© Martin Schneider-Jacoby

The Bojana delta - ecological treasure

African Monarch in Solana Ulcinj
African Monarch in Solana Ulcinj

On their way between winter and summer domiciles, many brooding birds from Northern, Central and Eastern Europe pass over the Balkans, a mountainous region where waterfowl hardly find resting places. Only the narrow fringe along the Adriatic Sea offers a few adequate wetlands, which as a result hold very high bird populations.

The Saline at Ulcinj

An important hub of bird migration is located in the Bojana delta on the border between Albania and Montenegro, the saline between the Montenegrin town of Ulcinj and the border of Albania marking an important resting place for large flocks of birds before they fly non-stop over the Adriatic Sea to South Italy, from where they continue to Africa, passing over Malta or Sicily. But also migratory birds staying over winter and brooding birds are attracted by this area of around 15 square kilometres of ponds, channels, cane brake and saline banks. 214 bird species have been documented so far. In autumn, you can find over 20.000 birds there at the same time, including numerous endangered species such as the Dalmatian pelican, flamingos and the common spoonbill. The saline has rightly obtained the status of IBA (Important Bird Area), and we will make sure that it is protected in terms of its ecological value.

EuroNatur is working on an ambitious project: a cross-border natural park for the protection of valuable biotopes, situated in the lakes, rivers and dunes territory of the Albanian-Montenegrin Bojana delta, the saline at Ulcinj representing the first specific project area. We have bought a small special digger for the muddy grounds, and we have already built eight brooding islands of totally 835 square metres, where according to the shape of the surface pelicans, terns, slender-billed gulls, ringed plovers or pied avocets can breed. Four of the islands were also equipped with plastic tubes and wooden boxes that serve common shelducks as nesting help.

Bird protection and salt harvesting - an harmonic partnership

After taking an ecological inventory of the saline, a comprehensive action plan was elaborated, with the aim to create an even greater and safe habitat for the birds and to improve the economic outlook of the saline at the same time. Also the birds benefit from salt harvesting, as does the reinforcement of ponds and banks. Education in environment and eco-tourism are the third common target. It is planned to install a visitors' centre in the old administration building, where info brochures, map material, a tour sketch for marked hiking trails through the saline and also refreshments and further services (such as the rental of binoculars) shall be offered. In future, revenues from the info centre will help to pay for the conservation of paths and banks and also to control the saline area.

Link to management plan for the Nature Park “Solana Ulcinj”

No chance for poachers

After difficult years, the saline operator has finally achieved a ban on hunting in the saline area. During the past months, shelters that were set up by hunters and poachers were removed and all accesses, except the main entry via the administration building, were closed. A guard has been employed and regularly controls the huge and complex area, also during night; since then, many a bird hunter was caught. We have contributed to the control by providing two motorbikes, binoculars and weatherproof clothing. Activities on site are forging ahead. We are digging off a 50-m long steep face for bee-eaters, kingfishers and sand martins, where they can build their nesting tunnels. Furthermore, we intend to elongate a bank that is equipped with nesting pads for Dalmatian pelicans, for the settlement of a flamingo colony. Another important project is the construction of a tower and five camouflaged huts, which will give nature lovers the opportunity to watch birds without disturbing them and also keeps bird hunters away.

You would like to know more about Solana Ulcinj? Click here for an interesting book recommendation