Migrating Great White Pelicans by Dimiter Georgiev
A tour focusing on the spectacular annual migration of thousands of birds of prey, pelicans, storks and passerines along the Black Sea Flyway, known as the Via Pontica.
The northernmost part of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast – Coastal Dobroudzha – is where our tour starts from. It is a vast plain, rolling gradually towards the coastal sand dunes and lakes. Here are the last remnants of the Great Steppe, formerly occupying the bigger part of the region and «bottle-neck» for the birds on their way south. A great number of birds are likely to be present here, including Little Bittern, Ferruginous Duck, Glossy Ibis, Caspian Tern, etc.
The southern limit of this geographic area is Cape Kaliakra with its dramatic red cliffs, dominating the sea waters. There we will watch European Shags (ssp. desmarestii) and migrating seabirds. On the dry, open steppe-land we can find Calandra Lark, Eurasian Stone Curlew and a range of migrants, including Isabeline Wheatears, European Bee-eaters, various pipits (like Tawny Pipit and Red-throated Pipit), larks, shrikes and buntings. The shrubs produce a great diversity of warblers (Icterine Warbler, River Warbler and Barred Warbler), Red-breasted Flycatchers, etc. If you come in late August-early September we can still expect to find Pied Wheatears and Alpine Swifts around the cliffs. Migrating raptors will be passing overhead all the time, including Levant Sparrowhawk, Saker Falcon and Red-footed Falcon. Some resident species like the Long-legged Buzzard and the Eurasian Eagle Owl will also be around.
As we drive to the Southern Black Sea coast, we will stop to explore the coastal riverine forests and sand dunes, and later the oak forests in the Eastern Balkan range. There we can expect to find residents like the Grey-headed Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, Hawfinch and other forest birds.
The second part of the tour is dedicated to the wetlands around Bourgas, which form one of Europe’s richest bird areas. Together they harbor about 340 bird species. One of the biggest attractions of the Bourgas wetlands is the huge flocks of Great White Pelican and Dalmatian Pelican roosting there during migration. The numbers of soaring birds following the Black Sea coastal flyway in autumn can rival those at the Bosphoros or the Gibraltar – endless flocks of thousands of White Storks, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Common Buzzards (both ssp. buteo and ssp. vulpinus) and European Honey Buzzards and incredible numbers of Black Storks, Ospreys, Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, Black Kites, Red-footed Falcons, Western Marsh Harriers, Montagu’s Harriers, Pallid Harriers, Levant Sparrowhawks, etc. pass overhead. Individuals of Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Red Kite, Saker Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Eleonora’s Falcon, Lesser Kestrel also pass through the area.
We will spend one of the mornings watching the migration at Dyulinski Pass – a watch point high up in the wood-clad hills of the Eastern Balkan range, overlooking the seashore below. Then we will move down to Atanasovsko Lake – a shallow saline lagoon with traditional saltpans still preserved. The lake is of major importance for a huge number of birds, including Black-winged Stilt, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stints, Curlew Sandpipers, Marsh Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Slender-billed Gull, Mediterranean Gulls, Little Gull, Gull-billed Tern and many other migrating wader and waterfowl species. We will also spend an afternoon on the main migration watch-point at this lake, watching raptor migration and would walk in the salt-pans, focusing on waders.