Way back last year in the early planning stages of our trip we had decided that we would allow a free night at either end of our travels to enable us to a) break the journey and b) hopefully stop off at Trigrad for a second year running. The lure of the Wallcreeper too strong to resist. We had also discovered the web site of Sergey Panayotov
We considered staying there too but the basic accommodation and self -catering didn't appeal however we had ascertained that there was availability during our stay at Branta. Discussions with Pavel over dinner that Saturday night revealed he had a strong interest in visiting too. He'd never been but was keen to take a look and hopefully get Sergey to enrol in his "Bed and Birding" concept website business.
Pavel was also somewhat dismissive of the fact we could travel from Durankulak to Trigrov in the 8 hours 30minutes I claimed ViaMichelin forecast. He seemed to suggest we should head to Mount Vitosha on the outskirts of Sofia which offer good chances to see Nutcracker and Alpine Accentor. A very tempting alternative we agreed.
Pavel had agreed to half a day's birding with his German guest , we were happy to travel to Sergey's alone. Pavel wanted to come too. We arrived at a plan. The German, who didn't have transport could borrow Pavel's Pajero. He would come with us in our hire car to Segey's hides. Instead of the usual 120 euro guiding fee it would cost us 50. He wouldn't charge us for the night we planned to stay away from Branta but we would pay his hotel bill. The cost of the two hides was 70 euro a day which went to Sergey. We agreed to that arrangement and confirmed that we would leave mid morning.
First we had some early morning birding to do. Mike and I set off at around 6.00am.
Splitting up down on the beach I found a good spot to concentrate on the Great Reed Warblers.
As they edged up the reeds they became more open to photography without the foreground clutter of reed stems.
When they were fully in song the decibel output is more than impressive ! They don't half let rip.
Satisfied with my efforts I moved on to getting better shots of the Black-headed Yellow Wagtail.
That too was singing, a far more melodious tune as well.
With his tail splayed a different view too.
The Yellow Wagtail has a host of sub species, this is the most attractive to me.
After tipping off Mike where best to find them I went in search of the singing Golden Oriole. Extremely shy by nature getting a decent shot is a tough ask.
The tower hide we were due to visit in two days time would hopefully offer better but at least I had a record shot.
Rejoining Mike for the last 30 minutes before breakfast we watched as two Cuckoo chased each other around the locality offering some great flight shots. With this one I was more than happy with the days work and it wasn't even 9.00am yet.
Breakfast done we headed inland to first visit the Bee-eater hide. No matter how often you see them they still have that allure, the chance to capture the perfect flight shot perhaps ?
Things didn't quite work as planned. There weren't too many Bee-eaters to begin with and the ones that were there seemed to prefer the perches on the distant opposite side of the road instead of the single perch in front of our hide which was above their nest holes.
What was the reason?
This was !
We had the most amazing displays on a regular basis from this extremely possessive and aggressive Starling who had claimed the perch as his own as it was just above his nest hole. The noise and movement of the bird was more than impressive.
We were captivated.
Well for the first few visits anyway
After a while we were wishing it would allow the Bee-eaters to give us some opportunities but to be fair will we ever see such a display again ?
Make hay while the sunshine's is a sensible approach !
We did get a few Bee-eater visits but they were few and far between and usually the only bird to land on the perch was a rather scruffy individual too !
At least the bird did bring back a Bee instead of some other insect that has happened all too frequently in the past !
An opportunity to catch the bird disgorging a pellet was missed too
It just wasn't to be my day, I'll be interested to see what shots Mike got sitting next to me !
The one interesting visit though was this Isabelline Wheatear.
Other than that the only other species to drop by was a Jay.
Not the best of days from a photo hide, in the end we were glad to get out and have a stretch.
However, our day wasn't over yet. We had had no part in choosing the overnight accomodation and when I initially saw it I thought this is going to be expensive. There was no signage outside, the roadside had a high security fence around the grounds.Inside it was a definite 4* quality modern build. We were however the only guests I think. Certainly we were the only car in the car park although there was one person having a beer in the garden. There appeared to be only two members of staff although there were apparently 30 bedrooms.
The bedroom balconies overlooked a large fishing lake
and to our delight we found a Little Owl perched on the roof edge.
He eventually flew down in to the garden so we followed it down. I managed a couple of shots from a more natural looking perch before it flew off again.
As we found ourselves on the bar terrace we decided we might as well have a couple of beers before dinner. In fact we decided it was warm enough to have dinner there too.
The cost of a most delicious and substantial 3 course meal, beers and overnight accommodation plus the staff getting up at 4.00am to make us coffee all for the incredible sum of 86 euros or just over £60.
For all three of us!!!
Our own individual rooms each included of course !!!
Anyway, next day we were up early as we had to be inside the Tower Hide by 5.30am to minimise disturbance. It was probably a 45 minute drive and we didn't want to cut it too fine . An early bed was called for and I went to sleep dreaming of the prospects ahead.
Did my hopes come to fruition... that follows next.