near the Central Balkan national park. Depending on the vehicles we will use it may require a bit of walking - up to 2 miles one way on good dirt road, but already here we have excellent opportunities for Long-legged Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Peregrine and Short-toed Eagle. We will also see Rock Thrush, Black Woodpecker, Black Redstart, Yellowhammer, Ring Ouzel and possibly Rock Partridge. Accommodation in the village of Gabarevo for two nights.
Day 4 We will spend most of the day in lovely meadows, very rich in birds and sustaining a healthy colony of Suslicks - a small rodent, often described as a European ground squirrel. This cute mammal is a major prey item for many of the diurnal raptors. This colony is preyed particularly by a pair of Goshawks and a Long-legged Buzzard pair and we will spend enough time here in order to get excellent view of both raptors, especially the Goshawk. Other birds will be Wry- neck, Syrian Woodpecker, Isabelline Wheatear, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Woodchat and Red-backed shrikes, Black Stork and many more.
Day 5 Today we will drive (about two and a half hours) south-east to Sakar - a low mountain, with rolling open hills, an excellent raptor country and the last stronghold of the Imperial Eagle in Bulgaria. On the way we will stop at several sites, looking for Montagu's harriers and Black kites. Accommodation for three nights in local hotel.
Days 6 and 7 Both days we will spend in the area looking for Imperial Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Hobby and Short-toed Eagle. Other birds will be Masked Shrike, Olive-tree Warbler, Subalpine and Barred warblers, Black Stork, Syrian Woodpecker, Black-headed Bunting, possibly Chuckar.
Days 8, 9 and 10 These three days we will spend in the Eastern Rhodopes - another low and hilly mountain, a true raptors paradise. Here have been recorded 36, out of 38 diurnal European raptors! Here will look for Levant Sparrowhawk, Black Kite, White-tailed Eagle, Shorttoed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Egyptian, Griffon and possibly Black vultures and Hobby. Here we will have artificial feeding at one of the vulture restaurants organized especially for us - depending on the amount food available naturally in the area, it is often quite a spectacular event. Here we also have a chance for Eleonora's Falcon, Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, Stone Curlew, Black-eared Wheatear and many more.
Day 11 Today is our longest drive within the tour, as we will move back towards Sofia and will have our last night for the holiday just outside of the city, in a small village. The drive shall take about three and a half hours and after accommodation we will explore Dragoman marsh, one of the richest wetlands in the country. The most numerous raptor here is the Marsh Harrier, but we also have a chance for Montagu's harrier, Hobby, Booted and Short-toed eagles. Other species will include Bittern and Little Bittern, Ferruginous Duck, Garganey, Purple Heron and Great White Egret, Bearded and Penduline tits, Water Rail, Baillon's, Spotted and Little crakes, Savi's Warbler, migrating marsh terns and many more. Meadows around are home to Corncrake and Quail, Lesser Grey Shrike, Cuckoo.
Day 12 In the morning we will visit a smaller, but equally rich wetland for species we might have missed and when ready, a short transfer will bring us at the airport for your flight back home.