26 May 2012
I have never met anyone from Bulgaria. Nor
have I ever heard of anything that happened in Bulgaria. It is therefore reasonable to
wonder if it actually exists. Perhaps Bulgaria, like Saskatchewan or Paraguay, is an
imaginary place, created by mapmakers just for the fun of it.
One way to find out is to hop a plane in Albuquerque, New Mexico and
fly to Bucharest, Romania. If you've booked a tour with the Bulgarian company Spatia
Wildlife, you will be met there by Tisho Stefanov, your Bulgarian guide. He will
drive you and your fellow photographers, in my case Britons Elizabeth Holmes, Mike
Thurner, and Duncan Hill, south to a bridge that crosses the Danube River into the
town of Ruse.
And there it is - Bulgaria.
You see rolling fields of sunflower, maize, and winter wheat that go on
forever. And of course Bulgarian birds that dart across the highway or perch on
Driving east on
near-deserted roads through sparsely populated villages, you soon reach Vetren and the
delightful Pelican Birding Lodge. Birdsong around the lodge includes nightingales,
cuckoos, and Golden Orioles, one of which has a nest near the lodge..
27 May 2012
Our hostess, Dora, speaks good English and
serves a fine breakfast of coffee, boiled eggs, yogurt, salami, and cheeses such as sirene
and kashkava, both quite tasty.
Afterwards we visit Srebarna Lake, viewing from a distance Dalmatian
Pelicans, Great Horned Grebes, and the like. But a steady, day-long rain foils our
plans for photography. We retreat to the comfort of the lodge.
28 May 2012
Now the sun shines. We drive
west. Near the town of Tutrakan, Tisho sets Duncan and me up in a portable blind, or
hide as it is known in these parts. Some 10 m away is a clay bank perforated with
the nesting holes of European Bee-eaters, our main target bird for the trip.
Bee-eaters of course eat bees, in fact just about any flying insect, always
catching them on the wing. They bash venomous insects' heads and abdomen against a
branch to release the venom. Then, after tossing it into the air, it becomes a
meal. On a good day, the bird will eat about 250 insects.