Lake complex “Shabla”

The complex consists of Shabla lake – a high humidity area by the Ramsar convention. It is a CORINE site covering an area of 510 hectares and includes the semi-saline lagoon Shablenska tuzla. In fact these are two fresh water basins connected through a canal. A 30 – 50 m wide strand of sand separates the waters of the lake from the sea. Research shows that the lake lies in an old river bed. Under the lake slime there are four-meter layers of sand underlined with another thick marsh layer. Pretty well-matured little place! The lake itself is about 5 km long and 0.5 km wide, with and average depth of 4.5 m. Its shores are overgrown with reeds and bulrush.


Sun in the reeds, western side of Lake Chabla
Image copyright 2004 Emil Enchev

In its greater part (excluding the eastern shore bordering with the sea) the shores of the lake are surrounded by small grooves or single trees. These wooden areas provide refuge to some migrating birds as well as home to some local breeding species. Most of the lake bordering areas, however lead directly to the open sea shores or the nearby crops.

The place is generally abundant with water vegetation and combined with the open water spaces, it is heaven for birds. And not only for them.
Many groves, farm fields and meadows are scattered in the surrounding area.
Shablenska Tuzla is situated at 1.5 km from the Shabla lake and is separated from the sea by high dunes. The basin has an oval shape and is about 800 m long. The vegetation variety here is much sparser, with predominantly saline plants.


Bearded Reedling (male), Lake Chabla
Image copyright 2004 Emil Enchev

The vast reed areas are home to these beautiful and fascinating birds during the whole year. This is one of the places in Bulgaria where you stand the best chance to observe and photograph them. And your chances to see them will be even bigger if you know how to call them!

Bearded Reedling (female), Lake Chabla
Image copyright 2004 Emil Enchev

An usual posture for these fascinating birds.

There is also a government residence in the area. A few kilometers from here is the east-most point of Bulgaria – cape Shabla. The town of Shabla can be found 5 km away, on the E87 road from Varna to the Romanian border. On the same road, 19 km away from Shabla is Durankulak.


Frozen sea and feeding gulls
Image copyright 2006 Emil Enchev

Sitting over frozen water and watching all this unusual view is not option every year. Usually beginning of February is the most cold winter period in this area.

Second part of February - Red-breasted Geese get separate from the other geese species in different flocks. Usually 5-15 thousand beautiful birds in one place!
Image copyright 2006 Emil Enchev

The time of the spring migration here, like in Durankulak,is a time of exclusive colour and dynamics among plants, animals and birds. A special attention should be paid to the shallow branches of the lake. Compared to the Durankulak lake, there are more trees here, which provide home to many birds and animals.If the Waders are among your favourites, Shablenska tuzla is the place for you. Some of them, can be found on the very shore of the sea in winter.


Dawn in Chablenska Tuzla
Image copyright 2004 Emil Enchev

This is one of my favorite places to be during the morning hours. I enjoy the sounds of the birds just before the sunrise. Here every morning is unique.

The peculiarities of the Red-breasted Goose that I mentioned in the description of the Durankulak lake apply here as well. Do not forget that every winter have different specificity. This is also the winter home of individual white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla).

Red-breasted amd White fronted Geese in morning light, Lake Chabla
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

Red-breasted Geese, Lake Chabla
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

The social behaviour of these red beauties is very interesting to observe. One of the ways to differentiate between red-breasted geese and white-fronted geese is the greater density of the birds in the flock in flight as well as during feeding. In fact even from a great distance these geese are easily distinguished from the other species by their smaller size, higher pitch, and higher flapping frequency during flight.

Black-tailed Godwit during early spring, Lake Chabla
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

1st March. The birds are silently strolling over the frozen lake shores. They are still in winter coats, but the first signs of the bright mating plumage are already visible. On the second day a lonely redshank joined the group. Goodbye winter!

Red-breasted Geese feeding on the field near Lake Chabla
Image copyright 2005 Emil Enchev

The first days of March. At this time the geese are usually feeding in the fields directly near the lake. During this period they are calm and more easy to photograph. However, during this period the chance to see the enormous flocks is smaller than in January and especially February.