One-day birding tours from Sofia

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No matter if you are on a business trip in Sofia or just looking for a relaxed birdwatching outside of the city we would be glad to organize a good birding time-out for you. You can choose between a visit to the biggest natural wetland in the vicinity of Sofia (Dragoman Marsh) or some light hiking trip above the tree line, including a number of mountain species. A hardcore program for Wallcreepers is also possible for real birders. Enjoy!

1. Birdwatching tour to Dragoman Marsh (allow at least 5-6 hrs)
In the morning you will be picked up from your hotel and transferred (1,20hrs one way) westwards to the biggest Karst marsh in Bulgaria. The checklist here is especially varied in spring and autumn as this wetland lies along the Via Aristotelis flyway and a big number of migrants use it as a stop-over. The composition of the breeding bird fauna is also quite diverse, considering also the presence of lower and higher Karst hills surrounding the marsh.
Expected highlights in summer (end of May-July): Bittern, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Long-legged Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Water Rail, Ferruginous Duck, Black-headed Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Rock Bunting, Sombre Tit, Rock Thrush, Great Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Short-toed Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Stonechat, Black-headed Yellow Wagtail, Crag Martin etc.
Expected highlights during migration (April-end of May; August-September): Bittern, Little Bittern, Black Stork, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Pygmy Cormorant, Long-legged Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, daily birding tours around Sofia, water railMontague’s Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Water Rail, Ferruginous Duck, Black-headed Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Rock Bunting, Sombre Tit, Great Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Short-toed Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Crag Martin etc.
Remarks and clothing: start from your hotel at 07.00 a.m.; walk on grassland with tall grass and on karts fields; some swampy parts exist in spring (could be avoided if needed); sunscreen lotion and sun hat in summer; light hiking boots; lightweight jacket; rain jacket; long trousers; lunchpack and a bottle of water;

2. Birdwatching in Vitosha Nature Park (allow at least 5-6 hrs)
Vitosha Mountains are the first thing people see on their way from Sofia Airport to the city center. This is the oldest nature park in the Balkans and the most favourite hiking destination for the inhabitants of the capital, being just an hour’s drive from the center of the city. The highest peak is Cherni Vryh (The Black Peak), rising at 2290m a.s.l. Depending on the weather and your physical conditions we will either take a walk in the alpine parts first and then go to the woods or we will make just a relaxed hike in the century-old spruce forest. If you prefer walking to birding no problem to climb the peak itself (the uphill walk is just 1-1,30hrs from where we are going to stop with the car) and extend the trek to another famous part of the mountains – The Golden Bridges, passing along the backbone of the mountains, descending from the other side.
Expected highlights in summer (end of May-September): Pallid Swift, Nutcracker, Willow Tit, Black Woodpecker, Ring Ouzel, Water Pipit, Black Redstart, Crag Martin, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Common Crossbill etc.
Remarks and clothing: start from your hotel at 07.30 a.m.; walking on dirt roads and paths; moderate uphill hiking; sunscreen lotion and sun hat in summer; light hiking boots; lightweight jacket; rain jacket; long trousers; lunch pack and a bottle of water (possibility to buy food and water in the huts);

3. Wallcreeper tour to the Rodopi Mountains (allow at least 12-13 hrs)
This is a very tough birding program, requiring a rather early start from Sofia (around 5 a.m.) and then some 3,30hrs drive to the heart of Rodopi Mountains and Trigrad Gorge, which is probably the most famous spot for watching Wallcreepers in Europe. We have to face the 250m high cliffs around 08.30 in order to be ready on time for the most active part of the day, when birds start to move in search of insects. If we have a successful morning we can make visits to some of the local caves – Yagodina cave (considered to be the most beautiful one in Bulgaria) or The Devil’s Throat cave (housing one of the highest underground waterfalls in Europe). Alternatively, on the way back we can stop at Besaparski Hills to explore the steppe slopes for interesting raptors (Eastern Imperial Eagle among them) and passerines. Consider arrival in Sofia late in the evening – very tired but totally satisfied if the weather is good.
Expected highlights in summer (May-August): Wallcreeper, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Black-headed Bunting, Isabelline Wheatear, Bee-eater, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin etc.
Remarks and clothing: start from your hotel at 05.00 a.m.; appr. 7-7,30 hrs drive in total; short walks on grassland and dirty roads; sunscreen lotion and sun hat in summer; light hiking boots; lightweight jacket; rain jacket; long trousers; lunch pack and a bottle of water (possibility to have lunch on spot);

4. The Upper Thracian Plain and the Bessapara Hills (allow at least 6-7 hrs)
Expect an emotional birding day with an impressive variety of birds in the different habitats of the Upper Thracian Plain. After an early morning pick-up from your hotel in either Sofia or Plovdiv, you will be transferred (about an hour) to the Bessapara Ridge. This is a protected area of rolling limestone hills, strikingly different from the rest of the Rhodopi Mountains. It is covered by steppe grasslands, scattered bushes, and trees that hold an unsuspectingly high diversity of birds. The afternoon will be dedicated to teaming with wildlife nearby rice fields, fish ponds, and the riverine forests of the Maritsa River.

Expected highlights in summer (end of May-July): Little Bittern, Ferruginous Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Little Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, Black Stork, Long-legged Buzzard, Montague’s Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Black-headed Bunting, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Ortolan Bunting, Rosy Starling, Great Reed Warbler, Masked Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Black-eared Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear, Sand Martin, Hoopoe, Common Bee-eater, European Roller, Souslik, etc.

Expected highlights during migration (April-end of May; August-September): Bittern, Little Bittern, Black Stork, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Pygmy Cormorant, Red-footed Falcon, Montague’s Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Crake species, Ruff, Marsh Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Lapwing, Ferruginous Duck, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Great Reed Warbler and many more.

Remarks and clothing: the tour usually starts from your hotel at 07.00 a.m. Expect short easy walks on grassland and dirt roads; sunscreen lotion and a sun hat is a must; light hiking boots; lightweight jacket; rain jacket; long trousers; lunch pack and a bottle of water (possibility to have lunch on spot);

PRICES:
– Birdwatching tour to Dragoman Marsh: 1 person – 125 Euro; 2-3 persons – 75 Euro/person
– Birdwatching in Vitosha Nature Park: 1 person – 115 Euro; 2-3 persons – 65 Euro/person
– Wallcreeper tour to Rodopi Mountains: 1 person – 160 Euro; 2-3 persons – 95 Euro/person
– Birdwatching tour to the Upper Thracian Plain and Bessapara Hills: 1 person – 125 Euro; 2-3 persons – 75 Euro/person
The price includes: private transfers, pick up/drop off at any location in Sofia, English-speaking driver/guide, fuel, and all road taxes, and use of a spotting scope.
The price does not include: entrance fees for caves, meals, and drinks, other personal expenses, tips

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