This tour gives a great opportunity to see all the nine 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 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 Woodpecker and the Grey-headed Woodpecker. 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, Common 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 birding in the coniferous and deciduous forests of the Western Rhodopes with good chances to see a Hazel Grouse, Grey-headed Woodpecker and Black Woodpecker. 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, 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 Woodpecker. 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.
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, concentrating 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.
If we have time before departure we may visit some other birding sites in the vicinity of Sofia.