With the same thoughts in mind we decided to try something different and give Bulgaria a try with a package holiday that fits well in the sequence ‘3E’,think about it. We decided to go right down in the southeast corner of Bulgaria to a small village of Sinemorets which has a normal population of 250 and is almost within the largest nature reserve in Bulgaria called Strandzha Nature Park in Burgas province.The trip from the airport at Bourgas down to Sinemorets takes close to two hours where the views change from busy traffic to narrower roads,better views of the Black Sea coasts and eventually nothing but trees and sandy beaches.
A good tip when checking places on Google Maps is to remember they are,I believe, updated every four years so the rough ground you wish to check out may well be another hotel in these changing holiday resorts linked to package holiday trips. Don’t be fooled by unfinished buildings,they haven’t run out of money its just illegal to do construction work in the summer and for that you have to be appreciative as they don’t want the complaints that used to be a norm on Spanish holidays.
Another thing to remember is this is not the Mediterranean it’s the Black Sea so the most likely person next to you will be speaking Russian or Bulgarian, something hard to differentiate but something that has a different charm about it. It did mean that we were in the minority so meeting another Brit was always an enjoyable encounter.
I would also offer another tip and that is starve yourself before you go as they are all in packages where you can eat as much as you like all day, so my diet is already in operation.
The following day after arrival it’s the rep who is giving you the rundown on the sites and sounds of the area and well as sorting trips,two of which we settled for namely the Photo off Road experience, boy what an experience, and a trip down the Valeka River in a Dragon Boat something that became relevant with my first wild life find.
P also booked the VIP lounge at the airport going home which was another nice experience. No I’m not VIP but after 2 months trying to walk with Achilles Tendonitus and a possible 4 months to go I didn’t care what car dropped me off at the aircraft it was better than walking and there in was my holiday restriction sadly.
Clearly taking a holiday in September is going to limit what is about and also where you are in the country will also dictate what you can possibly see, and this I knew, so any butterflies or moths was going to be a bonus after the poor season over here this year.
I also checked the website http://www.butterfliesofbulgaria.com/main%20menu.html to find out species on the wing and where in the country they are found and would say that most butterfly trips to Bulgaria take place in the west of the country and usually finish in July,early August not the south east of the country.
Blues were flying up and down the grass, settling on white clover but it took a mating pair for me to identify the butterfly which lived up to its name very well and was our Common Blue, possibly a Bulgarian form as the orange markings on the females underside were very strong.
Small Whites were plentiful but I was hoping for the Southern Small White but sadly I think I drew a blank on that one although I did think I had found one.
Finally I had good views of the Mallow Skipper which again is very difficult to tell apart from,Tufted Marbled Skipper, Oriental Marbled Skipper and Marbled Skipper, so if I have made a mistake I would be grateful to be told so.
The following morning I was delighted when I found what was my first moth being a small wingspan and seeing what I thought was antennae but I was wrong. With the help of Tim Norris and Paul Brock was guided in the right direction to find out what it is. Japanese Leafhopper Ricanica japonica is the name and is an alien species to Bulgaria being firstly introduced into Georgia and the Ukraine. Two were captured by the mouth of the Veleka River using light back in 2013 exactly where we were on the Dragon Boat trip along the Valeka which is unique in as much as the river is one of the only places in Europe that was protected by the mountains on the nature reserve during the ice age and as such fauna grows along its sides that one normally finds in jungles like the Lianas Vines.
Readabout it here - https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259702247_Ricania_japonica_Melichar_1898_-_a_representative_of_family_Ricaniidae_Homoptera_Fulgoromorpha_new_to_the_fauna_of_Bulgaria
Only two moths visited the rooms during our visit and both were professional escapologists just vanishing into thin air which I found quite remarkable as you can usually find them, but not these.
Research in Cyprus where it was believed the Eastern Bath White was the main “Pontia” species coming from its nearest neighbour Turkey has shown this is not the case –Ref 2013, Entomologist’s Gazette 64: 69–78 – synopsis states - “Molecular analysis of Pontia specimens from Cyprus has shown incontrovertibly that the species present on the island is Pontia daplidice. Examination of additional Pontia specimens from adjacent mainland countries of the Levant indicates that Cyprus was populated from the south-east or east, not from the north (Turkey)”.
Based on that information one would think Bulgaria therefore has the Eastern Bath White although recent work suggests the opposite.
Almost everywhere low flying Locusts/Grasshoppers were surprised into flight the first flying in red and the second just large.
When the heat eventually took us off site we went to our favourite spot in the shade in the pool area when I was surprised to find the largest moth I have ever seen actually on the lounger. A photo sent to Tim confirmed what I thought it was namely the Convolvulus Hawk-moth and what attention it drew.I had seen it flying the day before in the same area but never expected it to be found in such a public area.
In this sunny shaded area Red Admiral would come in and do acrobatic flights over the bushes, which usually fooled us into thinking we were looking at something rarer.
It wasn’t all crazy on when Captain Ron demanded it and we took a slow scenic trip from Sinemorets to the Turkish border. There were police half way along this road as they try to cope with 350 migrants a day.
The Turkish border had wonderful beaches which were empty eventually flowing into a river which at half way across is the border line. Both sides have reinforced the beaches against corrosion so as to not lose ground to the other.
We stopped for a bite and a drink and of course a look for butterflies and I did see a few new species, which once again in the heat gave no photo opportunities frustratingly.
“Manna” honey is a honey produced by bees not from the nectar of flowers but out of secretions left on leaves by other insects who have eaten on them. It is darker in color, reaching red-brown, and is famous for its nutritional and health qualities and unique taste. In Bulgaria it is produced almost only in the Strandzha mountains by the Black Sea in the country's remote south-east corner.
From the honey they also produce Brandy or car fuel as I called it,Vinegar which was nice,and an paste for helping healing of bite, infection etc.
Again just in the clearing a new Satyr flew into the tree and the white flying slowly must surely have been a Wood White which double broods well into September.
Finally was the frightening ride back to the hotel through the forest,once is enough!!!!
Extremely enjoyable with commentary on all the interesting things about the river and the wildlife in the area, interesting and well worth the trip.
The mouth of the river is now closed by shifting sands with the sea enetering beneath these sands. Later in the season the river rises 8 metres the opening to the sea in once more and the surrounding areas are flooded.
Another moth I saw regularly might be the Scarce Bordered Straw as well as plenty of what looked like Rusk Veneer.
I hope you enjoyed the trip with me
All the best