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Bulgaria – easy birding on the Black Sea coast

An easy birdwatching tour, focusing on the southbound migrants of the Black Sea coast.

The Black Sea flyway, known as the Via Pontica, is one of the busiest migration routes in Europe, rivalling those of Gibraltar and the Bosphorus, as the birds of northern Europe are funnelled through the bottle-neck between the coast and the mountains, on their way south.

We start in coastal Dobroudzha, exploring the remnant steppe grasslands and dramatic cliffs of Cape Kaliakra, home to breeding Calandra Lark and Pied Wheatear, with migrant larks, pipits, chats and shrikes. The area is also home to the highest density of Wild Cats in Europe, an exciting possibility on any visit.

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Nearby, the great lakes of Durankulak and Shabla attract mixed flocks of Whiskered and Black Terns. Amongst the wildfowl and water birds we should be able to pick out Ferruginous Duck and Pygmy Cormorant; the surrounding bushes may hold migrating warblers, flycatchers, shrikes and chats, alongside resident Syrian Woodpecker.

The second part of our holiday is spent around the Bourgas wetlands. Here one of the great attractions should be the huge flocks of pelicans that roost on the lakes during their migration. The shallows of Atanasovsko Lake attract a good variety of waders, with Broad-billed or Marsh Sandpipers a strong possibility. We spend a morning at Dyulinksi Pass, a superb watchpoint at the end of the Eastern Balkan Range from where we hope to observe the migration of raptors and other soaring birds – White and Black Storks; Lesser Spotted, Booted and Short-toed Eagles; Levant Sparrowhawk, Honey Buzzard Red-footed Falcon, and four harrier species may all pass overhead.

 

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Wildlife Travel Bulgaria autumn 2018

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

Dates

19 – 26 September 2020

Leader

Phil Saunders

Price

To be confirmed

Included

Return flights from London Gatwick. Seven nights’ accommodation, full board basis. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary.

Not included

Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.

Group size

Minimum 5, maximum 12.

Day 1 Our fight takes us to Varna on the Black Sea coast from where we transfer to our hotel in Krapets (~1.5 hours).

Days 2 – 3 We will spend time exploring Cape Kaliakra and the nearby steppe. Bird specialities should include Pied Wheatear, Calandra Lark and perhaps Stone Curlew, while migrant flycatchers, chats, shrikes and warblers are passing through the bushes. Offshore both Black-necked Grebe and Black-throated Diver will be arriving for the winter, while Yelkouan Shearwaters pass by and there is a good chance of Bottle-nosed Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise. We will also visit Lakes Durankulak and Shabla.

Day 4 We travel  south towards Bourgas making several stops along the way as we pass over the Balkan Mountains to look for species such as Sombre Tit and Middle-spotted Woodpecker in the orchards. We will also visit the salt pans of Pomorie Lake, famous for its curative mud, where we should find plenty of waders to keep us entertained.

Days 5-7 For the next three days we will explore the Bourgas area, paying particular attention to its internationally important wetlands. The three large but very different lakes attract large numbers of wading birds, herons, pelicans, gulls and terns. We will also spend a day at Dyulinksi Pass migration watch point – in the right conditions, this can be one of the most impressive visual migrations in Europe – we can hope to see Lesser Spotted, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, harriers, buzzards and falcons, storks and pelicans, sometimes in very large numbers.

Day 8 Our time in Bulgaria has come to an end, and after breakfast we have to head north again towards Varna and our flights home.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

Our accommodation will be at good three-star local hotels, all with en-suite accommodation.

Meals provided during the stay will be a mixture of Balkan and International dishes, with an emphasis on local cuisine and plenty of salads. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.

Transport will be by small bus, minibus or smaller vehicles if necessary.

The group flights are from London Gatwick with Easyjet.

19 September depart London Gatwick 16.45, arrive Varna 22.15
26 September depart Varna 23.00, arrive London Gatwick 00.40 (27)

Bulgaria is two hours ahead of the UK.

If you hold an EU passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Bulgaria. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this. Should we leave the EU without a deal in place before September 2020, you should have at least six months left on your passport from your date of arrival.

At this time of year the weather is usually sunny but not too hot. However, as with everywhere the weather is no longer entirely predictable, and there may be some cooler weather, rain or wind.

On most days, we are out and about for much of the day, albeit walking a relatively slow pace and making several stops each day. It is necessary to walk on rougher ground and up some slopes, although none of the walking is strenuous. Walking boots are essential. There are steps at our hotels, often with no lift, as well as up/down into the vehicles.