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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

Bulgaria remains one of the mostunder-visited corners of Europe andyet its broad range of habitats andgeographical position mean that itsupports a very diverse and exciting rangeof both breeding and migratory birdspecies. The western shore of the BlackSea naturally acts as a major migrationcorridor and our tour is timed to witnessthe peak passage of huge numbers ofraptors, storks, pelicans, waders and otherspecies that pass south along theBulgarian coast at this time of year. In thecourse of an action-packed week, we willexplore the meadows and gorges of theRhodope Mountains before travellingacross country to the extensive coastalwetlands around Pomorie, the woodlandsof the Goritza Hills, the cliff-boundheadlands near Kavarna and the lakesaround Durankulak close to the Romanianborder. In addition to providing a broadintroduction to the dramatic scenery anddiverse culture of Bulgaria, the weekshould also bring us into contact with anexcellent range of exciting bird species,including some real east Europeanspecialities and all, hopefully, in warmautumn sunshine!Our holiday begins in the rugged RhodopeMountains, where we will be based nearthe town of Madzarovo in the woodedArda River Valley. The Rhodope Mountainsare justly famous for their impressiveraptor populations and in the ancient,volcanic landscape of jagged peaks,towering cliffs and sparsely vegetatedboulder-strewn slopes, we will look forsuch spectacular species as Golden,Imperial and Short-toed Eagles, Black,Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Long-legged Buzzard, and Saker and PeregrineFalcons. Black Storks are common heretoo, and small birds include RockNuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, Sombre Titand the elusive Chukar.Transferring north-eastwards to Pomorieon the Black Sea Coast, we will pass closeto the meeting place of the borders ofBulgaria, Greece and Turkey. Thisinteresting drive will take us acrosswooded hills, fertile valleys and stonyplains and we can hope to see passageraptors such as Lesser Spotted andBooted Eagles, Honey and SteppeBuzzards, Montagu's Harrier, LevantSparrowhawk and both Red-footed Falconand Hobby. We should also look out forRed-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes,Bee-eaters and perhaps a late Roller ortwo on the roadside wires, together withmigrant larks and wheatears in the more open areas.At Pomorie we will explore the extensivewetlands nearby. Between the saline LakeAtanasovsko, with its surroundingsaltpans, and the reed-fringed LakeMandra, with its water meadows andadjacent wooded hills, we can expect toencounter a huge range of birds.Highlights may well include both Whiteand Dalmatian Pelicans, PygmyCormorant, Black Stork, Great Egret,Squacco, Purple and Night Herons, GlossyIbis, Spoonbill, Ruddy Shelduck, Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gulls, Gull-billedTern and almost any European wader.Amongst the commoner raptors passingthrough, we will need to keep an eye openfor scarcer species such as Spotted Eagleand Pallid Harrier, whilst on the ground weare likely to encounter large numbers ofmigrant wagtails, pipits and larks.Leaving Pomorie behind, we will travel north to Kavarna, passing the quaint old Byzantine port of Nesebar, with itsnumerous churches and ruins, andstopping in the wooded Goritza Hillswhere Black, Middle Spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers all occur and wherewe might also find a Short-toedTreecreeper or a late migrant Red-breasted or Semi-collared Flycatcher.From Kavarna we will explore the dramaticcliff-bound headland of Kaliakra with itsspectacularlypositioned castle. On the dry, open, stonysteppe-land here we can expectto find Calandra Lark, Stone Curlew and arange of migrants including Bee-eaters,Pied and Isabelline Wheatears, moreraptors and various larks, pipits, shrikesand buntings. Further north still is the shallow, reed-fringed Durankulak Lake where we willspend our last full day. With its reputationfor the rare and unusual, we are unlikely tobe disappointed. Large numbers of birdsare likely to be present here and may wellinclude Dalmatian Pelican, PygmyCormorant, Great and Little Bitterns,Glossy Ibis, Common Crane, FerruginousDuck and Caspian Tern. Waders, too,should be much in evidence, and we mustnot neglect the small birds in the reedsand scrub, as Paddyfield, Savi's, River,Marsh and Moustached Warblers may allbe present. Whatever we see, it is likely toprovide a fitting finale to a rich andrewarding week in this exciting and under-watched country.Bulgaria in AutumnA 9-day tour in search of the resident and migrant birds of the Rhodope Mountains and Black Sea Coast. Saturday 7th September - Sunday 15th September Cost: £1,495Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationBULGARIAKAVARNASOFIAMADZAROVOPOMORIENESEBARTURKEYGREECEMACEDONIASERBIAROMANIABLACK SEADANUBE Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Sofia and transfer toMadzarovo.Day 2Madzarovo.Day 3/5 Pomorie.Day 6/8Kavarna.Day 9Fly London.AccommodationSimple but comfortable hotels withprivate facilities throughout.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy day walks only. FocusBirds.LeaderGeoff Carr, plus local guide(s).Single room supplement£150.ExtensionsExtra nights in Sofia available onrequest.Web quick search: BGR0239Black VultureDolna Kula Valley, Rhodope Mountains