Kaliakra Cape

  

This is one of the most impressive places on the Bulgarian black-seacoast. It is an open plane territory ending abruptly with 70m high vertical cliffs. At the very edge of the cape there are castle ruins and restorations. Kaliakra is situated bout 80 km north of Varna. To reach it, you have to pass through the town of Kavarna, then take the country road to the village of Bulgarevo and 7 km after the village is the cape itself.

Adonis wolgensis, Image copyright 2004 Emil Enchev

The prairie is slowly waking up… these are the first gorgeously blooming flowers in the beginning of April.

  

Here you can see some of the last and best preserved steppes on the Balkans. To the north-east (up to the Taukliman Lake) lies the “Kaliakra” natural reserve. A considerable part of it is marine aquatory – 8 km wide and 0.5 km into the sea. One of the most important reasons for the creation of the reserve are the numerous caves (a lot of which are under water), which are home to some birds nesting here, as well as the endangered Monk seal. The seal however hasn’t been spotted in this region for years. There are about 360 species of grass vegetation, a lot of them rare and endemit. Trees and bushes are sparse. About 18 mammal species are known to inhabit the area. The bird population however is numerous and diverse, due to the specific conditions of the biotope and of Via Pontica, so the expectations of sightings of rare and interesting species are far from groundless.

Bolata, North of Cape Kaliakra
Image copyright 2004 Emil Enchev

Although it is only 1 kilometer long and 200-400 m wide, this location amazes the viewer with its beautiful view and the wide range of living organisms that share this ecosystem. The steep cliffs are home to Eagle Owl, Peregrine Falcon and Long-legged Buzzard. The bushes hide the nests of Warlblers and Trushes. The multiple cracks and holes in the rocks are attractive for Wheatears and Rose-colored Starlings and many other birds and animals. The fresh water is an invaluable stop-over place for migrating birds, as well as all year round home for several species of Wildfowl, Herons and others.

  

What is there to photograph? Everything! The red cliffs of the shore are beautifully lit by the sun throughout the day. Mornings and afternoons are the much preferred time, however. If you are here between the end of March till mid July, get ready to witness the wonders of the steppe – an incredible carpet of wild flowers blooming every direction. In this short period nature shows us pictures from the land of fairies, the flowers and the colors changing every week. This is also the time of the spring migration of birds so you will also be able to witness a real bird invasion. Birds perch on grass and stones by the narrow country roads and even pictures taken with short tele-lenses (200 –300 mm) from a vehicle can be very satisfying. However, some species are cautious.

Image copyright 2004 Emil Enchev

The wild flax starts to bloom in mid April, but its fragile blossoms are difficult to find among all the other wildflowers. But in the middle of May your eyes won't miss the infinite blue fields.

  

You can be successful in a photo hunt along the rocky shore. The species are specifically diverse during the breeding season, some of the most common species being the Pied Whitea (Oenanthe pleshanka), the Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala), the Calandra Lark (Melanokorypha calandra), etc.

Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

There are rich colors and forms everywhere. They are not difficult to find. Simply stop for a moment and follow your heart.

Calandra Lark, Cape Kaliakra
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

This is one of the most often met birds in the Bulgarian prairie. You can see it both during the summer and the winter. Sometimes it flies away in panic; sometimes it poses for the camera only 2 meters away from the auto.

Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

End of April - the last Spring Adonis’s and Irises meet the first Paeonia tenuifolia.


Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

Mid April - Blue, lilac, white, yellow, multicolored irises are everywhere. They are competing with each other to cover all available spaces.



Pied Wheatear, Cape Kaliakra
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

Unlike many other birds that spend their winters in the south, the first birds of this species come back only after the cold spring days have passed. This happens usually during the end of April. Right from the beginning they turn the red cliffs near the river into a stage for singing and dancing contests, as well as a fighting ring.



Between sea, sky and ground, Cape Kaliakra
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

This view made me forget who I am and where I am. This is one of the cases when photography can only hint for touch upon the wonders of Nature.


  

Pink starlings are most accessible right after the young’s leave the nest and the whole family roams over the region. The terrain is allows easy relocation along local country roads and dirt tracks. However, you mustn’t forget this is a reserve and certain rules have to be followed.
An interesting formation is a small valley called Bolata. It is a swamp zone diversifying the view and giving home to a dozen of water birds. Its reeds are also a favorite resting-place to a number of other birds in time of migration. I personally have observed a weasel family here, who is not particularly shy of people and pose with curiosity for the cameras.

Image copyright 2004 Emil Enchev

Image copyright 2004 Emil Enchev

Even when the weather is a bit rough the place called Bolata provides sheltered corners which are perfect for some macro photography.



Pied Wheatear, Cape Kaliakra
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

Just before sunset - my favorite time for enjoying and photographing Cape Kaliakra.



Little Ringed Plover, Bolata, Cape Kaliakra
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev



Little Egret, Bolata, Cape Kaliakra
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

During the day and especially in the afternoon hours the surface of the sea bay and the river reflect the red /reddish cliffs that are typical for this area/. This is a good opportunity for some experimenting with light.



Red-footed Falcon, Cape Kaliakra
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

The spring migration is in full swing along the whole Bulgarian coast. Some species pass almost unnoticed, but others are so numerous and impressive that they amaze even people that are not bird-watchers. It is hardly possible not to stop and stare how several hundred Red-footed falcons are circling 10 meters above your head in an attempt to catch insects. On the same day when I took the photo of these resting female, 2500 birds of the same species passed through this area!