green-lizard

Bulgaria – the animal life we encountered

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Although our bear-watching adventures in Bulgaria failed to deliver up any bears, for all our attempts whiling away the hours in hides and hiking alpine forests above the clouds, our brush with nature was like nothing we’ve done before.

 

We managed to see the very rare Chamois – “The chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) is a goat-antelope species native to mountains in Europe, including the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, the Pyrenees, the European Alps, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, and the Caucasus.

 

chamois

Chamois

 

Other mammals were plentiful, not least sightings of roe deer, brown hares, foxes and souslik (European ground squirrel).

We also saw badger, boar and marten tracks lower down the mountain and were motivated by the possibility of seeing bears after seeing their tracks and learning of them being captured on camera only a couple of hours after we left the hide on one occasion.

Reptiles and amphibians were plentiful sights for us too.

Our highlights being:

 

The noisy marsh frogs

marsh-frog

marsh-frog

 

Vibrant green tree frog

 

tree-frog

tree-frog

 

 

Fire salamander

Fire-salamander

Fire Salamander

 

From Wikipedia

The fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) is possibly the best-known salamander species in Europe. It is black with yellow spots or stripes to a varying degree; some specimens can be nearly completely black while on others the yellow is dominant. Shades of red and orange may sometimes appear, either replacing or mixing with the yellow according to subspecies.[2] Fire salamanders can have a very long lifespan; one specimen lived for more than 50 years in Museum Koenig, a German natural history museum.

 

Slow Worm

slow worm

slow worm

 

Green Lizard

green-lizard

green-lizard

 

Bulgarian landscapes photos blog to follow.  Check back soon :-)

 

 

red-footed-falcon

Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus)

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While in Bulgaria we were driving along the road and noticed some interesting birds sitting on a telegraph poll, we pulled over to see a pair of Red-footed Falcons (Falco vespertinus).

This is the first time we have seen these birds.  We watched them hunt for about 20mins and I grabbed some photographs.   I couldn’t get very close to the birds so the photos are poor but you should still see how beautiful the birds are.

 

red-footed-falcon

 

Some info from Wikipedia

The Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), formerly Western Red-footed Falcon, is a bird of prey. It belongs to the family Falconidae, the falcons. This bird is found in eastern Europe and Asia although its numbers are dwindling rapidly due to habitat loss and hunting. It is migratory, wintering in Africa. It is a regular wanderer to western Europe, and in August 2004 a Red-footed Falcon was found in North America for the first time on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

 

red-footed-falcon

 

Red-footed Falcon Female taken with mobile phone via scope

 

red-footed-falcon-male

Red-footed Falcon male

 

red-footed-falcon-female

Red-footed Falcon Female

 

The adult male is all blue-grey, except for his red undertail and legs; its underwings are uniformly grey. The female has a grey back and wings, orange head and underparts, and a white face with black eye stripe and moustaches. Young birds are brown above and buff below with dark streaks, and a face pattern like the female. Red-footed Falcons are 28–34 cm (11–13½ in) in length with a wingspan of 65–75 cm (25½–29½ in). The average mass is 155 g (5.5 oz).

 

Really enjoyed watching these birds, can’t decide if the male or the female is the most impressive of the species.

 

black-redstart

Bulgaria Trip 2014 – Part 1 Birds

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ale-house-beer-tapBefore our trip, a holiday to Bulgaria would’ve filled my other half with more trepidation than excitement. On the other side of our week’s personal tour of the western Rhodope region, we both can’t recommend this place (or our guide) enough.

 

From the moment a lesser spotted eagle soared overhead as our car fled the city we knew we were in for a good week. Admittedly, the Ale House with beer literally on tap at our table the day before provided a good foundation for this feeling too!
What struck us first were the vast landscapes containing everything nature can offer – from meadows, mountains, and endless forests to lakes, wetlands and bubbling streams. The abundance of wildlife was clear to see from the get go.

 

bulgaria-mountainsThe extensive variety of hiking trails and quiet roads made it easy for us to enjoy the rich and varied landscapes, flora and fauna of the Western Rhodope mountain region. This magical place put us in close contact with some amazing bird and wildlife sights.

 

 

My photos:
I’m by no means a bird photographer, these photos are mainly a record of seeing the bird and helping me remember the experience.

 

 

alpine-swifts

Alpine swifts

 

Serin

Serin

 

Gold crest

Gold crest

 

black-redstart

Black redstart

 

Turtle Dove

Turtle Dove

 

Great spotted woodpecker

Great-spotted-woodpecker

 

Red backed shrike

Red-backed-shrike

 

European-Dipper

European-Dipper

 

lesser-whitethroat

Lesser-whitethroat

 

black stork

Black stork

 

Whinchat

Whinchat

 

Full bird species list –

 

Alpine swift
Bee eaters
Black redstart
Black stork
Coal tit
Common rose finch
Corn bunting
Crag Martin
Crested tit
Dipper
Firecrest
Goldcrest
Grey headed woodpecker
Grey wagtail
Golden oriele
Hobby
Lesser Grey Shrike
Lesser spotted eagle
Lesser whitethroat
Marsh tit
Mistle thrush
Ortolan bunting
Pallid swift
Pied wagtail
Red backed shrike
Red footed falcon (pair)
Red rumped swallow
Rock bunting
Serin
Siskin
Sombre Tit
Tree pipit
Turtle dove
Wall creeper
Wheatear
Whinchat
White stork
Willow tit
Woodchat Shrike
Yellow hammer
Yellow wagtail (European)

 

Our Bird highlights

 

The only thing more abundant than the Black redstarts and fields of violas was the food. Just like the mountains shaping the horizon of our 360 degree views, so too did the jars of flavoured honey, interesting beans, herbal teas and jams lining the roadsides as we travelled through the mountain villages.

We could sense the Mediterranean influence in some of the southern areas, not least in the buildings and cuisine but also in the people we met.

At our stay at the Yagodina hotel and Moravsko Selo organic farm in particular, we found the villagers to be welcoming and kind in all respects; very much like the area – unspoiled and unaffected by city life. The food on their menus was impressive traditional cuisine sourced authentically from the land – something that we saw time and again as we travelled. The latter farm taking painstaking care to do so organically.

The food served was some of the most flavoursome and interesting we’ve eaten. And the wine was such a revelation we had to buy some to bring back.

Just as the western Rhodope Mountains impressed us with the huge forests and towering gorges, so too did this basic way of life living off the land. The endless network of rivers is an obvious source of the fertile lands, but nothing can account for the time and attention the people clearly dedicate to farming by hand and horse drawn plough and the pride they take in gathering from the wild.

working-the-land

Our adventure in Bulgaria gave us quite a show; so much so that we will be visiting again to travel to the east and the coast for our next trip. It was inexpensive, provided enchanting landscapes, plentiful wildlife, amazing historic and natural sites and encounters with lovely people.

Nature has undoubtedly unleashed a creative power in this area with everything about the western Rhodope region providing a taste of the real and wild – from the food and the abundant nature to the simple way of life.

 

Blog and Photos by Matt Debouge & Kirsty Forshaw

 

Read more about the animals we saw

boy with toy train

He’s growing up fast

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Not our little one, he’s one of our best friend’s children. You’ll see him pop up in my blog from time to time – as he grows from bouncing baby to little man :)

The little lad is a pleasure to photograph :-)  I liked this photo the most from the snaps I took of him last.

boy with toy train

Goldfinch

Cold January…. but not that cold.

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Its been a cold start to 2014, but it doesn’t seem to have been as cold as other years.
We have had no snow at all, lots of rain tho :-( .

 

On one of the rare occasions I had my camera handy I captured this Goldfinch resting  in the bushes.

Goldfinch

Sparrow-hawk

Sparrow Hawk

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Its been some time since I’ve posted on my photo blog.  We moved house late last year and work has been busy, only managed to pickup my camera a few times in the last couple months.

Early December 2013 morning I managed to capture this lovely Sparrow Hawk perching on the apple tree in the garden.

 

Sparrow-hawk

 

Little boy

Little boy

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Couple weekends back we went to visit some friends, as ever I dragged my camera bag and kit with me.

Our friends little boy is growing up so fast, I try to get some photos of him every time we meet up, he changes so quickly.
He is now running around and enjoying being able to play in the garden with his football.  He’s a pleasure to photograph, not only is he very photogenic but he’s so used to cameras in his face ( his Mum is a budding photographer as well) . He’s not shy at all and great to photograph as he looks right down the lens at you :-)

I took quite a few shots that day, the light was poor but I thought this photo came out quite nice and looked good being processed in black and white.

I used a Nikon D7000 and Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 for this photo.

Little boy

 

white-tailed-sea-eagle-nest

Trip to the Isle of Mull

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snowscapeWe have just got back from a wonderful trip to the Isle of Mull in Scotland.

We left Milton Keynes with snow on the ground then 6 hours later we had arrived at our friends house just outside Edinburgh. It was cold but somehow we had managed to dodge all the snow hitting the Midlands and North west.

The next morning we set off to Oban to get the ferry over to Mull.  As we drove to Oban we saw some beautiful landscapes and snow covered mountains.  It was a pleasure to drive.  About 30mins away from Oban all the snow disappeared and the sun came out :-)

ferryWe had a look around Oban, grabbed some lunch and left for the ferry. After a short ferry crossing we arrived and drove off the ferry to finally arrive on Mull.  Only 24 hours before we didn’t know if we would make it because of the harsh weather hitting the country.  Mull had not been hit by the snow at all really.

We drove to our accommodation down single track roads though beautiful landscapes and forests. Once we arrived we unpacked and went to the local pub :-)

 

pub

The next morning we had arranged to visit the White Tailed Eagle hide. After about an hour’s drive we arrived at the hide and met RSPB Officer Dave Sexton.  We were to be the first visitors of the season to use the hide.  Once we reached it we saw the female eagle sitting on the nest. Shortly after the male arrived and landed on the nest as well.  It was great to see both birds interact with each other and show signs of courtship.  What a sight to behold.

white-tailed-sea-eagle-nest

white-tailed-sea-eagle-nest

Photo taken with mobile phone down a scope, very crude setup :-)
On the way back to our accommodation we also saw a Golden Eagle perched on a rock, another impressive sight.

golden-eagle

 

The following day we went on a guided wildlife tour of the island and saw many different birds and wildlife including otters, golden eagles, sea eagles, deer, stonechats, and many different waders.

Eagle

 

buzzard

 

Chaffinch

 

curlew

 

Otter

 

stonechat

 

Chaffinch

 

starfish-meal

 

cow

 

cow

For the next few days we explored the island more and more and found some beautiful beaches and lochs.

beach

We sampled award winning seafood at Cafe Fish in Tobermory and tried some very nice Mull cheese from the farm shops.

seafood

Best of all the weather stayed sunny and almost t-shirt weather at times.

landscape

We had a great time on the island and found some beautiful locations and amazing wildlife, we can’t wait to visit again.

hand-feeding-birds

 

The hunter

The Hunter and the Thinker

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Captured this photo while in Malaga town, Spain.  I always make a bee-line for cats while abroad, I love taking photos of cats.
This one was hunting from the top of the wall.  He didn’t seem to mind posing for me.

The hunter

 

Just down the road from where I took this photo I noticed a old man sitting in a door way, the door he was sitting against looked interesting so I thought I would fire a couple frames and see how it looked.

The final photo was processed in B&W.

Thinker

littlegirl

Little Gem

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A friend of mine asked me to do a photoshoot of her kids just before Christmas.

Very hard work getting all four little ones to look at the camera and smile :-)

Managed to get a selection of photos for her. One of the photos I really liked came from a quick un-posed capture. After chasing the kids around the room and getting them to pose for photos I sat down for 5mins and noticed the little girl playing on her own with the light from the window just catching her face, I grabbed my camera and quickly captured the moment.

I thought I would process the photo with a sepia aged look effect.

 

littlegirl

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