autumn bird migration and local specialities along the Black Sea coast



"Many thanks for another great Bird Holidays trip. Everyone really enjoyed it. Thanks again to Roger"...... 

Mrs S, Doncaster RSPB Members' Group





Our previous autumn visits to Bulgaria have given us many unforgettable moments….


Following a huge flock of over 12,000 White Storks gently gliding from one thermal to the next; finding Rock Thrush, Eastern Olivaceous and Barred Warblers and Thrush Nightingale right outside our hotel one morning; seeing an Eleonora’s Falcon catch an Alpine Swift; being distracted by a flock of Levant Sparrowhawks close overhead whilst creeping up on an Olive-tree Warbler; counting migrating Yellow Wagtails as they came in off the sea – they were arriving at over 1000 per hour; searching for Black-eared and Isabelline Wheatears when the call went up “Pallid Harrier” – we saw five males that morning, plus a Saker that flew past our lunchtime restaurant; we could go on….


Perhaps none of these events will be repeated exactly, but seven nights in the right place at the right time will certainly turn up sightings of equal quality.


Local breeding bird numbers peak at this time – high counts of Bee-eaters, Golden Orioles, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes are the norm. Paddyfield Warblers breed here and are still present in September. Lakes attract flights of pelicans and storks, and we expect a good range of waders. Alongside the many common species, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Marsh and Broad-billed Sandpipers regularly appear.


The coast forms a major migratory flyway, from the Ukraine to Turkey, and the Bosphorus crossing point. We can expect Booted, Short-toed and Lesser Spotted Eagles; Honey, Steppe and Long-legged Buzzards and Goshawks whilst keeping an eye out for the scarcer raptors.


In addition to the birds there is plenty of other wildlife, and we have a good chance to see Bottle-nosed Dolphins, Golden Jackal and some of Bulgaria’s hundreds of species of butterfly. There is a rich culture too, and some very pleasant wines and beers.

Roger will be joined by local professional naturalist Iordan ‘Dancho’ Hristov, a council member of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, with whom we have a close relationship.





We will fly to Bourgas, then drive north to our first hotel, in the village of Krapetc, on the north-east coast. Steppe, rocky headlands and small marshes draw a wide range of birds to this region. Steppe Eagle, Saker Falcon and Pallid Harrier have been seen here on several occasions, joining the regular passage migrants which include Red-footed Falcon, Honey and Steppe Buzzards, and White and Black Storks.


Our stay of three nights here will give us ample time to explore the best birding sites. Both Isabelline and the handsome Pied Wheatear prefer the dry steppe along with Stone Curlew, whereas Red-breasted Flycatcher, warblers, and many other passerines are best looked for in the small wooded valleys. Not to be missed are Lakes Sabla and Durankulak, two bird-rich sites on the coast which hold Little Bittern, Ferruginous Duck and Garganey, plus lingering Savi’s and Paddyfield Warblers.


We will visit the dramatic Cape Kaliakra, where Yelkouan Shearwaters and Bottle-nosed Dolphins are frequently just offshore, and Eleonora’s Falcons patrol the cliffs for tired migrants. The restaurant here does a good lunch!


The dry steppe is dissected by deep narrow valleys. One such is the Bolata Valley, which is home to Pygmy Cormorant, herons and Eurasian Eagle Owl. Rose-coloured Starling often favours this section of the coast, as do Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes.


Partly because of traditional farming methods and partly due to a low human population density, lots of species can be easier to see in autumn in Bulgaria than elsewhere, including Goshawks, Turtle Doves, Hawfinches, Common Nightingales, Thrush Nightingales and Cirl Buntings.


On day four we will head south, birdwatching along the way. We will explore the flooded forest and large sand dune complex around the Kamčia river mouth. This area is good for White-tailed Eagle, Hobby and migrants. Oak forests at Goritza are good for Short-toed Treecreeper and woodpeckers, including Black, Grey-headed, Middle Spotted and Lesser Spotted. We will also drive over the Drnlinski Pass to watch for migrants passing overhead.



Four nights in a small family run hotel in the village of Sarafovo will give us ample time to cover all the best areas near Bourgas. We have a wide choice of reserves and other top sites, including the heronry at Poda, the lakes at Pomorie, Alepu and the Izvaska River.


This whole area is a magnet for migrants of all sorts, so we can spend some time at the known watch points and wait for the birds to come to us. On previous visits we have found lots of birds around our hotel, including Little Owl, Red-rumped Swallow, Wryneck, Syrian Woodpecker and Crested Lark.


The complex of wetlands around Bourgas, including the famous Lake Anatassovo, attracts a huge variety of birds at this time of year. The shallow lakes vary from freshwater to saline and so provide for different bird species. As well as Night, Purple and Squacco Herons, and Dalmatian and White Pelicans, we shall look for Gull-billed and all three marsh terns, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill and Ferruginous Duck. On the reedy fringes we can look for Great Reed, Marsh and Cetti’s Warblers, and both Bearded and Penduline Tits. The gathering flocks of Caspian, Yellow-legged, Slender-billed, Mediterranean and Little Gulls may hold something special such as Great Black-headed Gull.


There are wet meadows, bogs, low hills and woodlands in the nearby countryside which are good for a range of other birds including Lesser Spotted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Woodlark and a host of interesting flycatchers and warblers. On Cape Emine we will no doubt bump into Sombre Tit and Rock Bunting whilst searching for lingering Eastern Orphean Warblers. The birds that could possibly turn up at this time, especially from further east, are too numerous to list, but have included Terek Sandpiper on previous visits..


On the last morning it is just a short drive to the airport, arriving in good time for our flight back to the UK.



Breakfast will normally be taken at about 8am. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field with short/medium length walks. Any uphill sections will be taken at a sensible pace.



Full-board accommodation is provided with three nights at Krapetc and four nights at Sarafovo. We are delighted to say that we have found two excellent, locally owned hotels with a high standard of food and accommodation. All rooms have en suite bathrooms. Packed lunches will be taken some days, on others we will have restaurant lunches.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local naturalist, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 29th, ending with breakfast on 5th), soft drinks at meal times, all entrance fees, local transport by mini-coach, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flights from Leeds/Bradford to Bourgas using charter services provided by Balkan Holidays. Outbound flight departs mid-morning; return flight arrives back mid-morning.



7 nights:


Principal leader:


Local guide:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

16th May 2010):


Full Cost:


Single supplement:





29th August to 5th Sept. 2010


Roger Barnes


Iordan ‘Dancho’ Hristov


12 clients with one leader

and a local guide



£1380 per person sharing


£1480 per person sharing








                                                                                                                  Thrush Nightingale, Paul King





Red-backed Shrike, Yellow Wagtail, White Stork flock, Pelicans  -  by tour member Paul King


Long-legged Buzzard and Sombre Tit,   D. Gradinarov


Pygmy Cormorant,  C Nikolov                                                       Citrine Wagtail, Roger Barnes



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