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Important Bird Areas - Vasilyovska Mountain

Vasilyovska Mountain State: Lovech
Area: 45471,92 ха
Ownership: state - 40%; municipality - 24%; private - 36%;

Description:
The site is located in northern Bulgaria, between the towns of Yablanitsa, Teteven and Troyan. It covers the Vasilyovska Mountain and almost coincides with its orographic limits. The area’s northern part includes Sopot reservoir. About half of the mountain is covered by forests – mainly broadleaved beech forests of Fagus sylvatica subsp. moesiaca. There are coniferous plantations at some places. The open areas occupy about 30% of the site’s total area, the biggest share being covered by meadows and farmlands.

Birds:
The proximity of Vasilyovska Mountain to the Central Balkan National park, as well as the sparse and peripheral population, are prerequisites for its rich biodiversity and preserved habitats. The site includes the valuable wet meadows near Vasilyov, Lesidren and Golyama Zhelezna, as well as a big part of the Vit river course, which forms a kind of corridor for the birds in this part of the Balkan Mountain. Its western part covers also a part of Lisets Mountain with its old beech forests and pastures – trophic habitats for a number of bird species. Sopot reservoir in the site’s northern part is an important roost and feeding place for a number of waterfowl and wetland birds during migration and in winter. It supports 108 breeding bird species, 13 of which are listed in the Red Data Book for Bulgaria (1985). Of the birds occurring there 41 species are of European conservation concern (SPEC) (BirdLife International, 2004), 1 of them being listed in category SPEC 1 as globally threatened, 13 in SPEC 2 and 27 in SPEC 3 as species threatened in Europe. The area provides suitable habitats for 26 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures, of which 23 are listed also in Annex I of the Birds Directive. Vasilyovska mountain is a site of global importance for the conservation of the globally threatened Corncrake Crex crex. It is one of the most important sites in Bulgaria on a European Union scale for this species as well as for the Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus and the Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria. The area holds also representative populations of the Middle-spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius, the Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius, the European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus and the Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus.

Threats:
Significant part of Vasilyovska mountain is easy accessible for visitors because of existence of settlements on the borders of the area and even within it. The area is particularly sensitive to forestry and to the human activities related to traditional use of the meadows and pastures. The forest habitats are highly affected by the intensive forestry and overexploitation of forest resources, as well as by illegal cutting. This cause change of the quality of forest ecosystems, disturb the natural water regime of the whole region, as well as erosion and sliding processes. Removal of old semi dead trees and those with holes limits the possibilities for woodpeckers and owls to find proper breeding grounds and food. The most serious threats are the haymaking activities, which do not take into account the breeding period of the corncrake as well as the conversion of grasslands into arable land. The changes in the hydrological regime of the area cause negative changes in the humidity of the meadows. Direct threats to birds are caused by, rock climbing, gliding, hang-gliding, off road traffic of motor vehicles, tourist traffic out of the tourist pats, etc. One of the potential threats both to the habitats and to the birds in the area is the development of wind turbine farms.

Legal protection:
The whole territory of Vasilyovksa Mountain is included in “Central Balkan” CORINE Site, which is designated in 1998 because of its European value for rare and threatened habitats, plant and animal species, including birds. However less than 1% of the site is under protection by the national nature conservation law. There are 7 protected areas and 5 nature monuments here designated for the protection of typical landscapes, waterfalls and caves. In 2005 Vasilyovska mountain was designated as Important Bird area by BirdLife International.

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