Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bulgaria: Madzharovo to Sinemoretz

June 11th - 13th, 2011

Madzharovo to Sinemoretz looks like this on Google maps.  Just look at this long drive/day!  By far, day five was our longest and hardest travel day, but it was also a big day for excellent birds.  Because it was such a long travel day, we missed out on seeing much of Sinemoretz which was our first overnight stop on the Black Sea and where we stayed at the Villa Philadelphia, owned by our American organizer, Yoav Chudnoff and his family.

Ending day four in Madzharovo we had excellent looks at Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) as one flew in particularily close to our location on the river and with cliffs behind.

The Egyptian Vulture below decided to perch on the road.

On our first night in Madzharovo, we heard Scops Owls (Otus scops) calling from the trees in the neighborhood.  After dark on our second night, we all walked down the street to call in a Scops Owl.  It took about five minutes to gain the attention of these responsive little owls.  

Starting out day five and leaving Madzharovo we found Blue Rock-Thrush (Monticola solitarius) and Cirl (Emberiza cirlus) and Rock (Emberiza cia) buntings (already described) on the rock faces nicknamed "the flintstones."  Eventually, we saw these birds well as they moved around and sang from a variety of stone perches.

Here we also saw several close perched Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) in excellent light.  Previously we had seen Griffon Vultures only in flight and quite high up.

The sign above, in cyrillic letters of the Bulgarian language, is the name of the spring, Eagles Nest.  In addition to Egyptian and Griffon vultures, this was an important area for other breeding birds of prey.

This charming White (also Pied) Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba) was present on the cliffs the whole time.  Finally it came close enough for me to get a clear photo.   White Wagtail is another bird we saw every day.

The above photo is of the beautiful Arda River gorge adjacent to the Egyptian Vulture cliffs and rock faces near Madzharovo.  

We had to hustle away from Madzharovo to see our next good bird of the trip in an area called Szilengrad about an hour drive from Madzharovo.

After a relatively leisurely walk though beautiful fields with woods scattered throughout we finally saw a bird fly and then land in a tree across a small river from us.  Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes)!  Through the spotting scope we got great looks at this bird. The manner in which it was perched, unobstructed and cooperative, allowed me to take this distant and heavily cropped, but easily identifiable photo. Mladen commented that he had never seen Levant Sparrowhawk so well as this and he has never photographed one. Though he never let on, I am sure he wished he had his camera.  I wished he had his camera.

We next drove to Shitit (yes, this is the name of the place) to see Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus).  The tiny perched bird in the photo would suggest that we did not see it well.  But, through the spotting scope this was a completely beautiful bird.  We had to chase it around a bit in a forested meadow - habitat the likes of which I have not seen in the states.  In this same location we also worked hard to see an elusive Olive-tree Warbler (Hippolais olivetorum), which we finally did see reasonably well.

Following this it was time for a late lunch and we stopped at a place that Mladen seemed to know well and the owners appeared happy to see him.  We had Bulgarian salad, sausages and french fries.  This was a completely interesting and charming place not far from the border with Turkey.

Mladen had served a tour of duty with the Bulgarian army near here. One of my regrets is that I did not pay enough attention to the places where we stopped for lunch - the names of the restaurants and, like this one, the remote town in which it was located.  Several of us wanted coffee following lunch. but giving attention to the time, we had to move on to the next good bird.

While driving on a road in need of some repair, probably some of us nodding off - especially those in the back of the van - suddenly Mladen shouted, "Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca), Imperial Eagle!"  Wake up. A close, low-soaring bird flew right in front of the van and began circling low over an adjacent field.  We all emptied out of the van and this time Mladen had his camera ready.  Even with my point and shoot, I was able to fire off several photos of which the one above is probably the best.  We watched this bird until it was in the clouds.

We left the Imperial Eagle and thus began the long drive to Sinemoretz. How long?  Lloonngg.  It was a drive in which, like a bunch of kids in the backseat, we would ask, "how much longer?"  "Two hours," came the reply.  Two hours later again, "how much longer?"  Again, the reply "two hours."  You guessed it, two hours later, "how long now?"  "Two hours."  At this point, Bob asked his wife, Carli, for some ibuprofen. Carli dug around in her gold day bag and pulled out a ziplock bag of pills to hand her husband two ibuprofen.  She then casually asked if anyone else needed anything.  "Ibuprofen?"  "Antidepressant?" Everyone howled.

It turned out that the problem was really the state of disrepair of the roads requiring the van to travel very slowly.  When it came time to decide if we should take a longer route on better roads, a decision was made to take the shorter route on poor roads.  That was the clincher.

But the long ride took us through the Strandje forest.  At one point we had to stop for the obvious reason.  The forest was deep and dark.  We decided to take this opportunity to call for White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) and Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). We heard both of these birds and some saw them fleetingly.  If I had seen the Black Woodpecker the whole ordeal would have been offset. At least we heard it.  Finally, the mosquitoes began to attack and we made a hasty retreat to the van for the next two hour segment of driving.

We arrived in Sinemoretz at 10:30 pm thoroughly whipped.  We got into our rooms and then walked down the road a short distance to the Afrodite (yes, I believe this was the spelling) restaurant on the Black Sea for something small to eat.

Secondary to the long day we set a more leisurely wake-up time. Everyone woke refreshed.  After a good night's sleep it was easier to reflect upon what great birding we had the previous day despite the many hours of travel. After breakfast the guys and Carol went for a forest walk along a river, again to look for woodpeckers.  Too soon to return to the van for Carli and I, we stayed behind to walk around and explore Sinemoretz.

It was a great morning and we met a charming young couple from Slovakia who, it would not be too much of a stretch to say, spoke English better than we did.

Още, за да се!

Butterflies and dragonflies seen:


"Dr. Bob" said...

Невероятно пътуване! Благодарим Ви за споделяне! "Д-р Боб"

Mladen said...

"This sign, in cyrillic letters of the Bulgarian language, proclaims the site as a world protected location for nesting Egyptian Vulture. At least this is what I think it says - there was another sign in English. I'll be corrected by my Bulgarian friends if I am wrong. It is also an important area for other breeding birds of prey. Here we saw several close perched Egyptian Vultures in excellent light. Of note, on both day four and five, we also saw Eurasian Griffon (Vulture) (Gyps fulvus) but always in flight and often quite high up."

Ok, as a Bulgarian I will correct you:)
the sign says the name of the water spring, which is: "Eagles nests" and also the vultures perched in excellent light were Griffons not Egyptians.

Cathy Carroll said...