Let’s start with a selection of Hippos. I quite like them, and there haven’t been enough Hippos on my blog recently. In fact none since I was in Malawi.
Ah, sorry, perhaps there’s some confusion: we saw no Hippopotami (Hippopotamuses?) in Bulgaria, but we did see a few interesting Hippolais warblers. Damn birders and their tendency to abbrev ev wd.
First up (and generally fairly easy to see at a range of sites) was Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. The following couple of shots were of an obliging singing bird on our first morning in Bourgas, before breakfast!
However, the main target from this genus was Olive-tree Warbler – and one of Dancho’s sites for these on a bushy hilltop near Topolovgrad came good, with a singing bird that showed fairly well at times. They really are massive, at least Barred Warbler size (and there were a couple of these knocking about nearby for comparison), and getting on for a Great Reed Warbler. Totally colourless, cold grey, with an Icky like pale panel in the wing. It still seems a bit surprising to believe that >this guy< was not clinched in the field, but there you are: it’s easy to screw up with unexpected species out of context. It’s still the only record in the UK, and I wouldn’t put money on a repeat any time soon.
The third and final Hippo was a surprise Icterine Warbler right on the point at Cape Kaliakra on our final morning. We hadn’t really expected one of these, since they aren’t a breeding bird in the area – but the cape is clearly an excellent migration watchpoint, and I’m sure plenty of much rarer birds must occur.
This bird was a good opportunity to reflect back on the even more unexpected Melodious Warbler that Jono and I had managed to snaffle in Leyton just before we left for the airport. When seen well, the two species aren’t too difficult to separate, Icterine showing much longer primary projection and an extensive pale wing panel (though Melody can show more than a hint of this). Anyway, well done to Stuart Fisher for finding the Leyton bird – an extraordinary record for urban London.
Another slightly unexpected bird at Cape Kaliakra was this Red-breasted Flycatcher, showing around the edge of an open-air bar / restaurant! It was typically confiding, and calling quite frequently as is often the case in the UK – brilliant, charismatic little birds, I’ll never tire of these. Look at the size of the eye relative to the head!
Returning to more warblers, the following two were pictured at the most northerly point of our trip at Durankulak, near the Romanian border. If the truth be told, the monster electrical storms and tropical-style downpours that we encountered were actually more memorable than the singing Paddyfield and Great Reed Warblers… but here’s a couple of pics anyway. You’ll note that the Paddy in particular looks more than a tad wet, but given the strength and volume of the rain, it’s a miracle it was even still alive!
And finally, I think it’s been too long without a shrike. Although they’re generally too brightly coloured to fit in with this post’s theme, I have just a thing: an especially strongly vermiculated female Red-backed.