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Dragoman swamp – biggest wet karsts area in Bulgaria

bnr.bg, Maria Dimitrova, Zhivko Stanchev

The Dragoman swamp is situated some 40 km away from the capital city of Sofia. Ecologists say that a century ago this was one of Bulgaria’s most surveyed wet areas. Local people continue to tell stories on how over 20,000 wild bird eggs could be gathered then and sold on the market of the capital Sofia. After several decades of artificial drainage, the biggest wet karst zone of Bulgaria started to get back to its previous and natural condition during the 90s. The environmentalists from the Balkani Wildlife Society really contributed a lot to that end. Mr. Andrei Ralev, coordinator of the project for preservation of Dragoman swamp’s biodiversity, brings more on the process of life slowly returning into that wet area:

“Birds conquered really fast the restored areas of the swamp. We observe their returning every year. Ducks started to nest there back in the 90s, then in 2005 we saw bitterns – Mr. Ralev says. – Purple Herons appeared a year later. We’ve had three kinds of herons since 2007 – purple, gray and great egret. The last species nests only at the Srebarna Nature Reserve and the Dragoman Swamp. We have registered so far 230 kinds of birds here and the nesting of 126 of them. There are also four kinds of plants that cover the lake – reed, bulrush, sedge and rush. There had used to be water lily too, but it disappeared with the drainage. However, we’ve managed to restore it at some parts of the swamp, along with over 14 000 aldrovandas – a plant that had disappeared in Bulgaria for over 80 years.”

Many interesting reptiles live in the area too, Andrei Ralev says. There are many kinds of frogs among them. The Common Spadefoot, aka Garlic Toad can be met here really often. The name of the frog comes from its garlic smell. Mr. Ralev describes the Dragoman swamp as a really nice place for walks among nature too:

“We’ve built up some 500 m long wooden bridges in the swamp – Mr. Ralev says. – One can go along those and observe the birds without bothering them. We also have an observation tower. A Center for Protection of Wet Areas was opened at the community center of Dragoman with a conference hall for 30-40 people. There is an exhibition with interesting games for kids, we also organize student trips and work quite successfully with schools from Sofia and the nearby towns. The interest towards the swamp is really great – one can see here rare for Europe species like the Bitter and the Ferruginous Duck.”

Mr. Andrei Ralev on the future of the biggest wet karst area in Bulgaria:
“There is a big problem now with the sewage waters of the town of Dragoman. They flow into the swamp that filtrates them to some degree. However, a lot of organic material still gathers. We work together with the Dragoman municipality on the idea for the construction of a treatment plant. We suggest the technology of the artificial wet area for the purpose – a small swamp, close to the Dragoman one that will be cheap to be built and maintained. We hope that this will be the first big facility of the kind in Bulgaria.”

Karst swamps are a rear phenomenon worldwide, the expert says and adds that the Dragoman one should be turned into something unique, even from the economic point of view. “We’ve already tried to create pellets of reed and cattail. There is a lot of reed in the swamp. All we have to do is to mow them in the winter, when there are no birds there” – Mr. Ralev says in conclusion.

We have prepared some interesting offers for a birdwatching trip to the Dragoman swamp here:
Birdwatching in Dragoman.

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Sofia 17/10/2012 21:07

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