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BULGARIA – SPRING

16–26 May 2017

Our circuit of Bulgaria begins and ends in Sofia and encompasses both the Rhodope and Balkan Mountains and the Black Sea coast. The variety of habitats is reflected in the country’s long list of species. Those we shall look for include Levantine Shearwater, Dalmatian Pelican, Cinereous Vulture, Imperial Eagle, White-backed Woodpecker, Wallcreeper, Olive-tree and Paddyfield Warblers and Semicollared Flycatcher.

Day 1 We will take a morning flight to Sofia, arriving early afternoon, and then make a four-hour drive to the Trigrad region in the Western Rhodopes Mountains. En route we will see a landscape of farmland, with its Red-backed Shrikes, Spanish Sparrows and Black-headed and Ortolan Buntings, gradually change to riverine valleys. In the villages before the mountains we will look for White Storks, Little Owls and Syrian Woodpeckers, whilst the mountain rivers hold White-throated Dippers. Overnight in the Trigrad area.

Day 2 This morning we will explore the beautiful Trigrad Gorge, which is one of the best places in Europe to find the stunning Wallcreeper. Peregrine Falcon, Short-toed Snake-eagle, Alpine and Pallid Swifts, Eurasian Crag-martin and Rock Bunting can also be found here. In the afternoon we will drive to the Eastern Rhodopes Mountains, where we will spend the next three nights in Madjarovo.

Day 3 Today we will visit the Studen Kladenetz region, where we will find huge rocks scattered around the stony ground, stunted shrubs and an almost complete lack of mature trees. There is a vulture feeding-station where Cinereous and Egyptian Vultures and Eurasian Griffon can all be seen well. Many other birds of prey occur here and we will be constantly on the lookout for Booted and Imperial Eagles and Long-legged Buzzards. The bushes and rocks are home to Chukar, European Roller, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Rock Nuthatch, Rufous-tailed and Blue Rock-thrushes, Black-eared and Isabelline Wheatears, Woodchat Shrike, Barred, Subalpine, Sardinian and Eastern Orphean Warblers and Cirl Bunting. In the evening we may try for European Scops-owl.

Day 4 This morning we will travel for about an hour and a half to explore the valley of the delightful River Kroumovitza. Black Stork, Long-legged Buzzard, Eurasian Thick-knee, Red-rumped Swallow, Lesser Grey Shrike, Sombre Tit and Rock Nuthatch are all possible here in beautiful scenery. In the afternoon we will return to Madjarovo, where we will look for Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Rock Bunting and any species we may have missed previously.

Day 5 Today we will drive to the southern Black Sea coast, stopping en route in Sakar, where we will look for Levant Sparrowhawk, Masked Shrike and Olive-tree Warbler. Lunch will be taken at a restaurant serving traditional food in a village in the Sakar Mountains that supports local awareness of Imperial Eagle conservation. A Montagu's Harrier colony can also be seen on the way to the coast. Two nights in Bourgas.

Day 6 Wetlands abound around Bourgas and during the course of the day we will visit Atanasovsko, Bourgas and Mandra Lakes and the Poda Lagoon. Species we will look for include Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Little Egret, Little Bittern, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Pygmy Cormorant, Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Ruddy Shelduck, Ferruginous Duck, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Marsh Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Mediterranean and Slender-billed Gulls, Gull-billed and White-winged Terns, Western Yellow (Black-headed) Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler, Eurasian Penduline-tit and Bearded Reedling, as well as migrant waders including Broad-billed and Terek Sandpipers and Red-necked Phalarope.

Day 7 We will drive to Dobrudja on the northern Black Sea coast via oak forests near Goritza and riverine forests near Kamchia. Species we might not have seen previously and that could be found today include Lesser Spotted and White-tailed Eagles, Black, Grey-headed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, Semicollared Flycatcher, Marsh and Sombre Tits, Short-toed Treecreeper and Hawfinch. Two nights in Kavarna.

Day 8 We will explore Kaliakra and Yailata with their steppes and cliffs. Possible new species that can be found in the variety of habitats here include the desmarestii subspecies of European Shag, Levantine Shearwater, Eurasian Eagle-owl, Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks, Pied Wheatear and Rosy Starling. There is also a possibility of Eleonora's Falcon, Parastic Jaeger and Levant Sparrowhawk.

Day 9 This morning we will visit Durankulak and Shabla Lakes, where we will look for Ferruginous Duck, Red-footed Falcon and Paddyfield Warbler. We will also have further opportunities to look for migrant waders, gulls and terns. In the afternoon we will leave the coast and drive inland, with two or three stops on the way for refreshment, to the Central Balkan Mountains, where we will spend the night.

Day 10 Today we will explore the Central Balkan Mountains where we will visit old beech forests for White-backed Woodpecker and Red-breasted Flycatcher and some high mountain meadows and pastures for Water Pipit. In the late afternoon we will drive back to Sofia. Overnight in Sofia.

Day 11 Return flight from Sofia to London.

General Information The climate can vary from hot and sunny to cold in the mountains, with some rain possible. The tour pace is moderate with generally easy walks mostly on level ground. There are no significant health requirements.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 8. Maximum group size: 10 with 1 leader; 16 with 2 leaders.

Black-headed Bunting

Black-headed Bunting

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