Burgas Wetlands: the birding Mecca

01/05/2015 16:18

Written by Petar Iankov

This area is attractive to birdwatchers all the year round. There is a complex of closely related coastal lakes, lagoons, salinas, marshes, wet meadows and sea shore, situated at the westernmost point of the Black Sea. Access is easy as they are near Burgas, one of Bulgaria’s biggest towns, well connected by rail and road, and with an airport. The large variety of wetland habitats (and also rocky and steppe ones in the vicinity), the position in the middle of one of Europe’s busiest migratory flyways, the Via Pontica, and the existence of a system of protected areas may satisfy even the most discriminating birding tastes. All the main wetlands of the complex were identified by BSPB and designated by BirdLife International as Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of European and Global significance. The BSPB Poda Conservation and Information Centre makes available the latest news about the presence of ‘hot birds’ in the area.

Top winter species are the white-headed duck, Dalmatian pelican, and sometimes red-breasted and lesser white-fronted goose. During the migration period you can see spectacular flocks of white pelican, white stork (up to 20,000 birds in a single flock!), lesser spotted eagles (more than 1,000 in just an hour in September), Levant sparrowhawk (flocks of tens of birds), together with rarities such as spotted, steppe and imperial eagle, pallid harrier and other birds of prey. Almost all European wader species can be seen together with a rich variety of terns and gulls, roller, wryneck and big numbers of passerines of different species, including large numbers of red-breasted flycatcher. During the breeding season collared and black-winged pratincoles may be seen, as well as eagle owl, glossy ibis and spoonbill, together with many other typical species for southeast Europe.

The Burgas Wetlands are the place where, in 1988, the first modern conservation field activities in Bulgaria were started by BSPB (artificial rafts to help the breeding of rare birds like avocet, Sandwich tern and others). Since then many direct conservation actions have been carried out by governmental institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs): the designation of new protected areas, development and implementation of management plans and species conservation measures.

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