Friday 7 September 2018

Trip to the Danube River - Srebarna Nature Reserve

A short review of a trip Dylan and I made heading North toward the Danube looking for plants and reptiles and a visit to the Srebarna Nature Reserve.

Our first stop was to Catherine Zanev and Adjmal Dulloo's farm in Todorovo, North Bulgaria that you can read about in our previous blog - 5 ha Polyculture Farm Design - Suhi Dol Revisited.

The next stop was to the Danube River at Vetren  

The plant diversity in the transition between the forest and the river bank is incredible there.  

Dice snake - Natrix tessellata basking on driftwood 

Grass Snake - Natrix natrix on the hunt

Just slightly east of Vetren is the Srebarna Nature Reserve, a freshwater lake adjacent to the Danube and extending over 600 ha. It is the breeding ground of almost 100 species of birds, many of which are rare or endangered. 

There is an off road track around the outside of the reserve suitable for cars with many places to stop and look out over the lake.  

This little fella joined us for coffee. I'm not sure of the species but it's probably a young Podarcis sp. - Wall Lizard 

The reserve is home to 139 plant species, 11 of them are in danger of extinction outside the territory of Srebarna. Areas of the water are full of Salvinia natans an annual floating aquatic fern. The nitrogen fixing floater Azolla filiculoides also grows here but I did not spot it. 

Another track on the western side of the reserve brings you down to the lake's edge. It's a very unique environment, like something out of the Never Ending Story as Dylan commented. 

Away from the Srebarna Reserve and off the riverside the majority of the land in this region is industrially farmed. It's certainly one on the least beautiful regions of Bulgaria that I've seen.   

I've known that  Glycyrrhiza echinata - Wild Liquorice grows wild here in Bulgaria but I have never seen it growing up until now. We stumbled across a large patch of it growing on the outskirts of Silistra.

Here is the Glycyrrhiza echinata - Wild Liquorice patch  Willow Salix spp. standing proudly on the Danube riverbank in the background.

On the way back North just outside Razgrad we come across this Paulownia Plantation. The trees were planted approx 3 m apart and it looks like the foresters are lifting the lower growth to promote tall single stemmed trees. I expect these are 3 year old trees.

We made a day trip to Veliko Turnovo before heading back to Shipka

While taking the above photo we heard a rustling in the twigs below and spotted this Hermann's tortoise Testudo hermanni  (could also be subspecies T. h. boettgeri)

Whilst in Veliko Turnovo we headed over to Tsarevets, a medieval fortress, to check out the outstanding views, the rock flora, and what with all of the rocks around it seemed like a great place for spotting reptiles. 

Dylan checking under some boulders. 

He spotted a few juvenile snakes that were too fast to identify and photograph .The Balkan Wall Lizards -  Podarcis tauricus were not so shy.

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