Names of Allah

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Strandja’s Amazing Forests

Forests are among the most biodiverse habitats on the planet. But not all woodlands are the same. Most rich and important are old woodlands. Woodlands that have been there for a long time in the same place. And woodlands where humans have had very little or no influence.

Ancient tree in a beautiful autumn-yellow forest
Beautiful ancient Oak tree in Strandja woodland

Because of the natural state of these forests, they have a varied structure; young, old and ancient trees grow together. Very important is also the amount of dead and dying wood. Dead wood in forests supports an amazing amount of insect species. In turn, a large number of rare birds and bats feeds on these insects, and finds nesting and resting places in the hollows and cracks in the old ancient trees.

Strandja’s Forest: unique in Europe

Recently, the Biologically Important Forest Project has mapped the most important forests in Bulgaria. Their conclusion is that the forests in Bulgaria are among Europe’s richest and most diverse ecosystems. The Strandja area is one of the regions with the highest density of Biologically Important Forests.

Woodland covers more than 80% of the Strandja area. It is Europe’s largest continuous area of Oak woodland. Thirty percent of this woodland still consists of trees older than 100 years old. Moreover, completely natural areas of woodland have been preserved, where you can see Oaks and Beeches with a diameter of 1,5-2 metres that are more than 500 years old.

Rare species

These unique forests are the home of a number of special and rare species. An example is the black stork (Ciconia nigra). This is a very different bird from the more common white stork. It is a rare and shy bird that builds its nest high up in trees in old, open woodlands near rivers. We have regularly seen Black storks near the Veleka river valley in Strandja where they hunt for fishes and amphibians.
River valley in the Strandja mountains, Bulgaria
Black Stork habitat in the Veleka River valley in Strandja

There is also a very healthy wildcat (Felis sylvestris) population in Strandja. Over the years we have seen this impressive animal several times. It is extremely shy and inhabits forests where humans rarely come.
Drawing of Stag Beetle Lucanus cervus
We don’t have to go far to see the importance of Strandja’s old, diverse forests for insect diversity. The stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) that is in steep decline throughout Europe and now listed as globally threatened, is a common sight our back garden! This magnificent insect lays its eggs in decaying wood, while the adults live in holes in old trees and dead trunks. The males fight with their huge jaws, just like stags do with their antlers.
A very rare bird species living in Strandja’s forests is the Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata, and not much is known about this secretive black and white bird. It is thought that Bulgaria is the home for 50% of the European population of this bird, and 10% of the world population. The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds have asked schoolschildren from Sofia to give their artist impressions of this secretive little bird.
Semi-collared Flycatcher painting
Artist impression of Semi-collared Flycatcher by pupil from Sofia

When you visit Strandja, you will be able to walk through these beautiful, diverse woodlands and meet some age-old oaks that have stood here for centuries…

link to Biologically Important Forest Mapping project

Black Stork with chick near huge nest in tree
Black Stork with chick near its nest

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