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Traditional Midwinter Waterbird Census in the Eastern Rhodopes

1000 waterbirds of 10 species were registered around the dam lake of Ivaylovgrad and along the Arda River in the Eastern Rhodopes during the traditional midwinter water bird census, which took place between 13 and 15 January 2012. Most numerous species were the Mallard, Great Cormorant, Common Pochard, Great Crested Grebe and the Little Grebe.

Eco-volunteers  from Kardzhali and Madzharovo, led by Marin Kurtev participated in the census.

The bird watchers also observed a couple of White-tailed Eagles nesting near the dam lake of Ivaylovgrad. The White-tailed Eagle is the largest eagle in Europe. It is an extremely rare bird, which only breeds at three locations in Bulgaria.

This year census of waterbirds in the Eastern Rhodopes was part of a youth educational program of the Bulgarian-Dutch project New Thracian Gold. The youngsters are trained in bird identification  and bird monitoring.

The midwinter waterbird census is an initiative of Wetlands International.  This census is conducted since 1967 in almost all European countries. The goal of the census is to determine the national and international population size of waterbird 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.

In Bulgaria, the coordinator of the waterbird census  is the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB). See the information of  BSPB.

Data from previous years show that the number of wintering birds in Bulgaria has decreased significantly compared to the initial census results. In 1997 there were over 703,000 thousand waterbirds registered in Bulgaria, whereas in 2011 their numbers reached a  500,000 total.

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.

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