Saturday, 8 May 2021

Ebird Global Big Day (Bulgaria day 14)

I make it 106 species for my Ebird global big day, Ebird lists HEREHEREHERE and HERE.  Started the day at Cape Kaliakra which was extremely windy so I descended into Bolata Valley before over to Shabla Tuzla and then Shabla Lakes. Highlights included a singing male Common Rosefinch (a rarity in this region), Great Snipe again at Shabla Lake, an influx of Black-headed Buntings (8 at the Cape including a flock of 5), a pair of Citrine Wagtails at Shabla Tuzla and a great selection of migrants.

Male Common Rosefinch- a local rarity that sparked a local twitch ie. Pavel, the resident birder at Lake Durankulak came looking for it but unfortunately we couldn't re-find it 

An influx of Black-headed Buntings today (male above and female below) 

Spotted Flycatcher 
When I first saw this I thought it might be a skua- a closer look revealed a male Red-footed Falcon battling low over the waves into the strong north-west wind 
White-winged Black Tern- also had the trip's first Whiskered Terns today 
Red-rumped Swallow- seem to be larger number of hirundines as each day goes by
Mediterranean Gulls still on the move 
Female Citrine Wagtail
Pied Wheatears (female above and male below) 

Friday, 7 May 2021

Bulgaria day thirteen- a day in the city

Had to get my covid PCR test today in order to return back to UK on Sunday. Had to go to Varna city and queue and then wait most of the day for the results. While I was waiting I popped over to the raptor migration spot at Balchik- it was pretty quiet, just 2 Booted Eagle, a Short-toed Eagle, 4 Common Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk and a couple of Kestrel and most of them were flying around rather than migrating. 

I got a bit of birding in round the village in the evening.

Had Barn Owl calling from my bed last night.

Red-backed Shrike- always stunning to see. 
Booted Eagle
Balkan Wall Lizard at Balchik- species no 25 for the herping trip list 
Another shot of that Red-backed Shrike just because I didn't see much else today. 
View from the raptor view point at Balchik
The mighty karst steppe cliffs off Kamen Bryag 

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Bulgaria day twelve- Cape Kaliakra

I spent most of the birding day at Cape Kaliakra again. Ebird list HERE. Only new trip bird was Black-headed Bunting but there was quite a nice little selection of migrants- male Collared Flycatcher, 3 Ortolans, Thrush Nightingale, a couple of Red-breasted Flycatchers,  Redstart, Whinchat, Red-footed Falcon, a small influx of Bee-eater and a Ferruginous Duck migrating past at sea.

It so much quieter than it was last week on the big day- no marsh terns, very few Little and Med Gulls, not much visible migration at all. A good opportunity to look at that botany and butterflies. 

Did a habitat survey on the plot this afternoon and started working out some plans. 

I spent a bit of time sound recording and photographing the Pied Wheatears- something weird going on out here so will do a blog post on that later. 

Male Collared Flycatcher 
Female Ortolan 
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Yelkouan Shearwaters- yesterday there were thousands of these but seems like most moved on since - the turnover at this site is dramatic. 
A close up of a Yelkouan Shearwater (above and below) from Shabla last week showing its bits including legs projecting beyond tail and dark undertail coverts 

Alpine Swift

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Bulgaria Day Eleven- back to Kamen Bryag

Back 'home' now at Kamen Bryag. Got five full days here now to do some work on the plot and also do some birding, mothing and botanising in the region. This morning I started off at Cape Kaliakra, then checked out Cape Shabla area, then Shabla Tuzla, then Lake Shabla and then back to the plot. Ebird lists HERE , HERE and HERE . New trip birds included Spoonbill, Slender-billed Gull, Spotted Flycatcher and Grey Partridge. 

Great Reed Warbler 
Greater Flamingo- a bit of a rarity in the region which have had an influx this year. This flock was over Cape Kaliakra. 
Pied Wheatears fighting- also saw some hybrids today but will do a separate post of them 
Slender-billed Gulls on the move
Turtle Dove
Wood Sandpiper
Tawny Pipit
Olivaceous Wabler at Cape Kaliakra
Barn Swallow
Female Spanish Sparrow- quite distinctive with heavy black bill and also streaking on breast (not visible in this shot)
Still seems strange to be seeing so many Black-throated Divers out here, Arctic Loon? 

Bulgaria day nine to ten- Shipka (Balkan Ecology Project)

Spent the last couple of days in Shipka visiting my brother at the BALKAN ECOLOGY PROJECT.  The wind was howling so I took the time to catch up with family and the blog. Managed to get out for a bit of owling (had a Scops Owl calling at the monastery) and also spent a few hours at the local steppe. Ebird list HERE. Highlights included good numbers of Isabelline Wheatear, Long-legged Buzzard and amazingly the first Red-backed Shrikes of the trip (they are usually ubiquitous round here so presumably just arriving for the summer). 

Dodgy windy shot of Isabelline Wheatear 
Ring Ouzel (alpestris) at Vitosha while unsuccessfully looking for Adders on the herping trip. In addition to Ring Ouzel I did have a few other birds (trip ticks) on the herping trip including Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Black Stork and Nutcracker.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Bulgaria Day Four to Eight, Herping Trip

Back from an epic four day herping trip with Dylan, Anton and Sagar. 24 species of snakes, lizards, geckos, slow worms, frogs, Tortoises and toads; Hermann's and Spur-thighed Tortoise, Balkan Green and Eastern Green Lizard, Glass Lizard, Sand Lizard,  European Wall Lizard, Eastern Slow Worm, Kotchy's gecko, Yellow-bellied Toad, Common Toad, Green Toad, Agile Frog, Marsh Frog, Tree Frog (heard),  Aesculapian Snake, Caspian Whip Snake, Four-lined Snake, Horn-nosed Viper, Eastern Montpellier Snake, Worm Snake,  Dice Snake and Southern Crested Newt. 

Four-lined Snake, Norn-nosed Viper, Eastern Montepllier Snake and Southern Crested Newts were lifers so a very successful trip. A great adventure (not without it's dangers!). 

Four-lined Snake 
Horn-nosed Viper . We had six of these including fighting males, a female (browner than males)  and young specimens. 
Eastern Montpellier Snake (above and below)  

Caspain Whip-snake. Six of these including adults (above) and young (below). 
Caspian (left) and Aesculapian Snake (juveniles) . 
Aesculapian Snake . In addition to this adult we also had a juvenile (above) . 
Eastern Grass Snake . Three of these. 
Worm Snake- only one of these at night while unsuccessfully hunting for Cat Snake and Leopard Snake  
Eastern Green Lizard 
Balkan Green Lizard
Common Wall Lizard 
Spur-thighed Tortoise 
Hermann's Tortoise 
Yellow-bellied Toad 
Common Toad 
Female Southern Crested Newt 
Eastern Slow Worm 
Kotschy's Gecko
Sand Lizard 
European Scorpion 
Hospitalisation following a bite from Horn-nosed Viper for one of our team- the most dangerous snake in Europe. Within an hour of the bite we were at the hospital and symptoms had developed into swelling of the wound, arm and a rash and the beginning of neurotoxins affecting speech and dizziness and fatigue.  With the necessary treatment all was good with discharge from hospital within three days. The key to Viper bite survival (un-treated bites can be fatal)  is keeping calm and swiftly getting to hospital for treatment (often involving anti-venom, antihistamines, pain killers, electrolytes and if necrosis develops for necessary surgery).   
Herping hunting landscapes

A few videos below Four-lined Snake (1-2), Horn-nosed Viper (3) and Eastern Montpellier Snake (4) 

Herp vids

Posted by Peter Alfrey on Monday, May 3, 2021

Tik tok videos (Great to see the lads getting tens of thousands of views on this platform- public engagement at a different league! albeit populist style) :