Bulgaria:
Black Sea Coast

Day 7; Thursday 17th September

Today we stayed fairly local, starting the day with another optional pre breakfast walk at the lake looking for Moustached Warbler. Again many Reed and Great Reed Warblers were seen though another bird showing a strong supercilium kept giving tantalising glimpses deep in the reeds, eventually the bird came into view, and was as suspected our target Moustached Warbler, with probably 3 birds seen before returning for breakfast. The early morning walk also produced 2 Pygmy Cormorants, Osprey, Grey-headed Woodpecker and a brief Great Bittern in flight.
After breakfast we headed out to the nearby Lake Sabla, which itself proved fairly unrewarding, with only a Kingfisher of any note, the approach road however provided excellent views of both Hoopoe and Bee-eater. Just a short drive further and we were at our next destination, Sabla Tuzla, a shallow brackish lake famous for its curative Black Sea Mud, and where there´s mud, there´s waders. This site was certainly no exception with Ringed, Little Ringed & Kentish Plover, Ruff, Little Stint, Dunlin and both Curlew and Wood Sandpipers all feeding in the shallows. Amongst these Howard picked out a single Broad-billed Sandpiper (our only record) and Dave found a Red-necked Phalarope. A little further out in deeper water 6 Marsh Sandpiper were busy feeding.
Next we moved to Yalata finding a single Isabelline Wheatear on the way. Once at Yalata, a beautiful cliff top area of steppe grassland, two Calandra Larks were soon spotted in flight, and later scoped on the deck. A juvenile harrier flew quickly through and was almost certainly a juvenile Pallid, however its rapid departure unfortunately left identification less than 100%. Two Tawny Pipits also showed well and while watching these, a flock of 27 Calandra Larks flew close by.
Continuing to Kaliakra we disturbed a flock of c250 Calandra Larks, which proved quite a sight, while in the distance a swirling mass of up to 5000 Starlings put on quite a show. We could have easily spent longer watching their antics had we more time, but it was already getting late and we still had much to see. Upon parking at the Cape, Andy at once spotted a 1st winter Pied Wheatear which showed reasonably well. On the sea were several Shag, and above us 20 or so Alpine Swift showed off their aerial expertise. Further along an adult male Pied Wheatear was seen briefly by some, before disappearing. Luckily what was probably the same bird was relocated in a small garden, where it showed well. In the same small garden were Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike and at least two Red-breasted Flycatchers. This was surely the Black Sea equivalent of Flamborough.
We then moved a short distance to a rocky gorge for our final target of the day, Eagle Owl. However the first sighting of any note came when a few of the group spotted a European Polecat climbing up the cliff face. Amazingly while watching this two Badgers were discovered when the polecat ran in front of them. At that stage the Polecat was lost to view, however the Badgers remained on show until it was too dark to view them. Meanwhile amongst all the excitement, our driver had spotted the Eagle Owl in flight, (it´s a good job someone remembered what we were there for). Moments later it reappeared just over the ridge and briefly perched on top allowing reasonable views in the fading light. It did this on a number of occasions; a second bird was also heard calling from nearby, as was a Long-eared Owl.

Day 8; Friday 18th September

Our final day, though due to our late flight we still had a full day ahead of us, so after breakfast we said our farewells to Tatyana and made a start on our journey to Bourgas. Our first stop was made at Kamchiya where we parked and entered the woods looking for Black Woodpecker, though sadly none could be found (woodpeckers are always difficult at this time of year). However we hadn´t given up yet and another attempt was made whilst having lunch at Goritza. Here we soon found Lesser Spotted, two Middle Spotted and a Great Spotted, but still no Black. Willow Tit was however another addition to the list and through the gaps in the trees Lesser Spotted Eagle and a few Booted Eagles were noted. Back at the Café, a constant eye on the sky while having drinks yielded Levant Sparrowhawk, Steppe Buzzard and a few Red-footed Falcons, but all very high.
Continuing south we descended from the hills and were soon back at Pomorie, where we headed straight to our favourite area. However on arrival it was clear that many of the birds had moved on, (what a difference a few days can make). Careful searching still produced some good birds though, with the discovery of 4 Red-necked Phalaropes the highlight.
Continuing to Lake Atanasovsko we pulled up at a small pool that held a variety of waders, including 15 Black-tailed Godwits, another new species for the trip. Moving a short distance to another viewpoint 3 Dalmatian Pelicans were resting on an embankment. Next we visited Lake Bourgas, where an impressive flock of some 250 White Pelicans were roosting, and in the late evening light their pink washed plumage was obvious, especially when a very clean white Mute Swan (which they dwarfed) swam by. Further out five Dalmatian Pelicans were roosting on an old concrete pylon base, the pylon itself long since eroded by years of Cormorant droppings. A few Squacco Herons were also noted along with a handful of Whiskered Terns.
This just about finished the day, with light fading fast we returned to Bourgas for our evening meal at a good quality bar restaurant. With plenty of time to spare, no rush was made with our meal and a few drinks were enjoyed afterwards.
Once at the airport we checked in and moved through to departures with no hassle, though our birding wasn’t over yet as Dave and Andy whilst climbing the stairs to the plane spotted a Barn Owl fly across the runway and land briefly on top of a nearby plane.
This brought the total to an outstanding 187 species recorded during the tour, with almost too many highlights to mention, however I think most of the group would agree the good views of both Pelicans, the Lesser Spotted Eagle perched in the tree, Broad-billed Sandpiper, huge flocks of Collared Pratincoles, comparing the many gulls in various plumages, Eagle Owl, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Pied Wheatear, Moustached Warbler and the many Red-breasted Flycatchers, including the stunning breeding plumage bird were certainly all contenders for the top ten. We would like to thank everyone involved with this tour, for making it such a successful and very rewarding trip.

SELECTED SPECIES LIST

This list provides details of a selection of birds of interest from this trip.

BLACK-NECKED GREBE
Seen daily, and often in good numbers. The highest counts were on the 13th with c50 at Pomorie Lake and 16th with 200+ at Lake Tekirgyol (Romania).

RED-NECKED GREBE
Two birds were noted at sea off Pomorie on the 12th & 14th.

PYGMY CORMORANT
Two were noted on the 12th in flight over Lake Bourgas. On the 15th a number of sightings were made of birds moving over Lake Durankulak, with probably up to 10 birds involved, with a further sighting of 2 birds here on the 17th.

WHITE PELICAN
A total of c150 birds were seen at Lake Bourgas on the 12th with several birds showing very well, later that evening while at Lake Atanasovsko c600 birds, made up of three migrating flocks were watched moving over to the south, probably to roost at Lake Bourgas. On the 18th, again at Lake Bourgas 250+ birds were enjoyed preening in the evening. Away from this site singles were noted at Pomorie Lake on the 13th and the viewpoint above Sunny Beach on the 14th. A total of 11 were noted while in Romania on the 16th.

DALMATIAN PELICAN
On the 12th a total of c50 birds were noted while in the Bourgas area, these were made up of 11 roosting at Lake Atanasovsko, 7 which provided our best views on Lake Bourgas amongst the White Pelicans, with at least two other in flight overhead, and the remainder at Lake Mandra. Similarly on the 18th, 3 were roosting on the embankment at Lake Atanasovsko and 5 were on Lake Bourgas. Elsewhere an immature bird was noted at Sinoie, Romania on the 16th.

LITTLE BITTERN
An adult male was seen briefly in flight at Lake Bourgas on the 12th.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON
On the 12th three flew overhead while at Lake Bourgas, with five in flight over Pomorie next day.

SQUACCO HERON
Several sighting of this species moving around at Lake Bourgas were made on the 12th, and probably involved 5 or more birds, with some giving good views. Elsewhere singles were noted at Lake Durankulak on three dates, while back at Lake Bourgas on the 18th several birds were again noted.

LITTLE EGRET
Fairly common, with sightings at many of the wetlands including 15 together on a roadside pool near Pomorie.

GREAT WHITE EGRET
Two were at Lake Mandra on the 12th, while singles were recorded on the 14th & 15th at Lake Durankulak. On the 16th up to 6 were noted while in Romania, with a total of 12 birds recorded at various sites in the Bourgas area on the 18th.

PURPLE HERON
Lake Durankulak proved the most reliable site for this species with 6+ there on the 15th and 3 on the 17th. Away from Durankulak good numbers were also recorded in Romania, especially at Sinoie, a single was also noted from Bourgas on the 12th.

BLACK STORK
Three over the raptor migration viewpoint at Lake Atanasovsko on the 12th was our only record.

WHITE STORK
One in flight low over Lake Durankulak on the 15th was our only sighting.

SPOONBILL
On the 12th four were seen distantly at Pomorie Lake, while on the 16th in Romania a flock of 9 moved over Vadu, with another two later that day at Sinoie.

FERRUGINOUS DUCK
On the 12th three birds were found with Coot and Pochard on the Poda Lagoons, with a further 5 seen in flight overhead while watching these.

HONEY BUZZARD
A single moved south past the Branta Birding Lodge on the morning of the 16th.

BLACK KITE
Two were noted moving south from the viewpoint above Sunny Beach on the 13th.

SHORT-TOED EAGLE
A total of 3 birds were noted on the 13th, with the first over Pomorie Salt Pans, the other two were both near Poroy, one over the oak wood and one near the dam. Singles were also noted near Sunny Beach (petrol station forecourt) on the 14th, inland from Durankulak on the 15th and Goritza on the 18th.

PALLID HARRIER
A male was seen distantly and rather briefly over fields to the west of Lake Atanasovsko on the 12th.

GOSHAWK
An immature bird was noted in flight while walking along the track that runs parallel to the western edge of Lake Atanasovsko on the 12th, and was likely responsible for the remains of a Long-eared Owl found plucked and eaten close by. On the 14th a male gave prolonged good flight views from a petrol station near the resort of Sunny Beach.

LEVANT SPARROWHAWK
Our first and best sighting came on the 13th when a flock of 4 migrating birds moved fairly low south over the Pomorie Saltpans. Next day a total of 5 were recorded from various sites but all were very high, as was a single over Yailata and two over Goritza on the 17th & 18th respectively.

STEPPE BUZZARD
This is the eastern race of Common Buzzard, breeding in Russia and migrating south for the winter along the Black Sea coast in large numbers. It was seen daily, often in reasonable numbers with the maximum count of 100+ birds on the 13th, including c50 together moving over the Poroy Oak Woods.

LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD
On the 16th three birds were noted while in Romania, with one showing very well on the electric pylons near Istria, where it gave good views both perched and in flight. Next day two were noted near Kaliakra.

LESSER SPOTTED EAGLE
On the 12th one was seen in flight distantly from the Ropotamo River Reserve, though views were poor and not all the group saw it, luckily however while returning to Bourgas from there, Pavel glimpsed a bird perched in a tree by the roadside which at the time he thought was an Osprey. However upon returning for a better look it turned out to be this species, rather uncharacteristically sat low down in a small bare tree, no doubt forced down by the bad weather. The entire group had good views of this bird before it took flight for a short distance, before again dropping by the roadside. Next day several birds were noted, with one in flight over the viewpoint at Sunny Beach showing well. On the 16th one was recorded near Istria (Romania) with two noted on the 18th, one just south of the Branta Birding Lodge, the other over the Goritza Forrest.

BOOTED EAGLE
Four were noted on the 13th with birds near Pomorie, Sunny Beach and Poroy. Next day one was at Goritza, with two there on the 18th.

RED-FOOTED FALCON
Small numbers were recorded most days, but mostly refer to birds moving over high, however on the 16th while in Romania c30 birds were noted with many of these at Vadu where they showed very well.

BLACK-WINGED STILT
This species was only recorded in the south, where it was seen at Lake Atanasovsko on the 12th & 18th, and at Pomorie Lake / Saltpans on the 12th, 13th & 18th.

COLLARED PRATINCOLE
This species was only seen in Romania on the 16th, when a large flock of c100 moved north over Vadu, and was soon followed by another flock of c50 heading in the same direction. Later that day while at Sinoie up to 10 birds were seen amongst a Golden Plover flock, with one bird showing well as it hawked for insects close to the minibus.

BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER
One found amongst the many other waders at Sabla Tuzla on the 17th was surprisingly our only record.

MARSH SANDPIPER
A reasonably common wader, with Sabla Tuzla proving the best site with 6 there on the 17th, while Pomorie Lake held 3 the following day. Elsewhere birds were noted at Lake Atanasovsko and the Romanian wetlands of Vadu and Sinoie.

RED-NECKED PHALAROPE
One was seen reasonably well at Sabla Tuzla on the 17th, with four together on Pomorie Lake the next day, all records involved juvenile birds.

MEDITERRANEAN GULL
Seen daily in good numbers, with our best views obtained at Pomorie Lake on the 12th & 13th. On the 15th around 400 birds were watched flying on to Lake Durankulak to bathe and drink before flying back out to sea, while a flock containing similar numbers was roosting in a field near Istria, Romania on the 16th.

LITTLE GULL
Although a relatively familiar species in the UK, the large numbers, exceptional views and variety of plumages and ages made these delightful gulls one of the highlights of the trip for many. Birds were seen at a number of wetlands, but by far the best site was Pomorie Lake.

SLENDER-BILLED GULL
Up to 40 birds were noted at Pomorie Lake and Saltpans on the 12th, 13th & 14th, where they provided good views, many were immature´s but a few adults were also noted.

CASPIAN GULL
Currently regarded as the eastern race of Yellow-legged Gull, though many treat it as a full species in its own right. This bird was first recorded on the 12th at Pomorie Lake, where it was also seen in small numbers on the 14th & 15th. In Romania however this bird appeared to dominate with all large gulls assigned to this race, including a roost of c300 birds at Sinoie.

GULL-BILLED TERN
Two birds were seen near Lake Atanasovsko on the 12th with another two, an adult and an immature, noted at Sinoie on the 16th.

CASPIAN TERN
On the morning of the 15th two flew north over Durankulak beach, while up to 5 were recorded next day at the Romanian wetland of Sinoie.

WHISKERED TERN
Small numbers were recorded on the 12th & 18th at Lake Bourgas, including some still in breeding plumage.

EAGLE OWL
On the 17th a very rewarding day was ended by a visit to the ravine at Cape Kaliakra, where after a short wait a single (probably the male) was seen on a number of occasions in flight over the cliff, perching in full view on one instance. As darkness fell the bird began calling and was answered by a second individual.

September Wildlife Checklist


DAVE READ
Lanius Bird Tours

Email daveread@laniusbirdtours.co.uk

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