10/05/2022
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Bulgaria: Rhodope Mountains and Black Sea coast

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Dates: Saturday 29 April-Monday 8 May 2023
Price: £1,690 excluding flights (est £190). Single room supplement: £135.
Deposit: £400

Leaders: Peter Scholes & Dimiter Georgiev
Group: max 12 plus two leaders

Bulgaria is an exceptional venue in spring. It boasts a diverse range of landscapes and habitats from bare mountain slopes to alpine meadows, deciduous forests, riverine gorges and coastal wetlands. Unsurprisingly, the birdlife is rich and varied. Raptors feature prominently, with Cinereous Vulture, White-tailed, Golden, Eastern Imperial, Booted and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Long-legged Buzzard, Levant Sparrowhawk and Red-footed Falcon among the exciting possibilities. The gorgeous Wallcreeper is a tantalising prospect in the magnificent Trigrad Gorge, where Rock Buntings are also present.

Eastern European specialities include Eastern Orphean, Barred, Olive-tree and Eastern Bonelli's Warblers, Semicollared Flycatcher, Sombre Tit, Western Rock Nuthatch, Isabelline Wheatear and Masked Shrike. In many areas, Common Nightingale is an ever-present feature, continuing to sing at all times of the day. Then we have marvellous colourful summer visitors in the form of Golden Oriole, European Roller, European Bee-eater and Woodchat Shrike. Woodpeckers are also well represented, and include Grey-headed, Black, White-backed, Middle Spotted and Syrian. The Southern Black Sea Coast has a host of superb coastal wetlands & marshes, which support a superb range of breeding specialties. Members of the heron family present include Great and Little Egrets, Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron and Little Bittern. Add to this the impressive numbers of breeding and migrating shorebirds, gulls and terns, and we have a recipe for some memorable birding experiences.

 

Itinerary:

Day 1 Early morning flight from UK to Sofia and transfer to our hotel in the Western Rhodopes. Overnight at Trigrad.

Days 2-4 During the morning of Day 2, we'll birdwatch in and around the dramatic Trigrad Gorge - a traditional site for breeding Wallcreepers. The area also holds Grey-headed & Black Woodpeckers, Alpine Swift, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow and Rock Bunting. In the afternoon we'll drive to the rugged mountains of Eastern Rhodopes, with impressive cliff-faces and thinly-vegetated rocky slopes. Key species here include Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Chukar, Booted Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Eurasian Scops Owl, Black-eared Wheatear, Eastern Subalpine, Orphean, and Eastern Bonelli's Warblers, Western Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit and Black-headed Bunting. Overnights - Eastern Rhodope Mountains.

Days 5-8 We drive to the southern Black Sea coast where we shall concentrate on the wetlands around Bourgas. The flagship species of the area are undoubtedly the White and Dalmatian Pelicans but the freshwater lakes, saline lagoons and salt pans form one of Europe's key wetland sites and attract a whole host of species. Ruddy Shelduck, Pygmy Cormorant, Squacco and Purple Herons, Glossy Ibis, Collared Pratincole, Marsh Sandpiper, Slender-billed Gull, Whiskered, Black, and White-winged Terns, Savi's and Great Reed Warblers and Penduline Tit are all possible here. By contrast the local mountains offer the chance to find woodpeckers, including Middle Spotted & White-backed, as well as several species of Eagles. Overnight at Karimorie, Southern Black Sea Coast.

Day 9 Today we head for Sofia but stay on the outskirts at the base of the Vitosha Mountains. En route we will make stops for birding, perhaps at the Sredets Forest and the Karnobat Hills. Overnight in Sofia.

Day 10 Depending on our flight schedule (hopefully pm) we plan to visit the high Vitosha Mountains coniferous forests, where we'll look for Spotted Nutcracker, Firecrest, Ring Ouzel, Common Crossbill and Coal Tit. We will then head back to the hotel for breakfast and later drive to Sofia Airport for the return flight back to the UK.

The price includes accommodation (based on twin occupancy), meals, transportation in Bulgaria and services of leaders. It excludes flights, travel insurance, drinks and items of a personal nature. This tour is operated for Birdwatch and BirdGuides by Avian Adventures. For full details and to make a booking, click here or telephone 01384 372013.

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