Bulgaria Travel Diary - p 2

29 May 2012
Arriving in the valley, Tisho drives us to the edge of a village where Spatia Wildlife has the 'garden hide.'   It is a permanent hide facing a smalll pond, beyond which is a lawn where sunflower seed are put out near appropriate perches. This is basic bird-on-a-stick photography, with closeups of typical European birds more or less guaranteed..  Unlike the bee-eaters and rollers, these birds, such as the Jay, are mostly the Eurasian counterparts to familiar North American birds. 
    Joining it are Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Eurasian Tree Sparrows, and of course House Sparrows and the occasional Starling.  Posts attract Syrian Woodpecker and the Nuthatch.


(Eurasian) Jay

Hawfinch 30 May 2012
Last night we arrived at our guesthouse in the town of Pavel Banya.  After settling in, we walked a few blocks to the Restaurant Aco, starting the meal with a cold Zagorka beer.  Then came a shopska salad - cucumbers and tomatoes topped with sirene cheese.  The rest of the fare was plain but tasty, a kyufte, minced meat patty which for some reason is called a meatball.  My side was chips which we Yanks call French fries or freedom fries if you are a francophobe.
    Next morning we returned to the garden hide.  This time the star bird was Hawfinch, which perched obligingly for a photo.  In the genus Coccothraustes, Hawfinch is the Eurasian counterpart to the Evening Grosbeaks that were flocking to my seed tray at our New Mexico cabin when I left.



Next comes a stint in a portable hide in the middle of a plowed field, some 15 m or so from a copse of bushes in which a pair of Hoopoes are nesting.  The female, who's likely incubating eggs in that hole shown in the photo, emerges for a quick look-see, but fails to raise the huge crest for which Hoopoes are noted.  Her mate later brings a tasty worm for her, but she stays put in her hole.   So  I must be content with this one photo of a shy, enigmatic bird.


(Eurasian) Hoopoe

 male Red-backed Shrike After a lunch of meatballs in a bean stew, we go to Spatia's other permanent blind, situated on a grassy slope near a small pond.  We see Corn Bunting and Stonechat, but the most colorful birds are a pair of Red-backed Shrikes.
    You cannot drive half a mile down a country road here without seeing Red-backed Shrikes - surely one of the most abundant birds around.  If they ate small songbirds as do the Loggerhead Shrikes who winter in Oklahoma, there would soon be no birds left.  But as the photo of the male shows, the Red-backs mostly eat insects.
The Red-back's mate was likewise in attendance.  More tame than the male, she posed for dozens of images, including several where she became upset because a female Common Blackbird, with a beak full of worms for her chicks, invaded her personal space.  female Red-backed Shrike

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