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WEATHER: bright to start, cloudy later with heavy rain showers.

Our last day was spent on the road, we travelled from the North-east coast of the Black Sea to Sofia, a distance of over 400km. We spent some of the morning birding in a lovely mixed deciduous woodland in the coastal town of Albena. Baltata Nature Reserve consists of mixed ash,oak, birch, pine, hawthorn and hazel and many of the trees are huge and mature.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

We spent the first 30 minutes tracking down a pair of Semi-collared Flycatchers, we did get good but brief views of both the male and the female before we moved on. It was like walking through an English woodland with bird song and calls coming from Blackbird, Blue & Great Tits, Robin, Chaffinch, Song Thrush and Blackcap. It became a little more exotic with  the presence of Short-toed Treecreeper, Middle Spotted Woodpecker and another Semi-collared Flycatcher.

a beautiful fungus called Dryad's Saddle

We had good views of Spotted Flycatcher and we heard Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers before we left.

We put in another hour's driving before we stopped next. It was a very brief stop to stretch our legs, it produced Red-backed Shrike, Corn Bunting, Common Whitethroat, Bee-eaters and a Tree Pipit (call only).

our first sighting of the Bulgaria Souslik - photograph by Tony Moore

Around 3pm we stopped on the grassland hills above the town of Karnobat, it was raining and we had driven through some heavy showers. Luckily for us the rain eased off and we were able to get out of the bus. A male Montagu’s Harrier was our first sighting on this hillside which is renowned for its raptor presence.

record shot of the Montagu's Harrier by Tony Moore

A few pairs of Isabelline Wheatears could be seen dashing about and sometimes hovering, we found some recently fledged chicks too! Skylarks sang on high and a pair of Ravens flew over. But it was the raptors that stole the show as we expected they would. The sky cleared a little and very soon several raptors were noted.

two pictures of Isabelline Wheatears - three chicks above and a pair of adults below - both taken by Tony Moore

Black Kites drifted over, we found a perched Long-legged Buzzard, then a Honey Buzzard came over very high up. A Hobby was noted twice and then Dancho found the first of two Eastern Imperial Eagles. The first showed really well and was a juvenile (first year bird) and the second was maybe a year or two older, in subadult plumage. We then found a White-tailed Eagle flying extremely high up and Dancho picked out a very distant Short-toed Eagle. We counted 8 different raptors during a very short space of time, it was amazing.

the sub-adult Imperial Eagle - photo by Tony Moore

Our first sighting of the Bulgarian Souslik, a kind of Ground Squirrel, was made, they are the staple diet of Long-legged Buzzards. The Isabelline Wheatear uses the disused holes of the Souslik to nest in.

We left the area at 3pm and spent the rest of the day travelling to Sofia. Our birding was over for this trip. We did see a few species along the motorway but nothing to write home about. We checked into our hotel at 6:45pm and had dinner an hour later.