Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bulgaria: Sinemoretz to Nessebar to Krapets

June 12th through June 15th, 2011

The drive from Sinemoretz to Krapets, not actually on Google maps probably because Krapets is such a tiny seaside resort, looks something like this. For the sake of identifying our drive, Balchik is near enough and we did go to Balchick as well.  These were, without a doubt, our easiest travel days and our days of greatest leisure - all while continuing to see great birds.     

I am starting to bump up against elapsed time converging on the lapse of memory.  Fortunately, I have my photos, our itinerary and the locations of our overnight stays to remind me of trip events.

Leaving Sinemoretz we drove toward Nessebar birding along the way. We stopped at a BSPB reserve that employed a young German intern for the summer.  He'd only begun to work there and I think he was surprised to see a relatively large group of American birders invade his space.  Of course, the young man spoke flawless English.  The main reason for coming here was to have lunch on the veranda overlooking a large marsh and bay while also being able to bird from the veranda. The German intern had the spotting scope trained on a White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) on nest and he sort of shyly told us this. When Mladen heard this, he replied, "Oh come on man," and rushed to the scope.  We did see the White-tailed Eagle, but the bird on nest was a distant shimmer on the bright sunny day.  Not a great look.  It turned out to be our only White-tailed Eagle of the trip.  Here we also saw our only Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) for the trip.  Veranda birding was leisurely and we invited the German interns, another appeared also, to have lunch with us.

Moving on, we visited a series of salt flats where sea salt is made by a process where salt is extracted from the sea water.  I may be remembering this incorrectly but I believe Mladen said that Bulgaria is the largest producer of sea salt.  We saw a lot of birds at the salt pans, but without leaving the parking lot we stopped to call in a Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus).  A very cute bird that gave me only one brief opportunity for a photo and I missed.  The best I could get was a photo of its elaborate hanging nest (above).

Here is where we had our closest looks at Dalmation Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), the largest pelican, size easily noted when sitting side-by-side with Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), also a very large pelican.  Unfortunately, the Dalmation Pelican was not in its spectacular breeding plumage, its intensely red-orange bill pouch having already transitioned to post-breeding yellow.

Amongst many other birds, we saw Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus), and Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei) at this location.

The salt pans were all along this area of the Black Sea coast and we drove from one to the next.  Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus ostralegus) (above) and Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), split from Snowy Plover in 2011, (below) were birds I was able to photograph at our final stop for the day.  The stilts had young and were feeding in one of the retaining ponds.  The plover, still in breeding plumage, was by itself along some sandy dikes of the holding pools where they are known to breed.  It may have arrived too late to breed - or simply was the last to depart post-breeding.  Shorebird breeding occurs much earlier here. 

The Kentish Plover did not flush as I moved closer for my photograph, but it would scuttle away and duck behind sandy mounds in an effort to hide.

We arrived in the beautiful tourist town of ancient Nessebar, a tiny peninsula and world heritage site, and checked into the Hotel Nikola.

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) is the omnipresent gull in Bulgaria.  We saw this bird everyday, even inland.  This was my only chance for a photograph taken from the balcony of my hotel room. The gulls nest on the roofs and chimneys of the houses and businesses.

The Hotel Nikola was our nicest hotel of the trip with our rooms having balconies that opened up to the Nessebar bay.  Outdoor restaurants, cafes and hotels lined the road and the tourists were from Russia, Romania, Germany and other countries nearby.  The streets and buildings of the ancient city were actually preserved behind, or in the center, of the hotels and restaurants occupying the outer ring.

Mladen on Nessebar street below hotel

We had our evening meal in the outdoor cafe and then walked around the old part of the city.  By this time it was dark so not conducive for photographs.  In the morning following breakfast in the same outdoor cafe, much quieter with all the night-reveling tourists still in bed, we loaded up the van and were off again to our next stop.  

For this part of the trip we were making short stops as we traveled up the coast so the traveling was short and we had time to enjoy each stop. The first stop was a very birdy roadside rocky ravine where we had the leisure to see many birds and I had time to photograph some.   

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster)

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)

Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata)

Our real destination in this locale was to visit a not very thick forest with creek, meadow and pasture to call for Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus).  We never did see or hear a Grey-headed Woodpecker.  A comment about woodpeckers in general; they were scarce and somewhat hard to see.  We saw the more common species like Great Spotted (Dendrocopos major), Middle Spotted (Dendrocopos medius), Lesser Spotted (Dendrocopos minor) and Syrian (Dendrocopos syriacus) woodpeckers, but not often and not many.  If only because they are white, black and red these would be most similar to our Picidae woodpeckers.  Yoav and Mladen suggested that we were just a bit too late to see woodpeckers.  They had already bred, fledged and dispersed by the time of our trip.  The link with Grey-headed Woodpecker above is a good link for all of the other woodpeckers as well.    

Our next stop was lunch at a popular cafe along a busy roadside in Goritsa.  When we stopped for lunch at a certain location there was usually a reason.  At this location it was the Semicollared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata).  A pair were feeding young in this birdhouse that was on the restaurant property.  Unfortunately, despite being quite close to these birds, I do not have a good photo to offer.  The combination of dark light beneath the broad leafed tree, movement of the leaves and movement of the birds conspired against me to get a photo that even approximated being in focus.  Earlier in the breeding season, the Semicollared Flycatcher could be seen in the deep woods across the street.  But again, this late in the breeding season, that would not be possible to find.  Of note, the Semicollared Flycatcher is a world endangered species.  We also saw Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) and Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla) in the woods across the road from the restaurant.

The 13th was really a whole day of visiting very birdy locations for passerines - my favorite kind of birding.  From here we went to the Hotel Yanitsa in Krapets on the Black Sea.  We were booked to spend three nights in this hotel - complete luxury - and from which we would take day trips after breakfast.  While there was nothing special about the rooms here, the Hotel Yanitsa had a nice restaurant, great outdoor space with tables, umbrellas and a very nice pool.   

The restaurant opened relatively late for breakfast.  Mladen asked them to push up the opening time for us and they did, but we still had time to meet at 6:30 am and bird for an hour or so around the hotel.
The Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) (with Bee-eater) above is a dreadful photo, but I finally saw the bird after only hearing it every day.  The oriole was perched far away, but I had to try - for the memory.

On my trip to England in June, 2010 every photo I attempted of European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) was dreadful.  Here I think I have a passable photo and it occurs to me its because of the bright blue sky background which I did not have for my goldfinch photo attempts in England.  We also had our best views of Linnets (Carduelis cannabina) on these morning walks

Още, за да се!

Butterflies seen:

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