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Important Bird Areas - Bakarlaka

Bakarlaka State: Burgas
Area: 33505,48 ха
Ownership: state - 67%; municipality - 20%; private - 13%;

Bakarlaka is located on the southern Black sea coast and includes the most protruded part of the Burgas bay. It bears the name of the ridge Bakarlaka (Meden Ridge) south-west of the town of Sozopol. The bigger part of its territory involves littoral area that covers the southern part of the Burgas bay, Sozopol bay and Kavatsite bay, including several islands, as well as a part of the Bulgarian territorial waters several kilometers from the coast between Pomorie and Arkutino. Its area stretches from the Rosenska river valley on the west to the seacoast eastwards, including the whole coastline from Chengene Skele Bay to Arkutino Marsh. There are several habitats in the area, the biggest share being occupied by broadleaved forests of Quercus frainetto with Mediterranean elements, open grasslands with xero-mesothermal vegetation with domination of Dichantium ischaemum, Poa bulbosa, Lolium perenne, etc., as well as farmland. The coastline is characterized with a sequence of bays, deeply cutting inland, beaches, coastal cliffs and dunes with domination of psammophytous grass communities of Leyomus racemosus, Ammophylla areanria, etc. (Bondev, 1991).

Bakarlaka supports 172 bird species, 43 of which are listed in the Red Data Book for Bulgaria (1985). Of the birds occurring there 73 species are of European conservation concern (SPEC) (BirdLife International, 2004), 3 of them being listed in category SPEC 1 as globally threatened, 24 in SPEC 2 and 46 in SPEC 3 as species threatened in Europe. The area provides suitable habitats for 53 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures, which are also listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive. Bakarlaka is a bottleneck migration site of global importance, where the flocks of migrating storks and pelicans meet the land after having crossed the Burgas bay directly from cape Emine and the easternmost parts of the Balkan Mountain. The storks fly low above the sea and use the thermals over the land to gather height. In spring the stork flocks use the pastures and fields east of Bakarlaka Ridge as a night roost. Considerable numbers of birds of prey also concentrate in the region on migration, by keeping more inland and flying above the ridge, where they roost. Bakarlaka is one of the most important sites in the country for the breeding Middle-spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius, Olive-tree Warbler Hippolais olivetorum, Spotted Crake Porzana porzana and Mediterranean Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan. The St Ivan and Petar Island support the biggest in the country colony of Herring Gull Larus cachinans, which is situated out of the coastal settlements. The Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria and the Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana occur there in representative breeding populations. During the winter the sea bays provide food and shelter for significant numbers of waterbirds, including two species of Divers – Gavia arctica and Gavia stellata, and the Great White Egret Egretta alba.

The area of Bakarlaka is under big anthropogenic pressure because of the existence of the densely populated tourist settlements. The continuing urbanization related to the intensive development of tourism, enlargement of the settlements cause fragmentation, deterioration and even loss of habitats mainly in the coastal zone. An international road to the south border of the country crosses the eastern part of the complex, which cause significant waste and noise pollution, as well as killing of small animals, including birds. Poaching is common practice in the area. The significant human impact on the area is determined also by concentration of people at valuable areas along the coast and by illegal deposition of waste in many places in grassland habitats even in arable lands. The region of Bakarlaka is particularly sensitive to construction of high facilities, especially plans of development of wind turbine farms both on land territory and in the sea. This development could disturb the free movement of birds, especially of soaring migratory birds, and will limit to a significant extent the access of birds to the suitable habitats. They will cause direct collision and killing of them, fragmentation and loss of valuable the habitats used by birds for feeding and soaring, as well as places for avoiding of severe weather conditions. They will be a barrier for thousands of migratory soaring birds and night migrants on their flyway to the south and north and will cause further decline in their populations. Forest habitats are threatened by overexploitation of forest resources and afforestation with non-indigenous species. Removal of old semi-dead trees and those with halls limits the possibilities for woodpeckers to find proper breeding grounds and food.

Legal protection:
The area of Bakarlaka does not have legal protection status, as the existing protected areas cover not more than 1% of its land territory. The maintained reserve “Pyasachna Lilia” was designated in 1962 to protect the of a protected plant species. The St Ivan and Petar Island was designated as Protected Area in 1993 to protect the natural habitats of rare and protected bird species, listed in the Red Data Book for Bulgaria. Five years later the Island was designated as CORINE Site, because of its European value for rare and threatened habitats, plant and animal species, including birds. The other three protected areas are designated to protect the typical coastal landscapes and sand dune complexes. In 2005 it was designated also as Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.

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