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Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Greatest City Pygmy Cormorant Roost is Lastly Protected!! – 10,000 Birds

It began throughout the icy February of 1996. The night time temperatures in Belgrade, Serbia, had been already beneath minus 10 Celsius / 14 levels Fahrenheit for 2 weeks. Every little thing was frozen stable and pack ice was floating down the Danube. Hiding from the weather on the riverbank, I used to be sitting in a Yugo and staring on the murky sky. Each time the windscreen acquired frozen, I couldn’t afford to show the engine on resulting from petrol shortages (throughout the UN embargo on the import of gas to the previous Yugoslavia), so I might activate a mini tenting fuel range to defrost the home windows and heat up my cocoon, preserving one eye on the sky and the opposite on the flames, to ensure they don’t catch the seat. What was I doing there? Again in these days, Pygmy Cormorants Microcarbo pygmeus had been thought-about Weak by the IUCN Pink Checklist and had been fairly unusual, having simply returned to town after half a century of absence.

As much as the mid-Twentieth century, Pygmy Cormorant was a standard breeding species of wetlands round Belgrade till most wetlands had been drained and the birds had been misplaced, at one second – from the complete territory of Serbia. With the development of the large Iron Gates dam on the Danube, the birds returned to breed in newly flooded river islands. And within the late Eighties they returned to Belgrade, too, however solely to overwinter inside the metropolis. Lately, the overwintering inhabitants in Belgrade is round 4,000 Pygmy Cormorants, representing 2 % of the worldwide inhabitants and over 5 % of the European inhabitants.

One of many very first Pygmy Cormorant promotions: League for Ornithological Motion organised this roost watch in December 2004. Photograph Milan Obradovic. 

In the previous couple of hours of daylight, Pygmy Cormorants commute from the river Danube again to their roost on the Sava River, to a number of willow groves by the Ada Ciganlija Island, utilizing the rivers because the flight corridors. Subsequently, you may observe them of their a whole bunch and hundreds should you spend the final hour of the day observing the flight hall and distinguishing distant black Pygmy Cormorant dots from different equally distant and black Rook and Jackdaw dots, all of them melting into tree crowns because the sundown thickens.

The most important menace to Pygmy Cormorants overwintering in Belgrade is urbanization of its riverbanks and destruction of remaining willow groves, which sparked the 2009 initiative by the Belgrade Land Growth Public Company, League for Ornithological Motion (a neighborhood NGO) and the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia to guard the remaining roosting websites of this species.

By each Serbian laws and the Bern Conference on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Pure Habitats, Pygmy Cormorant is a strictly protected species. Within the European Union, they’re included on the Annex I of the Birds Directive and their habitats are subsequently potential Natura2000 ecological community websites.

For nearly 20 years throughout which the League for Ornithological Motion had been following the Pygmy Cormorant in Belgrade, the utmost quantity was recorded within the winter of 2007/2008, when the inhabitants counted 6,728 people. This reveals the good significance of the Sava riverbanks, within the coronary heart of a capital, for the conservation of organic variety, which has an significance that transcends nationwide borders.

And after 13 years of campaigning by the League for Ornithological Motion, in March 2022 the Ministry of Environmental Safety knowledgeable the general public in regards to the process for initiating the safety of a pure space of the third class, because the Protected Habitat “Winter Roosts of Pygmy Cormorants”. The choice to declare the “Winter Roosts of Pygmy Cormorants” as a protected space was adopted on the final session of the Belgrade Metropolis Meeting.

I waited for a very long time, at one stage shedding all hope, however lastly, 23 ha / 57 ac of this tiny reserve are off the hook for the longer term improvement plans.

In the identical 2022, Beljarica and the broader Danube Backwaters – one other reserve that I initiated and proposed, additionally turned protected, bringing my private complete to 1881 ha / 4648 acres of newly protected areas (largely forests) in my metropolis. I hope that covers my carbon footprint.

Cowl picture (c) Maciej Szymanski 

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