In January I had the chance to visit Bulgaria, in cooperation with Neophron Tours. The first thing on the program where griffon vultures. There is a good population in Eastern Rodophes. An extremely beautiful and vast hilly area which holds an incredible amount of biodiversity. In summer you can find most of the European raptor species here. Besides this, it’s also very famous for it’s bat colonies. In a cave next to the road I immediately found 4 species, but close to 30 are known to inhabit the area!
Some mornings where misty with Chukars calling from close by, some where extremely windy with good snowdrifts, but it was fun to be this close to these large raptors and see the sunrise every morning from a mountaintop!
After the Vultures succeeded, we planned to try the rare Eastern imperial eagle. It’s an animal which gets huge admiration by the local people in the villages. The imperial eagles sometimes do a special flight when bad weather is coming. Local farmers believe that the animal “fights” the weather in order to protect their offspring and the crops of the farmers. Thanks to this superstitious believe, the eagle has always been loved and protected by the locals, and they are often found breeding very obviously, and close to villages. The population trend is however still declining due to high juvenile mortality. The eagles are resident here, so I saw them daily, but unfortunately, they didn’t came in front of the hide, I only managed to get some distant shots:
The area where the eagles breed is an area with very extensive agriculture, so was also able to photograph farmland birds and seed eaters. Also Jakhal where present in good numbers, but they where less aggressive compared to the Romanian ones. Everyday, the local buzzard showed up, and sometimes Hen harriers or Sparrowhawks flew past.
On some days, the long legged buzzard flew over as well:
In the evening, when driving back to the hotel, Little owls where everywhere! The villages have many abandoned buildings, and many of the chimneys where used as watch-out by these nocturnal creatures. When you stood in the middle of the village, you where really surrounded by calling individuals, it was amazing! Good to see that they are still thriving outside of Belgium!
After this, I headed to the coast of the Black sea. Bulgaria is the most important wintering ground for the red-breasted geese. Unfortunately I was there during the hunting season, and the weather was abnormally warm, so most of the group migrated north, and the rest was really shy. On the way I past Bourgas, a very nice city situated in between several lakes. Half of my day was very misty, I could only hear the numerous birds, and when the mist cleared, it was amazing to see all of it!
Finally I finished with a day at a birdfeeder in a garden, because Somber tit was often visiting the place, and I was lucky to get it in front of the lens!
The Last landscape pictures are from the Western Rodophes, on my way to Greece…. (to be continued!)