For 2019, Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria was a brand new trip that covers the western side of Bulgaria heading north for a few days before heading south for the rest of the trip. Bulgaria is a real wildlife hotspot thanks to its bio-geographical location. The main targets for this trip are some of 37 species of reptiles & 20 species of amphibians that can be found in Bulgaria. The trip was timed to coincide with many of these species coming out of hibernation & starting their breeding season. The trip allows the exploration of different habitats & territories from the Danube River in the North to the Bulgarian-Greek border in the south, from river banks to high mountain lakes & forests.
On arriving in Sofia, we headed north stopping at a couple of locations on the way to search for different species. Although we only found a young wall lizard, we did find a few scorpions under stones. Our first hotel for the night was in the Vratsata Gorge which had the most stunning views of the mountains. After a delicious dinner, we headed off to see if we could find anything around the area.
The next morning it was off to Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park,
just a short scenic drive up into the mountains in search of newts & frogs at a pond. While Georgi was searching for amphibians, we took the opportunity to capture images of some of the numerous early wildflowers & even invertebrates that were on the plateau before photographing smooth & great crested newts in an aquarium.
After lunch, it was time to head further north up to the Danube river to spend the whole day & evening exploring the area. The first site we stopped at we were treated to European tree frogs calling & had the chance to see a few in & around the water. Sadly, there was no real opportunity to get decent images. We would return to this site later to set some newt traps in the hope of finding the Danube Crested Newt & other frogs & toads. In the meantime, we headed off to another site where we encountered a young Caspian whip snake & young dice snake along with Eastern green lizards & fire-bellied toads. With the light fading, it was time to head back to site one where it had started to rain. Just a light rain but it was enough to bring out the common spadefoot toads & European tree frogs. After a long but eventful day, it was time to head to the hotel for dinner & bed.
The next morning, we headed back to check the traps & to photograph the European tree frog & Spadefoot toad along with Danube Crested Newts that we found in the traps. Alongside photographing the different species, we had the opportunity to learn all about the habitats & the various amphibians & reptiles before releasing them back where we found them.
Post lunch it was time to hit the road making a couple of stops on the way to Sofia. That evening, there was the option to head out on a night walk to a pond up the hill from the hotel in search of fire salamanders, common frogs & common toads & we were not disappointed. There was a chance to do some more night photography on-site & then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
First stop was the pond from the night before where we found some more fire salamanders & frogs. We headed further up in the forest & had the chance to photograph a female fire salamander by a waterfall & to take some in wide-angle habitat shots. We had lunch back at the hotel before heading up to explore Vitosha mountain plateau, checking out hibernacula for adders & a breeding pond for frogs. Unfortunately, following a hard winter, much of the ground was still covered with snow! We decided to head down the mountain & got lucky finding a smooth snake & slow worm. After dinner, we headed back to the pond to set some newt traps, where we also found a baby salamander from last year, & then it was time for an early night!
After checking the traps, we hit the road. We made a couple of stops on the way to Kresna Gorge via Kyustendil close to Osogovo Mountain. One of these stops was a breeding pond where hundreds of alpine newts gather to breed every year. This gave us an excellent opportunity to photograph these beautiful newts in the aquarium. The next stop we finally found a couple of young sand lizards, one male & two females, & spent a fun couple of hours photographing them & some more wildflowers. As it was raining heavily, we opted for an early night in preparation for the next few days exploring Kresna Gorge & Sandanski areas.
On the road again & our first stop on the way to Kresna turned out to be quite a successful one. We found a female cat snake which after photographing, we measured & recorded all the details; a young & stunning Montpellier snake & both male & female wall lizards; & all in a lay-by off the main road! Post lunch we set off to explore the other side of the road in the warm sunshine, finding several Herman’s tortoises & a couple of swallowtail butterflies. Following the path round, we came across a praying mantis & finally found adult & young Greek Stream frogs which we had great fun photographing in the stream. The next few hours we spent photographing green toads, looking for lizards & frogs & setting up newt traps before heading back to the hotel.
We found both male & female Balkan crested newt & a couple of tree frogs in the newt traps so we spent some time photographing them before grabbing some lunch & heading off in search of snakes. Georgi found nose-horned vipers, along with a yellow-bellied toad & agile frog. Before heading for dinner, we set some more traps close to the Greek border.
After dinner, we headed to a thermal pool area which has a good population of Syrian spadefoot toads which we found a few of, along with some green toads, European tree frogs & hedgehogs which gave us the chance for some night photography.
Our last full day started with the usual checking of the newt traps, which came up empty. So, we went in search of lizards & anything else that we could find. Eventually, as the sun came out, we found both male & female Eastern wall lizards. It was great to see the sexual dimorphism between them.
We spent the afternoon back at the thermal pool photographing the Syrian spadefoot toads both in the open & as they buried themselves in the sand & searching for terrapins & had great fun trying to photograph them. Post lunch, & replenishing energy supplies, we headed off in search of snakes & lizards at another site but came up empty. However, did have the chance to photograph Lycosa tarantula (tarantula wolf spider).
After what has been an incredible trip with so many highlights, it was time to go home.
By the end of the trip, we had found & photographed 33 species of reptile & amphibian along with butterflies, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets & wildflowers. All in all, it was a hugely successful trip.
PHOTOGRAPH THE REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS OF BULGARIA YOURSELF
To photograph the Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria yourself, join Victoria, in Sofia during April 2020 for a trip lasting seven nights. This photography holiday is ideal for taking photo opportunities with up to 20 species of amphibians & 37 species of reptiles!
The photography holiday is offered on a half board, non-shared basis. Group size for this photography holiday is a minimum of 3 participants & a maximum of 7, plus Victoria.
All the details of the Reptiles & Amphibians of Bulgaria photography holiday are available on the dedicated event page