Birds of Bulgaria by Paul Gale

The photographs below were taken in the vicinity of Bourgas in Bulgaria between 22 - 29 May 2009. Bourgas is on the Black Sea in the east of Bulgaria and sports a range of habitats including marshes and reed beds, salt pans, woodland and shrub. Further inland extensive fields support Montague's Harrier, Calandra Larks, Rollers and Isabelline Wheatear. Also seen, but not photographed, were Little Ringed Plover, Crested Lark, Black Stork, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Stonechat, Cirl Bunting, Raven Tree Sparrow, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Tit, Grey Wagtail, Great Reed Warbler and Calandra Lark. In the villages, White Storks nest on lamp posts with colonies of Spanish Sparrow. Hawfinches were more often seen in flight - large bulky finches with wing-bars and tail band, and a photographic highlight was the pictures of two birds which landed on a dead tree early on the last morning in perfect light. Black-Headed Buntings and Red-Backed Shrikes are the abundant passerines, with Lesser-Spotted Eagle being the most common large raptor. Bee-eaters and Turtle Doves are obvious on the lines, but Golden Orioles, although abundant, are difficult to spot and hide in the tree canopies. Starling flocks are also common, and we were lucky to find one Rose-coloured Starling. A pair of Red-backed Shrikes was nesting in the hotel garden and a breakfast highlight was the flock of Great White Pelicans which flew past the hotel one morning. For me the most interesting bird to see was the Olive Tree Warbler. It's similar in size and call to Great Reed Warbler. Its habitat, however, is dry shrubby areas interspersed with small bushes. In this respect it resembles Eastern Olivaceous Warbler which is the abundant Silvia warbler in the region. Ticks are also common. After walking through a shrubby area before breakfast one morning we later found three questing adult ticks, each about 3 mm in diameter. Although not identified they could have been Hyalomma marginatum from the dry arid habitat, an area where we found the tortoise which on close inspection was also infested with ticks (perhaps Hyalomma aegyptium which is also called the tortoise tick). Great care should be taken to avoid tick bites and frequent self-examinations probably saved our experiencing a bite. The habitats of Bulgaria include large tracts of unspoilt forest and riverine woodland which hold breeding Semi-collared Flycatcher, all three "spotted" woodpeckers and the pale eastern form of Nuthatch. Our one and only Syrian Woodpecker was found in trees in the more open areas. The range and abundance of butterflies including fritillaries, coppers and whites is noteworthy in May. We were lucky to spot a wild boar foraging in the long grass at the edge of wood. As we stopped the car to get the camera out, he moved away thus dashing my hopes of a picture. Yellow-legged Gulls are abundant on the coast of the Black Sea, and sea-watching in the evening is productive with numerous Gull-billed Terns and Sandwich Terns, occasional Mediterranean Gulls, possible Caspian Tern and even an Arctic Skua. Two Caspian Gulls were also seen in the bay by the hotel one morning. A full log of this trip has been written up by Tom Gale (Age 10).

All photographs copyright Paul Gale


Red-backed Shrike

Lesser Grey Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

Lesser Spotted Eagle

White tailed Eagle

Aquilla Eagle - probably golden eagle


Montague's Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Honey Buzzard



Rose-coloured Starling

Black-headed Bunting

Golden Oriole

Corn Bunting

Black-headed Wagtail

Red-rumped Swallow

Pygmy Cormorant


Yellow legged Gull

Dalmation Pelican

Great White Pelican

Purple Heron

Little Bittern

White Stork


Ducks (4)

Terns (4)

Woodpeckers and Nuthatch (5)


Semi-collared Flycatcher

Spanish Sparrow

Broad-billed Sandpiper

Waders (5)

Sombre Tit

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Olive Tree Warbler

White Wagtail

Eastern Orphean Warbler, Barred and other Sylvias

Isabelline Wheatear

Tawny Pipit

Reptiles, Amphibians and butterflies

Turtle Dove

Habitats in Bulgaria

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