Branta Birding Lodge & Conservation Centre

B&B Accommodation in Durankulak (Bulgaria) – birth place of Bed & Birding concept

Testimonials

September 7 & 8, 2012

After traveling to Bulgaria many times, this was our first opportunity to use a birding guide. My wife and I chose Branta Tours based on their location near the fresh water Lakes Shabla and Durankulak and the availability of their lodging at Branta Birding Lodge on Lake Durankulak.

As Americans who have almost no birding experience in Europe, Pavel Simeonov was friendly and an excellent guide who helped us identify numerous species in fall/winter plumage that would have been almost impossible for us to do without him.

He was very knowledgeable of the area which permitted us to see numerous interesting species including Red-breasted and Spotted Flycatchers, Pied and Isabelline Wheatears, Citrine Wagtails, Paddyfield, Eurasian Reed, Great Reed, Willow, and Garden Warblers. Over one-and-a-half days, we identified over 90 species, most of which were new for us. Pavel is an excellent photographer who was able to find locations and wind conditions that were excellent for photographing birds in flight. He was also able to teach me some techniques to help me become a better photographer.

We had the opportunity to stay at the Branta Birding Lodge for two nights. The rooms where spacious and had comfortable bedding. The room had an excellent view of Lake Durankulak. While my wife and I were birding, her family enjoyed spending time at some of the local beaches, which were nice. Pavel’s wife, Tatyana, was an excellent cook and very friendly.

We would recommend Branta Tours and Branta Birding Lodge to anyone who wants to have a good birding experience while in Bulgaria. I hope that we will have the opportunity to use their services again in the future!

Michael and Maya Plaster
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
+1(865)694-4814

 

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Bulgaria, 15 September 2011

In September, we spent our holiday in Albena. This was a family holiday, not focused on birding, but still we decided to spend one day on birding and booked a trip with Branta-Tours. We visited Shabla and Durankalak, which both were very rewarding.

On our way to Shabla, we saw a glimpse of a possible Finsch’s Weathear. Shabla lake turned out to be a great place for waders. Here we had close views of Temmink’s Stint, Broad-billed and Marsh Sandpipers and some Red-breasted Flycatchers in the surrounding bushes.

At noon, we had an excellent meal in the Branta Birding Lodge. I would recommend this lodge to everyone who goes birding in the Black Sea area of Bulgaria. For birding it is located centrally, and even from the lodge, you can see a lot of bird activity. After lunch, Pavel discovered a Wryneck.

In the neighbourhood of Durankalak, we spotted a distant flock of raptors with Red-footed Falcons, Levant Sparrowhawks and a Hobby. After a while, we had a nice telescope view of a male Levant. In the area of Durankalak, Bee-eaters and Red-backed Shrikes were abundant. Furthermore, we had nice views of Glossy Ibis, Purple Herons, Ospreys, Great Snipe, Rollers, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Tawny Pipits, Winchats and Spanish Sparrows. We ended our trip to a visit of a cliff where we had excellent views of two Eagle Owls and as a bonus a Nightjar and the sound of a late Thrush Nightingale.

The birding day with Branta-Tours turned out to be an excellent choice. Thanks to Pavel, we managed to spot more than 100 bird species around the Black Sea coast in one day, including great views of some specialties and a number of lifers. Without discussion, this was the highlight of the holiday! I already look forward to come back another time, and then I would book more than one day to also view raptors and woodpeckers inland and in the mountains.

Lieven Van Hellemont, Belgium

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September 2011

In a superb location overlooking Lake Durankulak, with comfortable rooms, flexible meal times and fantastic birding on the doorstep (as evidenced by the “garden List” of no less than 220 species), the Branta Birding Lodge makes an excellent base for birding this part of Bulgaria.

Our stay was made all the more enjoyable by the warmth and friendship shown to us by Pavel and Tatyana; this went way beyond what we are used to when staying in hotels in different parts of Europe and made us feel really at home.

Pavel’s expert local knowledge is an added bonus, increasing our knowledge and appreciation of the region’s birdlife and directing us to several sites previously unknown to us. His impromptu musical performances made the experience even more memorable.

We are already looking forward to our next visit!

Ronnie Irving, Ian Kinley & Dave Thexton
Kendal, Cumbria, England

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Durankulak, August (27th to 31th) 2011

I originally had the chance of meeting Pavel Simeonov and his wife Tatyana Simeonova in August 2008 at the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water, UK.

Three years later, in August 2011, I contacted Pavel and Tatyana, and later the next week Pavel met me at Varna airport at the start of a fascinating five-day visit.

Branta Birding Lodge, with its tranquil setting and its delightful views over Durankulak Lake to the Black Sea, is an excellent base in an unspoilt part of north-east Bulgaria, about three miles from Romania.

Pavel’s enthusiasm and his attention to detail interact with his passion for Birdwatching and his depth of knowledge and experience, which include his familiarity with about 600 Palerctic species of birds. These combine with his energy and photographic skills, as well as his musical talents, as strong aptitudes for his work as a guide and host.

We ranged widely, by car and on foot, through numerous well-chosen locations and habitats, mostly wild and undeveloped, including coastal, cliffs, lakes/wetlands, gorges, and steppe grasslands. We also spent a full day in Romania, in the southern part of the Danube Delta. The number of different bird species sighted during my stay totalled 163.

An early highlight of the trip was the Lesser Sand Plover in full breeding plumage, the first recorded sighting of this vagrant species in Bulgaria, considered to be a three-star Asiatic rarity for the whole Western Palerctic.

Other notable sightings or “mouth-watering Eastern specialities” included Eagle Owl, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Thrush Nightingale, Pied and Isabelline Wheatears, Red-footed Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, Montagu’s Harrier, Booted Eagle, White Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers, Ferruginous Duck, Stone Curlew, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Lesser Grey Shrike, Bee-eater, Roller and Golden Oriole.

Heading south, on the way to the airport, we pulled into the roadside at an elevated point to check for migrating species late in the afternoon. A steady influx of soaring birds came in from Romania. Raptors inevitably dominated, of which we recorded no less than a remarkable 16 species, several passing close overhead, and a huge flock of White Storks, containing over eight thousands birds also passed through.

Many congratulations on all these achievements, which fulfilled all my expectations. There was still time for other visits to some interesting local and regional archaeological features representing an area prominent in the emergence and development of the oldest European civilisation from prehistoric times onwards.

My grateful thanks for the warm and generous family hospitality, including Tatyana’s excellent cuisine and Pavel’s musical performances.

John Larkin, London, U.K.
Tel.: +44 (0)208445 7238

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Bulgaria, June 2011

In June (17th to 27th) I made a birding trip in Bulgaria accompanied by Pavel Simeonov from Branta Tours. We met at the Sofia airport, travelled about 2500km using his car and I departed at the Varna airport. The time of the year was far from optimal for watching birds. Many birds were not singing any more, the spring migrations were over and the autumn migrations have not yet started.

In spite of that Pavel managed to show me some 200 species of birds. The sight of an Eagle Owl on a rock against the sky just after sunset, the family of Stone Curlews just in front of Branta Lodge, or of Egyptian Vultures in full sun in the Rhodopes Mountains are unforgettable.

An expert would probably be even more interested in the rarer birds we have seen, like the Paddyfield Warblers in Durankulak, the stunning Eleonora’s Falcon or the delightful Wallcreeper in the impressive Trigrad canyon.

The pleasure was enhanced by the nice and well located places chosen by Pavel for the nights and the remarkable Bulgarian food offered there. The last nights were spent in the Branta Birding Lodge overlooking the beautiful Durankulak Lake. The family atmosphere created by Pavel’s wife Tatyana, the excellent food, the fabulous setting of the lodge and last not least the many species of birds in the area around made this a highlight of the tour. I strongly recommend a tour of this kind to anybody fond of birdwatching.

Kasper Zalewski,
Cracow, Poland.

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Our stay at Branta Birding Lodge – 8-9 September 2010

My wife and I have just returned from a weeks’ bird watching in Bulgaria and would highly recommend anyone considering the same to book a short stay at Branta Birding Lodge on the picturesque Lake Durankulak, close to the Romanian border.

The Lodge is a pleasant three hour drive from the tourist developments of the South (Sunny Beach) and offers clean, good size rooms with great views over the lake at a very reasonable price.

The birds here have a great diversity because of the untouched nature of the agricultural surroundings and under Pavel’s guidance you should be able to find the tougher species such as Thrush Nightingale and Eagle Owl and his help is invaluable to separate the various forms of winter plumage Wheatears!

ALL IN ALL THE TRIP TO BRANTA LODGE WAS THE DEFINATE HIGHLIGHT OF THE HOLIDAY.

JIM & MARGARET NUTLEY, UK
nutandcoll[AT]tesco.net

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Unsere Bulgarienreise im Sommer 2010

Nach 2 Wochen in Schilfhütten im Donaudelta haben wir es sehr genossen, in der Branta Birding Lodge endlich wieder eine tip-top saubere und funktionierende Infrastruktur zur Verfügung zu haben. Tatjana und Pavel sind wunderbare Gastgeber und erfüllen fast alle Wünsche. Tatjana kocht (auf vorzeitige Anfrage) grossartig und Pavel kennt die nähere Umgebung wie seine Westentasche und gibt gerne Auskunft. Die Zimmer gegen Osten bieten eine atemberaubende Aussicht auf die Seen von Durankulak und das Schwarze Meer. Auf der Westseite sieht man den schönen Sonnenuntergang, aber auch auf die Strasse. Daher bevorzugten wir ein Zimmer auf der Ostseite der Birding Lodge.

Als Nicht-Profi-Ornithologen genossen wir speziell die zahlreichen schönen und sauberen Strände und das Schwimmen im Schwarzen Meer, z.B. an der beginnenden felsige Steilküste von Krapez. Wir können sehr empfehlen, hier einen Zwischenhalt einzulegen, speziell auch mit Genuss der hauseigenen Küche.

Nadia & Jakob aus Zürich, Schweiz

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Our stay at Branta Birding Lodge – 2-3 May 2010

Dear Pavel and Tatyana,
We would like you to know we enjoyed every minute of your hospitality and birding. So many birds (120 species in 2 days) and such variety and so many we do not see regularly (or if ever) in the UK. All in interesting habitat. It was a short but memorable visit and we thank you most sincerely for making it so successful.

Many, many thanks again and our very best wishes,

Chris and Meg
c.oliver[at]forest-fact.co.uk

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Compte-rendu de mon séjour du 17 au 21 février 2010 à Branta Lodge

Le soir de mon arrivée, le long de la route venant de l’aéroport, j’ai déjà eu un petit aperçu des oiseaux de la région. Les buses pattues (Buteo lagopus) croisaient régulièrement notre route.

Arrivé au Lodge, j’ai pu apprécier l’hospitalité de mes hôtes et goûter à l’excellente cuisine préparée par Tatyana en dégustant une bonne bouteille de vin bulgare. L’accueil était tellement convivial que je me suis senti comme à la maison.

Le lendemain matin, depuis ma chambre j’entendais les oies passer au-dessus du Lodge.

Avec Pavel nous avons convenu d’attendre un peu et de partir vers 9 heures.
Sur la route menant au camping, nous avons remarqué une troupe d’environ 300 à 400 oies rieuses (Anser albifrons), qui étaient assez proche de la route. Cela nous a permis de chercher et de trouver deux oies naines (Anser erythropus) bien cachées parmi les rieuses.

Ce n’était pas facile de les trouver. Il faut observer chaque oie, contrôler les yeux pour repérer le cercle orbital jaune. Il est indispensable que la troupe soit assez proche et espacée, et également qu’il y ait des oies naines. C’était les premières que Pavel observait cette année. En prime nous avons trouvé une oie des moissons (Anser fabalis rossicus), espèce rare pour la région, et j’ai aussi observé mes premières bernaches à cou roux. (Branta ruficollis) Et en plus une buse féroce (Buteo rufinus) a eu la gentillesse de se poser près de nous.

Nous avons continué notre route vers la mer; là le spectacle a vraiment commencé, sur des centaines de mètres les champs étaient couverts de bernaches. Jusqu’à l’horizon nous pouvions en apercevoir. Il y avait au minimum 10’000 oiseaux qui broutaient, de temps à autre une troupe s’envolait et se rapprochait de nous. Le spectacle était fantastique, impressionnant, inimaginable.

Après un certain temps nous sommes allés jusqu’à la mer, mais comme le brouillard tardait à se lever et que nous avions peu de visibilité, Pavel a décidé d’aller en Roumanie espérant qu’il n’y ait pas de brouillard. La lagune à la sortie de la ville de Mangalia nous a donné une bonne sélection de canards, cygnes, mouettes, cormorans pygmées et autres.

En rentrant, à nouveau nous avons observé les troupes d’oies, cette fois elles étaient plus éloignées de la route, mais le spectacle était encore plus impressionnant, à perte de vue les troupes se déplaçaient et se croisaient avec toujours le murmure incessant de leurs cris qui faisaient comme un bruit de fond.

Le jour suivant le brouillard était encore plus dense. Une brume dense venant de la mer collait le long de la côte, qui nous empêchait d’aller visiter les sites prévus au bord de la mer, par contre l’intérieur des terres nous a apporté tout un lot de nouvelles espèces, buses pattues, autour des palombes (Accipiter gentilis), alouettes calandres (Melanocorypha calandra), Pics syriaque (Dendrocopos syriacus), pie grièche grise (sous-espèce homeyeri), etc. En plus une mésange noire (Parus ater), observation rare dans la région, probablement que le froid intense a amené quelques espèces inhabituelles vers la côte.

Une nouvelle visite aux champs des oies m’a permis à nouveau d’apprécier ce spectacle impressionnant, mais cette fois elles se trouvaient beaucoup plus éloignées et il n’était plus possible d’essayer de trouver des naines. J’ai compris la chance que nous avions eu le premier jour.

Pour le dernier jour, comme le temps était clair avec un petit vent, au lieu d’aller en Roumanie, j’ai préféré que nous visitions à nouveau les sites le long de la mer pour essayer de trouver un goéland ichthyaète et compléter la liste de nos observations.

Une visite de la plage le long du lac Durankulak, en plus d’un lot de nouveaux canards, de mouettes et autres espèces, nous a apporté deux plongeons arctiques (Gavia arctica) et un grèbe jougris (Podiceps grisegena) en plumage nuptial, très coopératif et proche, ce qui a permis à Pavel de prendre de très bons clichés.

Ensuite nous nous sommes arrêtés au bord des falaises avant le Cap Kaliakra, à peine arrivé, nous apercevons deux goélands volant le long des falaises, un était particulier, Pavel a réussi à obtenir une bonne photo qui nous a permis d’identifier un goéland ichthyaète (Larus ichthyaetus) 2ème hiver, une très grande chance (voir photo).

Une nouvelle visite au Cap Kaliakra, cette fois sans brouillard, qui nous a permis d’observer un pic épeichette (Dendrocopos minor), ainsi que de grands groupes de grèbes à cou noir (Podiceps nigricollis) et de nombreux cormorans huppés (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii) qui volaient le long des falaises.

Nous avons terminé notre journée à la gorge où se trouve l’Hibou grand duc (Bubo bubo), mais malheureusement nous l’avons seulement aperçu brièvement.

Pour moi le séjour se terminait, car le lendemain matin j’avais un vol très tôt pour rentrer.

J’étais très content de mon séjour qui m’a permis d’observer en 4 jours seulement pratiquement toutes les espèces que je recherchais et été conscient de la chance que nous avons eu avec les naines et l’ichthyaète.

Je tiens encore à remercier Pavel et Tatyana pour leurs disponibilités, pour nos grandes discussions et échanges de vues que nous avions en cours de route, leurs compréhension de la mentalité francophone et surtout leurs hospitalité.

Je garde un souvenir inoubliable de mon séjour chez eux.

Michel Jaquet
101, Avenue de la Vallombreuse
1008 Prilly
Suisse

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<<< Дуранкулак, 2010 >>>

Бивайки вече 3ти път в гостоприемният и незабравим “Branta Birding Lodge”, вещо стопанисван от фамилия Павел и Татяна Симеонови, аз си мисля – дано повече оригинална и отбрана публика от всички нации опознае това изключително и уютно местенце край Дуранкулак, където звуците на Музиката от пианото и флейтата на Павел и онези на птиците отвън и заобикалящата ни Красива Природа се сливат в Едно !

Др Камен Кенов,
Basel, Switzerland

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<<< Février 2010 >>>

Pour la 4ème fois, je reviens à Durankulak durant l’hiver car le site m’attire comme un aimant. D’une année à l’autre, l’ambiance varie. En fonction des données climatiques, les espèces observées sont différentes. Bien entendu, il y a une constante, les oies rieuses (Anser albifrons), les oies cendrées (Anser anser)  et la perle du lac Durankulak, les Bernaches à cou roux (Branta ruficollis) par milliers, mais c’est aussi les rapaces, émerillon (Falco columbarius), buse pattue (Buteo lagopus), buse féroce (Buteo rufinus), pygargue (Haliaeetus albicilla), aigle criard (Aquila clanga), faucon pèlerin (Falco peregrinus), hibou grand-duc (Bubo bubo), ainsi que d’autres spécialités locales telles que le pic syriaque (Dendrocopus syriacus), l’alouette calandre (Melanocorypha calandra), la lusciniole à moustaches (Acrocephalus melanopogon),  la panure à moustaches (Panurus biarmicus),  et la forme de l’Est de pie-grièche grise (Lanius excubitor homeyeri). Avec en peu de chance on peut y observer le Goéland ichthyaéte (Larus ichthyaetus), ainsi que la très rare et menacée oie naine (Anser erythropus).

Cette année 2010 est marquée en février par la présence des oies rieuses et bernaches à cou roux (Branta ruficollis) quel spectacle à la tombée de la nuit et au lever du jour avec 60 000 estivantes qui passent la nuit sur le lac, viennent boire en journée et manger le blé en herbe dans les champs environnants, émotions garanties.

Le cru 2010 est particulièrement fécond avec les buses pattues, le butor étoilé, le pygargue et surtout le Faucon sacre (Falco cherrug) qui nous a gratifié d’ 1/2h de pose à 30m occupé qu’il était à dépecer le pigeon ramier qu’il avait saisi (voir photo).

Comme à l’accoutumée, l’ambiance conviviale, la cuisine de Tatyana et son sourire, la musique, l’expérience et la compétence de PAVEL font d’un séjour à Branta Birding Lodge un moment de pur plaisir à Durankulak – paradis des ornithologues.

Jean Paul ROUX, France
E-mail: nade12(AT)wanadoo.fr

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<<< October 2009 >>>

After a visit to Sofia early October 2009, we decided to bring a 3-day visit to the Branta Birding Lodge located at the beautiful Lake Durankulak. The lodge provides a comfortable starting point for trips, and we enjoyed the kind hospitality of Tatyana and Pavel and their excellent birding knowledge. Although October is between birding seasons (the peak of fall migration just finished and most wintering birds still had to arrive), Pavel showed us various birding sites with over 100 species, including Dalmatian and White Pelicans, Red-throated Pipit, Bearded Tit, Merlin, Long-Legged Buzzard, Marsh and Hen Harrier, and five species of Woodpeckers.

Since temperatures were still around 25 deg Celsius thousands of Corn Buntings and Calandra Larks were singing. One Osprey even took a bath in the lake! Another highlight was watching and listening to a pair of Eagle Owls.

Pavel and Tatyana are enthusiastic hosts, and we have great respect for their efforts to preserve birds and their natural habitats. Altogether the visit to the Branta Birding Lodge was a wonderful experience!

Eric and Astrid, Netherlands

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<<< Bulgaria, August 2009 >>>

Hallo Tatyana, hallo Pavel,

Nearly two months passed, I wanted to send you my testimonial.

The days with you have been the best time I had in Bulgaria – thank you again!

I am sure that I shall come back to Bulgaria – and to your charming Branta Birding Lodge!

Although my photos are not so good like Pavel’s, I send some. It is a pity that I forgot to make photos of you!!

I wish you all the best,

yours

Brigitte Westphal, Germany
E-mail: Apo-Humboldt(AT)t-online.de

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<<< Bulgaria, 2-16 July 2007 >>>

We stayed in Albena.  The use of a hired car made it possible to visit many places in the area. The weather was warm and sunny although there was some cloud cover on some days and even a thunderstorm on one occasion.

The wildlife highlight of the trip was a chance encounter with Pavel Simeonov, a specialist from Branta Birding Lodge based at Durankulak, who took us on a trip in his four-wheel drive vehicle into some remoter areas, which we would not have found by ourselves. The success of this venture can be gauged by the number of species recorded for that site, and it resulted in the longest holiday bird list, including Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Ferruginous Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Mediterranean Gull, Little Crake, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Roller, Syrian Woodpecker, Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit, Balkan Wagtail, Pied Wheatear, Rose-coloured Starling, Golden Oriole, Paddyfield Warbler, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Red-backedand Lesser Grey Shrikes, Bearded Reedling, Cirl Bunting and many others. .

Allan Finlayson, Scotland

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