Day 4; Mon. 21 February
08:00 breakfast for a 09:15 departure, the morning mild though largely
overcast. With baggage loaded we set off for our next base in the south,
making an early stop to check roadside birds: Syrian Woodpecker and about
seven 'eastern' Bullfinches with interesting 'Trumpeter Finch-like' calls.
Regular flocks of Yellowhammers and Chaffinches were encountered, containing
one or two Bramblings and Greenfinches. Entering Varna Goldfinches and
Crested Larks were spotted. Common Buzzards and Kestrels were the only
raptors seen, five Great Egrets in fields beyond the city being of greater
Reaching the old-age alluvial forest of Kamchia we pulled off and took
a walk into this notable habitat, where Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Short-toed
Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Marsh, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, and Hawfinch
were seen, and Pavel heard a Black Woodpecker. At a high level aspect
of the route we took lunch (13:00) at a rustic roadside cafe located in
oak woods, where good views of Middle and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were
enjoyed, also Mistle Thrushes. We also passed a number of rather attractive
'black-headed birds' (ladies of the night pawning their wares by day!).
Remnant patches of snow lay on the ground at this altitude.
Just above the village of Banja we pulled off at the site of a derelict
collective farm where a rare Pine Bunting had been reported
the day previous. The species typically keeps company with Yellowhammers
so, following Pavel's lead, we duly came upon a flock feeding on a bank
and occasionally flying up into bushes. It wasn't long before the bird
was spotted by Pavel (he's much taller than the rest of us!), but it was
only after the flock flew to fruit trees behind a garden that we finally
achieved good views - a fabulous male in full breeding plumage (see
photos) which permitted remarkably close approach, such that we could
enjoy full frame observation through the scopes.
Arriving at the coast we took a brief tour of the ancient town of Nessebar,
stopping by the harbour to check through gulls, of which we separated
individuals of Mediterranean Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus cachinnans michahellis)
from the more local Caspian Gulls (Larus cachinans cachinnans). Roadside
salinas (salt pans) were completely devoid of birdlife on the approach
to Pomorie, where we reached Hotel Byalata at 18:00.
Daytime temperature had risen to 10ºC., mist had manifested over
high ground with a few spots of rain here and there.
Day 5; Tue. 22 February A very mild but misty start (08:00
breakfast for a 09:00 departure), the nearby Black Sea not visible from
our balconies. Responding to these conditions we opted to first visit
a high point north of the town to search for Sombre Tits, finding the
location clear and sunny as hoped. Wandering about an area of scattered
bushes and oak woods by a radio mast the first interesting finds were
botanical, in the form of an exquisite yellow crocus featuring rather
slender petals, together with a virtually stemless form of Star-of-Bethlehem.
It took awhile before a number of fleetingly glimpsed fly-by tits finally
translated into good views of two Sombre Tit foraging close by in ground
cover. A Woodlark and several more eastern 'trumpeter' Bullfinches were
also seen, and DK spotted a Goshawk.
A coffee stop was then taken at Sunny Beach resort, where mist still persisted
but it was mild enough to enjoy our refreshments at outdoor seating. Departing
the coast (and the mist) we headed inland to Lake Poroi (reservoir) seeing
a covey of Grey Partridges and a Raven en route. From an elevated overview
of the lake a rising flight of eight Dalmatian Pelicans was the first
item to catch our attention, followed by two extremely pale Long-legged
Buzzards perched on rocks. A pair of Ruddy Shelducks, our main target
bird, was spotted on a small island as we approached the lake, also a
number of Little and Great Egrets, and Grey Herons. Crested Larks frequently
appeared in the surrounding sparse grassland. Driving along the lake a
dapper male Cirl Bunting presented prolonged close viewing. We parked
for an appetising packed lunch (14:00) by an oakwood, an excellent spot
providing respite from a rather cold wind. More crocuses were found, some
yellow but the majority white - of the same species seen earlier. Overlooking
a narrow 'waist' in the lake a wintering Red-throated Diver was spotted,
which delighted Pavel who informed us that it was a scarce bird for Bulgaria.
The broader aspect of the lake beyond the narrows contained a great many
wildlfowl, including distant flocks of geese and an assortment of ducks:
Gadwall, Pintail, Teal and Smew (our first drake) among others. Two Slender-billed
Gulls flew by.
Later heading for Burgas we saw a Great Grey Shrike fly up from roadside
cover and alight on an electricity cable, then stopped at a sharp bend
in a small village where small bird activity had caught our attention.
Ten minutes of scanning gardens, orchards and rooftops was rewarded with
views of Little Owl, Syrian Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Siskin and Chiffchaff.
Trees at the location contained lots of Spannish Sparrow nests.
Reaching Burgas we linked up with local conservationist Russi, by a roadsidelake
containing large numbers of Shelduck, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail. Russi
led us to nearby Lake Vaya, where we viewed the reed-fringed lake with
its city backdrop, from the upper level of a part-constructed fabrication.
Pavel's trained eye was able to pick out a few distant White-headed Ducks
which, alas, to the rest of us, were not adequately discernible. The greater
show of birds was nonetheless quite outstanding, with a conservative estimate
of 300 Pygmy Cormorants flying by on their way to roost. Numerous Great
Crested and Black-necked Grebes, Dabchicks, Smew, Coots, Moorhens and
distant Dalmatian Pelicans were some of the other birds seen. Cetti's
Warblers occasionally uttered burst of song from nearby reed cover. Shortly
after Pam had asked when were we going to show her a Bittern, one flew
up from the lakeside and passed directly overhead - as though to order.
Just south of the city we finally checked ponds on which a Ferruginous
Duck showed among a large gathering of Shovelers, while Dalmatian Pelicans
perched on a pontoon. Cormorants amassed to roost on electricity pylons.
From a nearby quarry (Eagle Owl haunt) with overview of Lake Vaya and
the Black Sea, the fading late afternoon light created a most atmospheric
close to a very productive day. Back at the hotel 18:00.