Wednesday 29 December 2010

A wild goose chase in Bulgaria

Today it was minus 2C on my field trip in northern Bulgaria. Suddenly I began to miss my regular birding in Libya.

I had agreed to join my friend Dimeter Georgiev at 5.30 am to help count geese for the BSPB (Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds) at his watch point.

It was foggy and very cold. As a reward for the early morning count, afterwards he took me a few kilometres north to where the main group of wintering white fronted geese and red-breasted geese were eating. 

red-breasted geese and white-fronted geese eating near Shabla, Bulgaria

At its most dense there were about 750 red-breasted goose and 8,000 white fronted goose in one field. We took great care not to disturb them so all viewing was at long distance and my camera was taken to its limits. I was not very happy that most of the red-breasted geese were at the back of the group on the ground.

the geese disturbed by a white tailed eagle

At one stage (just after we arrived) the birds were frightened by a white tailed eagle in the area but they later settled down.

In fact I was amazed how many birds of prey were around. The most common bird was the common buzzard - as usual in a Bulgarian winter. Its local breeding numbers are hugely swollen by northern birds in winter.  Another very common bird of prey is kestrel.

In the early morning watch for geese we came across a roost for common buzzard from which over 70 birds had come!

kestrel (left) and common buzzard(right) photographed today

However we also saw long legged buzzard and even saker falcon. The latter bird was only seen by me as it disappeared across the horizon. It would be a "lifer" if I decide to count it on the basis of Dimiter's ID. I am wrestling with my conscience.

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