Spotted Flycatcher Fest and A Firecrest! – Sofia, Bulgaria – September 2015

I have been having a terrible, and I mean super soul crushingly terrible, time with work recently. Due to this Ive decided to take some time off and do more birding and allot more time to being out in nature. For my first stop this week I decided to head to the Yuzhen (South) Park in Sofia basically because it was super cloudy that day and it would be a bad light for forest birding. I had been forsaking this destination in favor of trekking all over Vitosha on wild goose chases, but I discovered I really should have been spending more time at this lovely city park! Well before I continue I guess I should emphasize that these were not literal wild goose chases since this is a bird watching blog and all. 

The day started off swimmingly as the first bird I encountered right after the Vitosha Street entrance was this beautiful Spotted Flycatcher. This was the first of many Flycatchers I saw that day so Ive decided that September 7th 2015 will from here on out be named Spotted Flycatcher Fest! 


I was already in an excellent mood since I was lucky enough to get a great photo right off the bat. Then my luck decided to kick into overdrive and the Gods of Birding blessed me with my long awaited birding nemesis: The Green Wodopecker. If you have read my previous Hungary posts you know this fairly common bird has become the bane of my existence in recent months. This run of the mill bird ended up leaving me super discouraged and demoralized and I ended up basically giving up all hope of ever seeing it. I had just decided to leave it be and let the bird appear when it wanted to appear. 



From there the day went on a nice and comfortable pace. I encountered several more Spotted Flycatchers, a few Phylloscopus and several other of Bulgaria’s common park birds. I also found a nice cafe for coffee and beer and some clean rest rooms while I was at it. Overall it ended up being an extremely enjoyable day and I am ruing the fact that I had not been birding in this park more often! Here are a few of the other Spotted Flycatchers I encountered on that day. Originally I was having issues since discovering that several juveniles of other species also have streaked breasts, but Ive ended up settling on these all being Spotted Flycatchers. 


 Apparently I am also becoming the worlds foremost expert at photographing Wood Warblers as Ive encountered these as well.


There also seems to be a bit of a debate about if the bird below is a Willow Warbler or Wood Warbler. I was snapping all the pictures displayed here in the same area for about 7 or 8 minutes, and I assumed it was the same bird. According to the time stamps I did lose the bird for about 90 seconds somewhere in there. Could there have possibly been a switch? Ive been going back and forth but I think this is all the same bird and is a Wood Warbler. As always any input is appreciated because birding is hard and Phylloscopus make it that much harder! 


A few days before Flycatcher Fest! I spent some time exploring another area of Vitosha near Boyana. One of my pet peeves about is that a lot of trip reports tend to just say “I saw this on Vitosha” or simply label it “Vitosha” when discussing birding in this area. Ive been guilty about this as well. Anyways Ive quickly realized this is some unhelpful bullshit as Vitosha Mountain is a really large area. It would be the equivalent of saying  “I saw this bird in Rhode Island” and offering up no other details. From now on with my blog I am trying to get a bit more specific about spots so people who are visiting Sofia for short periods of time have a bit more direction for good spots and a bit more directions for trails that (in my opinion) can be skipped over. I was particularly inspired by how Cyprus birders treated Cape Greco, which was wonderfully divide up and labeled. On this particular day I decided to explore the  ‘Water Trail’ in Boyana. It starts at the entrance to the trails for Boyana Waterfall and Lake behind the Church, its markings are below and at the entrance there is literally a large arrow that says WATER pointing to the left. 

I had discovered this area on previous expeditions and was looking forward to it as I had heard a lot of activity nearby. While I found the trail is great for tits  (Coal, Great, Blue, Willow and Marsh Tits) I ended up following it for 2/3  hours (twice) and came up pretty much empty handed after the area where the water spigot is. Right near the water spigot there are some excellent areas with pines where I was able to see all the Tits, and I believe I heard (but could not visually confirm) Goldcrest and Firecrest. While I do think the short trail from Boyana (behind the church) to the water spigot, and the immediate area around the spigot, could be worth checking out I think anything much deeper in this area can be labeled a ‘pass’.  It should be noted that it would be possible to semi-quickly check this area out if you are happen to be on vacation with the family and they are looking at the church. Picture of a Marsh Tit taken in this area below:


Speaking of Firecrest! After struggling in vain and spending WAY too much time sitting under Pine trees I finally was able to get a good Firecrest shot! This was taken on Vitosha on the trail between Dragalevsti and Simeonovo, about 15 minutes in after leaving from the Drag. chair lift area. I spent the day birdwatching/hiking with a friend in that area and we found an interesting patch near there. I will be returning after the rains here subside so perhaps lightning will strike twice!

Im going to be taking some more time off work/poker in the near future and going to be birding a lot more. Expect posts about Alkeo and the Dragalevsti area in the next few weeks! 


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