Tag Archives: Shrike

Woodpecker Tree

Woodpecker Tree, interesting name? Well, the story goes like this. I spent five mornings, from 5am, in a tower hide 9 metres above the ground. My target was to take images of Golden Oriole, especially the brightly coloured male, however that did not go to plan, more on that in the future.

During the  periods of waiting, “woodpecker tree” was active, especially from when the sun came up until around the 10am mark. The tree was a hive of activity, with numerous buntings, shrikes and other passerines frequently visiting the tree looking for grubs and fruits.

On one of the mornings, I cannot remember which, in the space of two hours we had five woodpecker species (two of which I have never seen before) visiting and foraging as well as a “flyby” green woodpecker. The tree has also attracted a seventh species of woodpecker recently, the Grey-headed woodpecker.

Four of the species were the typical climbing woodpeckers that excavate nest holes in vertical tree trunks with the fifth species being the aberrant Eurasian Wryneck; which either uses an existing cavity in a tree or a nest box.

Probably due to the limited number of inhabitants and the traditional farming methods, the Suha Reka region of Bulgaria is truly a “mecca” for bird and nature watching and photography.

MIddle Spotted Woodpecker 1 (Bulgaria)Middle Spotted Woodpecker – “Woodpecker Tree” Suha Reka

Syrian Woodpecker 1 (Bulgaria)Syrian Woodpecker – “Woodpecker Tree” Suha Reka

Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 (Bulgaria-Woodpecker Tree)Great Spotted Woodpecker – “Woodpecker Tree” Suha Reka

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 1 (Bulgaria-Woodpecker Tree)Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – “Woodpecker Tree” Suha Reka

Eurasian Wryneck 1Eurasian Wryneck – “Woodpecker Tree” Suha Reka

If you have not already done so, check out my other posts on the Bulgaria trip including; Eurasian Hoopoe; European Bee-eater and European Roller.


Suha Reka Valley

During the recent trip to Bulgaria, I stayed in an area known as the Suha Reka (dry river) valley. The valley and its adjacent dry riverbeds, cliffs and rocky crests is a mecca for wildlife, especially birds, butterflies and the Souslik, also known as the European Ground Squirrel.


Souslik – Suha Reka

The image below was taken around 6am as the sun was lighting up the valley.


Suha Reka is located in Dobrudzha, north of the town of Dobrich. The river almost entirely disappears in the karst terrain. Between the villages of Efreytor Bakalovo and Brestnitsa it forms a reservoir about 7-8 km long. The hills along the riverbed is overgrown with shrubs and forest. The open areas around the valley are occupied by agricultural lands and pastures, grassed the local cows and sheep, every day whilst I was around the area photography the nature.

Suha Reka supports approximately 200 bird species, 90 species of which are of European conservation concern (BirdLife International, 2004).


The image above was taken around 8pm in the evening.

The Suha Reka dry riverbed is one of the most important areas in the country for the Ruddy Shelduck, Long-legged Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle and the Eagle Owl, where these species breed in good numbers.


Red-backed Shrike – Suha Reka

A complex of species, typical to open and transitional habitats are presented in the area with significant breeding populations as well – Ortolan Bunting, Golden Oriole, European Roller, Stone Curlew, Barred Warbler, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrike, all of which are rare and difficult to find in Northern Europe.


Golden Oriole – Suha Reka

If you are interested in visiting this amazing and untouched European wilderness, then I would recommend contacting Sergey at www.naturetravel.eu


Red-backed Shrike

I thought I would start my blog with a subject about a bird I dreamed of seeing when I was a child back in Northern England. A dream because the Red-backed Shrike had been persecuted (especially by those draconian egg collectors) to extinction in England, to the point where no records of successful breeding occurred over a number of years. There has been success in the last few years, where a few pairs have successfully bred in the South of England, mainly around the Dartmoor area. Although there have been claims global warming may be contributing to a “breeding recolonization” I am not too sure, especially considering the numbers breeding in Scandinavia.

It is not all doom and gloom though as the Red-backed Shrike is a strong breeder on mainland Europe (and Western Asia), however, there has been a decline over the decades, and probably due to a lack of available food sources.

Luckily for me there are a number of breeding pairs close to my home and around the Greater Copenhagen area, the image below (of an adult male) was taken 20 minutes drive from my house, and this male has been breeding in the same shrubs for at least the last three years.

The sun worshipper, the Red-backed Shrike arrives on it’s Danish breeding grounds at the earliest in late April, usually in May and departs south for the warmer climbs of Africa in August, at the latest in early September.

The Red-backed Shrike, a little bigger than the common House Sparrow eats large insects, frogs, rodents, lizards and on the odd occasion a young bird, constantly hunting from prominent perches, a typical shrike and butcher bird (of Australasia) tactic. Often corpses are impaled on thorns and stored for later.

As can be seen above, the male has a grey head and a typical shrike black stripe through the eye, the upper-parts are mainly reddish, the underparts are tinged pink, although hard to see on this image, and the tail has a black and white pattern. The female and young birds are more “uniform brown” above as is often the case with passerines with the underparts being buff and vermiculated.

Although a very rare breeder in England and the rest of the UK, the Red-backed Shrike is ranked as a bird of least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

For reference – The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.