Protected area "Complex Kamchija"
The Kamchia nature complex is located at about 25 km south of the town of Varna. It includes the riverine flooded forests (“Bulgarian longoze forests”) around the estuary and the lower stream of the Kamchia River, a sand strip with vast sand dunes, shrubs and grasslands, freshwater marshes and marine aquatic area, as well as the adjacent fishponds. Quite typical are the marshy areas in the forest – remnants of former riverbeds that are naturally connected withthe river. The complex also includes the former Staro Oryahovo Marsh to the south-east of theKamchia reserve, which has been turned into farmland.
Extensive flooded areas, attracting many waterfowl are formed there in winter and in spring. The main habitat in the complex is the longoze flooded forest of Fraxinus oxycarpa, Quercus pedunculiflora, Ulmus minor, Acercampestrе and Alnus glutinosa, with undergrowth 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, represented by 8 grass and 5 tree species (Clematis vitalba, Smilax exelsa, Periploca graeca, etc.).
The marshy areas amidst the forest and the several small marshlands between the forest and the sand dunes are overgrown with reed Phragmites australis and reed mace Typha angustifolia. The shrub associations are composed mainly of Paliurus spina-christi, Crataegus monogyna, Ligustrum vulgare. The sand dunes are covered with psamophyte grass associations, dominated by Leymus racemosus, Ammophillaarenaria, Alyssum borseanum, etc.The Kamchia riverine seasonally flooded forest is a representative example of this wetland type for Europe. The forest ecosystem is a unique one in respect of the vegetation composition and structure and the specific ecological conditions. This type of forest ecosystem is spread only on the Balkans, and the Kamchia forest is the biggest in area and the most preserved one.
The birds in the protected area
The SPA Kompleks Kamchia currently supports 237 bird species, 95 of which are listed in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria. The area provides suitable habitats for 82 species, included in Annex2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures, of which 76 are listed alsoin Annex I of the Birds Directive. The area is important migration and stop over site, similarly as the neighboring SPA “Kamchiyska planina”.
Although no special surveys of migration were carried out at this SPA, migratory Lesser Spotted Eagles regularly were observed to pass through the SPA, with concentration over 200 individuals. Satellite data of Estonian and Romanian Lesser Spotted Eagles confirms that birds pass through the area both on autumn and spring migration. The real number of passing eagles and other raptors trough Kamchia Complex SPA should be similar to those crossing Batova SPA, which is located north from the site. The current assessment of LSE breeding pairs in the site is at least 3-5 pairs.
There are prerequisites the number of breeding pairs to be higher in view of the habitat suitability in the SPA. The Grey-headed Woodpecker, Pied Wheatear and Semi-collared Flycatcher breed in the complex in considerable numbers and therefore it is one of the important sites for these species in Europe. There the Semi-collared Flycatcher has the densest breeding population in the country. Kamchia flooded forest is one of the three places along the Black Sea Coast where the White-tailed Eagle is confirmed to breed.
The Kamchia is located on the Via Pontica migration flyway and the diversity of migrants there is very rich. The huge forest massifs provide roosts for great numbers of birds of prey. Passing flocks of White Storks, Dalmatian Pelicans and White Pelicans can be observed there every year on migration, along with the Corncrake and representatives of the herons, plovers, waders and songbirds. The flooded areas to the south-west of the reserve are especially valuable as wintering grounds of the Whooper Swan, Great White Egret and Red-breasted Goose. In winter the Pygmy Cormorant also stays in the areas, although not in big numbers.
Threats to the protected area
The SPA Kompleks Kamchia contains of diverse type of wetland habitats and it is particularly sensitive to all human activities related to water management. The water regime of the flooded forest is disturbed and that is considered as a main threat to its normal functioning as an ecosystem. In recent years there has been significant pressure on the coastal area due to intentions for construction of summer resorts and development of the mass tourism.
The main threats to LSE at the site are disturbance during the breeding season due to forestry activities and tourism, use of chemical in surrounding agriculture lands, as well as conversion of grassland to arable lands caused loss of habitats for birds, but also small mammals and reptiles – the main food of LSE.