Migrant birds put at risk by third bridge

Migrant birds put at risk by third bridge

The third bridge for the Bosphorus is being discussed from many aspects. However, from the viewpoint of nature lovers and environmentalists the most important topic, besides the cutting of millions of trees, is the migrant birds and obstacles affecting their migration routes. The name Garipçe stands right at the center of this issue because this cute village is the first stop on the migration routes of birds flying from the north to warmer countries. And it has been like that for tens of thousands of years. But the village today is on the agenda, not because of this or its historic ruins but for the rising leg of the bridge over the Bosphorus. 

The Istanbul Bird Watching Community is first among those who are worried about this situation and who react the most. Ümit Yardım is a member of this community and he has spent many years at the Garipçe Hill for bird watching and bird counting. Yardım said that at certain periods, hundreds of thousands of birds fly past the Bosphorus and Istanbul. For this reason, he said, the Third Bridge and its connecting roads will pose a threat for people just as much as they pose a threat for the migrating birds. Yardım claimed the headlights of vehicles passing across the bridge would misguide the birds. He said, “The misguided bird would fly straight toward the vehicle and in the case of a collision, there will be chain accidents.” 

Isn’t the same danger valid for the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges also? That risk has been present for both bridges for years. Why has such an incident not been experienced; moreover, it has not even been mentioned? 

Yardım’s answer to this question is this: “They are not as close to the Black Sea and the northern forests. Everybody knows that the migrant birds that fly past the Black Sea with difficulty and become extremely exhausted would head toward the first light they see. This light is going to be the headlights of the vehicles on the Third Bridge. The same thing goes for the highways passing through the middle of the forests.” 

Yardım stated that through the 8-9 kilometer corridor stretching from the Fener village at the entrance of the Bosphorus to Sarıyer there is an intense bird flow at certain periods. Depending on the strength of the wind and the warmth of the weather, he said, there may be high or low passes. 

“While we are observing and counting at the Garipçe hill, we have seen many times birds flying below our eye level and upward from there. We have witnessed especially flocks of storks flying at a level almost touching the trees at the place where the legs of the bridge are. Since the birds are not going to change their routes because a bridge has been built, the risk is high,” he said. 

Bridge not the only risk

Another figure who drew attention to the same danger is associate Professor Zeynel Arslan Gündoğdu from Istanbul University’s Forestry Department. Garipçe, where the leg of the bridge is located, is exactly at the center of the bird migration route, he said. 

“The collision of small birds may not constitute a risk factor for vehicles; however, the real problem is those birds that glide and have a big body such as the stork, hawk and eagle, that also travel in flocks. And the risk is not only limited to the bridge; the highways and the viaducts also pass right through the middle of the forest,” he said. 

Another danger Gündoğdu draws attention to is housing that will arrive with the bridge and especially tall buildings. Because of the lights in the city, the birds have difficulty finding their direction and their biorhythms are disrupted. Seagulls are now preying on insects around tall buildings that have been illuminated, Gündoğdu explained. He has a suggestion for a solution to this negative situation: To abide by the Bern Convention (The Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats) that we have signed as a country and while development plans are prepared, to ask the ecologists… 

Tunca Bengin is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published Sept. 20. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.