Protected area "Biala reka"
The area covers the Byala Reka river watershed in the most south-eastern part of the EasternRhodopes, next to the state border with Greece and the surrounding mountain hills. The region’s vegetation is quite diverse and heavily influenced by the Mediterranean climate.
Old forests of Fagus sylvatica subsp. moesiaca and Quercus dalechampii have been preserved there. Mixed oakforests of Q. dalechampii, Q. frainetto and Q. pubescens, interspersed at places with Carpinusorientalis, are also widely distributed. The region supports also xerothermal shrub formations of Mediterranean type with considerable species diversity, dominated by Phyllirea latifolia and Juniperus oxycedrus. The river bed is sandy-stony. At certain places in the region there are solitary low cliffs.
The birds in the protected area
The SPA Byala Reka supports 167 bird species, 59 of which are listed in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria. Byala Reka is a site with global importance as a representative area for the Mediterranean biome. Five of the 9 biome-restricted species, established in the country, that are typical for this biome, occur there: Olive-tree Warbler, Sub-alpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Masked Shrike and Black-headed Bunting. Byala Reka provides suitable habitats for 51 species, included in Annex 2 of the BiodiversityAct, which need special conservation measures. Forty-six of them are listed also in Annex I ofthe Birds Directive and more than half of them breed in the region in significant populations
Within the SPA Byala Reka were recorded the highest breeding numbers of Lesser Spotted Eagle in the Eastern Rhodopes. The SPA harbor at least 3 LSE active nests and another 5-7 occupied territories during the breeding season. The region is of global importance as a permanent roosting and feeding site for the Cinereous Vulture.
Byala Reka is one of the most important sites in Bulgaria on a European Union scale for the species mentioned above, as well as for the breeding of the Black Stork, Honey Buzzard, Bootedeagle, Short-toed Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Nightjar, Olive-tree Warbler and Masked Shrike. Significant population on European scale of Woodlark breeds in Byala Reka.
Threats to the protected area
Byala Reka is sensitive to traditional livestock breeding. Emigration of people decreases the domestic animals and reduction in pasture maintaining.
Poaching and use of poison against wolfs directly affect raptors, including LSE. Forest habitats are threatened by burning and natural fires, afforestation with non-native species.
loss of habitats
A decrease in grazing, the conversion of pastures to arable lands and intensive removal of tree and shrub vegetation from grassland communities cause loss of grassland habitats for birds.
А serious threat to both habitats and birds is the development of wind farms within the SPA and around it. Such farms built in Greece close to the Bulgarian border are probably causing disturbed movement and fragmentation of the habitats used by LSE.