Saturday, 30 April 2016

Bulgaria Trip - 24th April (Day 3)

Again, we were up early and headed for a new site for Hazel Grouse near to Trigrad. This was a lovely area of mixed woodland with Birch, Beech, Pine and Spruce but it was raining, at times heavily and we were not optimistic about the grouse. We walked slowly scanning the track ahead. I had a glimpse of a larger bird that dropped from a Beech to the ground but it disappeared before I could identify it. The track, after passing through a meadow and then again up through more woodland, came to an end at a covered reservoir and my hopes for the grouse sank. We heard a distant Grey-headed Woodpecker but despite responding to a recording it did not come in, another Crested Tit plus Bullfinch and Nuthatch, the latter two species new for the list, were seen but little else.

Rhodopean Toothwort Lathraea rhodopea - A south Balkan 
Endemic seen near to Trigrad

Coral-root Orchid - Trigrad

Woodland near to Trigrad

Hillside near to Trigrad

We had a brief stop in the Trigrad Gorge for Wallcreeper and as we got out of the car there it was above our heads. I fumbled my camera and dropped it and as I lifted to shoot the Wallcreeper nothing happened as I pressed the shutter. I fiddled around and nothing happened so I decided simply to watch the bird as it tended the nest no more than 15 metres away. Just fantastic birds. We headed back to the hotel for an omelette and coffees and I managed to fix my camera by taking out the batteries and re-inserting.

Crag Martin perching on the sign of the Trigrad Hotel

After breakfast we headed back down the Trigrad Gorge and stopped at the 'Devil's Throat' for a quick look inside the cave, it was dark and cavernous! Back into the light and we stopped again at the Wallcreeper site, again the bird was on the cliff face above the road but we were a fraction too late and the bird flew across the ravine and landed on the opposite face. We enjoyed good views and appreciated just how difficult these birds can be to see when against a vast cliff face, I attempted a few photos to show this. A Grey-headed Woodpecker called from the slopes above.

Sign outside Devil's Throat showing the birds of the ravine

Exit of the Devils Throat

Images of Wallcreeper on the face of the Trigrad Gorge

Next stop was an area of mixed woodland lining the road where we knew there to be Grey-headed Woodpecker. As we stopped, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow and House Martin buzzed over head. A quick blast of the tape and very quickly two Grey-headed Woodpecker perched up and showed well, if a little distantly.

Red-rumped Swallow - Trigrad Gorge

Grey-headed Woodpecker - Trigrad Gorge

Before our next cave of the day we stopped in a meadow where butterflies included Mountain Argus, Clouded Yellow, Swallow-tail, Small Blue and Adonis Blue. We then spent the next hour underground in the Yagodinska Cave, a spectacular stalagmite and stalactite clad cave with spectacular mineral deposits.

Swallowtail - Buynovo Gorge

Mineral deposits in the Yagodinska Cave

Mineral deposits (stalagmites) in the Yagodinska Cave

A remarkable mineral deposit in the Yagodinska Cave

We then headed for a new site for Hazel Grouse, one that was suggested to us by local hunters at a cafe stop, they said that they regularly saw the species here and it was their best recommendation for seeing it. We drove up the road past Yagodinska Cave and turned right after a couple of kilometres onto an unmade track just after a small hydro-dam. After 500m or so a small track branched to the right and crossed the stream. We parked here, before the stream, and walked up hill. The habitat was fantastic and we found Brown Bear and Pine Marten poo plus Hazel Grouse poo but no sight of the bird. Birds here included Crested Tit, Long-tailed Tit (new for trip), Firecrest and Lesser Whitethroat. It was late and so we headed back for the hotel slightly despondent that we had not seen the grouse, we only had a couple of hours in the morning to look before having to head for Sofia and so my hopes were slipping away. We had a few beers and wine while discussing the strategy for the morning.

Fire Salamander - Buynovo Gorge

Trigrad at dusk from our balcony

Links to the Other Days of the Trip