Saturday 30 April 2022

Bulgaria, Spring 2022, Day Six

Today was rather windy (a north-easterly) and also much cooler than the previous few days and by the looks of it has put the dampeners on migration with a notable drop in grounded passerines and vis-mig and large soaring birds visibly struggling to move forward . I started the day off at Cape Kaliakra where I met Andrew Bailey (a local ex-pat birder) and then after a work session on the plot spent the late afternoon and evening at the Shabla lakes complex. A few new trip ticks included Jack Snipe, Grey Partridge and Thrush Nightingale but new birds are slowing down fast now Ebird trip report here . Apparently it's been a late Spring, I haven't seen a single Red-backed Shrike this trip yet but presumably they will arrive soon as its generally a ubiquitous species in this region. I'm moving south tomorrow to meet up with Dylan and Anton for a few days herping in the Burgas/Standzha region but return back here mid-week for a few more days so will be interesting to see how things change in a few days time (a long time in Spring migration terms). 

Nothing new in the moth trap in the cooler evening. 

Female Ortolan
White Pelicans ditching on the sea. The wind was so strong today that these Pelicans decided to sit it out off the Cape. They eventually leap frogged towards the coast before finally (presumably) finding some kind of thermals and moved on (below) 

Third-calender year Baltic Gull (dark markings on bill and no mirror on p10) 
Northern Wheatear - the first picture of one on this blog this Spring
Two of the White-tailed Lapwings were still present
An influx of Ruff at Shabla Lakes
Jack Snipe- a Bulgarian tick. Was hoping to get a three Snipe day today but no sign of the Great Snipes- this Jack Snipe instead in the same area 
The obligatory Black-winged Stilt foreign birding trip pic
European Pond Turtles 'mating'
This exhausted Barn Swallow at the Kaliakra Castle restaurant unfortunately later died- a sad end to a long journey to and back from Africa

Friday 29 April 2022

Bulgaria, Spring 2022, Days four and five

 It's been full on for the last couple of days. Ebird trip list HERE. I'm trying to juggle birding, moth catching, noc-migging and conservation work; really need to get a team out here (which was the plan but the covid restrictions for Bulgaria have only just been lifted so didn't attempt it this spring). 

Yesterday I started off checking the moth trap (from the Oak wood edge) and then walked from the plot to Yalata and then across the coastal steppe back to the village. In the afternoon I made a start on strimming the dead matt from the 'meadow', which is actually an abandoned vineyard complete with metal cable criss-crossing the entire site which is making progress very slow. 

Today I started off checking the traps and then went to Cape Kaliakra and then after lunch at the Kaliakra Castle restaurant (what a beautiful place to eat!)  back to the plot for a bit more work before spending the evening at Bolata Gorge. 

A few picture highlights below (still need to identify more moths and go through the noc-mig and sound recordings). Highlights have included the air thick of Calandra Lark song over the Steppe, Red-footed Falcon, Hobby and Honey Buzzard in off the sea over the Cape this morning, finally saw the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the village which is constantly calling, White-winged Terns flying low through Bolata Gorge over the trees this evening, great views and sounds of Icterine Warblers, lots of ficedula flycatcher action, an obliging Red-breasted Flycatcher, general Black Sea migration awesomeness, a bait ball close off shore from the Cape today and some nice looking moths. 

Male dark phase Honey Buzzard over the Cape 
Icterine Warbler
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Willow Warbler 
Calandra Lark
Female Pied Fly on the cliffs. Also had a male and female Collared today.
Pied x Black-eared Wheatear (or Pied morph) - first time I've seen one this trip. Pavel says that there were no Pied Wheatears in the region last week so all the birds I've seen recently are fresh in. More on these Finsch's-type birds HERE.
The wonderful sight of Harbour Porpoise with Black and Common Tern and Yellow-legged Gulls, Shag and Yelkouan Shearwater over a bait ball 
Balkan Wall Lizard
Red Squirrel
Orache- what a stunner! More on moths to come later (once I've identified them)
Slow conservation work at the plot with the meadow management turning into a bigger job than expected revealing an abandoned vineyard beneath the tall grass complete with metal wire mesh criss-crossing the vines making strimming extremely difficult.
View over Bolata Gorge
View over Bolata Bay towards Cape Kaliakra

Thursday 28 April 2022

Bulgaria, Spring 2022, Day Three

An excellent 15 hour day in the field, starting off at Cape Kaliakra, then some time at the plot, a lunchtime trip to town to buy some tools (including a strimmer) and then the afternoon and first part of the night (herping) at Shabla Lakes. Ebird trip report HERE. Highlights including 4 White-tailed Lapwing (part of an influx in the Balkan area this year, with six in this area recently), a Great Snipe (sound recordings of the Lapwings and Great Snipe below) and some trip ticks including Night Herons, Ferruginous Ducks (15), Pygmy Cormorants, Barn and Scops Owl at night and some nice vis-mig of Little Gulls, Black Terns and Mediterranean Gulls and an impressive number of birds coming into roost at the reed bed, mainly Spanish Sparrows, Starlings and over 600 Yellow Wagtails. A hepatic female Cuckoo was nice to see too. 

White-tailed Lapwings (above). These birds were the 5th record for Bulgaria (discovered last week). 
Little Gulls (above) and Med Gulls (below) on the move

The Arctic meets the Mediterranean with Black-throated Divers and Yelkouan Shearwaters- both species spending the non-breeding season in the Black Sea. Up to 70 Black-throated Divers gathering off Cape Kaliakra at the moment and been daily movements of 100s of Shearwaters. 
Little Gulls again
A rather warm adult male Pied Wheatear
Black-headed Wagtail 
Syrian Woodpecker
Common Wall Lizard  
Harbour porpoise- lots of these off Cape Kaliakra 
Brown Hare. On the mammal front also a few Golden Jackals, Eastern Hedgehog, Roe Deer, some bat species at Shabla Lakes during the evening (lots of small and larger bats)  and Red Squirrel.
Calm morning over the Black Sea. The conditions have been fair with a light north easterly for last few days resulting in a steady small stream of migration.

Tuesday 26 April 2022

Bulgaria, Spring 2022, Day Two

Started the day off at Cape Kaliakra and then after checking the traps at the plot, then spent the afternoon at Shabla Lakes. Ebird trip report HERE.

There was a good peppering of migrants on the Cape with Chiffchaffs visibly on the move, a few Whinchats, Pied and Spotted Flys, a flock of Bee-eaters, an Ortolan and a few wagtails and Tree Pipits. There was trickle of movement on the sea with a few Black Terns, Little Gulls and Med Gulls moving. Most impressive were the large numbers of Yelkouan Shearwaters moving and the Black-throated Divers and Black-necked Grebe flocks gathering off shore. 

Icterine and Great Reed Warbler back at the plot were new for the site. Also several Pied and Spotted Flys and Syrian and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. 

A couple of Great Snipes were in the usual place at Shabla Lakes and pretty sure there was a Baillon's Crake calling from the same wetland too (will go back tomorrow with the sound recorder). 

First-summer male Pied Wheatear- the classic Cape Kaliakra bird. Blog article on these birds HERE. Saw Northern Wheatears today too- the first this Spring! 
Yelkouan Shearwaters on the move
Icterine Warbler at the plot
Savi's Warbler singing in full view at Shabla Lakes
Wood Sandpiper
Tree Pipit
This Nightingale at the plot this evening was also being pretty showy
White Wag
Swallowtail (above) and Scarce Swallowtail (below)  

European Pond Turtle