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An autumn migration special at the eastern fringes of Europe.


Here, on the very edge of the Black Sea, spectacular numbers of soaring birds head south including White and Black Storks, Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Eurasian and Levant Sparrowhawks, Lesser Spotted and Short-toed Eagles, Red-footed Falcons and Hobbies. This route is also used by passerines including large numbers of Red-breasted Flycatchers, Red-backed Shrikes, Golden Orioles, Hoopoes, Bee-eaters and a host of warblers. Some of the noteable residents include Syrian Woodpecker and Sombre Tit. This weeklong break is timed to witness the greatest numbers on their journey towards Turkey and then on to Africa. Tens of thousands of raptors ranging across thirty species have been recorded here.  In addition, our two bases are very close to a number of important wetland sites with such exciting possibilities as Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant and Ferruginous Duck.

Next date to be announced
8 days (7 nights)

Economy class flights, accommodation with private facilities, full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner), transport by private minibuses, tips and services of Wild Insights leaders.

Travel insurance and items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry and phone calls.

Day 1.  Depart UK early p.m. Arrive Varna evening. We then make the approximately 1½ hour journey to our first base in the picturesque town of Balcik. Our very nice hotel gives views out over the harbour and is an ideal spot for exploring the northern part of the Black Sea Coast.

Day 2-3. Our first explorations will take us no further than the harbour. Here we will watch out for Black-necked Grebes and Little Gulls and in the wooded areas behind we might see our first Syrian Woodpecker. Black Redstarts and Tree Sparrows are common. Depending on the winds we might also begin to see some migration with the possibility of Lesser Spotted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk and  Red-footed falcon. One of the best nearby areas is Cape Kaliakra, an impressive headland which strategically juts out into the Black Sea. We will spend the day exploring the headland itself which attracts multitudes of migrants including Red-breasted Flycatchers, Red-backed Shrikes, Golden Oriole, Hoopoe, warblers, chats and Bee-eaters. This is also one of the best spots for wheatears including Black-eared and the more localised Pied Wheatear. In the surrounding fields we will watch for Stone Curlew, Quail and the occasional Corncrake. Overhead, Long-legged Buzzards are regularly seen hunting and Red-footed Falcons sit on roadside wires. Sea watching can also be productive with Yelkouan Shearwater and an isolated colony of Shags. The migration can sometimes pass right over with pelicans, storks, harriers, buzzards and eagles all occurring. Further up the coast towards the Romanian border Lake Sabla-Ezeretz and Lake Durankulak attract Ferruginous Duck, Ruddy Shelduck Little Bittern, Marsh Harrier, resident and vagrant gulls and terns. We will check the waders for Marsh and Broad-billed Sandpipers.

Day 4. Today we will explore some of the forests and cliffs nearer to Balcik and down to Sunny Beach. The extensive woodlands are good for a wide range of woodpeckers including Lesser Spotted, Middle Spotted, Great Spotted, Syrian, Grey-headed, Green and Black. Cirl Buntings and Hawfinches are regular sightings and Tree Sparrows are everywhere. Eagle Owls are found in some of these rocky gorges and we will have a dusk watch at one nearby site in the hope of some action.

Day 5. We make our way south today to Slancev brjag (Sunny Beach) where our second hotel lies just to the north of the resort. On the way we will take a stop at the Kamcija reserve where woodland can be good for Syrian and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Penduline Tit, Semi-collared Flycatcher and a variety of migrants.

Day 6. A park not far from our hotel is an excellent spot for a morning stroll and we will look out here for woodpeckers including Wryneck, Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting and Sombre Tit. Our new base is ideally placed for a number of key sites, the most significant perhaps being lake Atanasovo which, despite being an active site for salt extraction, attracts multitudes of waders, gulls and terns. Both Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gulls are particularly numerous. The northern part of the lake is good for Purple and Squacco Herons plus Little Bittern. Thousands of White Pelicans, White and Black Storks, Honey Buzzards, Levant Sparrowhawks and Lesser Spotted Eagles pass through and there is a raptor watching station strategically situated to monitor this migration. A hunting White-tailed Eagle will cause mayhem amongst the gulls and wildfowl. Just up the coast on the way back to our accommodation there are some very good wetland sites, in particular the Pomorie salt pans which are frequented by large numbers of waders. Green, Wood, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers are joined by Ruff and Avocet , Little and Temminck’s Stints, to name a few. It is also still on the migration path so it is not unusual for the raptors to be steadily passing over whilst we are wader-watching.

Day 7. Our last full day will be spent exploring the lakes near Burgas – Lake Burgas which are well-known for Pygmy Cormorant, Dalmatian Pelican, Glossy Ibis  and passage waders. Lake Burgas, whilst not the most attractive spot is particularly good for Dalmatian Pelican and Gull-billed Tern plus a range of herons and egrets including Little Bittern. Lake Mandra has a more pleasant backdrop and some of the marshy edges can be rewarding with Wood and Green Sandpipers, Spotted and Little Crakes. Depending on weather conditions the hill country near Kableskovo can also be excellent, not only for migrant raptors but also for other residents such as Goshawk, Long-legged Buzzard.

Day 8. The timing of our return flight will give us plenty of scope for making the most of the morning which we will spend exploring some of the local sites before heading back north to Varna. On the way we will call off at Gorica forest and take a look for the rather more elusive Grey-headed Woodpecker before the final leg to the airport for our return flight to the UK.

Louisa Thompson 0207 3864682