All too quickly our week was nearing the end but not before we had one last photo session in a drinking pool hide. Much too our delight the hide was an excellent set up. A large cabin big enough for four people was set in to the ground so that your eye level was just above the ground. There were two viewing points that had a shelf suitable for a bean bag, two that needed a tripod. I was happy with the later. Behind us was a single bed so anyone contemplating an all night session was well catered for and for Mike and I made an ideal place to leave spare equipment.
The whole thing was set in a private garden plot that didn't have a house, just a garden room.
Why couldn't we have had this standard all week instead of some really poor quality temporary hides we had had to put up with ?
The set up wasn't perfect, depending on your position you couldn't see everything but that's to be expected. Mike never had a chance with the Hoopoe that made a brief appearance
Unfortunately it wandered out of sight of both of us after a very brief foray in the longer grass
I only wished I'd caught it with the crown feathers up when it landed !
There was one issue though that we were surprised nobody had done anything about. Around the garden was a wire fence. Two rows of white plastic coated wire. Very irritating because you kept on picking it up.
The Nuthatch duly obliged by taking up other positions
One of the best,if not the best sight of the day landed in exactly the wrong spot.
A series of shots all have the same effect but I was so relieved when it flew to a different spot altogether.
This time the issue was the cultivated earth on the vegetable plot but at least it's not a uniform line !
The Nightingale, out in the open was extremely special giving me my best photo opportunity ever.
Didn't last long but both Mike and I got our shots.
Another species that did likewise was the Tree Sparrow. Not an easy bird to see in the UK nowadays either. They are doing well in Bulgaria it seems.
The youngsters have already fledged the nest.
but still demanding food !
An extremely special bird to see close up was the Hawfinch.
There were several about including the duller marked females
but best of all, a juvenile.
Unfortunately very timid he never showed the full extent of his body, well not from my position anyway. Mike and I were both taken aback at first sighting as we had never seen one before so for a fraction you wondered what you were looking at.
On the other hand when this Woodpecker appeared we thought it didn't look quite right !
Although the difference is fairly marginal it was in fact a Syrian Woodpecker, a lifer for us both.
We also saw the female too
Even more like the Great Spotted Woodpecker without the red head markings to compare.
To make like difficult we had the GSW there as well !
When it comes to this one I'm not sure which species it is !
I lean towards GSW as the red is quite vivid, whereas the Syrian is pinkish.
Not a bad morning's work.
Lucky had come back late morning to see what we wanted to do, either stay or go back to the Hoopoe. We were happy to stay, we didn't want to take lunch until we left either. If necessary on our way to the airport. We agreed a return time of 3.00pm but he returned at 2.00. The sun was getting stronger after a variable morning's light so we said nothing and packed our bags to go. This involved our hold luggage too as that's were the tripods would be stowed.By 2.30pm we were on the road and by 3.30 ordering our lunch. Lucky knew a restaurant that specialised in Trout.
It used to farm them but now imports the fish, the trout ponds disused. I have never see quite so many choices on one menu for a single fish !
I chose one stuffed with peppers and aubergine, it was delicious, just a shame the equally delicious but separately served sautéed potatoes had all been eaten by the time it was served.
Two hot and tasty meals in succession , maybe Bulgaria has a lot more to offer than the food standard of our hotel in Bratsigova.
Food consumed we continued towards Sofia and the airport on largely traffic free roads but there was still incident to reflect on later. Our car started to overheat and we had to pull over to let it cool down. Lucky had told the boss it was problem but he had been told to wait to have it fixed. Could have missed our plane as a result, but that was probably why Lucky came and picked us up early.
Was that the end ? Nope !
Sofia airport has two terminals and we had been delivered to the wrong one. Fortunately we were 15 minutes before the final shuttle bus of the day so all was not lost.
We were Lucky's first drop off return so I'm not sure who was at fault. Us for not checking where we were, him for not asking which one we wanted or the Boss for not making sure he knew where he was going.
When we got home I wrote a letter, not really of complaint but more one of warning. If they are to survive they need to get their act together. Professional prices should equate to professional service.
I highlighted poor equipment levels, poor communication and poor training. I got a reply that basically acknowledged all my comments were true.
Mike and I are sceptical that things will improve.
We had an excellent trip though, saw some great birds, had some good company to share some laughs. It was a success despite the organisation rather than because of it.
I suppose the fact that Mike turned to me as we entered the terminal building and said he wouldn't be coming back says it all really but I'm not sure if what we saw is reflective of everyone else's experience though.
Only one way to find out.. try for yourselves !
Hope this blog has proved useful