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Birdwatchers in Bodrum cry for help

BODRUM - Hürriyet Daily News | 1/21/2010 12:00:00 AM | CHRIS DRUM BERKAYA

In the absence of the late Brian Stoneman, who was out every possible day for more than a decade observing and counting birds in the region, the birdwatchers on the Bodrum Peninsula are having a hard time keeping a record of the birds in the Tuzla wetlands. One volunteer appeals to an international birdwatching organization requesting expert help

A call has gone out from the popular resort town of Bodrum in the Aegean region for birdwatchers to help identify and count birds.

The “small, enthusiastic but fallible local birdwatchers group” has put out the appeal and welcomes all newcomers. The group is particularly looking for people with some birding knowledge to help spot and count bird populations in the Tuzla Important Bird Area and other areas on the Bodrum Peninsula.

Records have been sadly neglected for the last 18 months since the veteran birdwatcher, resident expert and longtime protector of the wetland birds, Brian Stoneman moved back to England, where he died a year ago.

For more than a decade Brian was out every possible day observing and counting birds in the area, diligently reporting and keeping an impressive amount of data. He was one of the major contributors to bird records in Turkey.

He cajoled and charmed a handful of interested residents into going out counting with him, but now they miss both his genial company and his guidance badly, and say they have felt no confidence in keeping up the data.

But the absence of flamingos on the wetlands this winter has spurred them into going to the Tuzla wetlands regularly over the last month, hoping to put together some reliable records for 2010 and the midwinter count.

The European Water birds Midwinter Count is a coordinated count across Europe to compile data of where the migratory water birds are, how many there are and if they are breeding – to add to years of data tracking the birds. As well as keeping a count on the health of populations, the data collected are important indicators of the birds’ environment, pollution, land use and changes in climate.

[HH] Letter of appeal to organization

Realizing that time is short, local people have written to national and international bird and wildlife organizations to seek support. One, Keith Ward, wrote an appeal for expert help to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, or RSPB, a U.K.-based charity working to secure a healthy environment for birds and all wildlife.

He wrote: “With Wetlands Day (Feb. 2) nearly upon us ... and the mid-winter count imminent, I do not see how we can possibly hope to provide worthwhile information without more expertise and a better scope. However, we feel that with time we can improve our abilities and contribute more. If you have any ideas we would be pleased to hear them, and if you have a newsletter that reaches your members, perhaps we could include a plea for people (with expertise) to help or equipment (we would buy a good second-hand scope at a reasonable price) for the Tuzla (Bodrum) area.”

On Jan. 10, a group of six “enthusiastic amateurs” went out to record the birds on Tuzla Lake and found that a small group of the greater flamingos at the lake for the last three weeks, have grown to approx 170 birds – whereas in past years there had been 2,000 to 3,000 at this time of the year.

Many of the flock were showing a lack of the renowned pink color plumage. The juveniles are gray and brown and they acquire the color as they feed on their main food supply of brine shrimp. Grey herons, egrets, various ducks, plovers, cormorants, a solitary flash of a kingfisher, and the stately flight of a squadron of the Dalmatian pelicans were recorded on a bright and relatively warm morning before rain came in later. One local resident farmer agreed that there were fewer birds on the lake compared to previous winters, saying it really was too warm. Indeed signs of spring seemed to be around, with anemones flowering in green fields.

Birdwatchers in Turkey or outside are very welcome to come and help in Bodrum in the next two or three weeks, especially if they posses some high-resolution telescopes/binoculars. For more information please e-mail contact@bodrumobserver.com

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[HH] Tuzla Lake: A bird sanctuary

Tuzla Lake is formed by the deep inlet from the Gulf of Güllük and Mandalya Bay. Home to a host of ancient ruins, the lake is surrounded by mountains covered with olive groves, pines and tamarisk trees.

Designated an Important Bird Area, or IBA, in 2001, Tuzla Lake, dissected by a causeway, is particularly special as a natural bird sanctuary. Throughout the year, a large variety of rare birds including pelicans, flamingos and white storks can be seen flocking to the wetlands.

The IBA also covers the Güllük Delta, leading up to the Hamza Valley and following the Akyol River into Uyku Vadisi, or Sleepy Valley. Uyku Vadisi is a natural preservation area among steep rocks, a forest of rich fauna and the Hamzabey River. It is called this because one feels sleepy as a result of the fresh, clean air in the region. This valley is now an official national park.

The brackish waters of Tuzla Lake, less than a meter deep, provide vital nourishment for birds refueling on their long journey to and from Russia, Scandinavia, and parts of Europe and Africa. It is rich in fish and algae and is fed by three freshwater streams. The lake attracts flamingos, grey heron, egret and numerous species of duck and goose. Although rare, 45 Dalmatian pelicans have been sighted there, as well as white pelicans, pygmy cormorants, spoonbills and ospreys.

The varied nature of the lake's surroundings also makes it an important habitat for birds and other wildlife. The area’s mud flats are alive with waders, including the rare terek sandpiper. Farmland, forest and hedgerows attract even more rarities such as the booted eagle and the saker and lanner falcon. The area also seems to have a special mild micro-climate so that the booted eagle and swallows were spotted in December when they should be in Africa. The Cyprus warbler, rarely seen this far west, is another visitor benefiting from warmer temperatures.

Apart from the myriad bird life, more permanent inhabitants include terrapins, snakes, wild boar, badger, fox and porcupine.

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