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Blagodaria to the golden eagles of Bulgaria.

Whenever I embark on a trip my mind is full of expectation coupled with a little bit of apprehension. I am excited about the prospects ahead yet at the same time I worry about what the weather will do and how the photographic opportunities will unfold.

Bulgaria in the winter can be a challenging place, particularly when you are going to spend long days in a hide on top of the Balkan and Rhodope Mountains. As we flew into Sofia we were greeted by falling snow and cold temperatures, just what we hoped for.

However when we arrived hours later at our hotel the weather was clearly taking a turn for the worse, snow was still falling but the temperatures had plummeted and the wind had more than a keen bite to it, and this was when we were well below the exposed mountain tops!

The following morning left us in no doubt that the weather was going to play a big part in this trip, yet we were aware that this is the time of the year to go for golden eagles, one, if not the top target for our cameras. Over the next four days we all managed at least two sessions in the hide.

The wind initially was horrendous, if snow fell it didn’t seem to reach the ground, everything flew by at a tremendous pace horizontally. At first I couldn’t believe that a golden eagle could land in such conditions yet I knew they lived up here all year, they had certainly experienced it before!

When the first eagle flies in and lands your heart races, this is one of the most difficult birds to photograph in Europe, and when you add the disdainful way it glances at the hide to its subtle beauty you really are in awe.

Since everything is frozen really hard which includes the bait the eagle is feeding on, it means that each visit is an extended one with one of them being up to three hours. We always start the cameras on silent and judge the eagle’s reaction, slowly switching to motor drive as it relaxes and feeds.

The sessions here in the Balkans were amazing. My highlight was when the larger, darker female flew in and jostled with her paler mate. To see one eagle is stunning but to watch pair stand side by side is phenomenal. The odd raven will walk by but the eagles rarely take any notice, even to the extent of barely raising their heads to glance at them.

The weather on the tops of the Balkans was challenging for us as well as the eagles so I was very surprised when a small flock of linnets and yellow hammers landed.

They seemed just at home here as on the fields around my home of Sheffield. The ice laden grasses added a lovely frozen quality whenever a linnet landed on one. In many ways these few images I managed were my favourites from the trip, I just love the stark, cold quality of them.

From the Balkans we drove to the Rhodope Mountains and stationed ourselves in one of the most beautiful parts of Bulgaria, small fields and woods in a very scenic, old English rural style landscape.

Our hopes here were to photograph griffon vultures as well as to pick up a few more eagle images in a very different setting. The best laid plans of mice and men! Three long days in the hides didn’t see a single vulture image hit our cards, we could see vultures all the time but they didn’t land!

However, every cloud has a silver lining, even when at the time you might not appreciate it. The eagles here were again fantastic and with a very different light because they tended to arrive in the last hours of the day we again managed some superb images.

Not all trips go to plan, some work better than others. Many factors come into play, some of which like the weather are uncontrollable, and we all know just how frustrating wildlife can be - it often point blank refuses to read the script! However, saying this it is very rare indeed that I and the guests don’t come home with a number of good images, and on this trip we all managed an incredible portfolio of golden eagle images, one of the most difficult to photograph and iconic birds of Europe, so I say Blogoderia (thank you) to the golden eagles of Bulgaria!