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Red-breasted geese in Bulgaria – Bulgaria I

The timing of a photo-journey can be very crucial. I was reminded of this during my latest trip. For Tierra Photo Tours, I wished to visit Bulgaria and Greece and meet some local people. And of course, I would combine that with photography in these countries I had never visited before.

Discovering Durankulak

The trip was set for early winter. I was hoping to catch the amazing red-breasted geese along the coast of the Black Sea. Almost the entire world population, which is rapidly decreasing and becoming a threatened species, resides at the Durankulak and Shabla region close to the Romanian border during winter.

During my first days in Bulgaria, the numbers of red-breasted geese quickly grew and the snow fell massively. Many roads were blocked and it was impossible to travel through the country without getting stuck and losing lots of time. But we managed to keep very busy, despite the troubles caused by the weather. We had good times at the Kerkini Lake in Greece with the Dalmatian pelicans (more about that later!). We visited a winter feeding station for small birds (with over 25 amazing species, many in very high numbers), explored the golden eagle station in the mountains and a roosting site of long-eared owls and photographed stunning landscapes.

Red-breasted geese: over to the other side!

We received lots of news about geese on the other side of the country, but my departure date was getting closer. I realized I couldn’t go home yet. So when I saw on the local TV that the roads were starting to clear, I booked a later return flight. What a good decision that was! When we finally arrived at the Black Sea coast, the geese were awaiting us … at the side of the road! Researchers, birdwatchers and local photographers hadn’t seen this spectacle before! We managed to photograph the geese at a stunning 10-meter distance, just sitting on the side the road!

Even the white-fronted geese didn’t seem to mind and grazed in front of us. No hide canvas, car or bush between us, what a unique experience! But this is how it should be, and what a great time it was! When we heard locals saying that many foreign photographers tried to photograph the geese before without any luck, we knew we were very fortunate. We don’t know why the geese were so calm and accepted our presence at such close distance. Maybe it was because they arrived after the hunting season and were not stressed? Or maybe they needed the cover from the road to get out of the wind? We documented as much as we could, photographing their daily flights to the Black Sea to drink and wash. Normally, they do this far away from the shore, but now they splashed in the water in front of us!

We also caught some geese to put a satellite transmitter on. And so we witnessed the first red-breasted goose ever wearing a GPS, which will hopefully provide us with lots of data and will reach his breeding grounds in Taimyr. I hope to arrive there as well one day, at the right time!

Thanks for the great company John, Miro and Emil!

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