Summer in Bulgaria trip report

In June 2014 Cat and I headed to the wilds of Bulgaria to photograph as wide a variety of wildlife as possible over a seven day trip. With the expert guidance of local wildlife photographer Emil Enchev we managed to find a host of interesting subjects during what seemed a bit like a European safari! We lost only half a day due to wet weather during our tour around the eastern parts of the country.

Owlfly (Ascalaphus libelloides macaronius)

Bulgaria's meadows are spectacular in June

Fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera)
My macro and close-up images were taken using a variety of equipment including 180mm macro, 100mm macro, 300mm f4 and 600mm f4 lenses (the latter two often with extenders). I didn't use artificial light at all and relied upon reflectors to balance the lighting.

Three-toothed orchid (Neotinea tridentata)

Bulgaria consists of around 75% wild land and still has acres of traditional wildflower meadows that are a fantastic habitat for a range of interesting flora and fauna. We were both keen to photograph insects and wildflowers and we certainly weren't disappointed as there were fields full of orchids, butterflies and much more everywhere we went! Many of the insect species I had never photographed before.

Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

Common nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)

Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)

Black stork (Ciconia nigra)

We did some bird photography from several established hides. Some of these were at the nest whilst others were at feeding sites and drinking pools. We also used a floating hide to get close-up views of little bittern and great reed warbler.

Little bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)

Thread-winged antlion (Nemoptera sinuata)

Many wildflowers were host to crab spiders

Lady's Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus)

One of the highlights of the trip was finding a perfect specimen of Lady's Slipper Orchid, a plant that I had long wanted to photograph. I used my 600mm lens to isolate this beautiful flower from the surrounding clutter of vegetation.

Black-headed bunting (Emberiza melanocephala)

Farmland and grassland birds could easily be photographed from the car window, resting the 600mm lens on a beanbag. It's in this situation when focal length is often all important, so I'm pleased that Canon's new 600mm lens performs so well with the 2X mkIII extender. I regularly shoot this combination wide open at f8 and the results are superb.

Crested lark (Galerida cristata)

Parts of Bulgaria are very wild and rugged with dense forest cover

Yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata)

We spent a few hours trying to photograph a wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) as it carried nesting material into a crevice in a huge rock wall.

The days were very long in early June and we didn't get the chance to rest much during the day, so we returned home pretty exhausted! All in all it was an extremely productive trip during which we really only scratched the surface of what Bulgaria has to offer the nature photographer. Who needs to go to Africa!

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