The Rhodopes has many species not found or very rare elsewhere in Bulgaria.
However rather than seeking out the exotic today was a "getting to know you" exercise involving a 8 hour walk around the town and up the Mechi (Bear) trail.
I have to admit some of the best birding was very close to the town itself rather than on the trail up another 500 metres in height to the top of the local peak. This shouldn't have surprised me in retrospect because Chepelare itself is already in the wilderness. You don't have to go further to find it!
Its birds are obviously very different from Klimentovo on the northern Bulgarian Black Sea coast where I live. For example although they may be here I saw no corn bunting today. Corn bunting are everywhere around my village. However, I did see a very confiding yellowhammer which is an altogether more attractive bunting at least at this time of year.
Another difference is that so far I haven't yet found any house sparrow in the town. There are tree sparrow and quite a few black redstart in the town. I have never thought of black redstart as a common town bird before but Chepelare is not much larger than a village and it is mountainous which is terrain black redstart like.
There are also plenty of white wagtail in the town too.
The area has at least three members of the crow family - hooded crow, magpie and jay close to the town.
red backed shrike
I want to see a masked shrike while I am in southern Bulgaria. Today I made do with a few observations of red-backed shrike.
On the edge of the town I saw a serin. This bird is common near Tripoli where I used to bird. In fact a serin would often wake me up in the morning when I lived there.
Very close to the spot where I saw a serin , there was a kestrel.
house martin in nest
In the town house martin, barn swallow, red rumped swallow, crag martin, house martin and common swift all patrol the skies. The derelict sports school has many house martin nests. It looks ideal for them. A tall building with many eaves and which is deserted.
looking down a ski slope
As well as birding on the edge of the town, I walked with a friend up the Bear trail to the top of the local mountain. The route was mostly through dense woodland with a few meadows. Clearly two of the most common birds were chaffinch and robin.
People often come to the Rhodopes to see birds of prey and the tit family such as crested tit. There were plenty of songs of tits in the forest especially near the clearings and I did glimpse a very larger bird of prey but not long enough to identify it. So in some ways the trail was unsatisfactory. However I have to remember that I couldn't expect to see all the Rhodopes has to offer in one day.
At two of the clearings I spotted mistle thrush but it seems to be a very shy bird.
The forest also had jay. Actually the best birding on the trail was at the very top of the mountain where there was a large clearing. I would have liked to have stayed longer before my descent but there wasn't time.
In the clearing at the top (at 7000 feet) were black redstart, woodlark, kestrel, and at least one ring ouzel which I spotted from a great distance away.
There is clearly lots of birding still to do and much yet to see. Let's see what tomorrow brings.