The Srebarna Nature Reserve, located near the town of Silistra, is a freshwater lake adjacent to the Danube and a Bulgarian natural habitat protected by UNESCO as a part of the world natural heritage. Long before it became a biosphere reserve, however, the shallow lake, which has a depth of up to 3 meters and often turns into a bog, has provoked the imagination of locals and travelers with its plethora of birds, but also with its silvery color, the inspiration for its name Srebarna (The Silver Lake).
There are several legends regarding the origin of the name of the lake. The heroic version tells a story according to which Srebarna was named after the local ruler Srebrun, who protected his people from Pecheneg invasion and dies in an uneven battle. His heroic death gave birth to many legends about his great courage, and so his name was given to the lake.
The romantic legend, which is also the most popular one, describes how upon a full moon, the light at night reflects in the smooth waters, so that it turns the lake into an enchanting painting of liquid silver. Hence the name Srebarna ( The Silver Lake).
The mystical legend, which is definitely the favourite one of the treasure hunters and adventurers, enthralled by mysteries, claims that in ancient times a boat full of silver was buried by the lake. The loot has not yet been discovered, so no one has proven the legend yet, but thrill seekers have another reason to visit the lake underneath the migratory flight path Via Pontica.
Felix Kanitz calls it El Dorado of the bird‘s world
If you arm yourself with binoculars, you can enjoy the variety of birds that make Srebarna such a famous reserve at “arm’s length”, or as traveler Felix Kanitz once described it “the El Dorado (the undiscovered city of gold) of the bird world”.
At the visitor center of Srebarna Lake you can learn more about the birds, as well as observe them through set up binoculars or watch a live feed in the nests. There is also an eco-path by the lake, which is a suitable area for a picnic, meanwhile far away enough from the bird habitats.
To get to Srebarna lake, it is best to start your travel from the town of Silistra. The nature reserve is located near the eponymous village of Srebarna,16 kilometers away from Silistra. The village is supplied by seasonal floods from the River Danube two kilometers to the north. The lake is freshwater, its depth varies between 1 and 3 meters, and its area reaches about 2.5 square kilometers. It is often bogged down, and reeds occupy nearly two-thirds of its area. This is the reason for the formation of the so-called “kotches“ – floating islands of reeds, which are a preferred nesting place for more than 220 species of birds that inhabit the area.
A symbol of Srebarna is definitely the curly-headed pelican. Apart from Srebarna, the bird with the largest beak nest can only be seen in three other places in Europe – in neighboring Greece, along the Volga River, and in the Danube River Delta. The curly-headed pelican is one of the largest flying birds on the planet. It also has an interesting way of storing its catch – in a huge leather bag under the lower jaw. These birds are listed as globally threatened. Visitors can also enjoy the daily life of cormorants, herons, swans, geese, ducks and many other feathered inhabitants. In addition, Srebarna is also of European value importance in supporting other endangered species such as glossy ibis, spoonbill, little cormorant, red heron, red-crested pochard, whiskered tern, black kite, black woodpecker, bearded reedling.
White-tailed eagles and ospreys hunt in the region, but do not nest in the reserve. The rare ruddy shelduck can be found in the buffer zone of the lake. In winter Srebarna provides critical habitat that supports the population of the endangered red-breasted goose, the lesser white-fronted goose and up to 30,000 other bird species.
The rest of the animal world in the reserve is also very diverse. Otters, muskrats, Danube crayfish, turtles, water vole live in Srebarna. There are a total of 47 species of mammals, 27 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 21 species of fish, including pikes, carps, and redfin.
At the reserve there is a large parking lot provided for the visitors. Both, the parking and the museum, are accessible to people with disabilities. Photography is permitted in the reserve, and a ticket is required to enter the museum. You can learn more about The Srebarna Lake during the guided tours in the visitors’ center, conducted in Bulgarian or in English.
Author’s photos, as well as those from Pixabay, were used for the material
This content has been prepared as part of a project of the Ministry of Tourism.