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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Black Sea Coast, Bulgaria 6th – 14th September 2007,
This was my first visit to Eastern Europe and having searched the internet I soon found a lack of information and documented trip reports for this time of year. I was hoping to arrive in the middle of the big migration.
This being a family holiday, bird watching was mainly going to be done early morning and late afternoon. We booked with First Choice to the pretty resort of St. Konstantin. The brochure describes the resort full of beech, oak and pine copses so I was expecting many birds. Therefore I was surprised to find that there was no trip report based on this resort.
We arrived in Varna airport late afternoon. 2 Red Backed Shrikes, Hooded Crows, Magpies, Sparrows and a Jay were seen on route to the hotel. We stayed at the Koral Hotel having booked bed and breakfast, we had previously heard that eating out is very inexpensive.
Leaving the wife to unpack my son and I walked down to the resort. Swallows, House and Sand martins were everywhere in the sky. 2 White wagtails were feeding on the lawn, also we saw Great and Blue tits, Chaffinch, Spotted flycatcher and an Icterine warbler in a bush by the pool. 8 Rose coloured starlings were among the common feeding in a nearby lawn.
After breakfast we went for a family walk to the Botanical gardens which are situated to the North of the resort. Take care crossing the busy E87 carriageway! Entrance fee was only 30p for the three of us! The first bird seen was a very tame Green woodpecker, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Blackbird and Woodpigeon then followed. A huge flock of approx. 200 White storks flew south. Olivaceous warbler, 6 Tree sparrows, Red breasted flycatcher and another 6 Green woodpecker were seen during our visit. The rest of the day was spent doing family stuff!
An early morning visit to the West of the resort proved very rewarding. As it had been raining the night before a huge fall of passerines were present. Movement was seen in every tree, there were birds everywhere. I roughly counted up to 80 Red backed shrikes, 15+ Woodchat shrikes, 80+ Spotted flycatchers and 15+ Barred warbler. Also, 10 Nightingales, Whitethroats, Whinchats, Hoopoes, Chif chafs and just the one Icterine warbler. In the vineyards opposite were Wheaters, more Red breasted flycatchers, Grey wagtails, Green woodpeckers and just the one Stock dove. A Black kite drifted south with 7 Purple herons. All this in 2 hours – superb! On route back to the hotel for breakfast I got my first lifer, 4 Levant sparrowhawk circled south. A trip to Varna was planned for the day, adding Robin, Great spotted woodpecker, many Bee eaters, Jackdaw and Nuthatch from the park. An evening walk to the east of the resort produced Hawfinch, over 60 Bee eaters, many more Shrikes and the first Swift. A Black kite drifted south and a Red footed falcon was hawking insects above a hotel.
After an early rise, the weather was a bit drizzly, but as I had got up I thought 'go for it’ !! I went north passing the police check point and I was heading for Vinitsa. In a field below, hundreds of White storks were roosting from the night before until they got disturbed by a farmer’s dog, they were in the air in front of a reddish sunrise sky, I just wish I’d brought my camera. Over 50 Bee eaters were seen and the first Red rumped swallow. Other new birds included – Crested larks and a Marsh harrier.
Being a true Welshman and with no sky sports in the resort we had to take a taxi to the resort of Golden Sands to watch the rugby world cup. My first Buzzard was seen above the resort and off shore Mediterranean and Little gulls were fishing. I think I made a wise choice when I decided to stay at St. Konstantin as this resort was very commercialized.
We usually hire a car when we go on holiday but with the fast driving and a 3 year old child in tow I was not going to risk it. I made some enquiries in the resort and found a company called Rentacar offering the hire of a car and a driver for one day willing to take me wherever I wanted. All this cost only 60 lev or £22.50.
Nick the driver picked me up at 8am and we were on our way to Cape Kalikara. Bee eaters and Kestrels were very common en route. Stopping near Albina after seeing some raptors from the car window, 27 Lesser spotted eagles were circling south and also one Short toed eagle. Reaching a very windy cape and 3 bus loads of tourists birding was going to be very difficult. From the car park I walked through the ruins and came across the target bird, up to 3 Pied wheater, a lifer for myself. Also here 2 Tree pipits and Red backed shrikes, offshore Shags, Commoronats, LBB gull, Little gulls, Jackdaw and a Whiskered tern. But the best bird of all was a Saker falcon sitting on a rock. The plateu had 3 Marsh harrier and some Linnets. Reaching site 3 from the Gosne’y book I met a British birder. I had just missed an Elanoras falcon, we were here for nearly 2 hours and what a fantastic place! Above the ridge raptors came thick and fast. Buzzards, Marsh harriers, Kestrels, 2 Short toed eagles, 1 Black kite, 1 Hen and 2 Montagu harriers were spotted. Passerines included Red backed and Woodchat shrikes, Pied and Red breasted fly catchers, Lesser and Common whitethroats, Whinchats, Nightingales, Garden, Barred, Marsh, Bonellis, Olivacious and Willow warbles. Also here were Little grebe and a little bittern.
Stopping at Tyulenovo I saw 3 Marsh and one Hen Harrier and my first Skylarks, Yellow wagtails and 18 Calandra larks in a stubble field. We reached Shabla pool by midday, the lake was very dry but birds came thick and fast. Marsh harriers were hunting, up to 25 Little egrets, 2 Purple and 5 Grey herons were fishing. Gulls included up to 4 Slender billed, Black headed and Mediterranean. Ducks included Mallard, Teal and Pintail, also Shellduck and 7 beautiful Ferrigenous ducks (another lifer). Waders here were 2 Avocet, 2 Marsh sandpiper, Dunlin, Greenshank, 2 Little stint and one Red necked phalarope. Also my first Spanish sparrows.
On the journey home I spotted Hen harrier, Common sparrowhawk, the first Roller and the first Lesser grey shrike of the holiday and 3 Lesser spotted eagles.
An early walk to the west again hoping for the same array of birds, but unfortunately not as successful this time. Still I had Spotted and Red breasted flycatchers, Olivacious warbler and Lesser whitethroat. A Marsh harrier and Short toed eagle drifted south. As bad weather was forecasted after breakfast we headed for Varna to the Dolphinarium and the zoo. After lunch the weather improved and we headed to Varna park, here I saw Flycatchers, many Bee eaters, Tree sparrows, 3 Green, 1 Grey headed, 3 Great spotted and my first Syrian woodpecker. A half hour wait for the taxi outside the Dolphinarium produced 2 Honey buzzards, 2 Sparrowhawks and one Lesser spotted eagle. During an evening walk around St. Konstantin I saw my only Thrush nightingale of the holiday.
During an early morning walk around the resort before heading home lunchtime I saw my first 2 Serin, also 2 Stock doves, more Tree sparrows, Spotted and Red breasted flycatchers, Robin and many Bee eaters. Also 7 Green, 4 Great spotted and 2 Grey headed woodpeckers. Drifting south were 2 Honey buzzards and a Lesser spotted eagle.
All in all a good holiday, the weather could have been better. We found St Konstantin to be very peaceful and probably the nicest resort in Bulgaria. The Hotel Koral was very pleasant, ideal in a central position.
The Estreya and the Grand Varna also looked nice.
Would I go back? Probably yes, if your looking for true Bulgarian culture - restaurants, folklore dancing, fine wine etc. because you wont find your KFC and fish+chips here, I hope it stays as it is.
Over hundred birds were seen in a week, with 9 lifers.
Only one downfall about the resort. Please be aware of stray dogs.
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