Strandja region, including coastal strip, is one of the richest in species in Southeast Europe. Diversity and identity of species is very well preserved, as for decades, the access to the mountain was limited due to the proximity of the state border.
The fauna of Strandja is characterized by a high percentage of Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean and Asia Minor species. They are widespread in the lower and middle parts of the mountain. For the higher parts mainly Euro-Siberian elements are characteristic.
There are over 54 species of mammals such as wolves, wild boar, deer, jackals, wild cats, hare. The otter population in Veleka river is the best preserved in Europe. Six species are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria and one – monk seal – in the World Red Book. It is likely mammals inhabiting Strandja mountain to exceed the number of 54 because the caves are only partially explored. From the large mammals characteristic is the jackal, but by the small –the grey hamster (Cricetus migratorius, degree type).
The red deer (Cervus elaphus) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) have inhabited Strandja since ancient times. Impressive, with its dignified bearing and beautiful horns, red deer is the second largest European deer. If the deer is the most majestic inhabitant of our forests, the roe deer is their queen. The roe deer is prevalent everywhere.
Wild boar (Sus scrofa) is widespread in Strandja. It belongs to the big hairy game. It is impressive and a respect-daunting representative of the animal world and prized game species. It is primarily a nocturnal animal, so it will be more difficult to meet during the day when it rests or sleeps in the bushes and at night goes out to look for food.
|Hare (Lepus europaeus) – Hare is distributed throughout the mountain, but they are not numerous. Most often you can see them in larger open areas or on the outskirts of the forest. Thanks to their good hearing and fast run and also to their numerous clever tricks, which they know and apply, they escape from their many enemies.|
Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) – Squirrels are distributed throughout the region of Strandja, as there are places where they are more common, and elsewhere rare. If you are in the woods and in front of you suddenly a nut or acorn falls down and at the same time you have heard a noise from above, there is a great chance that there is a squirrel among the branches – a little animal with a long, bushy tail.
|Hedgehog (Erinaceus) – The hedgehog is a protected species that inhabits the whole region of Strandja. From October-November to March-April it hibernates. When it does not hibernate it wakes up in the evening and goes hunting. Then it is most likely to be encountered. Curiously, in the silence the sound of its walking resembles human steps.|
|Wolf (Canis lupus) – the wolf inhabits the entire park, but its population is very small. Today it is an endangered species, as it has been systematically destroyed by man in order to protect domestic animals from their attacks.||
|The golden jackal (Canis aureus) – it dwells everywhere in Strandja. The largest population of jackals in Europe is believed to be in Bulgaria. The golden jackal has short, shaggy fur, usually yellow to pale gold with brown end of the hair. Jackals, living in mountain areas, have a darker color to greying. Wildcat (Felis silvestris) – The wild cat is bigger than the domestic one. The corpse is covered with soft and thick coat, brown-grey in color. Along the back to the tail there are two dark stripes, from this point dark patterns go out. The wild cat is a typical forest animal, it inhabits rocky or wooded|
Fox (Vulpes vulpes) – it dwells everywhere in Strandja, in recent years with a downward trend. The ‘sly fox’ is a favourite character of many native tales and fables. You should be very careful with the fox because it is a carrier of serious diseases such as rabies and mange.
Badger (Meles meles) – it spreads over the whole territory of Strandja but with uneven density. The coloration on the back of the badger is silvery and the abdomen is brown with black and white stripes on the head. He leaves behind traces resembling bearish but which are much smaller. It digs huge quantities of earth in building its house, which usually has several outlets.
|Marten (Martes foina) – it spreads over the whole territory of Strandja by adhering near settlements. It is a small predator of the Mustelids family, named after its white spot on its neck.|
Ferret (Mustela putorius) – it spreads over the whole territory of Strandja. It lives in farmyards, forest and wetlands. The coat of the black ferret is dark brown, the muzzle is lighter and the belly is pale yellow. It has a long tail and short legs.
Weasel (Mustela nivalis) – it spreads over the whole territory of Strandja but with uneven density. It is a predatory mammal of the Mustelids family and is the smallest animal of the order ‘Carnivora’. However, it is brave and bloodthirsty. If it settles in one place, there is no peace for the animals around.
Wildcat (Felis silvestris) – The wild cat is bigger than the domestic one. The corpse is covered with soft and thick coat, brown-grey in color. Along the back to the tail there are two dark stripes, from this point dark patterns go out. The wild cat is a typical forest animal, it inhabits rocky or wooded areas. It is difficult to be met because it is a nocturnal animal, preferring to hunt at night and avoiding encounters with people.
Bats (Chiroptera) Bats are order ‘small animals’ Class Mammals (Mammalia). Typical for them is that their front limbs have evolved into wings and are active at night. They are the only mammals that can fly actively. The majority of them live in caves, but still significant part inhabit forests.
Bats are very useful they feed entirely on insects and small pests. They have an important role in pollination and dispersal of seeds of many plants. In areas where there are large colonies of bats, their importance to ecosystems is immense. Bats in Strandja mountain are 25 species, 13 of which are presented in the World Red List (long-eared, long-fingered and Geoffroy’s bat, south and small horseshoe, barbastelle etc.). Source www.strandja.bg
Strandja with its oak forests and caves is known with bat diversity. The cave Dupnitsa in Turkey, is the largest hibernation colony of bats – over 20 000 representatives. Other caves with importance for the population of bats are Çatalyol, Baglar, Domuzdere, Kıyıköy, Yenesu, Kurudere (Domuzdere), Ceneviz and Kız in Turkey. In Bulgaria they are Elenina hole, Kaleto, Yarkovitsa, Bratanova and Goliama Vapa. Strandja Natural Park has built and maintains educational route “Bats in the woods.” The route has Malko Tarnovo as a starting point. In it 9 data points are built that introduce admirers of the wild nature with the mysterious life of bats. A major threat to the rich biovariety in Strandja mountain is poaching. The small mammals are 27 species of rodents, 8 of which are in the World Red List.
Seals Black Sea seal – Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779) Carnivora order, Seals family (Phocidae). This kind of monk seal reaches an average 2.40 m in length and 320 kg in weight in adulthood as the female is slightly smaller than the male one. The coat of the female varies from brown to dark grey but on the belly it is lighter. Males have black coat, and their belly is almost white. In Bulgaria it has been considered as extinct since 1997 in the Black Sea. By 1980s in Turkey the core of the Black Sea population was kept. Since 1997, the species seems to have disappeared completely. A small number of seals might still live along the Turkish coast of the Marmara Sea. By the beginning of 20th century it was present along Dobrudzha coast and it entered the Danube River up to the town of Rousse. Their key habitats were Kaliakra Cape (in 1936 there were 128 seals), Maslen Cape and Strandja coast. It was present (and perhaps bred) in the ‘80s to the early ‘90s along the south coast- Sozopol, Maslen Cape, the Snake Island, Tsarevo and Rezovo: they were seen repeatedly – a couple, a group of 4 individuals, young animals, single seals on the beach. Recent observations there – Silistar area, in 1993 and a dead seal on the shore in 1994; the island of St. Ivan – in 1994 during the blue fin tuna season; the area of the village of Sinemorets – in the spring of 1995. It has been protected species in our country since the end of 19th century. It is included in the Red Book (1985) as an endangered species.
|Dolphins – The common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), called also white-bellied dolphin is a marine mammal of the Cetacea order. It is also present in Bulgaria. In the waters of the Black Sea three species of dolphins can be found – Bottlenose Dolphin, Common dolphin and Porpoise. Body length – up to 3 m, Weight – 210 kg. The color of the body varies in the different areas of distribution. Usually the back is black, dark brown or blue, and the belly is white. It has two bright spots on both sides of the body. In each upper and lower jaw there are 40 to 60 conical teeth. It is Included in the Red List of the IUCN as Least Concern.|
In the past, the Black Sea waters were abounded by millions of dolphins, but today the picture has acquired a completely different look. The population has decreased to such an extent that today they are rare and were declared a threatened species. Until the 80s of the last century dolphins are mass hunted for their meat and blubber. According to unofficial data due to intensive hunting about 5 million dolphins were killed. After this shocking figure finally in 1983 their hunting was prohibited by law, but nothing can change the fact that the Black Sea waters are being deserted. This causes severe blow to the population of dolphins along the Bulgarian coast. Nowadays they are under constant threat because of the water pollution, entanglement in fishing nets and the reduction of fishery resources. The dolphins are known as one of the most intelligent animals on the planet. Their mind remains a mystery for scientists and specialists who have thousands of questions but no technological wonder can give an answer. Nature has created them with the self-awareness, which helps them to recognize themselves in a mirror. To communicate between each other they use a complex system of sounds unintelligible and incomprehensible to human intelligence. Moreover they demonstrate a strong sense of mutual aid, basic survival skills, which is one of the reasons the small dolphins remain so long with their mothers. In Bulgaria, dolphins have been declared an endangered species and are listed in the Red Book of Bulgaria. The animals are protected and their catch is prohibited.
Besides its unique nature and beautiful scenery Strandja mountain also fascinates with numerous birds. Over Strandja mountain the second largest migratory route of birds passes in Europe – Via Pontica, which brings flocks of northern and eastern Europe and Siberia. Almost the entire population of storks and raptors flying along the Black Sea migration route Via Pontica, passes over Strandja mountain as raptors often stay in the woods during the nights. Over the eastern part of the mountain the front of migration narrows and at peak days huge flocks of white storks can be observed-up to 40,000 per day, and hundreds of pelicans, honey-buzzards, buzzards and eagles can be spotted. Bays and estuaries along the southern Black Sea coast are used by waterfowl, not only for recreation but also for wintering. Since the second half of February to mid-June tens of thousands of migrants pass through this place on their way to their breeding areas. Since the second half of August to the end of October huge flocks of migratory birds fly to their winter territories, passing over the area.
105 of the 283 bird species can be found in Strandja mountain and they are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria. It’s nearly two thirds of Bulgarian ornifauna. The area provides suitable habitats for 96 species that require special protection measures. Strandja mountain is one of the most important places in Europe for 16 endangered bird species such as the black stork (Ciconia nigra), the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), the Short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus), the Lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), the Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) the Booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), the gray woodpecker (Picus canus), the middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), the forest lark (Lullula arborea), the olive-tree warbler (Hippolais olivetorum), the ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana), the Semi-collared flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata), the kingfisher (Acedo atthis), the big crake (Porzana porzana) and the shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan). During migration in the region can be observed 5 globally threatened species such as the Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus),the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), the Duck (Aythya nyroca), the corncrake (Crex crex) and the Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola).
In 1997 Strandja mountain was acknowledged as Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. In 1998, the Natural Park “Strandja” was included in CORINE Habitat because of its European importance for the preservation of the unique flora and fauna rich in many endangered species, including birds.
In 2007, near Ineada İgneada Longos Forest National Park was created. With its lakes Mert and Erikli this is one of the major habitats of waterfowl and migratory birds in the southern mountains.
In Western Strandja 112 bird species are found, 25 of which are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria (1985). From occurring species 53 are of European conservation concern (SPEC). The area provides suitable habitats for 37 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special protection measures. Western Standzha mountain is of global importance for the conservation of the endangered Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca). The location is one of the most valuable in the country and for the European Union for this species, and for the conservation of 8 more bird species – the Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug), the Black Kite (Milvus migrans), the Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), the Calandra Lark (Melanocorhypha calandra), the fronted Shrike (Lanius nubicus), the olive-tree warbler (Hippolais olivetorum) and the middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius). The area holds significant at European level nesting populations of Syrian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos syriacus), home Owl (Athene noctua) and crested lark (Galerida cristata). Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes), black stork (Ciconia nigra), Stone Curlew (Burchinus oedicnemus), Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla) and Olive Mockingbird (Hippolais olivetorum) are also presented with stable breeding populations.
There are several areas for bird watching in Strandja mountain:
• The “Ropotamo” complex – here you can find gray duck and coot, small and Red-necked Grebe, glossy ibis, marsh harrier and others;
• GOP “Strandja” – the walk along the route “Birds” begins from Sinemorets and follows the right bank of the river Veleka, which at its confluence into the Black Sea forms one of the most beautiful estuaries in the country. The transition route offers scenic views and an excellent opportunity to monitor waterbirds. There are boards with information about the bird diversity in the area. Along the way there is a point providing possibility to monitor large soaring and hunting birds and during all the seasons of the year. It overlooks a great distance in all directions which increases the chances of seeing huge flocks flying during migration or individual birds. Year-round above the surrounding farmland, pastures and water mirror of the river Veleka can be seen hunting – Short-toed Eagle; Lesser Spotted Eagle; Common Buzzard; Booted Eagle; White Stork; black stork; Marsh harrier; gray heron; Little Egret; ordinary Cormorant; common kestrel; Pern. Panel shows the actual size of the wingspan of any bird species represented.
• Dam “Malko Sharkovo” – an extremely attractive place for birds, a part of the Via Pontica route.
• İgneada Longos Forest National Park – it incorporates several lakes filled with waterfowl birds. There are information boards telling details about the flora and fauna in the area of the biosphere reserve.
The variety of birds is threatened by the following factors of human intervention:
– Agriculture and withdrawal of natural habitats for farmland
– Tourism – as the eastern part of the mountain borders the Black Sea during the active season, the nature and especially the dunes are under strong pressure from the tourists and their vehicles, but also under investor interest in ever larger areas of the coast.
– Logging – it has been proven that the old forests, where there are drying chamber window casement are with much stronger biodiversity than the young forests.
– Hunting – especially hunting and poaching of endangered species is a serious threat to birds diversity
Some representatives of the birds:
The Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) – feeds mainly on fish but also with amphibians, insects and more. It inhabits streams of rivers and other wetland rich in fish. Wingspan of up 173-205 sm. The highest population is in Sakar and Strandja mountains.
The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is another bird of interest to visitors and ornithologists and is included in the Red Book of Bulgaria. Wingspan – 150-170 cm. The Egyptian vulture is one of the several animals using tools, which is a sign of its high intelligence. When it finds an ostrich egg, it catches a stone with its beak and sharply drops it onto the shell of the egg. It is physically possible, because unlike most species of vultures it has short, sturdy neck.
|The Short-toed Eagle – (Circaetus gallicus) – it belongs to the Hawks family (Accipitridae) A migratory bird, it nests in Bulgaria. It feeds mainly on snakes, but also hunts lizards, frogs, birds, rodents, molluscs. Spread of the wings 160-180 cm. On the territory of Bulgaria is legally protected species.|
The Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) is also from the Hawks family (Accipitridae). It occurs in Europe (including Bulgaria), Asia and Africa. It inhabits deciduous and mixed forests to open spaces. During migration it forms diluted flocks in mixed groups with buzzards, jugs and other eagles. The body length is 61-66 cm, and wingspan 145 cm. On the territory of Bulgaria it is legally protected species.
The Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliacal/Hawks family/Accipitridae)
It occurs mainly in Sakar, Strandja and Western Derventski Vazvishenia. Individually it can be seen between Sliven and Elhovo and Sredna Gora. It inhabits hilly areas with single or groups of trees near the vast pastures, meadows and arable lands. Wingspan: 175-215 cm. Critically endangered.
|Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus)
Order Woodpeckers (Piciformes, Woodpeckers family) Picidae Body length: 26 cm. Wingspan: 39 cm. Plumage: has age and sexual dimorphism. The males are like the green woodpecker, but its forehead is red, the occiput and groin are gray. The female resembles the male, but its head is gray. The young below are particolored. Uttering sounds: honk, which resembles that of the green woodpecker, but ends drawled. It inhabits forests, mainly in the plains.
During migration in the region five globally threatened species can be observed:
Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus/Order Pelicaniformes/Pelecaniformes, Family Cormorants) Phalacrocoracidae Pygmy Cormorant / Phalacrocorax pygmeus
This is a bird of the Cormorants family – interesting waterfowl. It is also known as a small devil or karabatak. Plumage is black and brown, both sexes are virtually indistinguishable. Body length: 50 cm. Wingspan: 85 cm.
Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus)
The Dalmatian pelican can be found in Bulgaria during migration and it nests in the biosphere reserve Srebarna. Birds with the largest beaks are the pelicans. They are also one of the largest flying birds on Earth. The bones of the huge bill, and the entire skeleton have a plurality of cavities filled with air. This makes them lighter without reducing their strength. Below the lower jaw pelicans have great skin bag, which contains the caught fish. Pelicans inhabit the coasts of large ponds rich in fish as most are found near rivers and lakes. IUCN Red List (IUCN Red List).
Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca/Order Anseriformes/Anseriformes, Family Waterfowl /Anatidae)
It weighs between 400 and 700 grams, body length of 40-46 cm, wingspan of about 65 cm. Swims and dives well. On the territory of Bulgaria it is a protected species included in the Red Book.
Corncrake (Crex crex/Order gruiformes/ Gruiformes, Family Rails/Rallidae Corncrake/
Crex crex It is the size of a quail (130-190g. And 25-29 cm). It feeds on a variety of food – insects and their larvae, snails, worms and seeds. The corncrake is a migratory species – it flies in in April and flies away in September. It migrates individually at night and during the day hides in the grass. It winters in Africa and on the island of Madagascar. It inhabits mainly arable land but also occurs in wet meadows, plateaus and hilly foothill areas with vegetation. It is protected by the Biodiversity Act.
Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola)
Order Perching birds /Passeriformes, Family Muscicapidae Aquatic Warbler/Acrocephalus paludicola Body length: 13 cm. In all ages and seasons plumage is light ocher on top with black stripes on the head and back, and below is creamy with small black strokes on the chest and groin;
Grey Heron – Order Storks (Ciconiiformes, Family Herons/Ardeidae Grey Heron/Ardea cinerea)
Body length: 94 cm. Wingspan: 135 cm. It inhabits swamps and lakes with dense reedbeds, lower and middle reaches of major rivers, rich in fish, plain oak and wet forests. During migration and wintering it can be found in dams, rice paddies, canals, ponds, farmlands. It migrates in small flocks, sometimes with other herons.
In Western Strandja one of the most interesting birds that can be observed all year round is Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) The Saker Falcon, also known with the ancient names Kragui and Barack is living bird of prey. Saker Falcon is the largest species of falcon in Bulgaria and the second largest in the world after the North Falcon with whom they have close kinship.
9 species of amphibians are detected in Strandja Mountain. The Тree (Hyla arborea),the endemic subspecies of the Syrian spadefoot (Pelobates syriacus balcanicus) and the southern crested newt (Triturus karelinii) are endangered in world and European aspect. Three types are of high conservation value, included in Annex 2 of Directive 92/43 EEC.
Amphibian species such as marsh frog and deftly frog, common toad and European green toad can be observed in Strandja Mountain. Spur-thighed tortoise is most common in the area but the specific for Strandja “ Hermann’s tortoise” has a decreasing population from year to year. Colourful neck turtle and European pond turtle are seen alone or in combination in slow-flowing rivers.
Colorful turtle neck and European pond turtle can be seen alone or in combination in slow flowing rivers.
So far in Strandja 25 species of reptiles are identified. They are the biological group in the park with the most significant populations. World significance have the populations of 13 species and two subspecies, such as the Thracian necked platyceps najadum (Platyceps collaris thracius) which is a local endemic subspecies and probably accounts for about half of world populations. 9 species of reptiles have European significant populations. There are three worldly endangered reptiles – ordinary and Balkan Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis, Mauremys rivulata), Iberian and Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo graeca, T. hermanni).
Aesculapian snake (Elaphe longissima), cat snake (Typhlops vermicularis) and Blacknecked platyceps najadum are in the European Red Book. The endemic character is presented in subspecies and sub endemic level: the forest lizard (Lacerta praticola pontica) and the gecko (Cyrtodactylus kotschyi danilowskii). Other important species of conservation significance are the only skink lizard, short-legged lizard (Ablepharus kitaibelii), Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), the large shooter (Coluber caspius), peppered snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata sauromates) and others.
Near the forests in Strandja (closed and open forests and along the road network) you can meet the following kinds of snakes and lizards – wall (grey) lizard (Podarcis muralista), Striped lizard (Lacerta trilineata) and Meadow lizard (Darevskia praticola), European Green lizard , Plain water snake , Natrix natrix, Dice snake (natrix tessellata Laurenti), which are the most typical lizard and snake species. Representatives of the venomous snakes are the ordinary viper as well as the Ottoman viper (Xanthine V), which are very common.
Threats to them are:
1. The deforestation, especially the old species, affects negatively the entire fauna, particularly some snakes and lizards which seek for protection in these trees. The forestries should protect the animals and put artificial nests instead of bat boxes.
2. The collection and removal of some species such as Rana Ridibunda, Testudo dalmatina and T.Herman, despite the ban of the Berne Convention.
3. The construction of dams for water supply of Istanbul along the rivers draining into the Black Sea. This reduces the diversity of amphibians, reptiles and fish which is harmful to the entire fauna. We need to stop the construction of dams on rivers feeding the forests, because this will not only affect them, but at the same time will reduce the flow of streams, threatening the aquatic life. All the trees outside the protected areas were gradually cut and clearings appear. The cut trees are mostly used for heating, which has a major negative environmental impact. Creating more protected areas (e.g. bay Bayonet in Turkey) intends to stop this trend.
Near the forests in Strandja (closed and open forests and along the road network) can be met the following snakes and lizards:
|Short-legged lizard (Ablepharus) is a genus of lizards of the family Scincidae, which is the only one in this family that occurs in the Balkans.
In appearance the skink lizards resemble the actual lizards, but there is no specifically formed neck and the legs are relatively small. In the means of moving it more often resembles that of snakes. The tail is long and tapered and can regenerate.
It feeds mainly on insects, including crickets, grasshoppers, beetles and caterpillars it eats also spiders, worms, snails, other lizards and small rodents.
|Balkan gecko (Cyrtopodion kotschyi), also called nocturnal lizard is a type of lizard. The species is not endangered.
It is the only representative of the family Gekkonidae, occurring in the Balkans. It lives mostly in settlements. It also inhabits mountains, hills, slopes, bushes, coasts and beaches.
It is active at night and during the day hides in cracks, roofs and other parts of buildings. It well climbs smooth surfaces and rarely descends to the ground. It feeds on insects and small spiders.
|Wall (gray) lizard (Podarcis muralista) – it is widespread in Central and Southern Europe. It lives only in rocky terrain, including artificial, such as rail and road embankments, retaining walls, and other careers. It is active during the day and feeds mainly on insects. It winters in the voids between the stones, as in warm weather comes out to bask also in the winter.|
Striped lizard (Lacerta trilineata) -it is a kind of mid-sized lizard, occurs in southern, eastern and coastal parts of the Balkan peninsula and in western Asia Minor. The striped lizard prefers dry grassy slopes where hides under stones and bushes, in holes of rodents and other. It is active during the day and feeds on insects, snails, spiders, rarely small lizards. It lays in 5-12 eggs, sometimes twice a year. The small and adult females have five well defined pale stripes alongside the back, while the adult males are totally green and resemble large green lizards.
|Forest lizard (Meadow lizard) (Darevskia praticola) – it is a type of lizard occurring in the Balkans and the Caucasus region. It prefers to live in oak forests, where there are meadows with sparse grass and fallen leaves. In Bulgaria it can be found at the altitude height of 600 m. It grows up to 15 cm in length. It feeds mainly on small insects.|
|European green lizard (Lacerta viridis) – it is a type of large lizard occurring in much of Europe. It reaches 35 cm in length, the tail can occupy two thirds of it. The male green lizards have a big head and even green colouring with small spots, more pronounced on the back. Their throat is more bluish than in females. When tried to be captured the green lizard bites hard, but it is poisonous and can cause great harm to the person.|
|The European glass lizard (Ophisaurus apodus, also named yellow-bellied lizard) is a type of lizard, reaching a length of 150 cm. It is the largest lizard occurring in Bulgaria and across Europe.
The appearance of the European glass lizard looks like a snake. The legs are inconspicuous millimeters. His head is not separated from the body and its width and height is almost equal. Unlike the snakes it has two ear dimples on the head and its eyes are fitted with lids. Its color is brown, lighter on the belly and on the head. The little ones are with light grey colour with darker stripes and acquire their final color when they reach at about 40 cm in length. The skin has a ring-shaped folds that give the impression of a giant earthworm. Spreading. The European glass lizard is found in the southern and coastal parts of the Balkan Peninsula, the Crimea, the region between the Black and Caspian Sea and Asia to Kirgizstan in the east and northern Syria and northern Iraq – to the southwest.
The European glass lizard prefers rocky terrain, overgrown with shrubs and grasses. In the summer it hides in the shady areas, such as forests or gullies.
Behavior. The European glass lizard feeds mainly on snails and large insects, rarely on small lizards and rodents and the little ones of nesting on the ground birds. Sometimes, even small snakes become its prey. It breeds by laying eggs.
|Plain water snake (Natrix natrix)
It is about 120 cm. It feeds mainly on small fish and rarely frogs. It avoids mountain areas. It enters the Black Sea waters. It feeds mainly on fish and frogs. It is not poisonous.
|Dice snake (Natrix tessellata Laurenti)
It’s length is up to 120 cm. It feeds mainly on small fish and frogs.It avoids mountain areas of above 1000 meters. It enters the Black Sea waters. The colour varies from grayish-green to brown and almost black, with dark spots on the back. It rarely moves away more than a few meters from the basin, except in search of a place to lay eggs. In the sea it was observed 5 km from the coast. The gray water snake is not poisonous and when captured does not bite, but disposes discharge with a strong odor.
|Black-necked platyceps najadum (Platyceps collaris)
A rare species, in Europe it is found only in the region of Strandzha Mountain and the Black Sea coast of Turkey in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. It is a very fast snake which helps to catch lizards, which are its main food. Black-necked platyceps najadum prefers rocky areas with rare shrubs. It is not poisonous, though rarely, when caught, may slightly hiss.
|Sand boa (Eryx jaculus) – it is also called Turkish boa, is the only representative of the family Boidae, occurring in Europe. It reaches a length of 50-75 cm. The back of the snake is yellowish-brown with irregular lighter patches alternating with darker ones. The tail is very short with a blunt end, the eyes are small. Shortly shield placed over its mouth like a shovel, helps the snake to bury into the soil. In the Balkansit can be seen in separate scattered fields in the eastern and southern parts of the peninsula, mostly along the Strandzha coast. It lives in the sand where can easily bury and moves underneath. It also inhabits rocky places, loose and sandy soils, poor in vegetation. During the day it hides in the soil, and at night it goes hunting. It feeds mainly on rodents, lizards and insects. The sand boa is not poisonous and rarely bites when captured. It is one of the most endangered reptiles in Europe.|
|Aesculapian snake (Elaphe longissima) – It reaches length of 180 cm. It often enters villages in search of food. Until a century ago it was called the “snake homebody” because it hunted rodents in barns. It appears of up to 1600 m. altitude. Aesculapian snake prefers old deciduous and mixed forests. It is active during the day and well climbs trees and shrubs. It is not poisonous.|
|Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulan-us) – up to 1.6 meters in length.The colour of the back varies from dark to light gray, and the young individuals are spotted. It is called Montpellier because its zygomatic shields protrude. It lives in sunny slopes overgrown with shrubs and low trees. It especially prefers stony and rocky places with many shelters. The montpellier snake is very agile snake, which in case of danger hurries to hide. In its menu are included lizards, rodents and even snakes, including other Montpellier snakes and vipers. When fails to escape it becomes aggressive, fiercely hissing and biting, occupying a defensive posture, sometimes raising the front part of its body, like cobras. There are glands that produce deadly toxins. The venomous teeth are located on the rear of the upper jaw and cannot bite a person with them.|
|Shooter snake (Coluber caspius), it is a type of snake, occurring mainly in the southeastern parts of Europe. The length is up to 2 m, in rare cases a little more. It is not poisonous, but bites strongly when threatened.
It inhabits steppe and rocky areas, shrubs and rare woods and farmland. It is active during the day and well climbs trees and shrubs. Its main food are rodents, lizards, other snakes, small birds.
|Marbled snake (Elaphe sauromates) is a type of snake to a length of two meters. It is also the thickest snake in the Balkans.
It lives mainly in areas with steppe vegetation, its main food are rodents. In was common in the past but today the species is included in the Red Book of Bulgaria. It is not poisonous and do not bite.
|Ordinary viper (Vipera ammodytes) – up to about 85 cm in length, males are slightly longer. On top of its muzzle it has a “horn” that is easily recognizable. It consists of 9-17 scales arranged in two, rarely three or four,in transverse rows. The “horn” reaches length of about 5 mm and is soft and flexible. Its colour is light brown to beige ( “ashen”, hence its name) with dark zigzag stripe on the back. It lives up to 1450 meters altitude. It prefers open, rocky, sunny places, overgrown with high grass vegetation, ferns, shrubs and usually with enough holes for underground shelters. It feeds mainly on rodents and lizards. Viper is generally lethargic and not very aggressive, rarely bites without significant irritation (unintentionally stepped on or an attempt to be captured). When surprised, it can react in different ways – to remain stationary, to hiss and run immediately or try to bite. The poison is relatively toxic, but even without antidote the symptoms are usually not serious and disappear for a day or two, it can be dangerous for children or adults with poor health.|
|Turkish viper (Vipera xanthina) – it is a type of snake of the vipers family (Viperidae). In Europe it can be seen at the southest part of the continent. It reaches 95 cm in length. It feeds on rodents and small mammals. It is aggressive and attack without warning. It is the most poisonous snake in Europe but it is rarely fatal to humans.|
Butterflies and invertebrates
Butterflies and invertebrates Rare species here are about 180 invertebrates, and endemic species – about 100 species, also invertebrates. Among the above-ground fauna are mostly species of snails, arachnids and insects. Endemic species of Strandja are Carpathica bielawskii from the snails, Lithobius maculipes from the myriapods, Cyclosa strandjae from the spiders, Poecilimon heinrichi frpm the locusts and others. There are also subendemites distributed along the Black Sea coast. The underground fauna as a whole is very similar to the fauna of Sakar, Upper Valley of Maritza river and the Eastern Rhodopes.
Below we will describe some of the most beautiful of them – butterflies. Their wings are often colorful and beautiful, making them a desirable object for observation and photographing by the tourists. For lovers of butterflies Strandja is one of the most interesting places.
Butterflies are the order ‘Flying Insects’. It is often divided into two groups, bringing together night moths and moths in one and butterflies in the other. The development of butterflies is complete metamorphosis i.e. they go through four stages in its development:
• larva (caterpillar)
• adult butterfly (imago)
In Strandja mountain there are a number of protected areas, ensuring conservation of butterflies. There are 13 species of butterflies and here you can see some remarkable as Poliksena and Red Apollo.
|Parnassius apollo, Red Apollo
Distribution: From Europe and Turkey to Central Asia and Eastern Siberia. It is encountered in the mountains from 500 to 2000 m, at stony or rocky, usually steep places such as talus, mountain slopes, river valleys, glades, etc.
Red Apollo is listed in Appendix II of the Bern Convention (CITES) and included in the Red Book of European butterflies.
Distribution: Moderate Eurasia. In small populations in the mountains of up to 800 m. Included in Appendix II of the Habitats Directive 92/43 of the European Union and Annex II of the Bern Convention. It occurs in wet, rarely dry grassy areas near ponds, ditches, streams, rivers and other sources of moisture.
Distributed in Europe, Turkey, temperate Asia and Korea. Can be met in isolated populations in the mountains of up to 2100 m. Presented in Annex II of the Habitats Directive 92/43 and Annex II of the Bern Convention. Listed as vulnerable in the Red Book of European butterflies (van Swaay & Warren, 1999: 167).
Distribution: moderate Eurasia. It occurs in moist grassy areas along rivers, lakes or marshes and glades.
Distribution: Southern Europe from France to the Urals, northwestern Anatolia. It is distributed in the lowlands and foothills of the mountains of up to 700 m. It occurs in grassy and bushy areas.
Distribution: Southern Europe, West and Central Asia from sea level to about 1800 m altitude. It occurs in grassy and bushy areas, outskirts of forests, sunny rocky slopes.
Distribution: Southeastern Europe and the Far East. In the plains and foothills of the mountains of up to 700 m altitude. It occurs in hot, overgrown with willows shores of rivers.
Distribution: Balkan Peninsula, western Turkey. It occurs in dry grassy or rocky areas on the outskirts of kserotermorphous oak forests.
|Ultra aricia anteros
Specific to the Balkan Peninsula butterfly. It is found in rocky areas with little vegetation.
Featuring butterfly with uniquely shaped wings. Distribution: mostly throughout the Balkan Peninsula and southeastern Europe. It occurs in hilly meadows with flowers and glades
|In addition to butterflies, Strandja mountain is rich and dragonflies. It is one of the few places in Europe where you can meet the exotic Epallage fatime. The most favorable conditions for its development are located in the extreme southeastern parts of the country.|
Strandja is amongst the first in Europe by its fish. There are 41 species of freshwater and fish passage inside Strandja Mountain, and another 70 species which inhabit he coastal waters. The number of relict species is big – 9 Ponto-Caspian (preserved from the time of ancient Sarmatian Sea) and 5 Boreal (lat. – Borealis – northern, species originating from the northern regions of Eurasia and North America and reached our latitudes during the Quaternary cold snap).
There are 7 species endemic for the Black Sea basin: lupavets, black-strip sea needle wide-head goby, river goby, strongil, mesogobius batrachocephalus, little flat goby. Alosa or harip is localized only in the south Black sea coast.
The World Red List includes 12 species of freshwater fish, and in the Red Book 8 species are included like Lupavets, wild carp, Danube bleak, alosa, river trout, sea whitefish and others.
Ichthiological studies show that Veleka river presents 16 species and subspecies of 5 families:
– Family Salmonid – brook trout
– Family Carp – Lupavets, chub, small chub, minnow, ordinary gudgeon, crimean barbell, Rezovska Danube bleak, small hausen and others.
– Family Viyunovi – ordinary loach
– Family River eel
– Family Goby – grass goby, a small flat goby, flat goby
Three of the species exist in the Red Book of Bulgaria as endangered – Lupavets, Rezovska Danube bleak and eel.
The biggest threat for the river fish are wastewater and invasive species.
|Rezovska Barbell (Barbus tauricus)
The species is found for the first time in the Rezovska river hence its name in Bulgarian. It is also called Crimean barbell. Today, its spreading has narrowed significantly. It is found in the Veleka river, where it is one of the most popular species, and probably in the Rezovo river. The species is vulnerable and seriously endangered.
|Eel (Anguilla anguilla)
The colouration of the eel makes it invisible against the background of aquatic plants. Its body is serpentine, covered with tiny scales. It has a continuous upper and lower fin that runs in a tail. It is covered with copious amounts of mucus and it is difficult to be held. Eel is typically nocturnal and carnivorous fish.
|Lupavets (Rutilus frisii)
The Lupavets is very rare species called by the local population in Strandja as “thorny fish.” It occurs only in the rivers Rezovska, Veleka, Zirkovska and Karaach and is known everywhere precisely by that local name.
Sea Life and Fish
Mussels: black edible clam (mussel) can be find on the rocks along the shore, karbolomiya and white sandstone mussels are buried in the sand on the beaches and the rare “fan” and “cap” oyster could be found on seashore of the Black sea.
Jellyfish are invertebrate from cnidarian type living in salty water. They appeared more than 700 million years ago. They were among the first multicellular animals.
They have a body like a disk, on the edge of which the tentacles are placed. The jellyfish moves as periodically shrinks and relaxes its body.
The nervous system of the jellyfish allows them to sense and respond quickly to external stimuli such as light and odors. They feed on zooplankton or small fish. In the sea they should be avoided because they emit poison that irritates the skin.
Around the world there are nearly 70 species of studied jellyfish. They have a variety of shapes and colours. The diameter of some types may exceed two meters.
In the Black Sea the most common are (Aurelia aurita), (Rhizostoma pulmo) and colonizing the waters in recent years (Mnemiopsis leidyi).
The little jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) is a widespread species in the Black Sea. Generally it does not exceed 10-15 cm in diameter, but rarely reaches 40 cm. The body is milky white, translucent, with a plurality of radial canals, starting from the center of the disc and are directed towards the periphery. In the center the oral orifice is located. At the edge of the body there are many umbrella like tentacles.
The Great jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo) is also common in the Black Sea. It reaches an average of 15-20 cm, but sometimes up to 60 cm in diameter. It differs from the small jellyfish not so much in size as in shape and length of the lips shoulders. In the center of the disc from the underside a hill is formed, which hangs down. Her body has strong convex top. The Great jellyfish feeds on microorganisms. She swims like the little one- by contracting and dissolving its body.
The types of jellyfish that inhabit the Black Sea are not dangerous. The contact with them causes allergic skin reactions caused by mucus, which is released by their tentacles. They release the substance serotomin and also talasin (substance causing itching) and konhestin (a substance exalting the talasin causing an allergic reaction). They cause burning of the skin, rashes and in rare cases blistering.
There are also a variety of snails, the largest of them is the Rapana venosa.
Crustacea: The big Black Sea Paura Sea crab, great white crab ‘kartsalya‘, black crooked crab, Diogenes pugilator crap, shrimps and more.
The big Black Sea Paura Sea crab
|Diogenes pugilator crap – the specific about it is that one of the clamps is much bigger than the other.||
Shrimps inhabit coastal areas overgrown with algae. They are extremely good swimmers, and some of them it can even make sounds.
Deep water fish
Catfish / Dasyatis pastinaca / Sea Ray, Marine Cat, Common stingray
The catfish is a demersal fish which inhabits sandy or clay bottom. It spends most of their time inactive, partially buried in the sand. Itoften moves only with the tide. In winter it is in the deep parts, and in the summer months approaches the shore. It usually occurs at depths from 20 to 80 meters. A predator, feeds on molluscs, crabs, fish. The eyes and on the upper side, and therefore not considered by scientists to be particularly important in are located underneath. Like its relatives – the sharks, the catfish is equipped with electric sensors called “ampoules of Lorenzini.” Located around the mouth, these sensory organs capture the natural electrical vibrations of the potential prey. It holds 27,000 receptors for finding food.
The catfish is born alive. The breeding period begins in July and continues until the end of August. When it gives birth the pups are usually 4 to 12 from the fertilized ova. The little ones feed from the mother, similar to the mammals through food placenta. It serves as the adoption of nutrients from the mother to the fetus. Incubation lasts for a period of four months.
Deep-sea fish found along Strandja coast: turbot, flounder, catfish and sea fox. In the autumn, the Black sea shark migrates along the shore.
The European flounder
Passage and migratory fish – belted bonito, scad, bluefish, mullet, sprat and chub fish.
The only invasive species of fish is the Russian chub. Because its diet is composed of very small invertebrates, it is not in a competition with the local chub.
|Danube herring (Alosa pontica)
Distribution. It is found in the Black and Azov Sea, but when breeding it goes into their larger tributaries. In the past, it is an ordinary type for the Black Sea coast. In recent years, the number is significantly decreased.
Conservation status: vulnerable species recorded in the Red Book of Bulgaria.
Typical of the kind is the laterally compressed body, low and extended. It has a short head, eyes with eyelids, rod-shaped scales, relatively large mouth, strong and equally long teeth in the jaw as the upper part is cut in the middle. The tail has 2 scales, which are elongated and along the belly there is only one in a shaped triangle. The colors of the fish are silvery. It defends itself as living in schools, even during movement it creates sounds close to a crack, which makes the impression of something big and scary. The adults are predatory fish. They feed on fish living in schools.
|Harip (Alosa caspia)
Distribution. Black, Azov and Caspian Sea, where it goes into rivers and coastal ponds to breed from. Habitat: sea and permanent rivers. It is also found in marine shallows up to 10 m, including sea bays.
Biology: The Harip differs from Danube herring with a larger number of gill stamens (62-98) and smaller size (up to 20 cm in length of the body). It reaches sexual maturity at two years. It spawns in April-June at water temperature of 14-24 ° C at a depth of 1,5-4,0 m.
Conservation status: vulnerable species recorded in the Red Book of Bulgaria.
|Black Sea spiny dogfish
The body of the Black Sea spiny dogfish is dark grey in color, covered in small flakes with barbs directed towards the tail which is an asymmetric fin (with a greater upper part). There is also a barb located on the dorsal fin. The eyes are elongated and follow the curve of the head. The mouth is located at the bottom of the head. Their average size is up to 150 cm in length, but there are reported cases where this size is 180-200 cm. The weight is at about seven kilograms (at maturity). The largest representatives can reach up to 14 kg.
Black Sea spiny dogfish is widely spread – it is found throughout the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and the seas around them. In the Black Sea it is too plain species. It usually moves in small herds that inhabit the bottom layers of the sea water. The breeding period of the Black Sea spiny dogfish lasts from September to November. At that time, near the coast, at a depth of 25-40 meters it “gives birth” to 16 up to 32 little ones. The fertilization of the female happens either after birth or in the spring. The incubation period, which is carried out in the oviducts, continues at about 2 years.
The different types of small fish such as whiting, goby, mullet, plaice and more are food for the Black Sea spiny dogfish. In spring and autumn its food consists mainly of anchovy, sprat, scad and even mackerel.
Habitat: East Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea.
Conservation status: Rare species included in the Bern Convention and the red list of IUCN.
The body of marine needles is quite long and serpentine. They are difficult to distinguish between the algae. They are not very good swimmers, but if they decide they can be elusive for the human hand.
The whole body of the marine needle is armored. The mouth is shaped like a tube and the tail varies according to different species and may spread to assist dorsal fin swimming, or to wrap around a pedicle for a steady grip and rest.