Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tits Galore (and a whole lot more)!

In the eight months I’ve been in Bulgaria, I’ve seen a lot of tits. I can honestly say that most of the tits have been Great Tits. I’ve seen Great Tits in the park, at school, while walking down the street, in the garden, outside church, in the woods. Bouncing around here and there and drawing attention to themselves, Great Tits are impossible to miss. I’ve also seen a fair number of Blue Tits. And the colder it has gotten, the more Blue Tits I’ve come across. I’ve also seen a few Marsh Tits, but none of the other six species of tits (Long-tailed, Coal, Crested, Sombre, Willow, and Penduline) which call Bulgaria home.

For a nature and bird lover like me, Bulgaria is a pretty good place to call home. One of the better countries in Europe for birding, Bulgaria boasts just over 400 species on its official list. In the hopes of seeing as many of these species as possible, I made a friendly wager with my brother: who can see more species of birds in 2010 – me in Bulgaria or him in Colorado? He has several advantages: Colorado has recorded seventy-six more species than Bulgaria, he knows all the birds in Colorado, he knows where to go to see birds in Colorado, he has a car, he is unemployed and has plenty of free time, and he’s a serious bird dork. My only saving grace might be that, when I'm not teaching, I’ll be working with some outstanding birders who are affiliated with Bulgaria’s premiere conservation-based organization. Anyway, as January comes to a close, I’m getting my ass kicked. My brother has built an impressive 100+ species lead on me. Of course, I’ve yet to pull out my binoculars. That will change in the near future, and the gap will be tightened. And even if I lose, I’ll be able to make my brother jealous by posting photos of birds he’s never seen.

A Blue Tit precariously feeding.


A Chaffinch enjoying, or at least oblivious to, the snow.


A group of Crested Larks, including this one, can be seen almost daily hanging out around the school.


This winter, our town has been invaded by Hawfinches. Anything but “very wary and shy and difficult to observe,” as Hawfinches are often described, these beasts (which can generate over 50 kg of force with their massive beaks) have been present in large numbers since early December.

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