Protected area "Batova"
The site is located in north-eastern Bulgaria, to the north of Varna, and covers the Batova river valley and the bigger part of Frangensko Plateau, including the coastline from Albena to Zlatni Pyasatsi Resorts and the adjacent shallow littoral area. To the north it borders on the villages of Sokolnik, Odurtsi, Hrabrovo, Ljahovo and Obrochishte, to the east – on the Black Sea coastlinesouth of Albena tourist resort down to Zlatni Pyasatsi. To the south-west of Zlatni Pyasatsi the border passes along the edge of the plateau north of the villages of Vinitsa residential area, Kamenar, Vladislavovo and Aksakovo. Near the village of Izvorsko it turns north through Novakovo and Debrene to Sokolnik.
There are several types of habitats on the site’s territory, but the biggest share belongs to the broad leaved forests of Quercus cerris, Q. frainetto and Carpinus betulus and the farmlands. The rest of the site’s area is occupied by open grasslands, at places overgrown with shrub vegetation,pastures, meadows, orchards and vineyards. The latter are located around the settlements.
The region of the Batova estuary is occupied by natural longoze flooded forests of Baltata with marshland hygrophyte formations. The longoze flooded forest is dominated by Fraxinusoxycarpa, Ulmus minor, Quercus pedunculiflora, Acer campestrе and Alnus glutinosa, withundergrowth of Crataegus monogyna, Cornus mas and Cornus sanguinea, often combined with mesophyte and hygrophyte grass vegetation. Other typical plants are the lianas and climbing plants as Clematis vitalba, Smilax exelsa, Periploca graeca, etc.
The birds in the protected area
The SPA Batova is a complex of different habitats, typical both for woodland bird species and for waterbirds as well as farmland birds. It supports 184 bird species, 70 of which are listed in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria. The area provides suitable habitats for 70 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures, of which 62 are listed alsoin Annex I of the Birds Directive.
The SPA Batova is one of the most valuable sites in the country on a European and European Union scale for the Lesser Spotted Eagle as a ‘bottleneck’ site where over 3700 individuals regularly pass on migration. The SPA holds from 2 to 3 LSE breeding pairs. At Batova was recorded also the biggest number of migratory White Pelicans and Cranes along the northern Black Sea coast. The forests in Batova are used regularly by raptors asroosting sites during migration.
The coastal parts of the site are of key importance for the migration of Common Gulls. Significant numbers of waterbirds overwinter in the area of Batova, mainly geese, which stay there between December and March. They overnight in the sea and every day they fly over Batova in order to feed in the inland arable lands. Often, they land to feed in the arable land in the limits of the proposed SPA.
Batova is one of the most valuable sites in the country on European Union scale for the Middle-spotted Woodpecker and Semi-collared Flycatcher. The Green Woodpecker, the Corn Bunting, the Pied Wheatear, the Greater Short-toed Lark, the Olive-three Warbler, the Barred Warbler, the Ortolan Bunting, etc. also breed there in considerable numbers.
The site’s most outstanding feature is its location on the western Black Sea migration flyway, the Via Pontica. Three flows of migrating birds, coming from the Dobrudzha meet over the Batova river valley – those from the interior of the Dobrudzha Plateau, those following the coastline and flying from cape Kaliakra across the sea directly to Baltata flooded forest. The most intensive flow of migrating storks and pelicans in north-eastern Bulgaria passes through the Batova river valley, using the valleybetween Frangensko and Dobrudzha Plateaus to gain height and flying low above the plateau itself.
Because of its importance for over 30 migrating soaring species Batova is defined as a bottleneck migration site of global importance. 11% of the migratory birds fly not higher than 150 m above land, and 35% of the migratory birds fly between 160 and 500 m.
Threats to the protected area
The wetlands are sensitive to human activities related to water management. The water regime of the flooded forest is destroyed and that is considered as a main threat to its normal functioning as an ecosystem. Intensive development of tourism, settlements enlargement cause fragmentation, deterioration and loss of habitats mainly in the coastal zone, but also in the grasslands.
Wind turbine farms
The region is sensitive to plans of wind turbine farms development. This could disturb the free movement and access of birds to suitable habitats.
Fires and afforestation
Forests are threatened by intensive forestry activities, burning and natural fires, affecting the quality and composition of LSE breeding habitats and cause disturbance to breeding birds. The grasslands are vulnerable to abandonmentand conversion to arable lands and afforestation.