We return to beautiful Bulgaria for our fourth year in a row for a 9 day butterfly & flower tour in 2020!
From the river valleys of Struma and Mesta, influenced by the Mediterranean Sea, to the alpine zones of Pirin and Rila mountains, Southwest Bulgaria offers a great variety of habitats to be explored.
The southwestern region of Bulgaria is one of the most diverse and rich in flora and fauna on the Balkan Peninsula. Here are located its first and third highest mountains, respectively Rila with Mount Moussala towering to 2,925m and Pirin with Mount Vihren – 2,916m. The rich biological diversity of these two mountains are protected with the designation of Rila National Park and Pirin National Park, Pirin is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On this trip we will also explore the Western Rhodope Mountain with its rounded, pine-clad hills, occasionally cut by streams and rivers winding through deep gorges. The area also features two of the biggest rivers in Bulgaria – Struma and Mesta, whose valleys we will also explore during this trip.
We will use two different hotels to enable us to cover the maximum amount of different habitats and sites with the minimum amount of driving. The first base will be in Trigrad area and not far from the magnificent Trigrad gorge. The second base will be in Predela area, in the foothills between both Rila and Pirin mountains.
With more than 180 species of butterflies recorded, the area is one of the richest in Europe. The highlights amongst those on the wing at this time of the year includes Apollo, Clouded Apollo, Mountain Small White, Eastern Greenish Black-tip, Eastern Wood White, Blue-spot Hairstreak, Balkan Copper, Little Tiger Blue, Eastern Short-tailed Blue, Eastern Baton Blue, Geranium Argus, Blue Argus, Amanda’s Blue, False Eros Blue, Nettle-tree Butterfly, Freyer’s Purple Emperor, Poplar Admiral, Southern White Admiral, Common Glider, Niobe Fritillary, Twin-spot Fritillary, Nickerl’s Fritillary, Balkan Fritillary, Lesser Spotted Fritillary, Marsh Fritillary, Balkan Marbled White, Eastern Rock Grayling, Freyer’s Grayling, Dils’ Grayling, Bright-eyed Ringlet, Woodland Ringlet, Ottoman Brassy Ringlet, Eastern Large Heath, Lattice Brown, Yellow-banded Skipper, Tufted Marbled Skipper, Sandy Grizzled Skipper, Chequered Skipper, etc.
The Bulgarian flora is also rich and diverse with a many local and Balkan endemics, most being found in the mountains we shall be visiting. Some of the species we shall encounter will be familiar from the Alps, such as Nigritella nigra, Armeria alpina, Aster alpinus, Campanula alpina and Scutellaria alpina. Others such as Lilium rhodopaeum, Gymnadenia frivaldii, Campanula orphanidea, Campanula moesiaca, Haberlea rhodopensis, Sideritis scardica, Trachelium rumelianum, Veratrum lobelianum, Thalictrum minus, Cerinthe glabra, Epilobium dodonaei, Scrophularia bulgarica, Tragopogon balcanicum, Morinapersica, Verbascum davidoffii, Pedicularis orthantha, Dianthus microlepis, Dianthus petraeus, and Silene roemeri are Bulgarian or Balkan endemics. We may even see Paronychia argentea, Silene compacta, Digitalis lanata and Campanula scutellata, plants that make their way up from the Mediterranean.
The birdlife in the area is also rich with more than 200 species recorded so far. In the mountains we will look out for Hazel Grouse, Golden Eagle, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Water Pipit, Ring Ouzel, Crested Tit, Willow Tit, Wallcreeper, Spotted Nutcracker, Alpine Chough and European Serin. In the lowlands we may encounter Black Stork, Griffon Vulture, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Levant Sparrowhawk, Turtle Dove, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpecker, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Great Reed Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Sombre Tit, Rock Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Lesser Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, Hawfinch, Black-headed Bunting, Cirl Bunting and Rock Bunting.
Our local guide will be Simeon Gigov, who has more than ten years’ experience in guiding natural history trips in Bulgaria. He is also a dedicated conservationist and has participated in numerous ornithological studies and conservation projects, such as the establishment of the ecological network Natura 2000 in northwestern Bulgaria. With his experience and expertise Simeon has also contributed to numerous scientific publications with a practical conservation focus.
Despite the large number of butterfly species to see we will not be rushing from place to place to build as large a list as possible. Our emphasis, as with all our holidays, is to take things leisurely and spend a reasonable amount at time at locations. We believe this is the best way of enjoying the wildlife and just soaking up the atmosphere and culture of the Country. So we will keep driving to a minimum and spend as much time as possible outside, on easy paced walks and relaxing, sociable picnics. For those that wish to bring cameras, there will be ample time and opportunity for photography and to capture those special moments – of which we are sure there will be many!