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 interest.
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.

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