Sunny and humid after early mist, cloud with light rain in evening; maximum 30°C
Emerging for a pre-breakfast walk, we found a Little Owl on the hotel roof. During a walk down to the river and back we saw a pair of Sombre Tits, while a flock of Alpine Swifts called overhead. After breakfast on the terrace, we headed towards the Greek border at the Deimin Dere River, where the Bulgarian Emerald was first discovered as recently as 1999 – although we were a week after the end of the known flight period for this species. Looking from the road bridge we found Blue Chaser and several Small Pincertails and Southern Skimmers. A walk up the valley took us through clouds of butterflies to a wooded section of the river. Making our way carefully down the rocky banks, we positioned ourselves ready for the any emeralds to show. A few emeralds took up territory in this shaded section of the river, though one persistently hovered in sunlight – much to the delight of photographers. Both this and another caught later proved to be Balkan Emeralds, close relatives of Brilliant Emerald. Eastern Spectres were also here.

After a brief stop to photograph a White Stork nest brim full of chicks and with many Spanish Sparrows as sub-tenants, we drove a short distance towards Gugutka for lunch. As the coach drove up the rough track through a meadow, masses of butterflies moved out of our path. We watched crowds of blues and Sandy Skippers puddling in a dry stream bed. After lunch, we first checked a tiny reservoir nearby: it held lots of Marsh Frogs, Balkan Terrapins, Dainty Bluets and Small Red-eyes. But the main attraction was a small wooded stream: here there was a constant flow of patrolling Eastern Spectres, looking for females, and another Balkan Emerald. Both male and female Turkish Goldenring flew by, but evaded capture.

The next dragonfly site was a reservoir near Zhelezhari. We soon located Blue-eyes, egg-laying Robust Spreadwings, Lesser Emperor, Green-eyed Hawker and a beautiful and exceptionally persistent hovering Blue-eyed Hawker, that after ten minutes was the subject of several gigabytes worth of flight images! A Small Spreadwing, the only one of the trip, and Ruddy and Red-veined Darters added to our list, as did a Little Bittern on the edge of the reeds. An impromptu stop on the way home at a tiny drinking pond was successful in producing Small Bluetails, which brought our dragonfly total for the day to a very respectable 30 species. We also had frustratingly brief glimpses of large newts and their larvae, which were subsequently identified as Balkan Crested Newts. To conclude another superb day, two Eleonora’s Falcons flew past the hotel during very welcome pre-dinner drinks.


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