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Important Bird Areas - Kotlenska Mountain

State: Burgas, Shumen, Sliven, Targovishte, Veliko Tarnovo
Area: 99263,72 ха
Ownership: state - 59%; municipality - 21%; private - 20%;

Kotlenska Mountain is located in the central share of the Eastern Balkan. Its limits are defined by the rivers Ticha to the north, up to the point where it joins Ticha Dam, Stara Reka to the west and Luda Kamchia to the south. To the east the area reaches Varbishki Pass in its section from the village of Beronovo to the town of Varbitsa, and continues along the Varbitsa - Byala Reka road passing at 1.5 km from the bank of Ticha Dam. Many clearly formed secondary ridges with steep slopes and deeply cutting gorges and ravines descend from the main ridge of the mountain to the Ticha and Luda Kamchia river valleys. The terrain is steep and heavily indented. Ticha Dam is located in the north-eastern part of Kotlenska Mountain. The region is sparsely populated, mainly in its periphery and along the river valleys. About 23 of the mountain territory is occupied by primary broadleaved forests mainly of Fagus sylvatica subsp. moesiaca, at places mixed with Carpinus betulus. More limited are the forests of Quercus dalechampii, sometimes mixed with C. betulus and Carpinus orientalis, the mixed forests of Quercus cerris and Quercus frainetto. A small location of natural mixed forests of White Fir Abies alba and Beech Fagus sylvatica has been established in the western part of the mountain. The secondary forests and shrubs of Oriental Hornbeam have a very limited distribution in the region. The rest of the territory is occupied by open grasslands, used as pastures and farmland. Three types of grass associations dominate the grasslands: mesophyte, xero-mesophyte and xerothermal grass associations. A considerable part of the open areas, including the agricultural plots, have a secondary origin, i.e. they spread on territory previously occupied by old forests. The wet areas and the river valleys cover a comparatively small part of the mountain territory. The only wetland in the mountain is Ticha Reservoir, which is not fringed with marsh vegetation. Limestone rocks and karst formations are dispersed everywhere in the high mountain areas (Nedyalkov 1984; Bondev 1991; Georgiev 1993). In 1997 the area is appointed as Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.

The territory of Kotlenska Mountain supports 182 bird species, 51 of which are listed in the Red Data Book for Bulgaria (1985). Of the birds occurring there 81 species are of European conservation concern (SPEC) (BirdLife International, 2004), 10 of them being listed in category SPEC 1 as globally threatened, 21 in SPEC 2 and 50 in SPEC 3 as species threatened in Europe. The area provides suitable habitats for 65 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures, of which 58 are listed also in Annex I of the Birds Directive. Kotlenska Mountain is a place of global importance for the breeding Corncrake Crex crex and one of the most valuable sites in the country at European Union level for Black Stork Ciconia nigra, Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus, Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, Peregrine Falco peregrinus, Hazel Grouse Bonasa bonasia, Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata and Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius, where these species breed in considerable numbers. Through the Kotlenska Mountain pass the most western part of Via Pontica migration flyway. It is a typical bottleneck site where more than 3,000 raptors migrate in autumn every year. The most numerous migrants are Honey Buzzard, Buzzard Buteo buteo, Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus and harriers. The Crane is also recorded during migration. During the winter and migration period Ticha Reservoir holds significant numbers of waterfowl – Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica, Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Mallard Anas platyrchynchos, etc.

Kotlenska Mountain includes on its territory settlements and the Ticha Reservoir, which is used as source of drinking water. The area of Kotlenska Mountain is sensitive to human activities related to the forest management and maintenance of grasslands. The intensive forest management, especially logging and artificial afforestation, affect the quality and composition of forest habitats and cause disturbance to birds during the breeding season. The pastures and meadows are vulnerable to abandonment, conversion to arable land and a consequent decrease in cattle in the region. These cause gradual loss of valuable breeding habitats, especially for the Corncrake, but also suitable feeding areas for raptors. Activities related to tourism, as well as to the settlements, are rather localized, dispersed and do not have significant impact on the area as a whole. The area is sensitive to human activities, which cause disturbance to birds, especially to those which nest on the rocks - rock climbing, gliding, hang-gliding. Hunting activities and poaching also cause disturbance to birds. Direct threat is tacking chicken from the nests. Intensification of tourism and recreation and the urbanization, could cause negative impact on birds and habitats if the process is not regulated.

Legal protection:
In the Kotlenska Mountain there are 24 protected areas – a reserve, protected areas and natural monuments, but they cover only 1.3% of its territory. Most of the protected areas are designated to protect the landscape features. The “Orlitsa” Reserve was designated in 1984 to protect the primary beech forest ecosystems, rare raptors and unique karst landscape. About 16% of the territory of Kotlenska Mountain was appointed as CORINE Site in 1998 because of its European value for habitats, rare and threatened plant and animal species. In 1997 the area was appointed as Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.

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