The end of May is perfect for watching birds make their way back to the warmer weather of Western Asia and Europe after a winter in Africa. Many species can be observed flying over the Bosphorus Strait, dubbed the ‘international bird highway’, including Eagles (the Imperial, the Booted and the Lesser Spotted varieties), Hawks, Falcons, Buzzards (the Common and the Honey varieties), the Levant Sparrowhawk, Condors, Ibises and the White and Black Storks. Birds choose to migrate over the Bosporus due to its suitable flow of air, which especially appeals to birds with large wingspans (the condor, for example), allowing them to expend minimum energy while making maximum progress.
Although not a very popular activity in Turkey (Today’s Zaman reported in 2012 that out of a population of around 75 million there are only around 2,500 bird watchers, whereas in England, with a population of around 62 million, there are approximately one and a half million bird watchers), bird-watching tourism is becoming more popular. Tourists interested in birds flock to Istanbul and Turkey from all over.
The so-called ‘hairpin bend’ in Istanbul’s Sarıyer district, 700 meters down the road from Koç University, is said to be one of the best places from which to watch birds in the springtime. Bird Watch Turkey also recommends Lakes Terkos and Büyükçekmece. The latter is a particularly popular spot, and at this time of year the lagoons of the south of the lake hold different varieties of gull, including the Mediterranean, Little, Yellow-legged and Slender-billed. In the coming summer months you will also be able to spot the Black-headed Bunting and the Calandra Lark in the field north of the lake. At Lake Terkos, a spring or summer visit will yield Bee-eaters, Orioles and Warblers. Çamlıca Hill in Üsküdar is another popular spot and in Cornucopia 41 the photographer Soner Bekir showed some of the species that make the journey across the Bosphorus, including the Semi-Collared Flycatcher and the Eurasian Black Vulture, one of the largest birds in the world.
In the past, bird activity has also been reported near Garipçe, where the third bridge is unfortunately being built. Yet another reason to get upset about this bridge is that it is likely to have a negative effect on bird migration – the development will alter the airflow over the strait and throw the migrating birds off their route. And as the building of the bridge will also result in the destruction of a large portion of the Belgrade Forest, the birds will have nowhere to stop for the night. Predatory birds especially like to sleep in forestlands and fly during the day. With a estimated 90% of predatory birds migrating over the Bosphorus, the destruction of the forest is a frightening thing indeed for our feathered friends.
Main image shows the Booted Eagle. Courtesy of Bird Watch Turkey. www.birdwatchturkey.com for more information