ATANASOVSKO LAKE – HIDE FOR BIRD WATCHING
The Hide is within the territory of Burgas, on the western shoreof the lake, near the roundabout and Lukoil gas station at the exit of the city in the direction of Town of Pomorie.
It is easily accessible on foot, by bicycle and by car. In front of the Hide there is a car park, a bicycle lane which connects it with the Sea Garden (but alongside the main road up above) and the city center. The only disadvantage is that there is no bus stop nearby (The shelter can be reached by bus N 211. Get off at the last bus stop and the shelter is 20 minutes away on foot).
Coordinates: 42°31'52.41” N, 27°28'16.04” E 2 m above sea level
The Hide is located near Burgas Salt Works Protected Area (the former buffer zone of Atanasovsko Lake Reserve).
Documents declaring it a Nature Reserve: Order № RD-418 of 18.06.2007
Mode of activities:
Prohibited: construction of buildings and roads, except the extension of the road Burgas-Pomorie;
Prohibited: opening of pits and quarries, altering the water regime, pollution by chemicals, industrial and domestic waste;
Prohibited: setting up of private farms and auxiliary shelters for livestock;
Prohibited: hunting, shooting and using the water basins for breeding wild or domestic animals;
Prohibited: collecting eggs and destroying birds’ nests;
Prohibited: filling up of the coastal area of the lake;
Allowed: tilling of agricultural land;
Allowed: grazing of livestock except pigs;
Allowed: production of salt and extraction of mud without destroying the environmental conditions in the reserve;
Allowed: setting up of a base for research and maintenance of the reserve;
Allowed: building of Ezero Park to the south of the lake.
Overlap: Protected zone (PZ) under the Birds Directive: Atanasovsko Lak.
Most people who travel along the road Burgas – Varna, ignore the vast water areas on both sides of the road north of Burgas. They hardly know that they pass by a place that hosts the largest number of birds in Bulgaria. But this extraordinary ornithological diversity attracted the attention of the naturalists as early as the last century.
Atanasovsko Lake is located 4 km northeast of Burgas and is a shallow supersalty lagoon connected to the surrounding salt marshes, a system of canals overgrown with marsh vegetation, salt crystallizers surrounded by a dike, and a freshwater canal. It is divided into two parts – north and south – by the road Burgas – Varna. The lake is approximately 9 km long, 4.3 km wide and its area is about 17 sq. km. It lies 1.5 meters below sea level which makes it highly vulnerable but during the last few decades there have been no extinct species, despite the negative factors affecting it. Its average depth is 30 cm.
The Reserve is mainly used for salt production and to preserve its exceptional biodiversity. The salt-works have been here since 1906 when "Atanas Iliev & Co." company was granted a concession on the lake for 30 years, namely for the construction of salt pans which were abandoned during the First World War, although their construction had already begun. Flooding, wind and rain destroyed the shafts and dikes. It was not until 1921 that the lake was reassigned again, this time to the German stock company "Glarus", which considerably expanded the area and in 1934, the so-called "north salt-works", the current territory of the reserve, yielded their first production. After 9.09.1944, the state enterprise for salt production continuously exploited the salt-works until 1973 when 170 hectares of the northern part were declared a protected area, and on 12.08.1980, were declared a nature reserve by order of the Committee for Environmental Protection.
Nowadays on the territory of the reserve there are still the evaporators of the "Black Sea Salt Works JSC whose principal activity is salt extraction of. The extraction of salt is done in a primitive way that is completely environmentally friendly and does not have a negative impact on the dwellers of the reserve. On the contrary, it is one of the good examples of how human activities not only do not harm, but rather support the maintenance of the living conditions of many species in nature. Atanasovsko Lake was categorized as a Managed Reserve in 1999 under the Law on Protected Areas.
- Atanasovsko Lake Managed Reserve was declared a Ramsar site on 28.11.1984. Initially the area was 1050 hectares (10.5 square kilometers) but it was increased to 1404 hectares (14.4 square kilometers) in 2002. The northern part has a - Reserve status, and the southern part is its Buffer zone, but as of 2007 it has the status of protected area called Burgas Salt Works. It is a protected area in the European Ecological Network Natura 2000.
In the region of Atanasovsko Lake there are 316 bird species (of approximately 423 species found throughout the whole country) that migrate, winter or nest in the reserve. Of these, 14 are globally endangered: Dalmatian Pelican, Pygmy Cormorant, Red-Breasted Goose, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Curlew, Corncrake, Ferruginus Duck. 83 species are listed in the Red Book of Bulgaria, and 170 species are of a European conservation importance.
During the summer months the basins are full of plovers – Stilts, Avocets, Sandpipers, Golden Plovers, as well as with gulls and terns. The most numerous are the colonies of avocets, stilts, Small and Sandwich Terns. Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola) is the symbol of the reserve. This is the only place where the sandwich tern, black-headed gull and little tern calandra multiply. Most of the Bulgarian population of avocets and Kentish plovers nest in the lake.
Since it does not freeze in winter, Atanasovsko Lake is a place of international importance for wintering water birds including shelducks, sheets, northern pintails, mallards, Dalmatian pelicans, white-fronted geese.
Most attractive for bird watching is the autumn migration of birds over Atanasovsko Lake. The lake is located on the migratory route Via Pontica and is a specific place with a migration bottleneck for most migratory birds from Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. This is the place with the highest concentration during migration of white pelican, Dalmatian pelicans, marsh harriers, red-footed falcons, and the second highest concentration of (after the Bosphorus) of lesser spotted eagles. Together with the other Burgas Lakes it is one of the most favorable places for spending the night for pelicans and storks between the Danube Delta and the Bosphorus. During the passage of birds the extremely rare and globally endangered species – slender-billed curlew – has also been seen.
The flora of the reserve is represented by aquatic and coastal species. The lake is surrounded by reed beds which provide shelter for many creatures. There are more than 250 species of higher plants. Many areas are covered to varying degrees by common glasswort. Around the lake there are small freshwater swamps, marshy meadows as well as a system of canals overgrown with marsh vegetation, and dry land overgrown mainly with sagebrush field, bulbosa, perennial ryegrass and others. Six species of higher plants are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria. Along with the marsh iris, sea pink and Merendera rhodopaea, here you can see many orchids. The most interesting one is the bird nest. It is almost colorless, as it is a non-chlorophyll type and its roots are so entangled that they resemble a bird's nest, hence its name. Another interesting species is the parchovka. In English its name is lizard orchid, because each flower has a long and thin lip and looks like a small lizard. In spring a common type of orchid is the monkey pox – each flower resembles a miniature monkey. All wild orchids in this country have a particular protected status – some are included in the Red Book of Bulgari and others – in various international conventions.
The reserve is host to 17 species of fish most of which are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria as endangered (Caucasian goby, three-spined stickleback, nine-spined stickleback, etc.). Because they are small in size, people are not interested in fishing them, but their high number is a prerequisite for a wide variety of fish-eating birds.
Mammals are represented by 12 species of rodents, 5 species of insectivores and 6 species of bats.
Of particular interest for the preservation of biodiversity are the smallest mammals on the planet – the Etruscan shrews, Gunther’s voles, the European ground squirrels, and otters. There are also weasels, foxes, wild boars and jackals.
Vertebrates, especially birds, are directly dependent on the specific invertebrates that inhabit the lake. The most important is the Artemia, salt crawfish, which is an important food resource for water birds. Here is its only significant habitat.
The Hide for bird watching in Atanasovsko Lake was built in 2001 thanks to the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Bulgarian-Swiss program for the preservation of biodiversity with the financial aid of the National Trust Eco Fund. It was modeled on an English example and is a low one-storyed green house which complies with all modern requirements for such facilities, equipped with the necessary appliances for bird watching. There are information boards with the types of species and promotional materials, windows specially constructed for bird watching and allowing excellent view of the birds in the basins in front, while they eat or rest. At the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water there are experts who maintain it (currently it opens only on request).
Forthcoming is a reconstruction of the infrastructure around the shelter. The following things will be built and done – a 4 meter-long screen on the left and on the right of the shelter for bird watching when the shelter is closed, benches, renovation of the hexagonal gazebo with a solid roof and seats in front of the shelter, information signs, etc.
Here you can watch rare and endangered species: in winter – resting ducks, lesser scaups, Dalmatian pelicans, and in summer – avocets, terns, gulls, stilts. You can watch different birds during the different seasons as well as during the different parts of the day – mornings and afternoons. This is a favorite place for visiting ornithologists and other experts from Bulgaria and from abroad. The shelter is run by Burgas Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water and if you want to visit it you need to call in advance 056/813 207. Admission is free.