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37Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Sofia and transfer toKoprivshtitsa. Day 2/4Madzarovo.Day 5/6Pamporovo.Day 7/8 Melnik.Day 9Transfer Sofia and flyLondon.AccommodationSimple but comfortable hotels withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy day walks only.FocusDragonflies and other wildlife(mainly birds and butterflies).LeaderDave Smallshire, plus local guide.Single room supplement£165.Web quick search: BGR05BULGARIAKAVARNASOFIAMADZAROVODOSPATPAMPOROVOKOPRIVSHTITSAMELNIKBURGASTURKEYGREECEMACEDONIASERBIAROMANIABLACK SEADANUBE Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationBulgaria's Dragonflies A 9-day tour in search of the dragonflies and other wildlife of the mountains and lowlands in central and southern Bulgaria. Saturday 29th June - Sunday 7th July Cost: £1,395Bulgaria is a diverse and beautifulcountry, its geographical positionand wide range of altitudes andhabitats ensuring an exceptional range ofdragonflies, as well as many interestingbirds, butterflies and other spectacularwildlife. This particular visit is timed tomaximise our sightings of as manyspecies of dragonfly as possible on thewing, and during our special quest we willvisit the bogs, streams, rivers, ponds andlakes in some of Bulgaria's most beautifulsettings. First, we will explore the marginsof the towering Balkan Mountains, then thespectacular Rhodope Mountains that liealong the Greek border. Finally, travellingthrough the Pirin range, we will concludeour holiday with visits to the biodiversityhotspots in the Struma Valley in south-eastern Bulgaria. It will be a tour thatenables us to see many of the country'sdragonflies (potentially 50 species), plus ahost of other wildlife, in beautiful and oftendramatic landscapes. We begin in the shadow of the BalkanMountains, at the picturesque village ofKoprivshtitsa. Here we will look along theRiver Topolnitza and its tributaries for thelocalised Ornate Bluet (Coenagrionornatum), together with the Small Pincertail(Onychogomphus forcipatus) andgoldenring (Cordulegaster) species. Ourtiming and elevation will mean that manydragonflies may also be watchedemerging, a fascinating experience. Wewill also keep a watchful eye above us forthe Eastern Imperial Eagles that hunt forSousliks in the botanically-rich grasslands,and search the flower-filled meadows thatprovide nectar for so many differentinsects, amongst them such stunningbutterflies as the Large and BalkanCoppers and the rare Russian Heath. Journeying south-eastwards toMadzarovo, we will pass a roadside Bee-eater colony at which Isabelline Wheatearsalso breed, and enjoy a picnic lunchbeside the tree-lined Marica River. HereGomphids such as River Clubtail(Gomphus flavipes) and Green Snaketail(Ophiogomphus cecilia) may be found,together with hordes of White-leggedDamselflies (Platycnemis pennipes) thatseem to occur everywhere in Bulgaria. Theriparian woodland echoes with the calls ofGolden Orioles, whilst Lesser Grey andMasked Shrikes take advantage of theabundance of insects beside the river. From Madzarovo we will visit the ValchiDol Valley, a fabulous setting for thepeculiar Odalisque Damselfly (Epallagefatime) that breeds along a temporarystream. The tiny hawker, Eastern Spectre(Caliaeschna microstigma), and BalkanEmerald (Somatochlora meridionalis) alsofrequent the stream, where patches ofdrying mud provide tasty salts for bluebutterflies. In fact the whole area is goodfor butterflies, including the spectacularEastern Festoon and tiny, but perfectlyformed, Little Tiger Blue. Overhead,raptors patrol the skies, amongst themLong-legged Buzzards, and Griffon,Egyptian and even Black Vultures. We willmake a pilgrimage to a cool, shady andslow-moving section of the River DeimiDere near the Greek border. Here theBulgarian Emerald was first discovered byDr. Milen Marinov in 1999, although wemay be a little too late in the season tosee it.Travelling higher into the RhodopeMountains, our next base is amongst theconiferous forest through whichNutcrackers, Black Woodpeckers andCrested Tits range. From here we are ableto explore sites of contrasting character. Atthe Smolyan Lakes both NorthernDamselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum) andDowny Emerald (Cordulia aenea) may befound, whilst at the magnificent limestonegorge at Trigradboth Wallcreeperand the Apollobutterfly are virtuallyguaranteed. Finally, further westwards, inthe beautiful Pirin Mountains, we willsquelch past a wonderful display oforchids in Bulgaria's largest peat bog and,lower down, look for Europe's largestdragonfly, the Balkan Goldenring(Cordulegaster heros). Our final base, the picturesque andhistoric village of Melnik with its strange,pyramid-shaped rock formations, liesamongst the foothills of the Pirin range.From here we will search for the elusiveBlack Pennant (Selysiothemis nigra) andBlade-tail (Lindenia tetraphylla), and a widerange of other dragonflies that breed inthe old gravel workings near the StrumaRiver. The nearby hot springs at Rupitesound an odd place to look fordragonflies, but not all of the water there isnearly boiling! In this, one of the hottestparts of the country, insects areeverywhere. As well as dragonflies andbutterflies, these include two trulyspectacular Orthopterans: the armadillo-like Bradyporus dasypusand the hugeSaga hellenica, a bush-cricket that feedson bush-crickets!Our journey back to Sofia gives us thechance to visit yet another of Bulgaria'sbiodiversity hotspots, the Kresna Gorge.Here the insect theme continues, withvarious clubtails and Sombre Goldenring(Cordulegaster bidentata) to be seen, plusa host of butterflies along woodland rides- a fitting conclusion to our holiday! Sombre Goldenring(male)Odalisque Damselfly (male)Rhodope Mountains

Bulgaria's exceptional natural historyis well known to those Naturetrektravellers who have previously joinedour popular spring and autumn tours. Thisholiday now allows us to enjoy thehighlights of the equally interestingsummer season, concentrating on thebirds, insects and alpine flowers to befound in the beautiful Pirin Mountains. Thistime we will stay in just two centres andvisit a contrasting range of upland habitatsas our explorations take us from the driersouth-western slopes of this picturesqueregion to the high alpine meadows in thenorth-east of the Pirin range. With few longdrives and most of each day spent on footexploring the forests, meadows and rockypeaks, this is an ideal choice for thosewith a penchant for a general naturalhistory tour amidst spectacular scenery.The Pirin Mountains lie in the south-western corner of Bulgaria, close to theborder with Greece. This is a landscape ofexceptional natural beauty, boasting 100high peaks over 2,000 metres, alpinemeadows dotted with glacial lakes,forested hillsides, spectacular rocky gorges and precipitous cliff faces. Afterflying from London to Sofia, the capital ofBulgaria, we drive to the small town ofMelnik where we will be based for the firstthree nights of the tour in the shadow ofthe mountains. Melnik is famous for itslocally produced wines and over the yearshas witnessed the passage of theThracians, Romans and Byzantines, eachof which have left their mark on the town'sunique and attractive architecture.The character and physical appearance ofthe mountains change significantly from thedry, Mediterranean habitats of the south-western slopes to the wetter, pine-coveredhills of the north-east. Melnik is situated inthe former region and we begin our naturalhistory walks in the Struma River Valley andKresna Gorge, part of which is protectedwithin the Tissata Reserve, a reserverecently classified as an 'Important BirdArea' by BirdLife International. TheMediterranean flora here is matched by awonderful selection of butterflies and birds,including among the latter, both LesserGrey and Woodchat Shrike, Roller, Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallow, Black-earedWheatear and Rock Thrush, together withsuch more typically Balkan species asSombre Tit and Barred Warbler. Hot thermal springs are a feature of thevolcanic Rupite Hills which occupy thethird day of our tour. Once again theclimate and flora are predominatelyMediterranean in this dry, rocky terrainwhich is dominated by the huge crater ofthe inactive volcano Kujuh. Another fineselection of birds is in prospect with suchspecies as Egyptian Vulture, Long-leggedBuzzard, Levant Sparrowhawk, RockNuthatch and Calandra Lark to look for.The sunny conditions are also likely toencourage a variety of butterflies anddragonflies to take wing and add theircolour to the displays of wild flowers.Great Banded Grayling, Swallowtail,Freyer's Purple Emperor and HungarianGlider are just a few of the butterfliesrecorded from here.Insects, and in particular dragonflies, are also well represented at our nextdestination, a series of small freshwaterlakes and ponds in the Struma Valley. Herethe aquatic influence is reflected by birdssuch as White Stork and Great ReedWarbler, but the patchwork of woodlandsand meadows bordering the ponds alsoprovides habitat for a wider range of birdssuch as Olivaceous Warbler, Hoopoe,Black-headed Bunting and SpanishSparrow. The variety of butterflies isparticularly diverse with Large Copper,Lesser Spotted Fritillary, Krueper's SmallWhite and Bulgarian Marsh Fritillary among the attractions.After two full days in the south of themountains we drive 120 kilometres toBansko, a small town that nestles in avalley on the north-eastern slopes of therange. We will be based in Bansko for afurther four nights and will follow a similarprogramme of day walks and excursionsinto the surrounding mountains in order tobest appreciate the diversity of the varioushabitats. Bansko is the gateway to the hugePirin Mountains National Park whichstraddles the highest peaks in the range,reaching a maximum elevation of over2,900 metres. Here we find ourselves in acompletely different landscape to the southas we walk amid lush pine forests and highalpine meadows, venturing into the sub-alpine zone, framed by a myriad of ruggedpeaks and ridges. The avifauna and flora isas exciting as the scenery and some of thebirds we hope to see in this northern sectorinclude Golden Eagle, Crag Martin, AlpineChough, Alpine Accentor, Firecrest andGrey-headed Woodpecker. Butterflies alsoabound in these high altitude meadowswith the striking Apollo one of the mostimpressive species.All too soon it will be time to take our leaveof the Pirin Mountains and return to Sofia forour flight to London, but like many before uswe will doubtless have been captivated bythe unspoilt beauty and abundant naturalhistory of this wonderful region.Bulgaria in SummerAn 8-day wildlife holiday to Bulgaria's Pirin Mountains National Park in search of the birds,butterflies and alpine flowers of this under-visited corner of Europe. Saturday 27th July - Saturday 3rd August Cost: £1,295Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Sofia and transfer toMelnik.Day 2/3Pirin Mountains fromMelnik.Day 4/7Pirin Mountains NationalPark from Bansko.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationSimple but comfortable hotels withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA/B. Easy to moderate day walks.FocusBirds, butterflies, dragonflies and alpine flowers.LeaderAlan Outen, plus local guide(s).Single room supplement£180.Web quick search: BGR0438Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryBULGARIAKAVARNASOFIAMELNIKKRUMOVGRADBURGASETARABANSKOPIRINMOUNTAINSTURKEYGREECEMACEDONIASERBIAROMANIABLACK SEADANUBEApollo ButterflyEuropean RollerPirin Mountains