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Bulgaria's Dragonflies

Tour Code: BGR05

A 9-day tour in search of the dragonflies and other wildlife of the mountains and lowlands in central and southern Bulgaria.

9 days from £1395(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1145 SRS: £165


Bulgaria’s wide range of altitudes and habitats host an exceptional range of dragonflies as well as birds, butterflies and other wildlife. We’ll explore bogs, rivers, streams and other key dragonfly habitats, starting in the Balkans, where we’ll look for a wealth of species including goldenrings, and hope to see dragonflies emerging, as well as enjoying butterflies and flower-filled meadows. The Valchi Dol Valley is home to the amazing Odalisque and many butterflies, including Little Tiger Blue and the spectacular Eastern Festoon. Next we transfer to the Rhodope Mountains where the Smolyan Lakes harbour Northern Damselfly and Downy Emerald, and from our final base in the picturesque village of Melnik we’ll look for the Black Pennant, Banded Darter and Bladetail and explore the area’s hot springs for more species before returning to Sofia.

  • Look for Bulgarian Emerald where it was first discovered in 1999
  • Ornate Bluet & Small Pincertail along River Topolnitza
  • Gomphids such as River Clubtail, plus hordes of damselflies at Maritza River
  • Odalisque, Balkan Emerald & Eastern Spectre
  • Scarce & Balkan Coppers, plus rare Russian Heath among rich butterfly fauna
  • Raptors include vultures, eagles and Long-legged Buzzard
  • Balkan Goldenring in the Pirin Mountains
  • Day trip to look for Bladetail and many water birds at Lake Kerkini in Greece
  • Led by expert naturalist guides

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Simple but comfortable hotels with private facilities.

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Sofia and transfer to Koprivshtitsa

Day 2/3 Madzarovo

Day 4 Pamporovo

Day 5 Dospat

Day 6/8 Melnik

Day 9 Transfer Sofia and fly London

Bulgaria is a diverse and beautiful country, its geographical position and wide range of altitudes and habitats hosting an exceptional range of dragonflies, as well as many interesting birds, butterflies and other spectacular wildlife. This tour is timed to ensure sightings of a good range of dragonflies on the wing. During our ‘dragonfly-quest’ we will visit the bogs, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes in some of Bulgaria’s most beautiful settings, exploring first at the edge of the towering Balkan Mountains before moving on to the spectacular Rhodope Mountains that lie along the Greek border. Finally, travelling through the Pirin range, we will conclude our holiday with visits to the biodiversity hotspots in the Struma Valley in south-eastern Bulgaria and at Lake Kerkini just over the border in Greece. It will be a tour that enables us to see many of the country’s dragonflies (potentially 50 species), plus a host of other wildlife, in beautiful and often dramatic landscapes.

We begin in the shadow of the Balkan Mountains, at the picturesque village of Koprivshtitsa. Here we will look along the River Topolnitza and its tributaries for the localised Ornate Bluet (Coenagrion ornatum), together with the Small Pincertail (Onychogomphus forcipatus) and Sombre Goldenring (Cordulegaster bidentata). Our timing and elevation will mean that some dragonflies might be watched emerging, a fascinating experience. We will also keep a watchful eye above us for the Eastern Imperial Eagles that hunt for Sousliks in the botanically rich grasslands, and search the flower-filled meadows that provide nectar for so many different insects, amongst them such stunning butterflies as the Large and Balkan Coppers and the rare Russian Heath.

Journeying south-eastwards to Krumovgrad, we will pass a roadside Bee-eater colony at which Isabelline Wheatears also breed, and enjoy a picnic lunch beside the tree-lined Maritza River. Here Gomphids such as River Clubtail (Gomphus flavipes) and Green Snaketail (Ophiogomphus cecilia) may be found, together with hordes of Blue Featherlegs (Platycnemis pennipes) that seem to occur everywhere in Bulgaria. The riparian woodland echoes with the calls of Golden Orioles, whilst Rollers take advantage of the abundance of insects beside the river.

From our based in the spectacular Arda Valley, we will visit the Valchi Dol Valley, a fabulous setting for the peculiar Odalisque Damselfly (Epallage fatime) that breeds along a temporary stream. The tiny hawker, Eastern Spectre (Caliaeschna microstigma) and Balkan Emerald (Somatochlora meridionalis) also frequent the stream, where patches of drying mud provide tasty salts for blue butterflies. In fact the whole area is good for butterflies, including the colourful Eastern Festoon and tiny, but perfectly formed, Little Tiger Blue. Overhead, raptors patrol the skies, amongst them Long-legged Buzzards, and Griffon, Egyptian and perhaps even Black Vultures. We will make a pilgrimage to a cool, shady and slow-moving section of the River Deimi Dere near the Greek border. Here the Bulgarian Emerald was first discovered by Dr. Milen Marinov in 1999, although we may be a little too late in the season to see it.

Travelling higher into the Rhodope Mountains, our next base is amongst the coniferous forest through which Nutcrackers, Black Woodpeckers and Crested Tits range. From here we are able to explore sites of contrasting character. At the Smolyan Lakes both Spearhead Bluet (Coenagrion hastulatum) and Yeloow-winged Darter (Sympetrum flaveolum) may be found. Finally, further westwards, in the beautiful Pirin Mountains, we will squelch past a wonderful display of orchids in Bulgaria’s largest peat bog and, lower down, look for Europe’s largest dragonfly, the Balkan Goldenring (Cordulegaster heros).

Our final base, the picturesque and historic village of Melnik with its strange, pyramid-shaped rock formations, lies amongst the foothills of the Pirin range. From here we will explore the shores of Lake Kerkini, well-known for its Dalmatian Pelicans and many other water birds, hoping to find Bladetail (Lindenia tetraphylla). We will search for the elusive Black Pennant (Selysiothemis nigra) and a wide range of other dragonflies that breed in ponds and lakes near the Struma River. The nearby hot springs at Rupite sound an odd place to look for dragonflies, but not all of the water there is nearly boiling! In this, one of the hottest parts of the country, insects are everywhere. As well as dragonflies and butterflies, these include two truly spectacular Orthopterans: the armadillo-like Bradyporus dasypus and the huge predatory bush-cricket Saga hellenica, a bush-cricket that feeds on bush-crickets!

Our journey back to Sofia gives us the chance to visit yet another of Bulgaria’s biodiversity hotspots, the Kresna Gorge.  Here the insect theme continues, with various clubtails and Sombre Goldenring to be seen, plus a host of butterflies along woodland rides — a fitting conclusion to our holiday!

Green Snaketail, Ophiogomphus cecilia (Dave Smallshire)Black Pennant, Selysiothemis nigra (Dave Smallshire)Wallcreeper (Dave Smallshire)General Todorov pool (Dave Smallshire)Scarce Swallowtail (Dave Smallshire)Spur-thighed Tortoise (Dave Smallshire)Sandy Grizzled Skipper (Dave Smallshire)Scarce Copper (Dave Smallshire)Large Copper (Dave Smallshire)Oriental Marbled Skipper (Dave Smallshire)Mole Cricket (Dave Smallshire)Antlion, Euroleon nostras (Dave Smallshire)Antlion, Macronemurus sp. (Dave Smallshire)Balkan Copper (Dave Smallshire)Blue-spot Hairstreak (Dave Smallshire)Ascaphalus macaronius (Peter Waterton)Langs Short-tailed Blue (Peter Waterton)Odalisque Dragonfly (Peter Waterton)
K.T.
Hampshire
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The organisation was very good and the itinerary was nicely paced without large amounts of time on the road. I particularly enjoyed the pace which wasn't too hectic and the coverage was for all aspects of nature, e.g. dragonflies, birds, butterflies etc.
K.R.
Hertfordshire
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Dave Smallshire was a pleasure to travel with - first class knowledge.
Mr & Mrs W.
Yorkshire
It is a wonderful area for all forms of natural history and well worth visiting.
R.B.
Buckinghamshire
The sites were magical, the knowledge of David and our two local guides was amazing and inspiring. More than excellent!
A.C.
Northumberland
I enjoyed this trip very much; it had beautiful scenery and good nature watching. The highest praise is due to the local team, all of whom were excellent
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Tue 19th June 2018 - Wed 27th June 2018

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£1395

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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1145 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Bulgaria

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Tour Reviews

The organisation was very good and the itinerary was nicely paced without large amounts of time on the road. I particularly enjoyed the pace which wasn't too hectic and the coverage was for all aspects of nature, e.g. dragonflies, birds, butterflies etc.
K.T., Hampshire

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