Hot and sunny after a cool start; maximum 36C
A pre breakfast walk in the surprisingly cool morning air produced glimpses of Syrian Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Hawfinch and a Nightingale feeding in the open. Travelling a short distance west from Melnik we stopped to try and see Calandra Larks spotted from the minibus. We had to make do with Woodchat Shrikes instead.
The morning was spent at Rupite Hot Springs, where we were greeted by 10 Eleonora’s Falcons in the air together. Other raptors here included Long legged Buzzard and a Levant Sparrowhawk. Further away from the hot muddy bathing pools where the water was cooler we found Southern Skimmers, Broad Scarlets. Blue Featherlegs were egg laying into the floating vegetation. Several Small Bluetails including an orange immature were also found. Marsh Frogs and a couple of European Pond Terrapins skulked around looking for potential prey. On the return back to the cafe for lunch, we found several Little Tiger Blues, Eastern Bath White and Eastern Baton Blue.
After lunch we drove through forest to Belasitsa resort near to the Greek border. Another group had found a Green Snaketail (Ophiogomphus cecilia) on the road the day before. We were out of luck. However we did find an immature Moustached Darter, uncommon in Bulgaria. We then returned to the Struma Valley, to the flooded gravel workings near General Todorov. This site is known to hold a great variety of dragonflies over the summer period, including Black Pennant. Much of the open water here has been encroached by reedmace and shrubs in recent years, but we still managed a good range of species including a few newly emerged Common Winter Damsels and Spotted and Banded Darters.
A short distance away from this site is a larger gravel pit where Bulgaria’s first Bladetails (Lindenia tetraphylla) were found in 2009. So our final journey of the day took us here. There was a brief fly by glimpse of what might have been this species. Our attention was diverted by shouts from a couple on the far side of the lake. Although we could not hear what they said, we knew they were also searching for the Bladetail. We hastened in their direction. Passing two large white snakes in a bush, we arrived to discover that the couple had found two Black Pennants! This species is currently known only from a site on the Black Sea coast. A new location had been found.
Finally we had to return to the hotel to begin packing. Sadly this was our last evening in Bulgaria. Though we were brightened by another hearty meal and liquid refreshments. Supper was slow roasted cold, long green peppers, parsley and garlic dressing. Chicken stew with mushrooms and peppers (good), ice cream or pancakes.