Cloudy with rain late in the day; 13-21°C
Most of the group ventured out before breakfast, taking in the cool, damp morning air and the sense of going back a century in time. The rustic nature of Koprivshtitsa was very apparent as we became accustomed to seeing horse-drawn carts as often as motor cars. The White Storks had well-grown young in their traditional nest on the edge of the village: another taste of what was to become a frequent sight on our travels. Dippers and Grey Wagtails were found along the river but the biggest surprise came when the rasping song of a Corncrake began in some uncut grassland; July is very late for its song still to be heard. Perhaps this was a frustrated unmated male, because much to our astonishment he responded to a song recording by flying straight past us!
Although we had a long journey ahead today, our first stop was quite close to the village. We walked along another small tributary of the Topolnica, but the dull weather meant little insect activity. Whinchats were present, but sadly not the Eastern Imperial Eagle and Rock Thrush of previous years. A brief mid-morning stop next to a Bee-eater colony near Panicheri gave us good views of not just these beauties, but also Lesser Spotted and Booted Eagles, Honey Buzzard and Isabelline Wheatear; Bulgaria is almost the only place in Europe to see the last species breeding.
At our next venue, the Maritsa River near Milevo, we found Golden Orioles and more Bee-eaters and later our first Roller. Apart from Blue Featherlegs, dragonflies and butterflies were unusually scarce; no doubt they were around but inactive, due to the cloudy conditions. We did find an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and a pair of Lesser Grey Shrikes and shutters clicked away at an antlion (and an ‘ant line’!).
We stopped twice more in the afternoon, first at a small fishing lake where we watched Great Reed Warblers but few dragonflies and later at Susam Reservoir. Interest there came in the form of both Migrant and Robust Spreadwings, both being caught for a close inspection. Finally, as rain and thunder set in for the evening, we arrived at a new venue in Krumovgrad, a very comfortable small hotel which supplied most welcome drinks and a hearty meal.