Together with other young ambassadors of the project from Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, and Romania, we had the opportunity to learn and discuss much information on this topic, especially about the impacts of climate change on birds. The venue of our meeting was one of the most valuable biodiversity hotspots - the Danube Delta.
We spent the first four days at the Chituc ringing camp on the southern edge of the Danube Delta biosphere reserve. Due to its location on the East European flyway on the Black Sea coast, on a narrow peninsula between the brackish Lake Sinoe and the sea, Chituc is an excellent place to observe and study bird migration. Bird trapping mist nets here are located in different types of habitats - in the scrub, at the ecotone of bushes and littoral vegetation on the lakeshore, and directly in the reeds.
Fig. 1. Morning in Chituc
Our role was assisting in the running of the camp, specifically to check the mist nets, extracting the captured birds from them, transporting them to the ringing yurt and assisting with marking and biometric data collection from the captured birds. The information gathered can contribute to a mosaic of knowledge on how climate change is affecting changes in both phenology and morphology of birds, i.e., how bird behaviour is changing in relation to the timing of the breeding season and migration, and how these changes are reflected in the bird's body.
Fig. 2. Mist nets checking
Trapping took place from sunrise to sunset with a break at lunchtime and in the early afternoon to prevent overheating of the captured birds. We have managed to trap and ring dozens of species of hundreds of birds that many of us have seen for the first time "in-hand" - many passerines (Paddyfield Warbler - Acrocephalus agricola, Northern Whetear - Oenanthe oenanthe) and waders (Collared Pratincole - Glareola pratincola, Broad-billed Sandpiper - Calidris falcinellus and Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres).
Fig. 3. Young Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)
During the lunch break, we had time to relax, and talk together, we had a chance to taste great local cuisine specialties, but also to take a swim in the waters of the Black Sea. An important part of the programme was a discussion with Ana Otilia Nuțu, a member of the EU Expert Forum on Energy Policy, and a presentation by Attila Márton, founder of the camp, on how birds cope with climate change.
Fig. 4. Ana Otilia Nuțu discussing with meeting participants
The programme for the remaining three days consisted of a visit to the Danube Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our home was an Ibis floating hotel, which meant that we really spent 24 hours a day right in the heart of the Delta. Waking up to the sounds of the morning marshland and being able to watch pelicans flying right outside the window at breakfast is one of the indescribable experiences, and there was no shortage of similar events in the Delta.
Fig. 5. Morning in the middle of the Delta
Fig. 6. The king of the Danube sky, the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
The aim of this part of the meeting was observation and recording of the fauna and flora of the Delta, combined with discussions on potential threats to the area. Most of the time was spent on board a smaller boat, which was part of a floating hotel, but due to its smaller size was able to get directly to the most valuable and interesting parts of the Delta - Lacul Iacob, Bogdaproste, Trei Iezere, and other lakes and branches.
Fig. 7. Lacul Iacob
Fig. 8. Romanian-style “safari”
A visit to the picturesque village of Letea, located on the sand dunes, cut off from the rest of civilization, was also an unforgettable experience. Not far from this village lies the valuable protected area of the Letea Forest, formed by a habitat of aeolian sands surrounded by preserved pristine forests. This preserve creates a habitat for a number of unique plant and animal species, many of which are critically endangered in Slovakia, such as Ephedra distachya and European Roller (Coracias garrulus).
Fig. 9. Letea village
Fig. 10. Letea forest and aeolian sands with shrubs of Ephedra distachya
Fig. 11. European Roller (Coracias garrulus)
We have observed a huge number of birds - flocks of majestic Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus), as well as various species of herons, gulls, and ducks - inhabiting the seemingly impenetrable tangle of river branches, wetlands, lakes, and sand dunes. However, despite being a strictly protected natural area of world importance, the Danube Delta is constantly facing pressure from pollution, intensification of agriculture and shipping, plans to build power plants, as well as increased disturbance from tourists. We have seen first-hand the monumental new tourist resorts, or the encroachment on the branches system by dredging and cleaning the banks for better ship passage. Fortunately, however, much of this region retains the traditional character of a sensitive coexistence between man and nature, which we wholeheartedly hope will be preserved even in a turbulent future of increasingly significant changes during the “age of man” - the Anthropocene.
Fig. 12. Pink Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) and Lesser Cormorants (Microcarbo pygmaeus)
Fig. 13. Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Fig. 14. Dredging of one of the branches
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the organisers - Attila Márton, Tamás & Judith Papp and Katalin Parragh - from Milvus for a wonderfully prepared and enriching meeting, which will be remembered only in the best way by all participants for a long time. I also thank Adriana Brossmanová and BROZ for giving me the opportunity to participate in this project as one of the young ambassadors.
Fig. 15. #ChitucGameOn
Original articlE: https://climategame.eu/sk/news-article.php?id=18