Overview

Have a great opportunity to see the nine (out of 10) resident species of woodpeckers occurring in Europe, plus elusive species of owls and grouse, and explore the Balkan Mountains, while helping to conserve Bulgaria’s populations of rare and endangered bird species!

Hazel Grouse by Dimiter Georgiev.

Highlights

  • Great opportunity to see all the nine resident species of woodpeckers occurring in Europe;
  • Good chances to see the Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Tawny Owl and Ural Owl;
  • Good chances to see the elusive Rock Partridge and Hazel Grouse;
  • Exceptional biodiversity and beautiful scenery;
  • Small groups, experienced and dedicated tour guides.

Overview

This 9-day tour gives you a great opportunity to see the nine (out of ten) resident species of woodpeckers occurring in Europe, plus some elusive species of owls and grouse, staying high in the wish-list of many birders. We will explore four different mountain locations, including the Balkan Mountains – the longest chain on the Balkans that gives the peninsular its name.

Eurasian Pygmy Owl by Dimiter Georgiev.

About Our Partner

Conservation Careers has teamed up with one of the major tour operators in Bulgaria for travelers who come for specialised wildlife holidays. Run by experts with long experience in this type of tours, the company has built up a reputation for the quality of services offered.

One of their ultimate goals has always been to raise funds to help wildlife conservation in the different areas they visit during their tours in Bulgaria. Thanks to funds generated through their tours and the support of their tour participants, they have launched a special Wildlife Conservation Fund to help conserve the national populations of a number of rare and endangered species of birds, such as the breeding Egyptian Vulture and Griffon Vulture in the Eastern Rhodopes, the Eastern Imperial Eagle in the Sakar Hills, the Semi-collared Flycatcher in the oak forests of the Eastern Balkan Range, the wintering Red-breasted Goose in the Coastal Dobroudzha, and many others.

They also help local Bulgarian NGOs, and the Wildllife Conservation Society (WCS) in particular, in their crucial work for preservation of different biodiversity rich areas in Bulgaria and saving those areas from deterioration. Under WCS proposals several new protected areas have been declared and many others have been saved from destruction. By joining one of their tours, you will contribute to their conservation efforts, as much of their Wildlife Conservation Fund is generated through them.

If you register your interest below, we’ll put you in touch with our partner to take the booking and to plan your trip!

Explore all our Conservation Travel opportunities.

White-backed Woodpecker by Peter Alfrey.

Outline itinerary

Day 1
Arrival at Sofia Airport;
One hour and a half transfer southeast to the northern part of the Rila Mnts.

Day 2
Full day exploring the conifer forests of Rila Mnts.

Day 3
Transfer to the area of Trigrad in the Western Rhodope Mnts.

Day 4
Easy day walks in conifer and deciduous forests

Day 5
Transfer to Central Balkan Mountains

Day 6
The Central Balkan National Park

Day 7
Transfer to Western Balkan Mountains

Day 8
Full day in the Western Balkan Mountains

Day 9
Departure from Sofia

Eurasian Pygmy Owl by Simeon Gigov.

Itinerary

We begin this tour exploring the Rila Mountains. This is landscape of exceptional natural beauty, boasting high peaks over 2500 m and fascinating alpine meadows dotted with glacial lakes, dense forests, spectacular rocky gorges and precipitous cliffs. On the first day of our arrival, before darkness we will check the conifer forests for Eurasian Pygmy Owl and Tengmalm’s Owl. We will spend the whole next day exploring the conifer forests of the Rila Mountains, where we will be searching for the Eurasian Pygmy Owl and Hazel Grouse, as well as for the Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers. Other mountain species that we may expect to see here include the Great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Ring Ouzel (ssp. alpestris), Crested Tit, Willow Tit, Firecrest, Common Crossbill, Eurasian Siskin.

On the third day we move on to the area of the Western Rhodope Mountains. On the way we will check a few places for Three-toed Woodpecker (ssp. alpinus) and Eurasian Pygmy Owl.

The next morning we will spend walking in the conifer and deciduous forests of the Western Rhodopes with good chances to see a Hazel Grouse, Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers. Other interesting birds we may expect to see here include the above mentioned White-throated Dipper and Rock Bunting, plus Sombre Tit, Marsh Tit, Bullfinch, etc.

Next we transfer to the Central Balkan Mountains with stops in the lowland deciduous forests and orchards, searching for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker and European Green Woodpecker. While passing the settlements in the plains we will have excellent chances to observe the Syrian Woodpecker and Little Owl as well.

The Balkan Mountain Range, crossing the whole territory of Bulgaria from west to east, is characterized mainly with its extensive beech forests, conifer forest, mountain meadows and enormous rock formations. This site is one of the wildlife-richest parts of Bulgaria. The whole next day we will explore the area of the Central Balkan National Park. Here our target species will be the White-backed Woodpecker (ssp. lilfordi). We can also expect to see here the Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. In the evening we will visit some of the beech forests in the area, where we will have good chances to find the Tawny Owl and Ural Owl.

Moving on to the Western Balkan Mountains (to the north of Sofia), we will be searching for Eurasian Eagle Owl and different species of woodpeckers, accenting on those ones which we have missed or not seen well in the previous days.

For the last two days we will be based in the vicinity of Sofia. We will spend a full day in the Western Balkan Mountains searching for Rock Partridge and again, we will try to find those species of birds, which we have missed or not seen well in the previous days. Some of the species of birds likely to be seen here include the White-backed Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Alpine Chough, Golden Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Sombre Tit, Rock Bunting and Cirl Bunting.

Rock Partrides by Dimiter Georgiev.

Tour details

Best Time: March – April & Oct – Nov
Duration: 9 days / 8 nights
Grading: easy to moderate

Tour details

2-3 persons: 1220 EUR

4-8 persons: 960 EUR

Single room supplement – 110 EUR

Prices for groups bigger than 8 persons – to be agreed;

The prices include ground transport, accommodation in en-suite double / twin rooms in middle standard hotels or lodges, all meals and guiding.

Reserve your place or ask a question