It seems that this summer birds and tourists along the Black Sea coast conspired together. Despite the fact that the season was marked by low intensity in June and July, visitors from both groups reached a peak in their numbers in August. Atanasovsko Lake attracted guests from nearby and afar. The most exciting sight was that of the numerous greater flamingos which found safety and peace and quiet in the secluded pools of the northern part of the lake – the territory of the maintained Atanasovsko Lake reserve.
A flock of 159 birds was sighted during the ornithological monitoring conducted as part of the Lagoon of Life Project (LIFE17 NAT/BG/000558). Around 120 of them were adult species – bright pink and very noisy. The birds fed and roosted in some of the pools in the northern and wilder half of the lake where they found their favourite snack – the brine shrimp and other aquatic invertebrates. As if on purpose, the juvenile birds were separated from the main flock and were being ‘supervised’ by a few elderly birds – a situation reminiscent of our kindergartens. The birds were calm and were not really bothered by human presence and did not fly off. The flock was very noisy in comparison to the great white pelicans swimming around them.
The news received coverage on all national television channels, there were live broadcasts on some of the most-watched morning shows and news programmes, and there were articles in national daily newspapers and online media turning the greater flamingo into a sensation. People all over the country were excited and were constantly phoning the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation’s office in Burgas asking how they could see them.
This ‘forced’ us to organise a special ornithological tour aimed at sighting the greater flamingo in which 150 people participated including a lot of children. When we reached the small pools where the flamingos stood we divided the group into 15 smaller ones so as not to disturb the birds and give people the chance to admire this species which are a rare and exotic sight for our lakes.
During the next monitoring session in September, an even higher number was recorded – 225 which is the highest number of greater flamingos in Bulgaria as a whole, compared to 126 flamingos sighted last autumn, making Atanasovsko Lake the most important place for this species in our country. The greater flamingo most probably reaches the lake by flying over the Maritza River delta or from Turkey where it nests in its thousands. The flamingo has started expanding its territory in recent years and nowadays it is frequently sighted further up north. Nesting pairs were recorded in Ukraine in 2017. It has been widely accepted that one of the reasons for this expansion is the global climate changes.
Atanasovsko Lake is a Natura 2000 site with a variety of regimes – the northern part is a maintained reserve, whilst the southern one is a protected area. The lake as a whole, as well as the agricultural lands adjacent to it, are included in the protected area – part of the European Ecological Network.
The improvement of water circulation, the elimination of fluctuations in salinity and the water level, the creation of new nesting territories are only some of the activities planned to take place in the lake over the next 5 years which will lead to better management of the coastal lagoon. This will happen thanks to The Lagoon of Life Project LIFE17 NAT/BG/000558, carried out by the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation, Black Sea Salinas Ltd., Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds and Together 2011.