Birds unite our changing world

This sentence welcomes the reader on Lider Sinav´s blog called Kuş Notları (“Bird notes”). As a six-year-old boy, Lider opened his first field guide for birds, a German book he received from his Swiss mother. His grandmother actually bought it for its nice appearance, and it was never opened until Lider discovered it. But from there on, he was fascinated by birds. Birdwatching became a hobby, his passion and eventually much more. It opened the world for him. Everywhere he found new birds, and finally decided to study biology in the university. 

“Before I started university, I never met any other birdwatcher. I believed that I was completely alone with this passion, and I didn´t even know if it would be possible to make this passion my job. I still remember the day, when I saw a simple advertisement in the university hall, promoting a birdwatching field excursion. I couldn’t believe my eyes – could it be that there are other people out there who share my interest? Eventually I decided to join this group, and from there on, I was able to work with and learn from the best ornithologists in the field. I am lucky that this became my job today, and I can spend my time doing what I love most.”

Lider Sinav

A scenic day in Inözü valley

We have the pleasure to get an insight into Lider´s love and knowledge of birds when he takes us on a little excursion. We go to Beypazari, a town near Ankara, which is famous for its historic Ottoman architecture. Moreover, on the outskirts of the town, there is a very special canyon called Inözü Vadisi. This valley is an important area for biodiversity, and Lider teases us with the possible sightings of several vulture species. Bearded vultures, egyptian vultures and cinereous vultures can all be spotted in Inözü valley. Hoping that we are not too late to catch them before migration, we head out of Ankara by bus towards Beypazari. 

After arriving, we enjoy exploring the cobbled streets and admiring the traditional architecture of Beypazari. Eventually, with full bellies, we start our journey into the valley in the midday sun. Although we are aware that´s not the best time for birdwatching, for vulture spotting it is just as good as any other time of day.

With its rich flora and fauna, the Inözü Valley in Beypazarı is particularly important for bird species. Wide steppes and agricultural fields are on the horizon west of the area. Inözü valley is a deep and narrow valley spanning eastwards with rocky cliffs that house many species. We are apparently entering the biggest breeding ground of Europe for the Egyptian vulture. Black vulture, black stork, lanner falcon, long-legged buzzard and raven are some of the other key breeding species in the area.

We are following an old goat path just below the cliffs. In front of our eyes are rugged cliffs, unique limestone rock formations and many caves. Some of them, we see, have been occupied, as we spot a black stork nest peeking out of one cave. 

Lider feels at home. Being able to identify almost all passerine birds of Turkey from their song, he is never alone in Turkish nature. As we progress, we see and hear for example a golden oriole and several spotted flycatchers. Eventually, patience pays off and we see our first cinereous vulture in the distance. To our great surprise, while we are hiking, Lider is listing species names in German. Due to his German bird guide, extensive education and experience, he can name birds in Latin, Turkish, English and German. 

A gift from nature

As our loop within the valley comes to an end, we conclude that egyptian vultures have probably started their migration already. Nevertheless, we feel fulfilled, rich with experiences and discussions. And still, nature can surprise you in the most wonderful ways. We suddenly see two adult egyptian vultures soaring on the horizon. We feel thankful and honoured. This very moment is ours, and ours only. 

Studying avian diversity in Turkey

After this trip, we are deeply impressed by Lider´s love and knowledge of Turkish birds. Even though he is only 29, he is one of the most knowledgeable ornithologists of Turkey and has conducted fieldwork in research and conservation all over Turkey.

During university, Lider started to participate in the Mid-Winter Waterfowl Counts in many different regions of Turkey. After graduating, he started working as the project coordinator of the Turkish Breeding Bird Atlas project. In this project, he travelled all across Turkey, discovering the most important breeding areas for birds, collecting and analysing data. 

Soon after, he started working at the NGO Doğa Araştırmaları Derneği (‘Nature Research Society’) on the preparation, implementation and monitoring of the project “Species Action Plans for Endangered Species” in Turkey. Lider and his team monitored the overwintering population and threats of selected species, and during spring they determined the number of breeding birds and their habitats.

The Nature Research Society 

It is important to point out that Turkey has very rich biodiversity, with over 12.000 species of plants, 150 species of mammals, 481 species of birds, 716 species of fish and 130 species of reptiles. Considering the fact that about 12.000 species of plants and about 540 bird species occur in the whole of Europe, the magnitude of Turkish biodiversity becomes very evident.

To find out more about the Nature Research Society, we visited their office in Ankara. There, we talked with various members of the team, including Basak Avcioglu, the organisation´s conservation manager, Saba Başkır, coordinator of marine projects, and Eylül Dizdaroglu, project manager of the previously mentioned project “Species Action Plans for Endangered Species”, which is funded by the EU Commission. Within this project, the organisation develops specific action plans focusing on various threatened animal and plant species, aiming to improve their status in the long term.

The Nature Research Society also established the Empower Nature Network. This network includes 80 non-governmental organisations working in the field of environment and nature protection in different regions of Turkey. Under the slogan “Strong civil society, effective nature protection”, members are uniting to identify common problems in their work and jointly develop solutions. The network increases cooperation and strengthens the power of NGOs in the country. This reminds us of the ‘For the Nature’ coalition established by the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation. While we visited them in Burgas, we felt the same attitude. Instead of viewing each other as competitors for honestly very limited funding, NGOs must unite and exchange knowledge. Otherwise we are blindly wasting our efforts on “rivalry”, instead of protecting biodiversity, before it is too late. We are looking forward to following the empowerment of the Turkish environmental NGO sector!

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