Bulgaria's premier bird location with more
than 300 bird species recorded.
Day 8 & 9
Today's exploration of nearby Lake Atanosovsko and surrounding saltpans
promises a phenomenal range and quantity of birds - far too numerous to
list! This is Bulgaria's premier bird location - in fact one of Europe's
principal 'hot spots' and one of the country’s ten “Ramsar” sites. The
1690 ha. complex includes extensive saltpans, freshwater pools, marshes
and areas of scrub and semi-steppe. The reserve’s position on the east
European Via Pontica flyway attracts a great variety of migrants in spring
and autumn. More than 300 bird species have been recorded here. We will
be able to enjoy the spectacle of the lake’s breeding birds, including
some hundreds of Avocets, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole (Black-winged
have been seen here too!), Kentish Plover, Gull-billed Tern, Mediterranean
and Slender-billed Gulls, Sandwich and Little Terns, Marsh Harrier and Penduline Tit. Caspian
Tern and Squacco Heron are also seen at this season,
and we may turn up Marsh, Broad-billed and Terek Sandpipers. Cetti’s Warbler
and Little Bittern breed in the reedbeds, and Black-headed Buntings, Balkan
Wagtails and Red-backed Shrikes are numerous on fields surrounding the
South of Burgas we visit the reed-fringed Lakes Mandra and Poda with flanking
water meadows and woodlands. The reedbeds of Poda host a mixed breeding
colony of Spoonbill, Purple, Squacco and Night Herons, Little Egret, Glossy
Ibis and Pygmy Cormorants. Further along we reach Alepou marsh wetland
and look for White-tailed Eagle, Honey Buzzard and foraging Little Egrets,
Glossy Ibis and Squacco herons. In the late afternoon we visit the Ropotamo
river wetland complex and explore the wooded mountains of Strandja, where
we look for Lesser Spotted Eagle, White-backed Woodpecker, Eastern Semi-collared Flycatcher and
After breakfast transfer (120 miles) to our unique lakeside accommodation at Branta Birding Lodge situated on the Northern Black Sea coast, just 3 miles from the Romanian border.
Heading north we pause at the Salinas of Pomorie to see the usual show of waders.
The adjacent small village is one of the best places in Europe to
see the breeding colonies of Rose-coloured Starlings. An hour will
be spent in the ancient town of Nessebar featuring a great deal of traditional
architecture. Birds on the scene include the Yelkouan Shearwater, Yellow-legged
Gull and its sub-species michahellis. Continuing north the route
ascends through the wooded hills of Eastern Balkan mountain range, bringing
us to our next stop at Cape Emine. Reaching cliff-top scrub above the
sea we look for cetaceans. Breeding birds include Sombre Tit, Rock Bunting,
Masked and Woodchat Shrikes, Wood Lark, Tawny Pipit, Barred, Olive-tree
and Olivaceous Warblers. In the afternoon we stop off to explore the Kamchiya
Reserve with its remarkable alluvial or Longoz forest, one of the most
northerly of its kind in Europe. The reserve complex, totalling about
1500 ha, includes dunes, beach, estuary and small freshwater pools. This
is an area of considerable botanical interest. Breeding birds include
Semi-collared Flycatcher, Short-toed Treecreeper, Black, Grey-headed and
Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, Goshawk, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Long-tailed
Tit, Wood and Icterine Warblers.
The Branta Birding Lodge, overlooking Durankulak Lake, is our exceedingly comfortable fledgling base for the next three nights where we will enjoy its splendid overview and visit its exhibition including detailed photographic and cartographic materials.
After breakfast, drive south (12 miles) to explore Shabla Lake.
Likely bird sightings en route include Calandra Lark, Yellow Wagtail and
Syrian Woodpecker. We will spend the morning at Shabla Touzla - a small,
high salinity lake, famous for the curative properties of its mud. Here
we can see Little Tern, Red-footed Falcon, Barred Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat,
Olivaceous Warbler, Reed Bunting, Broad-billed and Marsh Sandpiper and
After lunch, we drive back to explore Lake Durankulak, a «Ramsar»
site and “location of outstanding natural beauty” close to the Rumanian
border and fringing on the Black Sea itself. Durankulak is famous for
its most important wintering location for geese and ducks including the
globally threatened Red-breasted Goose. At this season we look for Paddyfield,
Marsh and Savi's Warblers, Red-necked Grebe, Whiskered and Black Terns,
Red-crested Pochard and Bearded Tit. The brackish waters and huge reed
beds hold also Moustached Warbler, Pygmy Cormorant, Ruddy Shelduck, Bittern
and Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Ferruginous Duck and much else. On fields
near the lake we should see the Balkan sub-species of the Yellow Wagtail,
the beautiful black-headed feldegg race, while Barred and Marsh
Warblers often sing from patches of scrub. Tall hedges and windbreaks
in the vicinity of the lake hold good numbers of Red-footed Falcons and
Lesser Grey Shrikes. The adjacent steppe and its surrounds hold Collared
Pratincole, Stone Curlew, Calandra Lark, Barred Warbler, Syrian Woodpecker,
Bee-Eater and Roller.
Return to our base for dinner and second night at Branta Birding Lodge.
After breakfast, we set off to spend the day exploring Cape Kaliakra,
and its surrounds. Set in the largest surviving area of virgin steppe
in Bulgaria, Kaliakra is also an archaeological monument, the site of
ancient dwellings and fortresses covering more than 5500 years of human
The 70-m high cliffs make an excellent vantage point for Dolphin watching,
whilst the abrupt westward turn of the coast here results in concentrations
of migrating birds. The steppe, which runs up to the edge of the cliffs,
is rich in plant species including Narrow-leaved Peony and three endemics.
Kaliakra is the only breeding site in Europe for the exceedingly rare
Finsch’s Wheatear. More certain species of the steppe are Calandra Lark,
Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Roller and, especially in the evening, Stone
Curlew, whilst some south-eastern specialties like Red-Rumped Swallow,
Long-legged Buzzard, Pied and Isabelline Wheatears breed on the cliffs,
alongside the desmaresti sub-species of Shag, also Eagle Owl,
Rufous-tailed Rock Trush and Alpine Swift.
In scrubby areas we should find Olive-tree Warbler and we may just see
a Levant Sparrowhawk.
The afternoon will be spent at “Yailata”, like Kaliakra an archaeological
reserve, fronted by splendid sea-cliffs against a hinterland of steppe.
The area holds Hobby, Hoopoe, Pied Wheatear, Calandra and Short-toed Larks,
Tawny Pipit, Ortolan, Black-headed Bunting, Barred, Olive-tree and Olivaceous
Warblers. Two rare mammals occur here, the Steppe Polecat and Romanian
Hamster and a botanical speciality of the site is the Broad-leaved Peony.
Return to Durankulak for dinner and last night in our fledgling base.
After breakfast we travel up to the Srebarna Biosphere reserve (UNESCO
site) by the Danube River, for close views of Dalmatian Pelican breeding
colony. There is also good chance of White-tailed Eagle. The reedbeds
of the reserve host a mixed breeding colony of Spoonbill, Purple, Squacco
and Night Herons, Little and Great White Egrets, Glossy Ibis and Pygmy
Cormorants. Further along we reach Garvan marsh and look for breeding
Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, Ferruginous Ducks, Greylag geese,
Whiskered Terns, King Fishers, Bee-Eaters, Rollers, Hoopoes, Penduline
and Bearded Tits, Savi’s and River Warblers. Woodpeckers are well represented
(Grey-headed, Black, Syrian and Middle Spotted), other passerines include
Crested and Wood Larks, Lesser Grey Shrike and Corncrake.
Overnight in a cosy guesthouse, situated just close to the reserve.
After breakfast we continue west through the undulated Danube lowlands
crossing Bulgaria’s varied and picturesque countryside. Later we drive
up to the Balkan mountain range where, we spend an hour in an old Bulgarian
village and look in surrounding areas for Golden Eagle, Sombre Tit and
Alpine Chough. After our full circle tour of this amazing and colourful
country we return to Sofia.
Overnight in a charming hotel high on Vitosha Mountain.
After breakfast we explore the mountain zone of Vitosha Nature Park, looking for Nutcracker, Common Crossbill, Alpine Accentor, Shore Lark and Water Pipit.
Afterwards, we take the short trip to the Sofia Airport for the late afternoon return flight.
* This tour can be divided into two shorter tours as well as changed by canceling some days depending on participants’ wishes. It is also possible to operate the tour along the route back, i.e. instead of heading to the south after arriving at Sofia; we can start first to the north and the first birding location to be Srebarna Biosphere Reserve. It is also possible to combine the Dobrudja stopover with a single excursion or two day-trip to Romania where we can observe some interesting species such as Great Black-headed Gull or even Saker Falcon. For this we fly to Constantza to explore first the Southern part of the Danube Delta and the Romanian Black Sea coast.
We also offer the possibility to make same tour in early spring when we can watch Capercaillie’s leks in western Rhodopes Mountains as well as many interesting spring migrants like those along the Via Pontica Flyway: Citrine Wagtail, Jacksnipe, Demoiselle Crane, Mustached Warbler, Little Crake, as well as many migrating Raptors, Pelicans, Storks and waders.
* It has never been easier to reach the Bulgarian Black Sea as British Airways now flies direct to VARNA (just south of Albena). Another option could be to take a charter flight offered by Balkan Holidays from May to September. It is also possible to fly to Burgas or Bucarest. For this we take an extra charge of EUR 150 to cover the tour leader’s travel expenses.