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Bird Watching in Inland Bulgaria

Bulgaria is truly a bird watching paradise. People who never considered themselves as twitchers have suddenly been intrigued by the variety of garden birds and suddenly find themselves purchasing a book on birds so that they can at least identify what is in their garden. This then leads to a search for rarer species with day trips to nearby wetlands, which can be combined with a meal at a local restaurant or a visit to a nearby historical site. Quest Bulgaria provides some more places for both dedicated and amateur bird watchers to visit...

 

Kresna Gorge

Located in south western Bulgaria, this 18 km gorge is a natural corridor for vast numbers of migrants, which use the other European flyway, the Via Aristotelis. The Strouma River runs through the middle dividing it from the Malashevska and Pirin Mountains. The gorge is covered with overgrown with Mediterranean foliage and this combined with the trees along the river bank create a unique permutation of habitats for birds and other wildlife. During spring and summer the temperature amidst the foliage is high but this does not deter species like the barred, orphean, olivaveous and eastern bonelli warblers or the masked and woodchat shrikes. The rocky parts of the gorge attract many peregrine falcons amongst other species and the migration period brings many storks, birds of prey and passerines.

Madzharovo

This tiny miner’s town in the eastern Rhodope Mountains is surrounded by vertical volcanic cliffs and the Arda River. The area is covered with shrubs and low-lying deciduous trees, which give rise to an exceptional number of birds of prey. A colony of flying griffon vultures live in this vicinity, but it is also possible to see many other species including black storks and black and Egyptian vultures. The migration season brings a whole host of other species including Ospreys, booted and eastern imperial eagles and red-footed falcons.

Rousenski Lom

This nature reserve lies near Rousse and the Danube River in north eastern Bulgaria. There are some stunning views in this area formed by the rocky canyons bordering the Rousenski Lom River and the flatlands of the Danubian Plain.  This varied landscape provides a diverse number of habitats including broad-leaved woodland areas, ponds rich in fish, steep limestone cliffs, open fields and river beds and thus attracts a large variety of wildlife. The area offers ideal nesting grounds for many birds like the black stork and lesser spotted eagle.

The Sakar Mountains

This scenic mountain range lies in the south east of the country between two valleys created by the Toundzha and Maritsa rivers. The range is not great in size; the highest peak, Vishegrad is only 856 m. above sea level, but its mild Mediterranean climate combined with slopes covered with vegetation and small oak forests provide ideal nesting grounds, which attract many goshawks, woodchats and lesser grey and masked shrikes.

Srebarna Lake

This lake in north eastern Bulgaria holds international importance for its colony of Dalmatian pelicans. It consists of extensive reed beds and a small woodland area, which separates it from the River Danube, although a small channel connects the river to the lake. The breeding season attracts many other species who build nests in the reed beds or the willow shrubs. The area is also the key nesting area in Bulgaria for ferruginous ducks. During migration and mild winters waterfowl and white-tailed eagles rest here.

Studen Kladenets Dam and Krumovitsa River

Lying in the heart of the eastern Rhodope Mountains, the dam is surrounded by towering cliffs along the main valley of the Arda River. The Krumovitsa River flows along a valley surrounded by volcanic cliffs. The area also attracts three species of vultures; the griffon, Egyptian and black vulture. Other birds of prey are also prevalent particularly during migration as are black storks, which nest among the rocks. There is an abundance of southern species including black-eared Wheatears, sombre tits and a variety of warblers and the great spotted cuckoo is also a regular sight.

Trigrad Gorge

This impressive gorge lies close to the Greek border in the Western Rhodope Mountains. It consists of rocky limestone cliffs, which tower some 200 m above the ground. Its slopes are covered with thick coniferous forests, which provide perfect habitats for wall creepers, alpine swifts and crag Martins amongst many others.

Vitosha

Close to the capital the Vitosha Mountain is home to the oldest nature park on the Balkan Peninsula. The coniferous forests and subalpine meadows attract species such as the Tengmalm’s Owl and honey buzzard. During winter black woodpecker and nutcrackers abound.

The Best Time to Visit

The beauty about bird watching is that it is a hobby that can be undertaken at any time if the year with each season bringing differing species and behavioural activities. Many experts say that spring is the best season to observe birds in Bulgaria. Some say that with a good guide it is possible to see 200 species of bird in 10 days with all of the migration and breeding activities going on.

In early summer many species are still nesting or feeding youngsters and sometimes this makes them difficult to spot.  With hot temperatures on the coast, bird watching is done in the cooler mountain areas particularly above 1,700 m where it is possible to observe many species among the beautiful alpine meadows.

Autumn is the ideal time for keen birding enthusiasts with plentiful flocks of migrants using the Via Pontica flyway. This is a great time to see pelicans, storks, and birds of prey. October is the best month of the year to see rare bird species especially along the coast.

Bird watching in winter is reliant on the weather; January and February are the best winter months and the best areas to view a large variety of species are the lagoons, lakes and gulfs on the coast. In these areas there are thousands of geese and waterfowl – observing the flight of the numerous flocks of red-breasted geese is spectacular.

Bird pictures courtesy of Ben Stansfield www.benstansfield.com