Birding areas

ATANASOVSKO LAKE

A shallow hyperhaline lake situated on the north-west part of the town of Burgas, which has been utilized for salt production since 1906. The wetland with the associated surrounding fresh water canal and marshes, reedbeds, salt pans and settling pools is very rich in birds all year round. For its highly recognized significance for the biodiversity the northern part of the lake was declared a nature reserve and its southern part a buffer zone. The area has also been a Ramsar site since 1984. During the breeding season it is of special importance for many breeding warblers (like Savi’s and Cetti’s Warblers) and waders such as Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover and also Sandwich and Little Terns. Atanasovsko Lake lies on Via Pontica migratory route and this is the reason why the species variety (with more than 300 species recorded so far) and astonishing numbers of birds attract birdwatchers, photographers and scientists from all over the world especially during migration. This is the time when over the territory of the lake (being also a typical bottle-neck site of international significance) use to pass the most numerous flocks of storks and birds of prey. Thousands of White and Black Storks, White Pelicans, Honey Buzzards, Common Buzzards and Lesser Spotted Eagles could be observed per one day only! And among their huge flocks squeeze themselves other species like Levant Sparrowhawks, Marsh and Montagu’e Harriers, Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, Red-footed Falcons, Hobbies, Black Kites and even vultures. Rare passerines as Aquatic, Moustached and Paddifield Warblers also occur in migration along with Slender-billed Gulls, Mediterranean Gulls, Gull-billed Terns, Marsh Sandpipers, stints etc. During winter months the territory of the lake is used primarily for feeding and resting of Dalmatian Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, Great Egrets, great variety of dabbling and diving ducks and small quantities of geese (Red-breasted, White-fronted and Lesser White-fronted Geese), White-tailed Eagles etc. And last, but not least, Atanasovsko Lake holds the record of the place with most numerous sightings of Slender-billed Curlew in Bulgaria – one of the most endangered species in the world, thought to be almost decreased to extinction during the last years!

CAPE KALIAKRA

Cape Kaliakra is situated in North-Eastern Bulgaria and is one of the first preserved areas in the country. It was especially established to protect the habitats of the Monk Seal as well as the maritime ecosystems, holding valuable steppe vegetation and breeding areas of several rare birds. The vertical cliffs (more than 50 m high) of the 2 km long Cape Kaliakra, combined with the unique limestone surrounding area provide perfect conditions during the breeding season for plenty of species like Eagle Owl, Stone Curlew, Alpine Swift, Calandra and Short-toed Larks, Tawny Pipits, Black-headed Bunting, Pied Wheatear etc. Feeding European Shags could also be seen throughout the whole year, often hunting together with dolphins close to the pound-nets. Rose-coloured Starlings use to breed in the vicinity but not each year. However at the end of May their presence is usual. The cape is a perfect place for watching soaring migrants along the Black Sea Coast (primarily storks and birds of prey). Mediterranean Shearwaters, gulls and terns also occur, sometimes in impressive numbers. During the winter season the coastal area is appropriate for observing divers, grebes, cormorants and waterfowl.

DOURANKOULAK LAKE

Situated in the north-eastern parts of the country, Dourankoulak Lake is one of the most significant wetlands along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. The eastern part of the lake is separated from the sea by narrow sand stripe while lands under cultivation as well as some small tree groups surround its western and southern banks. The fresh waters of Dourankoulak Lake, the extensive reedbeds along the shore and the location of the wetland on the Via Pontica migratory route are some of the important details, supporting an impressive avian richness throughout the whole year. During the breeding season many water-connected birds (like Little Bitterns, Purple Herons, Ferruginous Ducks, Marsh Harriers, Little Terns etc.) prefer the area for nesting. Great varieties of passerines (Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Black-headed Buntings, Tawny Pipits, Calandra Larks, Bearded Reedlings, warblers etc.) also breed in the vicinity. Here is the place with the densest population of Paddyfield and Moustached Warblers in Bulgaria. The territory around the lake is perfect for observing the soaring migration of storks and birds of prey in autumn or spring. But the main popularity of Dourankoulak comes for the times of the winter months when a huge quantity of water birds (Black-necked Grebes, Pygmy Cormorants, Mute and Whooper Swans, Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, Yellow-legged Gulls etc.) inhabit its waters. Geese are the most numerous waterfowl then, numbering tens of thousands (primarily White-fronted and Red-breasted Geese). White-tailed Eagles, Pallas’s Gulls and Lesser White-fronted Goose could also be registered during winter.

KRESNA GORGE

The 18 km long gorge, situated in South-Western Bulgaria, is a natural corridor for a quite great number of migrants, which use the Via Aristotelis flyway. Excavated by Strouma River it separates Malashevska form Pirin Mountains. The steep shrubby rocky slopes of the gorge, overgrown with Mediterranean vegetation, and the old trees along the river bank create a unique combination of habitats for many invertebrates, reptiles and mammals. Respectively the area is a heaven for bird lovers. Despite the high temperature amidst the bushes in the end of spring and during summer could be observed many interesting passerines such as Barred, Orphean, Olivaveous and Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers, Masked and Woodchat Shrikes. Peregrine Falcons, Long-legged Buzzards, Short-toed Eagles, Black-eared Wheatears, Rock Nuthatches, Rock Sparrows, Rock Trushes, Blue Rock Trushes, Rock and Cirl Buntings can also be easily spotted in the rocky terrain. During migration lots of storks, birds of prey and passerines use the convenient meridional direction of Kresna Gorge when flying southwards in autumn or northwards – in spring.

MADZHAROVO

Madzharovo is a small miner’s town located in the Eastern Rhodopes. The surrounding area is very typical for this part of the mountain with its vertical volcanic cliffs, following the meandering Arda River. Shrubs and low deciduous trees cover the territory around the settlement. The diversity of birds of prey here is really exceptional! During the breeding season the view of the sky is always quite attractive and very unpredictable. Except for the flying Griffon Vultures, inhabiting a small colony near by, it is possible to observe at the same time also Black Storks, Black and Egyptian Vultures, Long-legged Buzzards, Honey Buzzards, Golden and Short-toed Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Hobbies, Goshawks and many others. By the screening of the rocks use to hide their nests Rock Nuthatches, Blue Rock Trushes, Black-eared Wheatears, Crag Martins, Red-rumped Swallows etc. Although some of them are also breeders, during migration the species list of raptors becomes even longer with the presence of Ospreys, Lesser Spotted, Booted and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Black Kites, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Levant Sparrowhawks, Red-footed Falcons etc.

MANDRA LAKE

Mandra is the southernmost of the three lakes around Burgas. Previously a brackish lake it became a fresh water reservoir fed from few bigger rivers and a number of rivulets. Recently it has become a part of the complex Mandra-Poda, comprising the territory of the lake and the adjacent small lagoon named Poda. During the breeding season several interesting species could be observed in the area: Purple Heron, Little Bittern, crakes, White-tailed Eagle, Marsh Harrier etc. Although not as breeders it is possible to see also White Pelicans and Pygmy Cormorants feeding in the waters of the lake. Thousands soaring migrants – storks, pelicans and birds of prey, following the Via Pontica migratory route, pass over especially in autumn. Mandra Lake is an Important Bird Area primarily due to its significance for the water-connected birds during winter. Its waters provide safety and good food resources to many Black-necked Grebes, Great and Pygmy Cormorants, Dalmatian Pelicans, Mute, Whooper and Bewick’s Swans, White-fronted Geese, Pochards, Tufted Ducks, White-headed Ducks, Smews etc.

PODA LAGOON

Although naturally formed as part of the Bourgas-Mandra firth, the coastal wetland has transformed due to human interference. Nowadays Poda is a shallow coastal lagoon inlayed with a variety of differing habitats – freshwater, brackish, haline and hyperhaline pools, flooded areas, overgrown with aquatic vegetation, all holding great variety of bird species. It was declared a protected area in 1989 and in 2002 – as a Ramsar site. The extensive reedbeds provide shelter, which is used is the nesting season mostly by Purple Herons, Little Egrets, Spoonbills and Glossy Ibises for their mixed colonies. Many crakes, warblers, Little Bitterns and even Marsh Harriers also lay their eggs within the reedbeds. On the electric pylons, flooded in the water, use to breed Great Cormorants. During migration the territory of Poda is of great importance for many egrets, herons, gulls, terns, waders and waterfowl. Impressive flow of thousands soaring migrants (storks, birds of prey and pelicans) passes here as a narrow never-ending front. The winter species list is fairly long and interesting, comprising divers, grebes (5 species), Dalmatian Pelicans, Great and Pygmy Cormorants, Bitterns, Great Egrets, Swans (3 species), Pochards, Tufted Ducks, White-headed Ducks, Smews, White-tailed Eagles etc.

POMORIISKO LAKE

The lake is a hyperhaline coastal lagoon, separated from the sea by a sand bar and manmade dike. It is used primarily for salt production, but there is also a medicinal centre for healing people with curative mud, excavated from the salt-pans. Very similar to Atanasovsko Lake, the high salinity here determines the specific complex of inhabitants of the lagoon. Pomoriisko Lake is an important breeding ground for the Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover and Little Tern. Being part of the Via Pontica migratory route, the wetland is of special importance for observing soaring migrants (storks, pelicans and great variety of birds of prey), resting and feeding waders (stints, sandpipers, plovers, curlews, phalaropes etc.) and many gulls and terns (like Mediterranean, Little and Slender-billed Gulls, Little and Sandwich Terns etc.). During winter the lake and the adjacent sea area are perfect for many divers, grebes (especially Black-necked Grebe), Great Egrets, Bitterns, waterfowl (swans and diving ducks), gulls and waders.

ROUSENSKI LOM

A Nature Park situated in North-Eastern Bulgaria close to the town of Rousse and the Danube River. The view of calcareous rocks along the canyons of Rousenski Lom River and its tributaries all amidst the agricultural areas of the Danubian Plane looks quite mystic. The incredible variety of habitats, consisting of broad-leaved woods, fish-ponds, vertical limestone cliffs, pastures and river-beds provide refuges to many birds and other animals. For them especially during the breeding season the territory of Rousenski Lom is a kind of oasis among the cereal fields around. The perfect conditions for breeding there have already attracted species like Black Storks, Egyptian Vultures, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Long-legged Buzzards, Short-toed Eagles, Eagle Owls, Rollers, Hoopoes, Black, Grey-headed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, Alpine Swifts, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Sombre Tits, Black-headed Buntings etc.

SAKAR MOUNTAINS

Sakar Mountain is located between the valleys of the Maritsa and the Toundzha Rivers in South-Eastern Bulgaria and is mostly characterised by its low hilly relief (highest peak is Vishegrad – 856 m.a.s.l.). The temperate Mediterranean climate and the combination of uncovered shrubby slopes, checkered by small oak and other broad-leaved woods are appropriate for nesting of many interesting species of birds. During the breeding season in Sakar is most likely to observe Black Stork, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Booted and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Goshawk, Woodchat, Lesser Grey and Masked Shrikes, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Orphean and Olive-tree Warblers, Isabelline Wheatear, Black-headed Bunting etc.

SHABLA LAKE

A coastal fresh-water lake in North-Eastern Bulgaria, surrounded by areas under cultivation to the west and south. Part of the complex is also the shallow lagoon, named Shablenska Tuzla, placed southwards. The rich in fish waters and the large reedbeds of Shabla Lake along with the mosaic vegetation of the sandy dunes nearby are a premise for the presence of many water-connected birds during the nesting season like grebes, little Bitterns, Shelducks, Little Terns, Ferruginous Ducks, crakes, Little Ringed Plovers, Tawny Pipits, Lesser Grey Shrikes etc. Many egrets, herons, diving and dabbling ducks, waders and sometimes pelicans occur in the area for the period of the spring and the autumn migration. But the territory of Shabla Lake is most famous for its wintering geese. More than 50 000 Red-breasted Geese (which is approximately 60-80 % of the world’s population of this species) and 100 000 White-fronted Geese use to spend the severe winters here. Flocks, comprising tens of thousands of grazing geese, during daytime could be observed in the agricultural fields in the vicinity. Attracting highly impressive numbers and variety of water birds (in some years more than 200 000 individuals) the waters of Shabla Lake are also of great importance in the cold months for many grebes, swans, ducks, gulls etc.

SREBARNA LAKE

A lake of international importance, situated in North-Eastern Bulgaria. The wetland has extensive reedbeds and is separated from the Danube River by a narrow stripe of wood. There is also a channel, connecting the lake and the river, where the water flow from the Danube could be easily regulated. Srabarna Lake is most famous for its colony of Dalmatian Pelicans. During the nesting season many other water-connected species use to breed in the reedbeds or the willow shrubs like Little and Great Egrets, Purple, Night and Squacco Herons, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibises, Pygmy Cormorants, Red-necked Grebes, Ferruginous Ducks (here is the main breeding area of this species in the country), Pochards, Garganeys, Whiskered Terns, Penduline Tits etc. White-tailed Eagles, Black Kites and Levant Sparrowhawks, despite not breeding in the area, feed here regularly. During migration and winter (if the lake is not covered by ice) many waterfowl (such as Greylags, White-fronted, Lesser White-fronted and Red-breasted Geese, dabbling ducks etc.) rest here, accompanied by White-tailed Eagles and Rough-legged Buzzards.

STUDEN KLADENETS DAM

The dam is situated in the Eastern Rhodopes. Highly impressive cliffs along the deep main valley of Arda River and shrubby slopes around predetermine the vicinity as an important area for many species of European and global importance. The site is housing three species of vultures – Griffon, Egyptian and Black Vulture. For many others birds of prey like Eastern Imperial, Golden, Lesser Spotted, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Honey and Long-legged Buzzards the territory near by is a traditional breeding place. Black Storks also nest in the niches on the rocks. The abundance of southern species of passerines is also remarkable, including such specialities as Blue Rock Trush, Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit, Eastern Bonelli’s, Olive-tree, Olivaceous, Orphean and Barred Warblers, Masked Shrike and Black-headed Bunting. During migration almost the whole birds of prey species list, known for Bulgaria so far, could be seen in the area!

TRIGRAD GORGE

The gorge is situated in the Western Rhodopes near the Greek border. The limestone cliffs rise vertically more than 200 meters embracing you as part of the pulse of the mountains. The slopes around the gorge are covered with dense coniferous forests. The road follows the undulating picturesque valley of the Trigradska River leading to the opening of the Devil’s Throat cave just in the heart of the gorge. Namely here is the realm of the Wallcreeper disturbed only by other rock-dwelling creatures such as Alpine Swifts, Crag Martins, Red-rumped Swallows, Black Redstarts, Rock Buntings and sometimes Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons.The watching point is 1.5 km from the village of Trigrad. There the hospitable natives, after a warm welcome, will introduce us to the local traditions and way of life, still untouched by modern civilization.

VITOSHA MOUNTAINS

Sofia is situated at the foothills of Vitosha Mountain. Being also the oldest Nature Park on the Balkan Peninsula, Vitosha has two nature reserves. Millions of tourists visit it to discover and admire its inspiring landscape, flora and fauna. The coniferous forests as well as the subalpine meadows are home to many interesting birds like Tengmalm’s Owl, Honey Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Black Woodpecker, Pallid Swift, Ring Ouzel, Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Crag Martin, Firecrest and Goldcrest, Alpine Accentor, Dunnock, Water Pipit, Nutcracker. During winter the species list is not so long, but Black Woodpeckers, Firecrest and Goldcrest, Nutcrackers and different small passerines could easily be noted while enjoying the impressive panorama of Sofia and its vicinity from a bird’s eye view.

YAILITE

Yailite is an archaeological reserve on the Black Sea Coast by the village of Kamen Briag. There are many ancient mounds, burial vaults and caves, used for dwellings in the past. Now they are only a proof for the dynamic life, prospering in the area during the historic epochs. However the shrubby slopes of Yailite as well as the adjacent steppe fields and rocky cliffs above the sea provide unique habitats for breeding of European Shag, Stone-curlew, Eagle Owl, Alpine Swift, Pied Wheatear, Calandra and Short-toed Larks, Tawny Pipit, Olive-tree Warbler (here is one of its northernmost breeding localities in Bulgaria), Lesser Grey Shrike, Black-headed Bunting etc. As the other places, located along the Via Pontica migratory route, Yailite is suitable spot for observing migrating storks, herons, birds of prey, gulls, terns etc.

BOURGAS LAKE

This is the biggest natural lake in Bulgaria with a surface area of 2760 ha. The site is one of the four lakes of the Bourgas wetland complex. It is a firth with insignificant seasonal and annual fluctuations of the water level. The most extensive reedbeds in Bulgaria surround this IBA site. The lake is situated along Via Pontica migratory route and is an important stopover and feeding place for many migrating waterfowl, birds of prey and passerines. It has also been a Ramsar site since 2002. Being brackish, the waters of Bourgas Lake do not freeze in winter. That is why tens of thousands of waterfowl spend the cold months here. This is one of the most important areas for the wintering Dalmatian Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants and White-headed Ducks in Bulgaria. The lake supports also numerous congregations of divers, grebes, Great Egrets, White-fronted Geese, Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Smews, gulls etc.

KRUMOVITSA RIVER

The river flows along a valley surrounded by high volcanic rocky cliffs, shrubby open terrain and agricultural fields. The area is close to Studen Kladenets dam and as a result most of the birds of prey species could be met here also. Wandering and searching for food vultures (Griffon, Egyptian and Black) use to pass over the territory of the Krumovitsa River along with smaller raptors like Long-legged and Honey Buzzards, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Peregrine Falcons etc. But what is most interesting in the valley is the presence during the nesting season of some species from the southern complex of passerines: Olive-tree, Olivaceous, Barred, Subalpine, Orphean and Sardinian Warblers, Red-backed, Woodchat and Masked Shrikes, Rock Nuthatch, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Cirl and Rock Buntings etc. It is possible to see also the Great Spotted Cuckoo – one of the most exciting and scanty Mediterranean bird species, breeding in Bulgaria.