Bird watchers taking part in the traditional midwinter waterbird census have observed a couple of White-tailed Eagles nesting near the dam lake of Ivailovgrad, representatives of the Bulgarian-Dutch New Thracian Gold project announced Thursday. The White-tailed eagle is the largest eagle in Europe and an extremely rare bird, which only breeds at three locations in Bulgaria.
New Thracian Gold is a project of the Dutch nature conservation organizations ARK and Avalon, which work on supporting economic growth and welfare in the Eastern Rhodopes Mountains by developing activities which combine organic farming, nature preservation and tourism. This year's January 13-15 census of waterbirds in the Eastern Rhodopes was part of a programme in which young people were trained in bird identification and bird monitoring.
Eco-volunteers from Kurdjali and Madjarovo also participated in the census. During the census, 1,000 waterbirds of 10 species were registered around the dam lake of Ivailovgrad and along the Arda River in the Eastern Rhodopes. The most numerous species were the Mallard, Great Cormorant, Common Pochard, Great Crested Grebe and the Little Grebe.
Compared with previous years, the initial census results show a significant drop in the number of wintering birds in Bulgaria. In 1997 there were over 703,000 waterbirds registered in Bulgaria, whereas in 2011 they numbered 500,000 total. The midwinter waterbird census is an initiative of Wetlands International and is coordinated by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB).
This census has been conducted since 1967 in almost all European countries to determine the national and international population size of waterbirds and to assess the status of wetlands where they hibernate. Repeating the census every winter helps to determine the changes in population size and distribution.
Bulgaria is a preferred wintering destination for a number of waterbird species. In cold winters Bulgaria is a home to over 70 per cent of the Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) world population, up to 40 per cent of the White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) European population and nearly 20 per cent of the Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmaeus) population.