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Bulgaria – winter wild goose chase

Exploring the threatened wetlands of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, with its spectacular winter wildlife.

Every winter almost the entire world population of the endangered Red-breasted Goose returns to the Black Sea coast, feeding on the winter crop fields of northern Bulgaria and roosting on the lakes of Shabla and Durankulak. Watching the early morning ‘take off’ of hundreds of thousands of geese, which can include thousands of Red-breasted Geese is truly spectacular.

We will also search through the larger flocks of White-fronted Geese, looking for Lesser White-fronted and Bean Goose. Rough-legged and Long-legged Buzzards are both common winter visitors and we will keep our eyes peeled for the occasional White-tailed Eagle, with Saker and Spotted Eagle both possible at this time of year.

From here we move south to the lakes and wetlands around Bourgas. Here we will find Pygmy Cormorant, White-headed Duck and Smew, alongside Dalmatian Pelicans in their bright breeding colours and the occasional Bittern, while scarcer visitors to the area might include Pallas’s Gull and Great Grey Shrike.

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A day away from the water will take us south into the oak-clad Strandzha Mountains where the woodland floor is a carpet of early-flowering Colchicum coum, Primulas, snowdrops and crocuses, and woodpeckers drum while Woodlarks sing. As well as the birds, we will also spend time looking for some of Europe’s most exciting mammals: Wild Boar, Wild Cat and Golden Jackal been seen on our previous visits to Bulgaria, while Otter is always a possibility.

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Wildlife Travel Bulgaria winter 2019

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

15 – 22 February 2020

Leader

Mike Symes

Price

£1,595

Single Room Supplement – £120

Included

Return flights Luton to Bourgas. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary. Seven nights’ accommodation, full board basis.

Not included

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

Group size

Minimum 5, maximum 14.

Day 1 Our fight takes us to Bourgas on the Black Sea coast from where we transfer to our hotel in the coastal town of Kraimorie.

Day 2 We spend today around the internationally important wetlands in the Bourgas area. Chief amongst the attractions will be Pygmy Cormorant, pelicans and White-headed Duck.

Day 3 We travel north along the Black Sea coast. Amongst our stops will be a visit to the Kamchia River, an area of riverine forest and associated habitats that gives us our best chances of finding two of Bulgaria’s enigmatic mammals, Golden Jackal and Wild Cat.

Days 4-5 An early start takes us to the lakes of Durankulak and Shabla, where the vast majority of the area’s geese roost overnight. The early morning ’take off’, during which tens of thousands of wild geese including, hopefully, large numbers of Red-breasted Geese fly overhead to their feeding fields promises to be an unforgettable spectacle. We spend some time at nearby Cape Kaliakra, where the sea cliffs give a better view out to sea and the sea duck, grebes and divers that winter off-shore. The nearby area of steppe is home to wintering Calandra Lark, Long-legged Buzzard and Short-eared Owl. The exact itinerary will depend on local conditions including where the geese are feeding and how much ice is present on the lakes as well as viewing conditions and luck.

Day 6 A travelling day takes us back to Bourgas. Several stops along the way should give us the chance to catch up with Eagle Owl on their nesting cliff as well as woodlands home to several species of woodpecker.

Day 7 Today we head for the Strandzha mountains where we will be looking out for early spring flowers, including Colchicum coum, the pretty reddish Primula acaulis rubra, crocuses and snowdrops. With a little luck we may find one of the Eastern Imperial Eagles that make this area their home.

Day 8 After breakfast we will return to the Bourgas lakes for another chance to enjoy the wildfowl and raptors of the area. There should also be some time to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Nessebar before we make our way to the airport for our flight home

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

We will be staying at two hotels during the holiday – Kavarna in the north and Kraimorie in the south. Exact hotels used will depend on the final group size. All rooms have en-suite facilities with bath and/or shower.

Meals provided during the stay will have an emphasis on local cuisine. Lunches will be a mixture of picnics and café/restaurants. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.

Transport will be by small bus or smaller ‘people carrier’-type vehicles if necessary.

The group flights are with Wizz Air from London Luton.

15 February depart Luton 13.55, arrive Bourgas 19.25
22 February depart Bourgas 20.00, arrive Luton 20.45

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 February 2020, you should have at least six months left on your passport from your date of arrival.

The weather at this time of year can be, not surprisingly, cold, perhaps around freezing (although it may also be warmer) during the day, with snow on the ground. Cold winds can add to the chill factor, you should be prepared for it to be cold throughout the trip. Snow or rain are both possible. We will adapt our activities to the weather.

On most days, we are out and about for much of the day as we travel around the countryside looking for the birds. You should be comfortable with walking on snowy or icy ground. For this reason the trip is not likely to be suitable for anyone who has problems with balance or who needs a stick to walk. There are likely to be steps at our hotels, with no lift, and we are likely to be climbing in and out of the vehicle fairly often.