Classic Spring Birding Tour

A fortnight spring birding tour, exploring some of the most beautiful, bird-rich landscapes in Europe – the Black Sea coast, the Rhodopes, the Central Balkan and the Vitosha Mountains.

Day 1

The tour starts from Sofia at 14.00 h in the afternoon at the latest. The tour participants will be picked up either from Sofia Airport, as they are kindly requested to arrive there until 14.00 h (2 p.m.), or from their accommodation place within the city of Sofia, if they have arrived earlier.

One hour and a half transfer southeast to the northeastern part of the Rila Mnts, where for the rest of the day we will be searching for the Eurasian Pygmy Owl and other conifer forests birds, like the Spotted Nutcracker, Ring Ouzel (ssp. alpestris), Willow Tit, Crested Tit, Firecrest, plus Water Pipit in the mountain grasslands and streams.

Overnight in Rila Mnts area.

Day 2

In the morning we could either do birdwatching in Rila – to try to see the bird species we have missed in the previous day, or could transfer directly to the Trigrad Gorge in the Western Rhodope Mountains, where the main target will be the Wallcreeper. Other birds to be seen here include the Peregrine Falcon, Alpine Swift, Eurasian Crag Martin, White-throated Dipper, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Rock Bunting.

Overnight in Trigrad area.

Day 3

Morning walk in conifer and deciduous forests with chances to see a Hazel Grouse, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush. Then we could visit the Trigrad Gorge again (in case we have missed to see the Wallcreeper well in the previous day due to a bad weather). Later we will have a 4 hour transfer to the Eastern Rhodopes with several birding stops on the way.

Accommodation in the town of Krumovgrad for three nights.

Day 4 & Day 5

Two days in the Eastern Rhodopes, incl. one morning at the main vulture feeding place in the area. Main birds to be seen in the Eastern Rhodopes: Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Black Kiteall of them visit the feeding place, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Black Stork, Chukar, Eurasian Scops Owl, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Barred Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Western Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit, Black-headed Bunting.

Day 6

Drive east to the southern Black Sea coast, with stops in the Sakar Hills, where we will spend almost the whole day, looking for the Eastern Imperial Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Montagu’s Harrier, European Roller, European Bee-eaters, Eurasian Hoopoe, Syrian Woodpecker, Masked Shrike, Olive-tree Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Isabelline Wheatear, Black-headed Bunting.

For the next three nights we will stay in the town of Sozopol.

 Day 7

Today we will explore the wetlands around Bourgas: Bourgas Lake, Mandra Lake, Atanasovsko Lake, Pomorie Lake.

Key bird species to be seen here: Great White Pelican, Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, White-tailed Eagle, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Water Rail, Black-winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Slender-billed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Collared Pratincole, White-winged Turn, Marsh Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Eurasian Penduline Tit,  etc.

 Day 8

Visiting the Strandzha Mountains (one hour drive south from Sozopol), where we will be searching for White-backed Woodpecker (ssp. lilfordi), Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, Semi-collared Flycatcher and other birds occurring the broad-leaved forests.

Day 9

Today we drive north to Coastal Dobrudzha on the northern Bulgarian coast with a stop in the Eastern Balkan range, where we can see the Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eurasian Wryneck,  Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Woodlark, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Short-toed Treecreeper, Hawfinch, Sombre Tit, Ortolan Bunting, etc.

Accommodation in Kavarna area for the next three nights.

 Day 10

Cape Kaliakra and Yailata steppes and cliffs. Here we will be looking for the European Shag (ssp. desmarestii), Eurasian Eagle Owl, Stone Curlew, Pied Wheatear, Rosy Starling, Calandra Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Lesser Grey Shrike, Tawny Pipit, etc. Mediterranean Shearwaters often fish in the sea close to the cape, attacked by Arctic Skuas.

Day 11

This day we will visit the northern coastal wetlands of Shabla and Durankulak, close to the border with Romania. The highlights here will be the Ferruginous Duck, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Bittern, Western Marsh Harrier, Red-footed Falcon, Collared Pratincole, Syrian Woodpecker, Paddyfield Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Black-headed subspecies (ssp. feldegg) of the Yellow Wagtail,  and other migrating & summering species of waders, gulls and turns.

Day 12

Today we drive westward – to the Central Balkan Mountains (~ 300-350 km for 5-6 hours) with some stops on the way for birding and lunch.The Central Balkan National Park, protects the largest European massif of beach forests (Fagus silvatica), which are over 250 years old. In the evening we have good chances to see the Tawny Owl in the hotel area.

We will be staying overnight in Beklemeto.

Day 13

Morning – another walk in the beech forests, searching for Red-breasted Flycatcher, Eurasian Treecreeper and other forest birds, incl. the Black Woodpecker and White-backed Woodpecker (if we have missed them on the previous spots). Then we will head to Sofia, where we could visit the Dragoman marsh (to the west of Sofia) and its surroundings, where we can find the Great Bittern, Short-toed Eagle, Corncrake, Little Crake, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Lesser Grey Shrike.

One night in Sofia area.

 Day 14

Departure from Sofia Airport.

If the departure is in the afternoon, or in the evening we could visit some birding sites around Sofia like Vitosha Mountain.

During the trip we will see the Red-rumped Swallow, Red-backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Song Thrush, Spanish Sparrow, Black-headed Bunting, Corn Bunting, etc. almost everywhere in the lowlands.

Download the check-list of birds likely to be seen on this tour.

Black-headed Bunting by Mladen Vasilev

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