Monday, 24 August 2015

Around Varna

I am back in Salalah,Oman now but this blog is a compilation of a couple of birding sessions around Varna, Bulgaria last week.

One session was a walk between my village and the next to visit friends.

There were plenty of birds, some of which must have been on passage given the numbers involved.

Three birds of prey were seen. 

common buzzard taking off

The first one was a common buzzard. This bird was so bright white under wing in places it reminded me of the upland buzzard seen in Mongolia two weeks before.

common buzzard perched

The avenue of trees along the road were full of birds. I kept flushing golden oriole as I walked down the road. All they did was move down a few trees and then the processed continued.

Suddenly out of nowhere over one hundred previously unnoticed Spanish sparrow bolted. It immediately became apparent why.

A booted eagle had swooped down and scared them.

booted eagle above a flock of Spanish sparrow

The third bird of prey was a female marsh harrier patrolling more distant fields.

turtle dove

The wires along the road had several birds perched on them. Arguably the most interesting were turtle dove. I counted 30 over a short strip.

more turtle dove

While they do summer in my area, I have not seen this density here before and assume some at least were on early passage.

European bee-eater

It's hard to know whether the European bee-eater were all local birds.
Other species seen on the wires included European collared dove and common starling.

first year lesser grey shrike

A single young lesser grey shrike was also spotted up there. In young birds like this one the black mask does not yet extend over the forehead but its pink washed front was a helpful indication.

woodchat shrike

Near-by but at a lower level was a woodchat shrike on a bush. My village is right on the northern edge of this species range.

juvenile red-backed shrike

Red-backed shrike is very common indeed. There were several seen along the road as usual in summer and both adults and young birds.

Two days later I was with Andrew Bailey near his home village just south of the inlet into Varna. An initial short walk around was carried out in the heat of the day which we didn't expect much from. Highlights though included a nightingale and a northern goshawk.

northern goshawk

While this bird didn't look very barrel-chested, it has a long neck and crucifix shape rather than T-shape of a sparrowhawk. Furthermore it has a vertical tear drop pattern only found in young goshawks.

northern goshawk

Andrew and I had much more success in the late afternoon as the temperatures dropped and we visited Yatata reserve on the Varna inlet.

This fresh water reserve is alway good for water birds. Both pygmy cormorant and great cormorant showed well. Black-headed gull and mallard were plentiful.

Grey heron were abundant along side a single white stork.

white stork with grey heron

Notable passerines included yellow wagtail (black-headed), goldfinch and common kingfisher.

I don't consciously seek to enlarge my Bulgarina list but I might well chase targets in the future. Nevertheless I added 3 birds at Yatata. These were gadwell, little grebe and black-crowned night heron.  

lesser grey shrike

One of the last birds we saw at Yatata was a lesser grey shrike. Unlike the one near home, this was an adult with its much more distinctive thick black mask.

Now I am back in Oman I hope to go birding in the next two or three days. In the meantime my list went up from 287 to 288 in the summer. Clements and e-bird split Caspian gull and Steppe gull while I was away. 

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