Black Sea Mountains

Monday, May 14, 2012: We left Feodosia shortly after 8am. Our first stop was outside Koktebel', where we drove up a high with a nice view of the coast. There was a good view of a coastal volcano (now extinct). We could see as far as Sleeping Bear Mountain, outside of Yalta. It is mountainous all the way, and the road proved to be very twisty until we got to Alushta. Before we returned to the main road, we also found a Common Nightingale.

We weren't back on the main road very long before I noticed two raptors off to the right. We stopped and looked at them: Griffon Vultures. Further down the road, a drive up Rino Mountain near Sudak added Alpine Swift and Peregrine Falcon. A Tree Pipit was singing, but not seen. We also found a small unidentified lizard.

We stopped at a point overlooking the sea near Mors'ke. There were several Arctic Loons out there. Gulls were continually flying by, both Lesser Black-backed Gull and Caspian Gull. A few European Shags flew by. We also saw groups of Harbor Porpoises and Bottle-nosed Dolphins. There were also birds up the slope, including a group of Bee-eaters, but the highlight of this stop was the unexpected Golden Eagle.

Our lunch stop was at Zelenogir'ya (Green Mountain). Before lunch, we walked up to a small lake created by an earthen dam. A Barred Warbler was singing there, and we eventually got brief looks at it. We also saw Common Rock-Thrush and Chukar high on the hills. Later we would see a Chukar perched up on a mountain top. Finches were calling, and we saw some Ortolan Buntings.

We took cover under a tree during a sudden shower, then returned to the bus for lunch. I had barely gotten my food when more rain forced us into the bus. The rain was sometimes quite heavy, and delayed us somewhat. When it seemed sufficiently clear, several of us walked further up the slope in search of a better Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting. They proved uncooperative, but it was nice to get up in the mountains. We made one more try as we descended the road, and fortunately, a Rock Bunting came down fairly close to the bus where I got a good look at it.

By then it was time to leave, and we drove on to Yalta. The road became much straighter and faster after we joined a major highway at Alushta. This road is used by what is now the world's longest trollybus line, and we saw several of them on our way to Yalta.

We had a little time to walk around before dinner, and three of us walked downslope to where we had a bit of a view of the sea. A number of porpoises were out there and about 10 European Shags fly by.

I only saw 40 species today, 11 of them new, including 6 lifers. That brings my trip total to 156, including 90 lifers.

Hotel Dom Aspiranta, Nikita Botanic Gardens, Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine