1. BIRDWATCHING TOUR TO DRAGOMAN MARSH (allow at least 5-6 hrs)
In the morning you will be picked up from your hotel and transferred (1,20hrs one way) westwards to the biggest Karst marsh in Bulgaria. The checklist here is especially varied in spring and autumn as this wetland lies along the Via Aristotelis flyway and a big number of migrants use it as a stop-over. The composition of the breeding bird fauna is also quite diverse, considering also the presence of lower and higher Karst hills surrounding the marsh.
Expected highlights in summer (end of May-July): Bittern, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Long-legged Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Water Rail, Ferruginous Duck, Black-headed Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Rock Bunting, Sombre Tit, Rock Thrush, Great Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Short-toed Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Stonechat, Black-headed Yellow Wagtail, Crag Martin etc.
Expected highlights during migration (April-end of May; August-September): Bittern, Little Bittern, Black Stork, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Pygmy Cormorant, Long-legged Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, Montague’s Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Water Rail, Ferruginous Duck, Black-headed Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Rock Bunting, Sombre Tit, Great Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Short-toed Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Crag Martin etc.
Remarks and clothing: start from your hotel at 07.00 a.m.; walking on grassland with tall grass and on karts fields; some swampy parts exist in spring (could be avoided if needed); sunscreen lotion and sun hat in summer; light hiking boots; lightweight jacket; rain jacket; long trousers; lunchpack and a bottle of water;
2. BIRDWATCHING IN VITOSHA NATURE PARK (allow at least 5-6 hrs)
Vitosha Mountains are the first thing people see on their way from Sofia Airport to the city centre. This is the oldest nature park on the Balkans and the most favourite hiking destinations for the inhabitants of the capital, being just an hour drive from the centre of the city. The highest peak is Cherni Vryh (The Black Peak), rising at 2290m a.s.l. Depending on the weather and your physical conditions we will either make a walk in the alpine parts first and then go to the woods or we will make just a relaxed hike in the century-old spruce forest. If you prefer walking to birding no problem to climb the peak itself (the uphill walk is just 1-1,30hrs from where we are going to stop with the car) and extend the trek to another famous part of the mountains – The Golden Bridges, passing along the backbone of the mountains, descending from the other side.
Expected highlights in summer (end of May-September): Pallid Swift, Nutcracker, Willow Tit, Black Woodpecker, Ring Ouzel, Water Pipit, Black Redstart, Crag Martin, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Common Crossbill etc.
Remarks and clothing: start from your hotel at 07.30 a.m.; walking on dirty roads and paths; moderate uphill hiking; sunscreen lotion and sun hat in summer; light hiking boots; lightweight jacket; rain jacket; long trousers; lunchpack and a bottle of water (possibility to buy food and water in the huts);
3. WALLCREEPER TOUR TO RODOPI MOUNTAINS (allow at least 12-13 hrs)
This is a very tough birding program, requiring rather early start from Sofia (around 5 a.m.) and then some 3,30hrs drive to the heart of Rodopi Mountains and Trigrad Gorge, which is probably the most famous spot for watching Wallcreepers in Europe. We have to face the 250m high cliffs around 08.30 in order to be ready on time for the most active part of the day, when birds start to move in search of insects. If we have a successful morning we can make visits to some of the local caves – Yagodina cave (considered to be the most beautiful one in Bulgaria) or The Devil’s Throat cave (housing one of the highest underground waterfalls in Europe). Alternatively on the way back we can stop at Besaparski Hills to explore the steppe slopes for interesting raptors (Eastern Imperial Eagle among them) and passerines. Consider arrival in Sofia late in the evening – very tired but totally satisfied if the weather is good.
Expected highlights in summer (May-August): Wallcreeper, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Black-headed Bunting, Isabelline Wheatear, Bee-eater, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin etc.
Remarks and clothing: start from your hotel at 05.00 a.m.; appr. 7-7,30 hrs drive in total; short walks on grassland and dirty roads; sunscreen lotion and sun hat in summer; light hiking boots; lightweight jacket; rain jacket; long trousers; lunchpack and a bottle of water (possibility to have lunch on spot);
CHECK ALSO OUR SPECIAL DAILY TOUR TO LAKE KERKINI IN NORTHERN GREECE