One day birding trip in Central Lithuania with Philip S.

Everything starts when I got a comment in my blog from a birder from UK. We quickly arrange a one day trip after about a week. I met Philip at the meeting point and after short stop at Nemunas and Neris river junction, we headed to our first target site Novaraistis pit-bog. The bog and the lake near it attracting a lot of birds especially during migration and common cranes which were target species are gathering in big flocks to roost in end of the summer. We arrived just in time, a big flocks were already taking off to the feeding grounds, but still a 300-400 Common cranes were clearly visible from the observation tower. In the lake not much, but still good start of our trip. We soon had more then 20 species and after taking the best of this place and got cold from the wind, we go down to the car and head to the forest near by. We had to drive very slowly as in front of the car 1st summer European robin was declining to get off of our way… :-) In the forest we made short but very productive walk collecting almost all possible Tits and other small passerines. Woodpecker were very active and we saw few Great Spotted Woodpeckers and on a way out of the forest we had good view of Black Woodpecker as well.

I was trying to call few time to ask for access permit for the Išlaužas Fish-ponds, but after I finally spoke with the owner he rudely answer that they don’t have interest to let birders in their territory any more. So after disappointing call we head to the petrol station to refill and we got hot coffee to recharge after early start. Next stop is the Neris river were almost all local species of gull were roosting before heading to the rubbish dump, we got also  a family of Common Terns, many Goosanders and the good news from my colleague  that there are two more fish-ponds not so near, but at least are open to access at all. So we finished with the gulls and coffee and headed to first fish-ponds complex. It was not difficult to find them and even on first stop we made we had a very exciting observation of two Black-necked grebes in winter plumage. Many ducks, Great white egrets and White-tailed eagle. But the most numerous were little grebes and Marsh Harriers. After successful time spent around the Šilavotas settlement we head to the next fish-ponds which were 20 km away. Bebruliškės Fish-ponds are very small and attract many fishermen, so nothing spectacular here. I check the satnav and as it was only 49km from here we headed to the Oldest Lithuanian Strict Nature Reserve – Žuvintas lake. On the way we had about 30 km gravel roads, as we took the short cut, but soon we didn’t regret as we had perfect view of hunting Montagu’s Harrier male.  Finally reached some tarmac roads and just before the final destination a Turtle Dove was perched on the wires just next to the road one more tick in our day list. And here it is – Žuvintas lake… We took the path to the observation tower. Here my guest share his lunch with me, as I didn’t expected that we will go so far I didn’t took any food with me. Thanks Philip ;-) At the lake was windy, so big flock of Greylag geese and Cormorants were roosting at the island on the other side of the lake. With telescope we managed to find some more ducks and waders that we missed on the other sites. Pin-tail ducks, Ruffs and Dunlins were amongst the good observations here. The willows were crowded with Penduline tits and few warblers. We went back to the car, we stopped for one more closer look of the Island, but just before that a Tree pipit flushed from the grass was one more species in the list. Linnet in the bush next to the visitor centre and here we go again. Another or maybe the same Montagu’s Harrier over the main road and showers here and there, we anyway cross the north part of Išlaužas where we got Yellow wagtail, more Whinchats and a single Northern Wheatear as we stopped to check the flock of Lapwings next to the road to Kaunas. It was one more place to visit before we finished the wonderful trip, Nemunas river, nothing special unfortunately and it start raining, so we headed back to the starting point, and I had to leave my guest and drove back home. Overall list contain 93 species of birds and 460 km trip.

Philip Spendley (Canterbury – UK):
“I have been a birdwatcher for 25 years and I have visited Lithuania on more than 10 occasions in search of birds (my wife is Lithuanian). On my latest trip to Kaunas I decided to look for a local guide and came across Boris Belchev on the internet. We organised to meet up for a day of bird watching in late August and Boris picked me up at 6am. I’m not sure what I expected from the day but it certainly wasn’t 80+ species and 5 new birds for my life list – FANTASTIC!
I consider myself to be a relatively experienced birdwatcher and I have searched for birds in many European countries but I found myself learning so much more about birds while in Boris’ company and his local knowledge was exceptional.
I would highly recommend that any birder visiting Lithuania should contact Boris and arrange a day (or more) of expert guidance – you won’t regret it. And on top of everything, he is a really nice guy!”
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Successful one day trip with Reinier & Daiva

Day 1 – 12th August 2013: THE ROUTE TO THE DELTA

After 5 p.m. refuel at the gas station I hit the road towards Nemunas Delta regional park. As always the highway in summer high season is split of reconstruction works, so the road to Taurage. 70km/h followed by 50 km/h and traffic lights finally found my self at  the road to Silute.  Some concern which way to be chosen, pick the road A199. Soon my attention was grabbed by the Turtle dove on the dry oak next to the road, fortunately a car was approaching so couldn’t stop. Few kilometers before Silute two Montague’s Harriers hunting with a gliding low over the grassland.  Pick up some hitchhikers on my way and in 30 minutes drive, finally reach Stankiškių village and stopped for a short count of mixed flock of gulls, mainly Common gull and Black-headed gulls.

Afterwards drove to the house of my friend V.Jusys to bring him the book from Bulgaria, that he got by contributing his photographs to the project and of course a small present from my parents in law  – bag of garden tomatoes.  We did chat for a while on a cup of tea and candies, but it was time to go to sleep. I drove to the museum, where V.Eigirdas, the new ringer was taking photos of Hedgehog. He and his girlfriend live on the top floor of the museum. We ate an apple cake and watched some of my photos. It was getting late so we decided it’s time to sleep.
Day 2 – 13th August 2013:
As the plan was to meet Reinier and Daiva in Šilute at 7:30, the alarm clock was set for 6 a.m., but the clear air makes you relax and enjoy the sleep, but also makes you woke up earlier. At first weather looks terrible. Strong wind and clouds rushing south-east towards the shore if the Curonian lagoon. We did drink a coffee which is not typical for me.
Doesn’t matter the wind and light rain, the weather was surprisingly warm. We spent some time observing the gulls on the pier. Nothing readable from the metal rings. So it was time to meet Reinier and Daiva in Šilute at the meeting point. They send me a short text that will be late. Soon got a call from Reinier. They drove by me andd stop on the other side pf Sysa river. So soon we left my car and the birding began. We didn’t waste any time and drove to the Red kite area. We hadn’t time to stop when the Red kite was flying towards us. Soon Daiva spotted a Turtle dove between the Wood Pigeons on the wires. A flock of Lapwings and Common Starlings was flushed by the tractor in the fields and two Golden plovers flew over us. The Red Kite was attacked by the local Common Buzzard. A 1cy Marsh Harrier also crossed overhead. Black Woodpecker, Meadow Pipits and Linnets flew over as well. We enjoy the Red Kite on the ground and continued towards the Ortolan Bunting area. Didn’t expect to find it in late summer there, but the fortune was on our side and just after few minutes we had in the scope a beautiful singing male, joined later by 4 more birds. A trimitating call of the Cranes was filling the atmosphere from the fields.
As it was new species for our guests they were very satisfied with the successful start of the trip. We drove back to the Sausgalviai village area, where in the grasslands we were looking for raptors. Said and done – we were about to park when in front of the car a stunning male Montague’s harrier flew by. A 1st summer Marsh harrier was calling from the nearby trees. Great spotted woodpeckers were “chatting” from both sides. The Montague’s was flying back when suddenly a male Hobby Falcon attacked it. This was more than we could expect, so happy with the observations we drove towards Rusnės island. First we stopped by a field with waders mostly Lapwings, but also female and 1cy Ruff were present too. Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, House and Tree Sparrows were all over the place. We drove to the river with no name – Bevardės river, here a male Reed bunting and Common snipe cheer us up, as the weather was getting from bad to worse. We even took some photos of the snipe. A male Marsh harrier flew over too. Weather was getting worst so we decided to drive to Kintai and had a lunch there. In the meantime got to call mt father in law to ask him to check the forecast for the afternoon. There was a clearing over the sea. But it was still raining while we driving to the Kintai fishponds. Here we sat in one car again and drove to the fishponds which supposed to be emty, but water was too high and at first it was looks like there were very low number of birds. As soon as the rain stopped, birds started to show up. Here we got two Whimberels flying overhead. Also few Common snipes and 50-60 Lapwings flew by. There was reason why – two young White-tailed eagles were soaring above the Fishponds. The rain looks like was about to stop. Soon we drove slowly back to my car, because my guests needs to drove back home. For an instant I recognize very familiar siluet of my favorite bird of prey – that was an Osprey. What a nice bird to end our trip. Here is the most interesting observations we made that day.
date time count species area status
2013-08-13 14:17 1 Pandion haliaetus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 14:09 1 Tringa totanus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 14:06 1 Anas querquedula Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 14:05 1 Anas acuta Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 14:04 2 Tringa ochropus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 14:03 18 Vanellus vanellus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 14:02 1 Haliaeetus albicilla Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 13:57 7 Cygnus olor Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 13:56 1 Tringa nebularia Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 13:55 1 Emberiza schoeniclus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 13:54 1 Acrocephalus schoenobaenus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 13:54 2 Numenius phaeopus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 11:15 3 Riparia riparia Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 11:14 1 Ardea alba Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 11:09 1 Apus apus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 10:40 1 Circus aeruginosus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 10:39 1 Accipiter nisus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 10:18 2 Philomachus pugnax Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 10:18 2 Acrocephalus schoenobaenus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 10:03 111 Anser anser Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 09:36 2 Oenanthe oenanthe Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 09:35 1 Cuculus canorus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 09:35 2 Dendrocopos major Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 09:29 1 Circus aeruginosus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 09:28 1 Falco subbuteo Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 09:19 1 Circus pygargus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 08:51 4 Emberiza hortulana Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 08:38 3 Columba oenas Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 08:37 1 Pluvialis squatarola Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 08:34 2 Ardea cinerea Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 08:32 11 Columba palumbus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 08:20 1 Dryocopus martius Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 08:20 1 Streptopelia turtur Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 08:19 1 Circus aeruginosus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK
2013-08-13 08:11 1 Milvus milvus Lithuania – Šilutes (xx) OK

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Successful Wildlife Photography Trip

After 10 days in the field with professional photographer from Spain Joan Egert I finally sat in front of my PC. As there are two mid-term test to go photos will be online in November. I just want to share the reference of my friend Mr. Egert that he was so nice to write and send me as soon as possible. Thank you Joan.

Joan Egert after the trip:

“I planned a trip to Lithuania, the main aim was wildlife photography – particularly birds. After some initial research on the internet, I used the fat birder website to look for professional guides in the country. Following previous contacts I agreed with Boris Belchev to undertake a 10 day trip in the centre and south of the Lithuanian republic. Target species were mainly passerine species and of course the white-tailed eagle.

Boris warned me beforehand that the weather at this time of year is not reliable, but fortunately we didn’t have consistently rain, it was mainly cloudy and overcast and even 2 or 3 days with a fragile sunshine. The first 5 -6 days were spent at the numerous fish ponds in the south, the expectations for passerine species on migration were somewhat frustrated because that year temperatures were higher than normal, but white tailed eagles were present and could be shot pretty easily. The rest of the trip was spent visiting migration hotspots, two hides and mainly on road checking fields, meadows and forests for any species available.

Despite of the delayed migration, around 9 species could be photographed which were completely new for me besides dozens of already known birds but in different surroundings. Boris Belchev proved to be a keen ornithologist and excellent specialist of the area, a special advantage is that he is an expert and successful wildlife photographer. This point makes him the perfect guide for both bird watchers and photographers, who usually place very different demands from their guides. He was never tired to point out any animal species we encountered on the way, his fluent English and exceptional knowledge of both common and scientific names of all the bird species was particularly helpful for my basic taxonomic knowledge. But not only was he skilled in animal species, but also he commented about many interesting cultural and social curiosities of the country. Boris is actually Bulgarian and his knowledge about the Bulgarian wildlife is as vast as the Lithuanian. He has a warm and friendly way which made the trip and the contact with him a pleasure.”

Joan Egert’s photos can be seen and purchased from the link bellow:
http://www.dreamstime.com/physi28_info

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BirdID field study Day 9 – the END

Last morning, at dinner table last evening we decided to skip the morning walk, so we can havemore time birding at the Bolata. So after quick breakfast we were heading to the first area. It was already hot, so the students were very tired already. First we had a Temminck’s stint and afterwards little stint. The next interesting observation were two Black-eared wheatears – both variation with tight “face mask” and the one with all black “face”. At the water mirror the little bittern was calling. The place looks dissapoitingly empty. Only the Willow warbler, Purple heron and Sparrowhawk save us. Knut managed to lost his glasses. So after unsuccessful searching we drove to Balgarevo settlement to buy some food in case restaurant doesn’t work at cape Kaliakra.
We had great start with 6 Black-treated divers and lots of Bee-eaters. A female Black-headed bunting land just next to me. I was waiting for the last students to walk towards the end of the cape so I was walking last. And this was perfect timing to observe a male Merlin. It had a prey in its claws. I hurry up infront to ask did others saw it. Thirsting did, and Knut barely recognized it, because he lost his glases earlier. It was time for lunch. We ordered meals. I was watching the Shags bathing, when Iordan spot it. 2cy Common eider was diving bellow the cliffs.
That was as expected and in the same time a surprise for us. I went to the Van, as we decided to give a 45 min. break so students had some free time. Bård came back looking for the Eider, but fortunately he didn’t find it. I saw another Red-breasted Flycatcher at the restaurant and one on the wall of the fortress. At 14:30 we left Kaliakra. We did moved to the pseudo step habitat, were our students didn’t waste time and soon we saw both target species – Short-toed Lark and a surprise for me a Stone Curlew. First proper observations for me. Later a immature Red-footed falcon was observed. After this walk the field study group went to the van. They were tired, but still wanted more Birding. We had to explore one more area North of the settlement. A Lesser grey shrike and a Kestrel, Hobby and Peregrine falcons were observed, before the students finally regret “tired”. We drove back to the Hotel. On the way back a Montague’s Harrier was flying along the road infant of the van. After some rest it was time for dinner and daylogg. We had 2 new species for the trip. As two students had to fly on next day we made decision to start really early the trip to Sofia – at 5:30 am. So was good idea to have some rest. And this was the End of first ever Hint BirdID field study Bulgaria 2013. I hope all you join us had a great time with us Boris Belchev and Iordan Hristov. Thanks to all students: Bård, Berit, Anette, Tormod, Stein, Thorstein, Knut, Anders and Eirik. I had great time with you, I hope you too… ;-)

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BirdID field study Day 8

The forecast was pretty bad, but we had just some wind, which is often pretty normal at sea side. We made some observations even infront of the hotel – Barred warbler for example. On a way back for breakfast we had a female Red-footed falcon.
After breakfast it was time for rarities.
We drove to Shabla and only had to stop to organise the lunch. Afterwards we drove by the way to the pump station. We saw a Whinchat and decided to get out of the van. Jordan scan the fields and soon we had in our binoculars 4 Demoiselle cranes. We watched them for very short time but it was still very rare opportunity to observed them. We wanted to see the other main target of the trip, so we continued to next site. We had poor weather as in windy conditions it is very difficult to hear and even more to see the Paddyfield warbler. But with more dedication everybody managed to see it. there were some observations of other birds, including the Bearded reedlings,
which I had miss earlier to see.
Black-necked grebe were diving in the sea. At the Durankulak camping we had one more great luck with two Red-breasted flycatchers at the car park. We drove back to lunch, but in the fields next to the camping we had two Lesser Black-backed Gull. we had few large gulls, but my opinion is that it was hybrid Caspian and Herring Gull.
We got a call from our friend Misho. He was at Shabla lake, and he was observing a White egret with red legs and dark bill. This is typical for the Eastern race of the species. We had Henharrier, Hobby, Savi’s warbler many other already seen bird species. Later we drove to the camping next to Shabla tuzla. We just moved away from the van when on the bush we observed an Icterine warbler. On the next bush we had a Red-breasted flycatcher again. At Shabla tuzla another surprise a immature Osprey chased by two Common terns flew very nicely low over us. At Shabla tuzla no other unseen birds, so after short walk we moved to the sea side. At the sea as usual, only Golden plover and Mediterranean gull were more interesting observation there.
We were back for the Demoiselle cranes, but fortunately they were gone. So we drove back to the hotel earlier and we gave free time for the students to relax or go to the coast. At 19:30 we had dinner together and afterwards we made the dialog. We had seen 10 new species so our checklist grow to 219.

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BirdID field study Day 7

We decided to skip the morning walk, and have earlier breakfast so we can departure to the next area on time, because there were some “hot spots” on the way. First of all the north salt lakes at Pomorie, we stopped at several places, but couldn’t find anything new. Just usual waders, waterfowl and song birds. The most interesting species were the Ringed plover, Little tern. We drove forward to Sunny beach where we had to fill up the tank and of course to buy ice cream and coffee for the students. The serpentine were all the way through most eastern part of Central Balkan mountain. Soon we reach the settlement of  Goritza and we made a short walk as until lunch there was plenty of time. A pheasant was heard. The Semi-collared flycatcher were singing actively and took both nest-boxes. A pair of Yellowhammers were busy building up the nest. So one more new species for the trip. After a short walk to the oak forest we heard a Tree pipit, another tick for the trip. But we struggled to see it, but as its a study for bird identification, only the sound is acceptable as well. On the way back to the van a Turtle dove was calling too. We drive to the restaurant for lunch and soon we were heading to the next location just below the restaurant, it was a fields with forest surroundings, so as we turn right, where  a Lesser spotted eagle was greeting us to his hunting fields. We struggled to find the Tawny pipit in the fields, but Bard didn’t gave up until we all saw it. Above the hills few Black stork were migrating to the North.

The drive to the next site was long so we stopped at the gas station next to Balchik for more coffee and ice-cream. The next site was very special. A Eagle owl with at least two chicks was relaxing at its nest, waiting the sun to set behind the horizon. A Barred warbler was singing from the bushes. The students climbed on the opposite site so they had better view at the area. Bee-eaters and Woodchat shrike were at the site as well. Afterwards we stop at the “norwegian favourite” Rompetrol  (from norsk  Rumpetroll – frog larva) gas station. We arrived at the hotel earlier. So after everybody chose their rooms we gave some free time before dinner. After dinner we made the day logg and it was time to rest, because next morning was time for birding.

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BirdID field study day 6

It was beautiful morning, so we went on a walk bellow the hotel. A Cetti’s warbler and Common Nightingale were singing from the bushes. I found a flock of Black-throated divers far in the sea. So it was a new species for the trip. Willow warbler, the most common bird in Norway, was spotted on our morning walk as well. We were expecting much more birds, but this spring everything is much more different compare with previous years. Soon we walked back to the hotel and had a breakfast outside, when the fortune turned to us with the desired woodpecker, a male Syrian woodpecker appear just next to the breakfast tables. After this good start of the day we drove to the first site, at the shore of Bourgas lake. We were not alone there, a group from Sweden were already there, and they had great news for us. a flock of 5 Demoiselle’s cranes were observed in the area we were about to visit in next days (But will we gonna see them read more about the Day 8 of our field study).

The Lake was like a mirror, just the rising temperature make the air hazy. This didn’t make any problem for our good equipped group to find more birds we haven’t seen yet on our trip: Eurasian Wigeon, Little Gull, Little Tern and many more that we had seen before. The herons were very active, so we observed Little Bittern, Squacco, Night heron and Little Egrets. A Common Sandpiper flew low over the water. Soon  the Swedish group left. Just before we were planning to leave a big flock of the White Pelicans (~57) were taking height just above our group. So one more check for the trip list. We moved to take closer look on the Terns that were roosting at the barge further by the coast.  We walked there, but nothing new was found there. So we didn’t waste time and drove to our next stop the South coast of the Vaya lake. Here a usual singers in the bushes and few Marsh harriers were patrolling over the reedbeds. I did spot a male Reed Bunting flying past, another new species for the list. A Sparrowhawk and few Honey Buzzards flew over to the North.

It was time for a short drive to the opposite shore of the lake, where its flooding the land almost to the road. So we stopped there. as is the good spot for waders and other waterfowl. It is the place where the Spur-winged Lapwing is seen, but fortunately we didn’t find it. Big flocks of Ruffs and Wood sandpipers were wading in the flooded area together with the Glossy ibises and Black-winged Stilts. Eirik found a Sanderling. I went to check the inside part of the floods. Until I was away the group had a Bearded reedling and Water rail just few meters away. I heard the Water Rail and the Penduline tit as well. But the area was overgrown with grasses already so it was empty there.  So I rush back, because it was time to move to the last site before lunch. As usually we visit the fishermen pier, but fortunately the wind was already stronger, so we haven’t got any luck here. Until the call of the penduline tit was heard. It is always pleasure to observe them. But it was time to think about lunch, so we drove to the center of the Dolno Ezerovo settlement. After some research we stopped at fast food kiosk, just by the street. Students ordered their meals and after a short stop for coffee, we drove to The North-west part of the Atanasovkso lake. At first we had close encounters with Little Owl and Lesser Grey Shrike, a pair of Rollers were sitting on the wires. We drove to the Sheep Farm,  where we left the Van and walked towards the  shore of the lake. We flushed a pair of Meadow pipits. On our way was the channel where the clearing of it was started by the project of BSPB and other NGOs. So the dam, was the closest point to observe the lake. At first my attention was captured by the Stone Curlew flying away. The birds were at distance, so after short time the group concentrate their attention on the pipits in the area. Except of Tawny pipit, Bard managed to spot a Red-throated pipit as well. This was unexpected for us, but it was nice to see it. After this we had to wash our legs as the mud we had to cross was a bit too much. On the way back the Little Owl was back to its daytime shelter, but this time flew quickly as we try to stop again nearby.

We drove back to the hide and as it was still open we went inside, the wind was strong so everybody goes on the left side of the lake so the wind wouldn’t blow them and the scopes. I found the rarest bird since now, a Terek Sandpiper. Soon it was joined by a Temminck’s Stint and Ruddy Turnstone. It was new species for Bulgaria in my list. I couldn’t be more happy. The group split as some of them wanted to stay by the hide, but the rest moved towards the town. Were there was a better view at the waders. Some of the students managed to spot a Broad-billed Sandpiper. But I couldn’t see it. The most numerous were Little stints and Curlew Sandpipers. A few Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts and Slender-billed Gulls were present as well. The group try to move towards the town, but the bridge was collapsed so they went back towards me and we sit back in the van and drove back to the hotel. We had some time to relax before dinner and at the end of the day we count the new species and filled up the day logg. So the day 6th we had over 200 species already. Whats happened next read in the post “Day 7…”

 

 

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BirdID field study Day 5

It was another great morning. I woke up and even before my alarm clock. On the oak infront of our balcony there were a pair of Common redstarts and female Semi-collared Flycatcher. The redstart was breeding in old swallow nest on the balcony. A male Cirl bunting was foraging on the ground. It was early so we spend some time exploring the area before the dinner last night. So we found a nestboxes occupied by Semi-collared Flycatcher and a nesting Middle Spotted Woodpecker. So it was time for birdid morning walk. We went on a trail in the oak forest. We found a long-tailed tit and a mistle thrust. Many common birds were observed and heard. A woodlark was displaying on our way back. We had a light breakfast and we drove to our first site at Bourgas lakes. We started with a Glossy ibis, Black-necked grebe and other water birds. A Lesser spotted eagle flew low over us. Time was running so we drove to next site at izvorska river mouth. The place is very good in late April, but in May was quite. Anyway we had an adult White-tailed eagle, a flock of Ruddy turnstones and many other bird species. Then it was a Common grasssnake. At lunch we stopped at Turkish restaurant for lunch. We drove back to the protected area “Poda” where the visitor center staff member Yana talked about the birds and about the protected area. We observed the our first Pygmy cormorant, Ferrugineus ducks, Spoonbills, Squacco heron. The we entered the protected area and had a walk on the beach, where we found a flock of waders: Gray plover, Curlew sandpiper, Turnstones, a little stint. Afterwards we went to the towerhide and stayed there for an hour birding. The big surprise was the male Red-crested pochard. The group observed also many other waterfowl too. On the way to the meeting place with Jordan and the driver we observed the pratincole. I was very happy to find it myself. We made a joke with the drivers by putting the scope next to the road, so all drivers were slowing down.
The last stop for the day was at Atanasovsko lake hide, there were some waders. But as it was very windy and the hide was locked we didn’t stay long. After dinner we made the daylog and it was very nice the we were near the target number of species – 181, so what happens next I will post tonight.

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BirdID field study Day 4

Another morning in beautiful landscape of Vulture crater. We started at 7am with short drive to Kovan Kaya. The weather was very nice so we had great time. We had observe an Eastern black-eared wheatear, Blue rock thrush, Hortulan, rock and cirl bunting. The raptors were not so active, but we still managed to see the griffons, Egyptian vultures, peregrin and kestrels. And the most interesting bird of the morning was the new species -Chukar. What a find it was. After unsuccessful search of rock nuthatch we finally gave up and drove back to have breakfast. Afterwards we packed and soon we drove toward our next target. At the destroyed bridge we observed a purple heron and black stork. A black kite flew over the reservoir and after few hundred meters we observed it with another kite. After this short stop we drove further toward our first major observation area next to Yerusalimovo settlement. An oak forest with lots of rosehip bushes. Iordan caught a Legless lizard (Ophisaurus apodus).Soon we heard and later saw our first Olive-tree warbler. We were very sceptical about the Masked shrike, as it was bit early. When Bård shout that he saw it. And soon we were watching again this gorgeous Masked shrike. People were so happy… We found an woodpecker’s nest just meters from the ground. We were going back when a Levenant’s sparrowhawk flew over. We came back to watch again the Olive-tree warbler, and two warbler were furiously fighting in the bush. A pair of Woodchat shrikes were present too. We were just about to went back to the bus, when the Levenant’s sparrowhawk flew of the ground with it’s prey – a mistle thrush. We were happy with those observations, so we continued to the next hotel. Made a quick coffee and ice-cream stop at thwarting gas station and then hit the road again. At the right side of the road we did observe a Montague’s harriers – male and female. Later on one male too. A single Lesser spotted eagle over the road. We arrived an hour and half. We were happy with the female Semi-collared flycatcher. The pleasant end of one more great day with BirdID field study group.

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BirdID field Study day 3

As usually we started at 7am. First we started with a walk above the hotel and soon we made our first observations. At the roof of a building there was a Little Owl. A Nightingales, Oriols, Red-backed shrikes were every where. At first we did hear, but then we observed even two Eastern Bonelli’s warblers. A Hawfinches were flying above the group. The weather was clear and even in the morning we felt the heat. We observed our first Blue tit for the trip. After that it was time for the breakfast, so we went back to the hotel. After breakfast it was birding time. We had the time to spend around.The start has been excellent, as we doesn’t have to wait long. An Eastern orphean warbler was singing from dry bush. Soon the first male Black-headed Bunting has been discovered. We crossed the bushy area and even two green finches were furiously fighting. On the way a flock of four Woodlarks was observed. We followed the road and soon we had another Orphean warbler and even two Subalpine warblers. We also discovered a Lever spotted woodpecker in it’s nesthole. Then the raptors became active. A kestrel, Griffon vulture, Common Buzzard were observed in short time. A pair of Cirl Buntings has been observed too. We were despered to find Rock Nuthatch, but unfortunately we found just male Rock Bunting singing. A pair of Blue rock thrushes was chasing each other. And soon it was time for lunch. We drove back to the visitor center of BSPB. We had a short presentation about vultures and the area by the local guide. Then we had lunch and afterwards we decided to try another location along the river. First of all we observed a Eastern Bonelli’s warbler and Hoopoe. We found just above the road a nest of Hawfinches. The Golden eagles finally showed up. Attacked by the local pair of Kestrels. Then Bård and Eirik had a pleasure to swim in the river. Many other common birds were observed. At 16 o’clock the driver pick us up and we drove to the river side where the raptors were so active. A Griffon and Egyptian vultures,
Long-legged buzzard, Kestrel and Peering Falcon were joined by a Lesser Spotted Eagle. Soon we were looking at Eastern race of Black-eared Wheatear male and a Middle Spotted woodpecker was very carefully observed. Black stork was in the scope too. Only the storm clouds was distracting us from the gorges view of Eastern Rhodopi mountains. The lighting and thunders passed by, but we decided to stop for a Nightjars. But they didn’t show up until dinner time, so we decided to try again afterwards. Unfortunately we didn’t have luck again. Only the Scops owls and later in the hotel the Little owl was vocal.

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