Protected area "Western Strandzha"
The SPA Zapadna (Western) Strandzha is located in south-eastern Bulgaria. It covers the western parts of the Strandzha Mountain. To the north it borders on the villages of Dennitsa, Oman, Granites, Slivovo and Bogdanovo. The reservoir of Malko Sharkovo and the villages StefanKaradzhovo, Dubovo, Ruzhitsa and Voden are located on the west of it. The eastern border of the site reaches the villages of Bogdanovo Varovnik, Kirovo and Belevren and to the south it coincides with the state border.
The SPA includes several types of habitats, the biggest area being occupied by farmland, pastures and shrubs. The broadleaved forests are represented by oak Quercus cerris and Quercus frainetto forests with Mediterranean elements. In the most southern part there are oak forests of Quercus polycarpa and Fagus moesiaca. The woodlands are alternating with open arable lands, pastures, grass formations, vineyards and orchards. The upper streams of water catchment basins of the rivers of Sredetska and Fakyiska are on the territory ofthe SPA Western Strandzha.
The birds in the protected area
The Western Strandzha supports 112 bird species, 34 of which are listed in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria. The area provides suitable habitats for 37 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures, of which 35 are listed also in Annex I of the Birds Directive.
The SPA Zapadna Strandzha is one of the most valuable sites in the country for the conservation of Lesser Spotted Eagle. Targeted studies realized during 2013 –2017, in frame of the LIFE NAT/BG/001218 project, confirmed the conclusion that the area is of high importance as a breeding site for the Lesser Spotted Eagle. The SPA holds up to 35 breedingpairs of the species.
The SPA is an area of global importance for the globally threatened Imperial eagle that breeds there. It is among the most valuable areas in the country on the level of European Union for this species, as well as for the conservation of other 6 bird species – Black kite, Montagu’s harrier,Calandra lark, Masked shrike, Olivetree warbler and Middle spotted woodpecker.
The area holds also significant breeding populations on the European level of Syrian woodpecker, Little owl and Crested lark. The Levant sparrowhawk, the Black stork, the Stone curlew, the Greater short-toed lark and the Olive-tree warbler breed in Western Strandzha in considerable numbers on nationalscale.
Threats to the protected area
Loss of habitats
The SPA is used for livestock, agriculture and forestry. Reductions in grazing resulting in succession to shrubs and forest, as well as conversion of pastures to arable lands, cause the loss of grassland habitats for birds. The forests in the SPA are relatively small patches dispersed amongst open landscapes.
Forestry activities in the vicinity of the raptor bird nests, as well as afforestation of open grasslands affect the quality of breeding and feeding habitats and disturbed the breeding pairs. Illegal cutting, firewood collection and afforestation with non-typical species degrade the quality of forest habitats. Due to lack of information there is random cutting of breeding trees.
The dry grasslands are particularly vulnerable to both natural and artificial fires.