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Autumn migration along the ‘Via Pontica” flyway (8 days)

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Via Pontica is the second biggest flyway in Europe, passing along the Western Black Sea coast. Millions of birds and countless flocks of soaring migrants use this route between their breeding grounds and their wintering quarters – an impressive performance, gathering birdwatchers from all around the world to enjoy. The different species have different peaks of migration in autumn, so if you wish to stay in the shade of dozens of thousands of storks flying over it is best to come at the end of August, but if you are willing to count Lesser Spotted Eagles the best might be the second half of September. However the whole period from mid August until the end of September is good and highly productive also for waders, making use of the different types of coastal wetlands. In general the variety of birds of prey that could be seen during this period is amazing: Black Kites, Montague’s and Marsh Harriers, Levant Sparrowhawks, Honey Buzzards, Red-footed Falcons, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Hobbies, Buzzards, Ospreys etc. But to cover everything we will make an inland detour, where a huge variety of passerines will still be present.

Day 1. Welcome meeting at Bourgas Airport. Overnight in Bourgas is arranged for the next two nights.
Day 2. The wetlands and the coastline around the town of Bourgas form a natural bottle-neck during migration, where the concentration of soaring migrants could be amazing during days with favourable wind conditions. We will be changing our location accordingly in order to catch up with the migration flow.
Highlights of the day: White Stork, White Pelican, Honey Buzzard, Montagu’s Harrier, Levant Sparrowhawk, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Black Kite, Red-footed Falcon, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Tern etc.
Day 3. After breakfast we continue to explore the wetlands, coastal steppes and woods northwards, reaching eventually Cape Kaliakra. The last remnants of former huge steppe areas are still present here. The cape is a terrific place for watching birds during migration, raising some 100m from the sea level. We spend the night in the area.
Highlights of the day: Slender-billed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Bee-eater, Roller, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpecker, Grey Woodpecker, European Shag (Mediterranean race desmarestii), Stone Curlew, Calandra Lark, Pied Wheatear, Tawny Pipit, Alpine Swift, Red-breasted Flycatcher etc.
Day 4. The wetlands along the Northern Black Sea coast very often surprise birdwatchers, giving shelter to exhausted and sometimes exotic birds. We are going to explore Shablenska Tuzla and Dourankoulak lakes, heading southwards back to Bourgas in the afternoon.
Highlights of the day: Pygmy Cormorant, Feruginous Duck, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Calandra Lark, Marsh Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Roller, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Glossy Ibis, Collared Pratincole, Whiskered Tern, Caspian Tern etc.
Day 5. Passing through the rolling hills of Strandzha and Sakar Mountains we end up in the Eastern Rodopi Mountains, famous as the realm of the birds of prey in Europe, with more than 20 species of raptors breeding here during summer. Some of them will be still in their breeding grounds, while others may be gone already and their places taken by recently arrived migrants. We will be making short stops all the time until we reach the valley of Arda River where we will spend the night.
Highlights of the day: Eastern Imperial Eagle, Black Kite, Montague’s Harrier, Black stork, Griffon and Egyptian Vulture, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-rumped Swallow, Isabelline Wheatear, Woodchat Shrike etc.
Day 6. An active birding day in the valley of Arda and Krumovitsa rivers and the volcanic cliffs around the huge lakes along them. We are going to visit a number of places, perfect for raptors and passerines.
Highlights of the day: Black Stork, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Egyptian and Griffon vultures, Honey Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Ortolan Bunting, Rock Bunting etc.
Day 7. After a good-bye morning stroll along the foot of the cliffs of Madzharovo we get back through Sakar Mountains to Bourgas, trying to add more sightings of Eastern Imperial Eagle and other raptors.
Day 8. Transfer to the airport for departure.

Accommodation: 3-star hotels (along the Black Sea) and guesthouse (inland) with en-suite double rooms on bed & breakfast basis (ordering lunchpacks is possible for each of the days at the price of 4-5 Euro/person; good restaurant will be suggested for lunch otherwise where possible).

Price:
€ 860 per person for 2 persons;
€ 760 per person for 4 or more
Single room supplement: € 120

Best period: August-September
Group size: Min. 2 persons
The price includes:
accommodation and boarding as mentioned above; private transfer to/from Sofia airport and throughout the tour; English-speaking guide/driver; entrance fees for protected areas; VAT and all local taxes.
The price does not include: maps (could be requested in advance when booking the tour), other meals, tips, alcohol drinks, cigarettes and other personal expenses.

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