Spatia Wildlife tour – Rollers & Bee-eaters…

Day 1: As we had to bring the Dutch butterflies group to the airport very early I had to wake up at 3:30 am. We met in lobby and 4:20 we were at the Terminal 1. Our guest guide Paul from Ineza tours made sure that all members of the previous tour pass the security check and came back to the van. We drove back to the hotel for extra 1 1/2 hour nap before the breakfast. We met at the lobby at 8 a.m. and had our breakfast. I grab my luggage and it was time to hit the road.  The mini “super car” we got impress me. We quickly stopped for a ice cream and refilled the tank. And here we are at the road. I spotted a road killed jackal,  as it was first for Paul we made an u-turn and got some photos of it. R.i.p. Soon we reached my home town and as we were talking about susslics we decided to visit the Natura 2000 site ” Bivolare marsh”.  Here we got lots of good observations- roller, night herons, grey heron, little egrets amd the top observation – the susslics. After few minutes we drove to our first site the area of Muselievo village. Here we met our host and after we were accommodated, he shows us all the area and the hides. We met the local police officers and after they stopped us twice and couldn’t make our front lights stop working we head to the house for lunch -shopska salad and gyuveche. ;-)
We had short siesta and here we are in the first hide taking photos of bee-eaters and rollers with their prey. It was good fun, we heard also golden oriol, turtle dove and had tree sparrow on the perch. Light was getting better, but we decided to try next morning again there. So we drove back to the guest house where our host was waiting for us with a smok mishkar. We took some photos and it was time for dinner.  We had pan fried meatballs and boiled potatoes. Afterwards we had green toad, red deer calling.
The END!

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Day 4 Spatia Wildlife tour 2014

Day 4: As we knew that the Scops owl was in the park we went there before breakfast. We check few trees and just minutes passed I spotted it. We headed back to the hotel to get the photo gear and as we were at the roosting place I saw that they are actually two owls there. And the second one was better positioned. So we took some photos and walk around the park before the breakfast. After breakfast we headed to our next target location. It was time to found the Odalisque dragonfly. And we did it – only few hundred meters from the car on a blackberry’s twig. We took some photos and explored the stream upwards. We saw at least 10 individuals and soon we had to head back for lunch. On a way back we saw 3 fellow deers. We found a nice shadowy place with running water and even two different odalisque dragonflies.

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Day 3 Spatiawildlife tour

Day 3:

I was waked up by the sound of the falling stones. This time all the group of chamois were feeding on the slope. Soon it was time to get down for the early walk we went up the road were we found collorado beetles at the potatoes crop. But then rain again, so we had to hide in an old warehouse. After the rain calmly stopped we walked slowly back to the hotel as it was breakfast time. Few butterflies on a way back and after breakfast back to the gorge foe second session with the bachelor Wallcreeper. He was already waiting for us and great us with his lovely song. After some gaps he finally showed up in good distance so Eric managed to get some decent shots. At noon we had lunch, just picnic under the Wallcreeper rock. It was time to hit the road. At last we got to the Dolna Kula area. A pair of Eastern black-eared Wheatear were feeding their chick. Unfortunately no Western Rock Nuthatch. A few calls of Chukar. A lucky woodlark with food from the car.

It was getting late so we headed to the hotel in Krumovgrad. We had a dinner and went on a Scops owl research as it was calling from all directions. It was just matter of time to see one and soon we did it. We went back to the hotel.

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Day 2 Spatia Wildlife tour

Day 2: As the breakfast was in 8 a.m we did met earlier to explore the hotel surroundings and we found our first butterfly. The grey wagtail, dipper, blck redstart and blackbirds were observed too. Eric took some pictures so we could identify the blue butterfly. After the sound of the falling stones we had two chamois running up the rock face. It was time for breakfast. After breakfast we headed to the Trigrad gorge. Here we spend our morning photographing the main attraction – the Wallcreeper, unfortunately this season it was just the male. But we enjoyed very much. A peregrine falcons were vocal this morning. At noon we packed and drove to Trigrad and just outside the town, where we had picnic. Later we exploed the area for butterflies and found leeches, beetles with stripes, fire-toad and some moths. A black stork perched at the post above the fishponds, but didn’t got time to catch, because the guard flushed it. The afternoon was dedicated to check if the Apollo butterflies are actively flying, but they still not visible and we had to escape from the tunder storm that approached us during the hike. So we had to retreat and we did it just in time. Heavy rain and even hail on the way back to the hotel. We had dinner and went to rest as the next day was expected to be long as we had to head to our next destination.

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Spatia Wildlife trip in Bulgaria 2014

Day 1: Eric & Lesley arrived at 13:23, the rent a car agent was fast enough so I managed to pick them just on time. So we hit the road to our first destination – the Trigrad gorge. We stopped at few places on the route. The Black-headed bunting was not very supportive so we had to head to our final destination for the day. A tawny pipit and Turtle dove in the quarry distracted us, lesser gray shrike too, but we were behind the schedule, because the satnav take me to Peshtera settlement which was off the route. We head back to the correct road and soon everything start to look much more familiar. After all we were tired but we got to the hotel Orfei just on time for dinner. We did enjoy the local special Trout and sheep yogurts with honey and walnuts for desert. After long day we went to the rooms to rest before the first day of Wallcreeper shooting.

The guest have a short walk to enjoy the great evening.

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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:

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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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