Photography wild Golden eagles in Bulgaria
The opportunity to observe a flying Golden Eagle is a beautiful and emotional moment. The chance of the bird being very close to us makes it an extraordinary, exciting and unforgettable experience. The establishment of a hide at a feeding site offers the best chance for a close contact with these cautious birds. The very organization of such a site takes several years of observation and preparation. Our hides are located in the Central and Eastern parts of the Balkan Mountains at about 1000 meters above sea level. The feeding sites are established on open picturesque sites and in addition to taking close shots of the birds; the photographers could also capture the typical mountainous landscape of rocks and ridges. The results show that our hides are offering excellent chances for shooting wild Golden Eagles in flight. Each of the hides is suited for a maximum of 3 photographers. Hides are made of bricks, wood and isolation plates, sized 3 – 3,5 m * 2 m * 1,5 m. The hides are also equipped with a small bed for convenience. It is very useful when the photographers are two or three, giving one of them a chance to have a rest while the birds are inactive. The hides are equipped with chemical toilets. The front sides are equipped with netted “sleeves” for the lenses of the cameras. In addition to the netting, which allows for good visibility, one-way mirrors are mounted. Before you visit and use our hides for taking pictures of raptors, you should know the following: The best period for shooting of Golden Eagles and other raptors is from mid-November to mid-March. Good pictures of Golden Eagles outside this period are also possible, yet during spring usually only males visit the feeding sites, while the female is incubating in the nest. Outside the given winter period days are longer, requiring longer stay in the hides, furthermore, on clear sunny days sun rises high above the horizon soon after sunrise. Climate Normal mountain temperatures in winter vary from minus 15 in the morning up to plus 10 in the afternoon. In rare cases there are exceptions with higher or lower daytime temperatures. Accordingly, most winter days are dry and sunny. We strongly recommend you consulting us on the expected weather forecast shortly before your arrival. Clothing You would need warm clothes for winter conditions, as well as warm shoes and socks, gloves and hats. We are providing clean sleeping bags, suited for cold temperatures, which typically provide good temperature comfort for the cold mornings. You could also bring your own sleeping bag if you prefer, of course. When entering the hides we recommend you replacing your shoes with the warm slippers provided. Sleeping bags usually provide sufficient protection in the cold days so the use of additional heating appliances is not needed Photo-equipment Most convenient are lenses at focal distance of 300 – 600 mm. It is also good to bring extenders. Of course, the most suitable lens depends on your camera (crop of full frame) and the birds themselves (perching or in flight). Your style of shooting also matters. We recommend you to get a tripod, despite the fact that the hides are equipped with been-bags. Most often the optimal distance between the hide and the landing eagles is between 30-40 m and we are trying to secure such a distance. The hotel We are using small family hotels, offering comfort and good food to accommodate our guests. The distance The time for reaching the hides from the hotels is about 30-45 minutes. The distance needed to be covered on foot between the vehicle and the hides is about 200-400 m along a slightly inclined terrain. In case of severe winter conditions (which usually happens once a few years and lasts from several days up to two-three weeks), the access of vehicles to the area of the hides is limited so a longer walk is required or alternative shooting sites are used. The days in the hide You must enter and leave the hide before sunrise and after sunset! This practically means 12 hours of stay in December, January or February and about 13 hours in November and March. We are going to provide hot drinks and your preferable food. You can move carefully inside the hides and talks quietly. We are recommending avoiding jerky movement of the lenses. You will receive further guidelines on using the hides on the spot. The behavior of the birds varies and is difficult to foresee. It depends on the individual characteristics of the birds, the timing as well as the climatic conditions. There is direct relation among the various species. For example, the arrival of Ravens on the site speeds up the appearance of the eagles. At the same time, when Ravens are numerous and more active than usually (in windy days), they could disturb the eagles and shorten their stay. Golden Eagles usually visit the sites several times during the day. The female is more cautious and almost always waits for the male to land first. Sometimes they forage together, yet most of the times one of the birds is eating, while the other one stays on a watch several meters away or roaming over the site. When the pair has a young, they always accompany it and watch for its safety. Large raptors do not need food daily so it is possible that some days the eagles skip a visit on site. Despite their unpredictability, there are however some general rules in their behavior and you will receive our guidelines before entering the hides. Besides the Golden Eagles, the feeding sites are also visited by the following species: Raven - these are, of course, the regulars. In November – December their numbers can reach up to 50-100 birds, while the resident group accounts for some 20-30 birds. Ravens also provide plenty of entertainment for the photographers. Hundreds of landings and take offs, fierce battles on the ground or in the air, hierarchical behavior or just love. Ravens are closely related to the presence of the other raptors and are actively involved in life in front of the hides. The windier the days, the more active the Ravens Goshawk – One of the feeding sites is often visited by one or two males. Their behavior is strongly dependent on the behavior of the Eagles and the Ravens. They can be attracted closer to the hide to an optimal distance of some 15 m. Griffon Vulture – they are common visitors at one of the hides and often roam above the feeding site. Unfortunately most of them have bright wing-tags, which often get captured on the pictures. Therefore, the pictures taken in flight can sometimes be more interesting. Common Buzzard The presence of these birds on the sites for Golden Eagles is relatively rare. We have established a special hide for them at the foot of the mountain and if you have interest, we can organize photography from this hides as well. Other raptors also visit the sites, yet more rarely: Black Kite , Imperial Eagle, White-tailed Eagle. Don’t forget that in addition to the hides for Golden Eagles we have special feeding sites and hides for smaller bird species and your Golden Eagle trip can be diversified with photo-sessions at these sites as well. The best period for shooting Golden Eagle coincides with the best time for Dalmatian Pelicans, while February is the best for shooting Red-breasted Geese.