Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) in Kresna gorge, Bulgaria, May 19, 2014. Photo: Hristo Peshev/FWFF

A Black Vulture observed for second subsequent year in Kresna Gorge. Is the species coming back?

Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) in Kresna gorge, Bulgaria, May 19, 2014. Photo: Hristo Peshev/FWFF

Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) in Kresna gorge, Bulgaria, May 19, 2014. Photo: Hristo Peshev/FWFF

The Black Vulture – the largest European bird of prey species, got extinct for 50 years in southwest Bulgaria. On May 19, 2014 an immature specimen has been observed in Kresna Gorge to use the feeding site established and maintained by FWFF. The bird took food together with the Griffon Vultures released in the Gorge within the LIFE for Kresna Gorge project. This is second subsequent year the Black Vulture is observed in Kresna Gorge. Last year Black Vulture was observed twice 05-06 May 2013 and 28 May 2013.
The Black Vulture’s conservation status is Near Threatened (IUCN) and the last known nesting in southwest Bulgaria was 50 years ago. The last observations of single specimen were in 2013 and 1997 in Kresna Gorge and in 2001 near the village of Mikrevo. On the Balkans the only small breeding colony is found in the Dadia Forest (Northeastern Greece) as the birds there are often going north to Bulgaria at the supplementary feeding sites in Eastern Rodopes.
The upward trend in observation of Black Vultures on the feeding sites in Kresna Gorge is due to the persistent conservation efforts of FWFF on vultures’ protection and return to the wild. LIFE for Kresna Gorge LIFE11 NAT/BG/000363, a five years project of FWFF, made it possible through creation of feeding sites for vultures, releasing of more than 30 Griffon Vultures in the Gorge and building of Wildlife Center in the village of Rakitna. nbm

Новини от проектите на ФДФФ за възстановяване на белоглавите лешояди в Котленска планина и Кресненския пролом

Повече от 5 години след началото на реинтродукцията на белоглавия лешояд в Котленска планина имаме 1 гнездяща двойка, която тази година снесе яйце за трета поредна година, но отново не успя да излюпи малко. Около 25-30 от  освободените птици могат да бъдат наблюдавани в района на Котел, от които още две нови двойки са в процес на формиране. Те най-вероятно ще пристъпят към гнездене следващата година. Подробности могат да се намерят в сайта на проекта “Завръщане на лешоядите в България” в партньорство със Зелени Балкани.

В Кресненския пролом, четири години след първите пускания на белоглави лешояди и след първите неуспешни опити за гнездене през 2010 и 2011, тази година се оформиха две нови двойки, които пазят територии и копулират. Най-вероятно 3-4 двойки ще загнездят през следващия гнездови сезон, съдейки по наблюдаваните опити за формиране на двойки от наличните птици. Между 15 и 25 белоглави лешояди могат да бъдат видени в района на Кресненския пролом и съседните Национални паркове “Рила” и “Пирин”. Годишно над 70-80 белоглави (диви гости) преминават през района привлечени от ново формираната група. Подробности могат да се намерят на сайта на проекта Живот за Кресненския пролом

Three species of vultures in Kresna Gorge – a result of FWFF work

In May 2013 for the first time for more than 50 years three species out of the four European species of vultures could be seen in Kresna Gorge. The Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) was re-introduced by FWFF since 2010 and now more then 20 individuals are regularly present.

On 5-th and 6-th of May 2013 the very rare in the region Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) appeared in the area attracted by the Griffon Vultures and the feeding site. Probably the same young non marked bird was again present at the feeding site on 28-th of May, showing it likes the place. On 21-th May for the first time for 2013 an adult Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) visited the feeding site and now is frequently present.

This is a great success for FWFF to return these species in the Kresna Gorge after the Black and Griffon Vultures were extinct from the area some 50-60 years ago and the Egyptian Vulture last pair bred in 2003. Thus Kresna Gorge is now one of the very few places in Europe, where the three species could be seen together, especially in combination with wild wolves (Canis lupus) (also frequently present at the feeding site).

Since 2012 the project “LIFE for Kresna Gorge” is co-funded by the LIFE financial instrument of EU and private donors as Friends of Vienna Zoo, Austria and BIOPARC Zoo de Doue, France.    

Transhumance Festival in Kotel, 7-th May 2013

The Transhumance Celebration Days Kotel 2013 was held on the 7th May. About two hundred guests and participants have joined the sheep herd of 450 animals going up to the mountain pastures for the summer period. Within the three hours there were organized competitions for the best shepherd dog and the most useful shepherd’s objects as well as the fastest cutting of sheep. More than 20 guests took a part in the competitions and the best of them got the desirable money prizes.
The very famous Bulgarian singer Galina Durmushliiska has presented unforgettable songs from the Bulgarian folklore. A group of girls has entertained the public with the authentic Karakachan dances and songs. The guests tasted local products from the eco-farm of FWFF- cheese, yogurt and honey.
The moment all were waiting was passing of 450 sheep and the famous final song of Galina “Zableialo mi agance”.
. Transhumance is believed to be more economically effective and of highest nature conservation importance. As avoid overgrazing in the lowlands and keep the mountain pastures opened. Many species of plants, birds and mammals are threatened of extinction due to habitat loss. This is especially well documented regarding the pastoral habitats in mountains and lowlands. Species like Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, European Souslik all listed as Vulnerable in IUCN Red list, are highly dependent on the existence of open habitats that are well grazed and so the diversity of plants and insects is high.
The Transhumance Celebration Days Kotel 2013 are financed under the project “Return the vultures” LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 and the tour company „Go Kotel”.

FWFF's Karakachan Sheep herd is passing the town of Kotel

700 sheep of FWFF overwinter in Sakar to support Imperial Eagle conservation


In the project LIFE07 NAT/BG/68 п during the winter 2012-2013 the sheep herds of FWFF and FWFF-Sofia (about 700 sheep) overwintered in Sakar. The aim is to be restored the ancient tradition of transhumance. This way valuable habitats are maintained in optimal condition to the benefit of threatened species.

Moderate grazing in certain seasons maintain and improves the habitat for the Imperial Eagle making its prey (mainly rodents) more abundant and accessible. When a dead animal from the herds appears it is also made available as a food for the eagles that are ready to scavenge especially in winter.    

During the winter FWFF created suitable conditions for the sheep and shepherds. The lambing season is going well and has almost finished.

The pair of imperial eagles acknowledged the efforts of the project team and established its new nest just next to the sheep farm thus replicating the behaviour of their grand parents.    

In the beggining of may 2013 about 1200 sheep and lambs is expected to move northwords to the seummer pastures of Central Balkan National Park, where they will mainain the habitat for susliks, imperial eagles, saker falcons and vultures. 

FWFF compensated farmers for depredated livestock in Kresna Gorge

On March 21-th, FWFF has compensated 6 farmers in the villages of Polena and Gorna Breznitsa in Kresna Gorge for their losses of livestock due to wolf attacks. Six goats and three sheep were given in order to stimulate the livestock breeders to take due measures to avoid depredation of their herds. This way it is believed the man/predator conflict will be mitigated and consequently no poison will be used to control predators. Finally this is something that supports the conservation of vultures in the area. See pictures from the event here.

More about the Compensation programme of FWFF could be found here 

The action is part of the “LIFE for Kresna Gorge” project LIFE11 NAT/BG/363 supported by the LIFE financial instrument of EU and co-financed by The Friends of Vienna Zoo, Austria and the Bioparc Zoo de Doue, France.

First laid egg of Griffon Vulture in Kotel Mountain after 50 years, Bulgaria

Today was proven the first laid egg of Griffon Vulture in Kotel Mountain for the last 50 years. The birds were released by FWFF in Kotel Mountain in 2009. One of the birds is a French donated by Bioparc Zoo de Doue, while the other is spanish received within the Balkan Vulture Action Plan. The actions of FWFF in Kotel Mountain are within the Vultures’ Return in Bulgaria Project supported by the LIFE financial instrument of EU and cofinancied by Frankfurt Zoological Society with Green Balkans as leading beneficiary. In 2012 the same pair of Griffon Vulture bred for first time at about 60 km to the east in Kamchiyska Mountain probably pushed there from the severe winter conditions in Kotel Mountain at that time. The first breeding attempt was not successful, but we hope this year the pair to be succesful in Kotel Mountain. The hatching is expected in April 2013 and we will keep you informed about the developments.

French Griffon Vulture released in Balkan Mountain breeds in Eastern Rhodopes

A Griffon Vulture, released from the area of Kotel, Eastern Balkan Mountains, built its nest in the last remaining vulture colony in the Eastern Rhodopes.

Our colleagues from BSPB found the odd couple during the regular monitoring on the Griffon Vulture colony near Madzharovo, Eastern Rhodopes.

We recognized “our” bird by the blue wing tag with a orange “10” and the green PVC ring B19. This bird hatched in 2007 in the French Bioparc Zoo de Doue was released by Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna in 2009 from the special vulture adaptation aviary in Kotel.

At present the young family is building a nest on Kovan Kaya rock – one of the most important rocks for the Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes.

This is the first confirmed case of a bird, released within the programme for restoring the vulture population on the Balkan Mountains, carried out by Green Balkans, FWFF and BPPS, settles in another, natural colony of the species.

Nobody likes to live in an empty block of flats, especially vultures. They are very social birds, which like to have neighbours. This is why, within the Vultures Return in Bulgaria Project, we always release a number of birds and keep some birds in the aviary, to imitate a natural colony and attract the ones we have released. Unfortunately our birds are too young and as every teenager, sometimes they like to stray a long way from home. Thus, in 2010 B19 left the area of Sliven and Kotel and found the natural colony of Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes. There our bird fortunately found love. To our surprise, in the spring of 2011 and 2012 B19 managed to persuade the wild vulture to visit its “natal” site in the Balkan Mountains. Despite our hopes that they would turn into the second pair breeding in the area of Kotel, the instinct and experience of the wild vulture overweighed so the young pair returned back to the South, where BSPB reported a total of 56 pairs of Griffon Vultures in 2012.

We are wishing best of luck to the pair and are looking forward to seeing the “response” of the vultures, released in the Balkan Mountains within the LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 project.


Picture and sighting report by Marin Kurtev – BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria

Eight electric pylons dangerous for vultures were equipped with perch discouragers in Kresna Gorge

Eight electric pylons dangerous for vultures in Kresna Gorge were equipped with perch discouragers.

In 2012 two Griffon Vultures were electrocuted on two of these 20 kV electric pylons. One of the birds was released within the project, while the other was a guest juvenile, probably originating from Croatia. Vultures native to Balkan Peninsula are a common sight while passing through the area on their migration. The  Kresna Gorge became an important stopover for the Griffon Vultures on their migration, where they benefit from the feeding site and the company of the newly released vultures within the project.

FWFF with the assistance of “CEZ Electrodistribution” company implemented the equippment of some of the most dangerous pylons in the area. This way it is believed the area is now safe for birds of prey such as Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Golden Eagle, Black and Red kites and others.


Re-introduction of Suslik in Kotel Mountain

The European Ground Squirrel (Suslik) (Spermophilus citellus) is a Globally threatened species (IUCN Red List) that faced rapid decline in population in XX century. In Kotel Mountain the species disappeared in 1990-ies due to habitat degradation based on lack of grazing.

In 2011 the first 57 susliks were translaocated from the area of Sliven to the area of Urushki Skaly near Kotel and released in specially digged holes in the ground.

see more…

Nature Conservation Organisation in Bulgaria

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