Wooded mountains and quiet marshes of this small country are becoming known as a birding paradise, after years of repression under Communism.
All the graceful heron species of Europe spend at least part of the year on plains and wetlands of the Danube and Maritza Rivers and Black Sea Coast here, along with spoonbills, glossy ibises, and little bitterns darting long bills after small prey in the shallows. Huge numbers flock to LAKE SREBARNA NATURE RESERVE on a freshwater lake that is a U.N. World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve.
A chain of mountain reserves to the southwest attract raptors in great variety and numbers along towering cliffs. They find nest niches and lookout points in rolling green hills of the eastern Rhodopes Mountain—six kinds of eagles (imperial, golden, white-tailed, short-toed, lesser spotted, booted) plus handsome Egyptian and monk or European black vultures, cinereous vultures, Eurasian griffon vultures, and others. In deep woods, rare three-toed and white-backed woodpeckers hammer on trunks of tall conifers.
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Bulgaria is best place in the world to see small, wren-like wallcreepers spreading blood-red wings as they creep over sheer rock faces. It is best place in Europe for golden orioles, rose-colored starlings,and eagle-owls. Somber tits, olive-tree and paddyfield warblers, and hoopoes are among 400 avian species.
Otherwise rare European birds can be common here—streamlined pallid swifts which can copulate and sleep on the wing, pudgy little and spotted crakes in soggy marsh vegetation, graceful tern-like collared and black-winged pratincoles nesting colonially on bare-ground scrapes amid wet meadows.
Woodpeckers in great variety occupy almost every treed area—black, green, Syrian, gray-headed, middle-spotted, great spotted, lesser-spotted, and wrynecks.
Spectacular fall raptor migrations along mountain ridges and the Black Sea coast commonly count 6,000 honey buzzards, 20,000 common buzzards, 10,000+ lesser spotted eagles, with sizable numbers as well of booted and short-toed eagles, Levant sparrowhawks and red-footed falcons, 20,000+ (with records of 37,228) white pelicans, 3,000+ black storks, over 130,000 (with records of 204,000) white storks with thousands of smaller species such as wagtails, swallows, pipits, and larks.
Winter brings flocks of white-fronted and dramatically plumaged red-breasted geese, often in great flocks, with good numbers of lesser white-fronted geese and European ducks—along with smew, whooper and Bewick’s swans, rough-legged and long-legged buzzards in summer.
Even urban Sofia’s well-wooded central park offers fine birds as does Vitosha Mountain National Park just minutes’ drive to the south (black woodpeckers, Eurasian nutcrackers, rufoustailed rock thrushes) and dozens of other reserves, some officially protected.
Climate is typically continental, with best times in spring—April–May for migration, late May–early June for breeding, late August–September for peak fall migrants, wintering species January–February
International jets fly into Sofia from which most places can be reached by rented car, taxi, train, or bus—ski resorts such as Borovets and Pamporovo offering access to the mountains, with many marked trails; Black Sea coastal towns and resorts such as Albena and Burgas for wet lowlands.
Problems remain in pollution, overgrazing, and habitat loss—nearly 95 percent of Bulgaria’s wetlands have disappeared in the past century—and Italian hunters take a lamentable wildlife toll.
BULGARIA as well as...
Vitosha Mountain National Park
LAKE SREBARNA NATURE RESERVE as well as...
Pirin (Vikhren) National Park
More about the Reserves in bulgaria
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