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Bulgaria is one of the least visitedcorners of Europe, yet it is a diverseand very scenic country whosegeographic position and wide range ofhabitats and altitudes ensure a quiteexceptional range of exciting birdsalongside many interesting plant andbutterfly species. This spring tour,designed to complement our autumnbirdwatching holiday, is timed to see theimpressive range of breeding birds thatdescend on Bulgaria each spring, alongwith numerous migrating birds trackingnorth along the Black Sea Coast. Basedfirst in the Rhodope Mountains, then onthe shores of the Black Sea and finally inthe Dobrudza steppes and Danube Valley,this holiday promises to give us afascinating introduction to Bulgaria'sdramatic landscapes, birdlife and richculture.We will start first in the rugged RhodopeMountains to the south of Sofia. From ourhotel tucked high in the pine forests, wewill visit a number of contrasting sites,including the magnificent limestone gorgeat Trigrad (a noted haunt of the beautifulcrimson-winged Wallcreeper) and theextraordinary jagged and boulder-strewnvolcanic landscape around StudenKladenatz. The Rhodopes are justlyfamous for their impressive raptorpopulations and, as we explore the area,we will keep our eyes skyward in search ofGolden, Imperial, Booted and Short-toedEagles, as well as Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and Long-leggedBuzzards. Smaller birds may include Rock Nuthatch, Blue and Common RockThrushes, Sombre Tit, Eastern Orpheanand Barred Warblers, Crossbill and RockBunting. For those interested in plants, theupland meadows and woods hold suchspecies as Bug and Bird's-nest Orchids,various crocuses, and the colourful Irisreichenbachiiand Gladiolus illyricus.Transferring north-eastwards to Pomorie on the Black Sea Coast, we will pass closeto the border with Greece and Turkey andtravel through a varied landscape ofwooded hills, fertile valleys and stonyplains. Stops will be made to search forsuch bird specialities as Masked Shrikeand Olive-tree Warbler and, whilst on themove, we can look out for Lesser Spotted Eagles, Montagu's Harriers androadside Rollers, Bee-eaters and LesserGrey Shrikes. At Pomorie we will explore the extensivewetlands nearby, which make this one ofEurope's richest bird areas. Between thesaline Lake Atanasovsko with itssurrounding saltpans, the reed-fringedLake Mandra with its water meadows andadjacent wooded hills and the riverineforest and coastal dunes of the RopotamoNature Reserve, we can expect toencounter a huge range of birds and otherwildlife. Birds here are likely to includeWhite Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, GlossyIbis, Night, Purple and Squacco Herons,Little and Great Egrets, Spoonbill, White-tailed Eagle, Slender-billed, Mediterraneanand Little Gulls and just about anyEuropean wader. Leaving Pomorie behind, we will travelnorth to Kavarna, passing the quaint oldByzantine port of Nesebar en route, withits numerous churches and ruins, andstopping in the woodedGoritza Hills where Black,Middle Spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers and Semi-collaredFlycatcher all occur. From our hotel atKavarna, which overlooks two woodedvalleys where Golden Oriole, SyrianWoodpecker and Levant Sparrowhawkbreed, we will explore northwards to thedramatic, cliff-bound headland of Kaliakrawith its precipitously positioned castle.Inland, the sky above the rolling steppewill be dotted with song-flighting Calandraand Short-toed Larks, while on thegrassland itself we are likely to find StoneCurlews, Isabelline and Pied Wheatears,and Lesser Grey Shrikes, plus numerousCorn and Black-headed Buntings. Furthernorth again is Durankulak, a freshwaterlake very close to the Romanian border.This is an important breeding site for ahuge range of exciting wetland birdsincluding Ferruginous Duck, Little andGreat Bitterns, Gull-billed and CaspianTerns, Spotted and Little Crakes andPaddyfield Warbler (here at the westernextremity of its range), whilst thesurrounding woodlands and fields holdvarious flycatchers, woodpeckers andwarblers, plus Lesser Spotted Eagle,Goshawk and Red-footed Falcon.The final leg of our holiday will take usinland, across the Dobrudza steppes andwest along the Danube Valley. At thefamous Srebarna Lake Biosphere Reserveand the Nova Cherna marshland, we willhopefully find Dalmatian Pelican, Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes,Whiskered Tern, Ruddy Shelduck andPenduline Tit and have another chance tosee any wetland birds that we might havemissed elsewhere. After a final overnightstop at Etara, we must sadly return toSofia and thus complete our circuit of thisfascinating and beautiful country.Bulgaria in Spring A 10-day tour in search of the birds of the Rhodope Mountains, Black Sea Coast and Danube Valley.Friday 10th May - Sunday 19th May Cost: £1,395 Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationBULGARIAKAVARNASOFIAMADZAROVOPOMORIEETARAPAMPOROVOSILISTRAVETRENNESEBARTURKEYGREECEMACEDONIASERBIAROMANIABLACK SEADANUBE Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Sofia and transfer toPamporovo.Day 2/3Madzarovo.Day 4/5Pomorie.Day 6/7Kavarna.Day 8 Vetren.Day 9 Etara.Day 10Fly London.AccommodationSimple but comfortable hotels withprivate facilities throughout.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy day walks only.FocusBirds.LeaderAndy Harding, plus local guide(s).Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsExtra nights in Sofia can bearranged on request.Web quick search: BGR0335Rock NuthatchOrtolan BuntingStuden Kladenatz

BULGARIAKAVARNASOFIAVITOSHA MOUNTAINNATIONAL PARKPIRINMOUNTAINSKRUMOVGRADBURGASETARABANSKOPAMPOROVOTURKEYGREECEMACEDONIASERBIAROMANIABLACK SEADANUBE36Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Sofia; transferVitosha MountainNational Park.Day 2Vitosha MountainNational Park.Day 3/5Bansko, Pirin MountainsNational Park.Day 6/7Pamporovo, RhodopeMountains.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationSimple but comfortable touristclass hotels with private facilitiesthroughout.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA/B. Easy to moderate day walks.FocusPlants, plus other wildlife.LeaderAlan Outen, plus local guide(s).Single room supplement£165.Web quick search: BGR01Bulgaria - Flowers of the BalkansAn 8-day holiday to Bulgaria in search of the alpine, and other, flowers of the Vitosha MountainNational Park, the Pirin Mountains National Park and the Rhodope Mountains.Saturday 22nd June - Saturday 29th June Cost: £1,295Bulgaria is an exceptionally beautifulcountry of pine-clad mountains,dramatic rocky gorges, alpinemeadows and wooded valleys whichstretch from Serbia and Macedonia in thewest, to the shores of the Black Sea Coast500 kilometres or so to the east. It is oneof the least visited countries in Europe, yetthis undiscovered corner of the Balkansholds one of Europe's richest floras,including many endemic species thatoccur nowhere else on Earth. IndeedBulgaria's geographic position and widerange of habitats ensure a quiteoutstanding diversity of exciting plants andother wildlife and the country is rightlybecoming an increasingly populardestination for botanists and wildlifeenthusiasts alike. This botanical holiday, designed tocomplement our spring and autumnbirdwatching tours, will introduce you to awealth of beautiful alpine and lowlandplants, many of which are endemic to theBalkan region - all set amidst Bulgaria'sdramatic landscapes, rich culture and veryfriendly peoples. Our tour begins with aflight to Sofia, Bulgaria's beautiful andvibrant capital city. We then drive the shortdistance to the Vitosha Mountain NationalPark where we will be based for the firsttwo nights of the holiday. The pine-cladhills and alpine meadows of this nationalpark are home to a wealth of wildliferanging from Brown Bear and Wolf to over1,500 species of higher plants, 31 speciesof which are Balkan endemics. During ourtime here we will visit the BistrishcoBranishte Nature Reserve, a UNESCOBiosphere Reserve that holds such plantsas Gentianella bulgarica,Lilium jankae,Hungarian Snowbell (Soldanellahungarica), Lesser Twayblade (Listeracordata), Military Orchid (Orchis militaris)and the endemic conifer of the region, theMacedonian Pine (Pinus peuce). For thoseinterested in birds, the forests andmeadows hold Nutcrackers, Ring Ouzels,Ortolan Buntings and Hoopoes, and awide variety of butterflies can be found inall these habitats.We next head to the small town of Banskothat nestles within a valley at the foot ofthe Pirin Mountains. Bansko will be ourbase for the next three nights as weexplore the Pirin Mountains National Park.This is the largest national park in all ofBulgaria, covering over 40,000 hectaresand encompassing 100 peaks over 2,000metres in height. Both acidic andcalcareous rocks are exposed here, andthe flora is extremely rich; indeed 20% ofall the plants outlined in the Bulgarian RedData Book occur within the national park!We will spend our time slowly exploring theforests, alpine meadows, glacial lakes androcky gorges of the park, in search of suchplants as Campanula lanata,Symphyandrawanneri,Centaurea kotschiana, Heart-shaped Orchid (Dactylorhiza cordigera),Long-flowered Primrose (Primula longiflora)and many others. We will also visit the'Baikusheva Mura', an old and twistedMacedonian Pine thought to be the oldesttree in Bulgaria at 1,350 years. Althoughthe botany is sure to keep us enthralled, aquick glance skyward might reveal aGolden Eagle drifting silently overhead orthe undulating flight of a BlackWoodpecker passing high above a forestclearing. Pine Martens are common inthese forests and although Brown Bearsand Wolves occur here too, they are onlyglimpsed by the lucky few.For the final two nights of our tour wemove to the alpine village of Pamporovo.This will be our base as we explore thepine forests, rocky gorges and alpinemeadows of the beautiful RhodopeMountains. Over 2,000 species of planthave been recorded here, 90 of which areendemic to the Balkans. We will search forsuch species as the endemic Haberlearhodopensis,Arenaria rhodopacea andMinuartia rhodopaea, plus Campanulaorphanidea,Sideritis scardica, SerbianStock (Malcolmia serbica), MacedonianRagwort (Senecio macedonicus) and Irisreichenbachii. This is also an excellentarea for orchids and we hope to find,amongst many others, such species asRed Helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra),Large White Helleborine (Cephalantheradamasonium), Greater Butterfly Orchid(Platanthera chlorantha), Bug Orchid(Orchis coriophora) and Elegant Lax-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflorassp.elegans). If we can tear our eyes awayfrom the ground for a few minutes we maysee a passing raptor, such as a Short-toedEagle, perhaps a flock of Crag Martins, oreven a crimson-winged Wallcreepercreeping up the vertical limestone walls ofthe magnificent Trigrad Gorge.With our holiday now drawing to a close,we must sadly retrace our steps back toSofia in time to catch our flight home butfor those wishing to add a little culture and sightseeing to the tour, we thoroughlyrecommend spending an extra couple of nights in Sofia, a charming andcaptivating city. Rhodope MountainsOrchis militaris