Bulgarian Birds in May
LEADER: CHRIS KEHOE
Our recent tour to Bulgaria produced an excellent selection of southeast European specialities and more widespread Palearctic species. Particularly notable were the likes of Dalmation Pelicans, Paddyfield Warblers, Olive-tree Warblers, Black-headed Buntings, Levant Sparrowhawks, Syrian Woodpeckers, Masked Shrikes, Pied Wheatears and Semicollared Flycatchers. Further highlights included Eastern Imperial Eagles, Red-footed Falcons, Eurasian White Pelicans, Lesser Kestrels, Ferruginous Ducks, Sombre Tits, Eurasian Eagle Owl and Eurasian Griffon, Cinereous and Egyptian Vultures. Bird of the trip though was an unexpected and extremely cooperative Corncrake. Perhaps most striking of all though was the experience of seeing large numbers of birds in agricultural areas where the likes of Red-backed Shrikes, Eurasian Cuckoos and Corn Buntings were positively common, as were many other species that are sadly in serious decline in more intensively farmed Western Europe. Apart from a couple of wet afternoons at the start of the tour, fortunately mostly while we traveled, the weather throughout was very pleasant and the tour logistics ran smoothly.
Our birding began with an unscheduled stop near Vakarel just 30 minutes from Sofia Airport where a calling Corncrake had been reported. On arrival we quickly saw our first European Golden Orioles and a Red-backed Shrike, two species that were to become frequent sights in the coming days, while both Long-legged and Common Buzzards and a Short-toed Eagle appeared overhead…