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Fethiye to host bird watching fest over the weekend

FETHİYE - Hürriyet Daily News | 10/1/2009 12:00:00 AM | JANE TUNA

This weekend is important for birdwatchers in Turkey as Bird Life International is organizing EuroBirdwatch in the Mediterranean town of Fethiye as part of its ‘Born To Travel’ campaign. Fethiye is fortunate to have a variety of bird habitats on its doorstep and the members of a local foundation plan for an active weekend with visits to several good bird-watching areas

A program of activities and trips have been organized in the popular resort town of Fethiye this weekend, providing exciting opportunities for anyone interested in birds to visit some well-known areas and those off the beaten track with ornithologists and experts.

The enthusiasm the program has engendered “is crucial to reduce the threats that migratory birds face on their journeys," said Ania Sharwood Smith, European coordinator of the Born to Travel Campaign. Last year, the event drew 30,000 adults and children from over 30 countries, and a total of 2.2 million birds were counted. The popularity of birds is clearly growing, but so is the urgency of their conservation.

The vast landmass of Turkey is an extremely important area for birds. It is situated at the meeting point of three continents, forming a bridge between the reproductive areas of birds in the north and their winter nests in the south. Some spend their lives here, some breed here, while others use its coasts, marshlands and mountains as useful stopovers for their long migrations. There are more than 456 different species of birds to be seen in this geographically and climatically diverse country.

Fethiye is fortunate to have a variety of these habitats on its doorstep, and this year members of the Fethiye Tourism, Promotion, Education, Culture and Environment Foundation, or FETAV, have planned an active weekend with visits to several good bird-watching areas.

One of those areas is Girdev, a high plateau lying at 1,600 meters in the Ak Dağ Yaylası mountains between Fethiye and Antalya. It is usually approached from the village of Temel – off the Antalya road, although there is an alternative route through the villages around Dereköy. Access is via a 2,000-meter pass.

This is an ideal habitat for frogs, dragonflies and damselflies, assorted insects and plant life, providing a rich diet for the birds. There is also a wonderful crop of wild watercress, which can add a tasty supplement to any picnic! The weather is changing now and any trips to this area without the benefits of a four by four should be undertaken with caution.

Another area the FETAV team will be visiting is Akgöl. A very important ecosystem in the area, this lake and surrounding wetland is sometimes a little brackish, especially when the water level drops in the summer months, but the sweet water attracts many marsh birds.

There is a variety of habitats here, from open water to reed beds to coastal margins. As a consequence, the diversity of bird species makes this an excellent place to go bird watching, and there are good places for cover so that you can get really close sightings, but be careful, as sometimes there are illegal bird hunters on the prowl. You really don’t want to become one of their victims! This beautiful area is under threat at the moment as a result of plans to make it into a marina, so if you haven’t been there yet you’d better go soon!

An area that anyone who lives around Fethiye is bound to know is the Kuş Cenneti or Bird Paradise, one of the few remaining areas of salt marsh in the area. It lies between Fethiye and Çalış. Similar to Akgöl, but more accessible, there are many species of birds here, waders, coots, moorhens, cormorant, stork, hoopoe, ibis, to name but a few. In recent years, 220 different species of birds have been sighted here. Much of this land has been sacrificed to land fill and residential development. Now, a restaurant named “Şat” adds to the disturbance. Some of the area has been fenced off but not enough to stop it being used as a favorite spot for fly tipping and people walking their dogs. These actions have been carried out despite the fact that in 2003 it was officially recognized as an area warranting special protection with no building permission.

Here again we see another important area under threat, and so it is to be hoped that these three areas that have served as a resting place, restaurant and nursery for so many birds will continue for generations to come. This environmental degradation has a negative impact not only on the wildlife but also for the people who live there. "It’s very motivating to see the numbers of visitors of EuroBirdwatch events increase every year. This enthusiasm is crucial to BirdLife in getting support to reduce the threats that migratory birds face on their journeys,” commented Sharwood Smith.

In the last 40 years, 1,300,000 hectares of wetlands have been destroyed in Turkey, and turned into agricultural, residential or industrial areas. Only 1,250,000 hectares of wetlands remain, less than 50 percent of the original amount and 40 percent of this has been destroyed in the last 20 years. This weekend will provide another great opportunity to visit Fethiye and see some of its most special places.

For further information contact FETAV www.fetav.com, DOĞA DERNEĞİ www.dogadernegi.org or Ali İhsan Emre on 0 532 5249395

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