Project Report Migratory Birds 2021-2022

© Peter Sackl

Working together for Europe’s migratory birds

Map of European-African-Flyways

Work to protect migratory birds along the Adriatic flyway is undertaken in cooperation with our partner organisations in the Western Balkans in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Albania.

© Kerstin Sauer

Protecting migratory birds is an enormous challenge. They are the nomads of vertebrates and many species cover huge distances each year as they fly from their stopover sites to their breeding grounds and back. I have taken part in several ringing campaigns for research. It is a very intense experience, which I would not like to miss out on. With the utmost care, the other volunteers and I freed bluethroats, reed warblers, blackcaps and other species from Japanese mist nets, measured their tiny bodies, ringed their delicate little legs and then let them loose as quickly as possible to fly off and provide us with more information about their migration routes.

Even though this work has long become routine, my heart still beats faster today as I do it. Each time I hold one of these delicate birds in my hands, I am overcome by a feeling of fondness and respect. Flying such long distances is proof of incredible stamina and tenacity. And if that wasn’t enough, these migratory birds also have to overcome a series of dangers on their travels. Even when they reach their overwintering sites and breeding grounds these creatures are mostly still not safe.

EuroNatur and our partners have focussed in particular on the Balkans, where we have fought against the illegal shooting, poisoning and capture of birds along the Adriatic flyway and campaigned for unspoilt habitats for them. With your help and the help of our partners in nature conservation, I have had the good fortune to be able to contribute to the work of providing better protection for migratory birds in Europa. Over the following pages, you will find a selection of our most important successes and activities and some insights into the work of our fellow campaigners. Thank you so much for your continued support in sponsoring migratory birds.

Yours

Dr Stefan Ferger, Project Manager Migratory Birds


Illegal bird-hunting in the Balkans

Bird conservationist recovers a bird-call lure

Zydjon Vorpsi, a bird conservationist in our Albanian partner organisation PPNEA recovers a bird-call lure.

© Xhemal Xherri/PPNEA
Poacher at the beach of Montenegro

Poachers lie in wait for birds in illegal hides.

© Martin Schneider-Jacoby/EuroNatur

“There is no way we can just stand by and watch”

Klea Duro and Erald Xeka, campaigners from EuroNatur’s partner organisation AOS, feel abandoned by the police and even by the Albanian government. “So far we have not had any confrontations with a poacher and we hope it stays that way,” says Klea. “Nonetheless it is worrying when we go out in the field early in the morning. We see men with guns and hear shots, but at the moment there is no official agency in Albania that we can call on in such cases. Normally we inform the police. They don’t always react as they claim they have more important things to do.  And they don’t know how to deal with cases of wildlife crime. For example, when we reported bird catchers with nets to the police, they wanted us to accompany the officers to the crime scene and explain which species are not allowed to be caught. Situations like this are tricky for us. People we would rather not meet get to see our faces," says Erald.

Yet Erald Xeka and Klea Duro both agree: there is no way they can just stand by and watch birds being killed. Your support has given Klea, Erald and many other bird conservationists in the Balkans the courage to continue their important work – against all the opposition. Thank you so much!

We love birds and we want to help create safe habitats for them. But we also do this work because nobody apart from us will do it.

Erald Xeka, AOS bird conservationist

What we achieved together in 2021 and 2022 in the fight against bird-hunting in the Balkans:

  • Illegal bird hunting reported

    In our 34 project areas across six countries along the Adriatic flyway, our partners have reported cases of illegal bird hunting, published them and passed details to the relevant governments. This data is available on our online Naturewatch portal - https://euronatur.observation.org so representatives of different countries can use it to underpin their reports to international conventions on the protection of birds. In this way, it becomes clear where the fight against illegal bird-hunting needs to be enhanced.     

  • Actions against poaching

    The concrete action taken by our NGO partners against poaching along the Adriatic flyway has shown the authorities responsible that it is possible to do something about the illegal hunting of birds and how to do it. In the past year alone, numerous illegal hunting hides have been destroyed, weapons confiscated, lures recovered, traps removed and a number of poachers reported to the police.  

  • Network continued to grow

    Our network of trained helpers against illegal bird-hunting has continued to grow. For example, our partners in Biom in Croatia have trained 24 volunteers, and in 2021 alone they have checked more than 100 locations for the use of bird-call lures and registered a number of official complaints about poaching. In Slovenia, our partner DOPPS has trained around 190 students at the state police academy.

  • List of species allowed to be hunted shortened

    The list of species allowed to be hunted in the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina is due to be cut from 119 (!) to 25. The government has adopted the relevant suggestions for change made by our partner organisation Naše ptice almost in their entirety. However, the final decision has yet to be taken.

In the Mediterranean region, the number of birds illegally killed or captured is due to be halved by 2030. This is our hope and we are now a significant step nearer. Nonetheless there is still a long way to go. A key factor will be achieving better support from state bodies.

Partners: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Tour du Valat, Croatian Society for the Protection of Birds and Nature (HDZPP), Biom, Slovenian Society for the Protection of Birds (DOPPS), Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia (BPSSS), Centre for the Protection and Study of Birds in Montenegro (CZIP), Naše ptice, Albanian Ornithological Society (AOS), Macedonian Ecological Society (MES), Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA)

Funding: MAVA foundation, EuroNatur donors


Ulcinj Salina – Change for the better in sight

Bird's eye of Ulcinj Salina

Thanks to your donations, the Ulcinj Salina in Montenegro are well on the way to once more being a haven for birds.

© Gregor Subic
Greater Flamingos in Ulcinj Salina

Flamingos are one of the characteristic species of Saline Ulcinj.

© Borut Stumberger
Conservationist Goran Gugic at Lonjsko Polje

Experienced nature conservationist and EuroNatur award-winner Goran Gugic.

© Martin Schneider-Jacoby

There are grounds for new hope in the situation at the Ulcinj Salina. This salt marsh situated behind the Montenegrin coast is one of the most important habitats for birds along the Adriatic flyway. At times it seemed as though we had lost this pearl to the corrupt Montenegrin state, whose governmental representatives wanted only to develop the area for mass tourism. However, Ulcinj Salina is one of the best examples of how important it is not to give up. And it shows how much more we can achieve working together! At this point, a special thank you goes to those of you who have kept faith with us throughout all the highs and lows, supporting us with your donations so that we can fight for the salt flats.   

When the Ulcinj Salina finally became a nationally and internationally protected area in 2019, we were all delighted. However, while it still remained unclear whether the salt flats were to be private or state property, and there was nobody to take over responsibility for the management of the nature park who was sufficiently qualified to do so and the Montenegrin government was working against us, it was a real muddle. Today, it is a very different story. Since December 2021, we have had cause for hope in the shape of EuroNatur’s 2011 prize-winner, Goran Gugić, who now holds a key position.  As the former head of the Lonjsko Polje nature park in the Croatian Sava meadows, he proved how far he can and will go to protect nature. Since December he has been in charge of developing a suitable management structure for the Ulcinj Salina nature park. Furthermore, it will remain state property.   

So the chances are better than ever that the salt flats will be restored and the area will be returned to its former state as one of Europe’s most valuable bird habitats.

Partners: Centre for the Protection and Study of Birds in Montenegro (CZIP), Dr Martin Schneider-Jacoby Association (MSJA), BirdLife, Tour du Valat

Funding: MAVA Foundation, EuroNatur donors


580 hectare habitat for storks

Two White Storks on a meadow

Two white storks in their typical search for food.

© Bruno Dittrich
Young storks in the eyrie on a mosque

They nest on church towers and mosques (as in this Turkish Stork Village Eskikaraağaç). White storks are true Europeans moving freely across borders.

© Frankziska Arici

White storks are real gluttons, even the young. There are earthworms, insects such as large grasshoppers and beetles on the menu, not to mention fish, frogs and snakes and mice, moles, voles and other small mammals too. A family of storks can demolish a huge amount. In southwest Poland, scientists have calculated that stork parents have to come up with 180 kg of food in a breeding season: an average of 1.25 kg a day. The storks search for food across arable fields, pastureland, meadows, and wetlands such as salt flats, marshes, river banks and alluvial forests. Yet these are the very habitats that are becoming increasingly rare in Europe.

“In Eastern and South-eastern Europe in particular, we are setting up convincing model projects that allow damp pasture and meadows to be used in a way that is both economically and ecologically interesting. And we are raising the awareness of the population about preserving these natural and cultural treasures,” says Dr Stefan Ferger. The European Stork Villages are important partners in this because of their trans-European network and the public profile they enjoy. The European Stork Villages initiative has provided an important counterbalance to the growing loss of habitat for storks. The villages selected by EuroNatur for their exemplary commitment to protecting storks function as flagship projects on how to preserve wetland and cultivated landscapes. So far 15 European Stork Villages have been selected. Many of them are important partners for our model projects for the protection of pasture and meadowland.  

We have seen that, even with a small budget, it is possible to achieve considerable success with long-lasting effects.

Carmen Domínguez Pedrera, Project Coordinator and our contact at the Malpartida de Cáceres, European Stork Village in Spain

In close cooperation with the European Stork Villages and with an investment of around 500,000 Euro, over the past seven years we have succeeded in upgrading wetlands and meadows with a surface area equivalent to 800 football pitches. Your contributions have helped us achieve this!

In indirect ways, we have also improved the situation for tree frogs, snipe and white stork over an area of more than double that, with measures such as rewetting, which has an impact over a wide radius. Yet that was not all; with your help we were able to fund 48 small projects to strengthen the regions in question. We have succeeded in bridging the gap between local people and nature conservation, by, for example, improving the provision of environmental education and developing sustainable tourism.

Partners: European Stork Villages and their national nature conservation partners

Funding: Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation, Fondation pour la Sauvegarde, Bristol Stiftung, EU LIFE, Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection, EuroNatur donors

More about the stork villages on the internet at www.storkvillages.net.


Breeding record for Dalmatian pelicans

Dalmatian Pelicans are resting on the water

Largest and most rare species of pelican: the Dalmatian pelican.

© Kerstin Sauer

In the border zone between Albania and Montenegro, tucked in between the Dinaric Mountains, lies Lake Skadar. Here EuroNatur, aided by donations, has been working over many years to help the Dalmatian pelican, the rarest species of pelican in the world.  The installation of breeding platforms on the lake has created ideal nesting conditions and helped it to breed more successfully. Now Andrej Vizi from Montenegro’s Natural History Museum is continuing this work

In the 2021 season, the pelicans began the business of breeding very early. The best spots on the platforms had already been taken by mid-December 2020. As you might expect, it was pretty crowded by the time Vizi carried out a count of the colony at the end of February. At this relatively early stage, he was already able to count 68 young birds. A further 17 nests had adult birds sitting on eggs. This was a new breeding record for the Dalmatian pelicans of Lake Skadar.

Its lush vegetation and extensive flood plains and shallows make these waters, teeming with fish, an important breeding, overwintering and stopover site for hundreds of thousands of birds. The Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), whose wings span almost three meters, is one of the largest birds able to fly. The draining of its habitats, its persecution and the disturbance of its breeding areas have caused its populations to collapse dramatically over the last few decades.

Ten years ago, we and our partners were happy if we got to see any young birds at all on Lake Skadar. The breeding platforms are paying off, but the super-successful breeding season in 2021 is probably also a result of strict Covid restrictions that meant the birds suffered less disturbance.

Dalmatian Pelican is swimming on a lake

A real head-turner, particularly in its nuptial plumage: Dalmatian pelican on Lake Skadar.

© Jiri Michal

What donors say

Bluethroat is singing

White spotted bluethroat (Luscinia svecica cyanecula)

© Bruno Dittrich

I support EuroNatur, because…

… EuroNatur looks into things that very few others do. The Balkans and the projects there are particularly important for the future of Europe. Sabine B.

… I am convinced that my money is being used sensibly and having a tangible effect where help is needed.  Andreas Gabler

… the foundation has clear goals, which it doggedly pursues with small projects and collaborating well with other nature conservation societies.  Dieter Meister

Our biggest challenges for the future

We want to help further reduce bird crime in the Balkans. The laws to protect birds are already relatively good in some of the countries along the Adriatic flyway. However, apart from non-governmental organisations, hardly anybody bothers to make sure they are kept to and that penalties are imposed for breaches. This is where we would like to achieve a complete change. Preserving the Ulcinj Salina salt flats as one of the most important bird habitats in Europe continues to be one of our most important targets. We want to ensure that there is no further silting up at Ulcinj Salina and that salt water once again flows through its shallow waters. It is also important that the salt marsh should at last be managed for the protection of birds

Please continue to support EuroNatur with your migratory bird sponsorship!

 

How you can help

Donation

Future needs nature. EuroNatur cares for it. Please help anyway you can. With your donation you will make an effective contribution to protect birds in Europe.

Migratory Bird Sponsorship

Bird migration is an incomparable natural spectacle. But illegal hunting and the destruction of resting areas endanger the birds. Help make their journey safer.

News

Last vultures released into the wild in Bulgaria

++ Two female Cinereous Vultures have been released into the wild in Bulgaria ++ Seven-year project has been completed successfully ++ 3rd September…

Stork village meeting in Taraš in Serbia

At long last a meeting face to face: After a pause of two years enforced by Covid, representatives from seven European Stork Villages met together in…

Bird conservationists campaign for a safe Adriatic Flyway

++ Bird migration is in full swing ++ Every year, thousands of migratory birds are killed illegally in the Balkans ++ 4th Adriatic Flyway Conference…

Four Cinereous Vultures poisoned in Bulgaria

Tragedy for nature conservation in Bulgaria: Several released Cinereous Vultures were poisoned near the village of Ticha. A bitter setback for the…

Bird Flu at Lake Prespa, Greece

The H5N1 avian influenza, or ‘bird flu’, virus has been particularly rampant this winter. The death of thousands of cranes in the Hula Valley in…

Last Webinar on White Storks

The four-part webinar series on "Human impacts on the ecology of the white stork" is coming to an end. The last event will take place on Saturday, 19 …

Ulcinj Salina ownership dispute finally resolved

It has now been unequivocally confirmed that the Ulcinj Salina in Montenegro is owned by the state. The government body responsible has ruled that the…

Resistance Against Construction of Airport in Albania

Despite constant pressure from national and international NGOs, the Albanian government is sticking to the construction of a major airport near Vlora…

Ulcinj Salina: 2 Years RAMSAR Site

Two years ago, on 10 September 2019, the Ulcinj Salina in the South of Montenegro was declared as a RAMSAR site, a Wetland of International…

First cinereous vulture chick ringed in Bulgaria

After more than fifty years a cinereous vulture chick was born in the Balkan Mountains this spring. At the end of July, our Bulgarian partners…

Ulcinj Salina remains state property

For years, the issue of the ownership of the Ulcinj Salina remained unresolved. Today, the Privatisation Council in Montenegro unanimously decided to…

Cinereous vulture shot dead in Hungary

A cinereous vulture shot down in Hungary was part of the Bulgarian reintroduction programme supported by EuroNatur. This is a painful blow for the…

Bird paradise in Albania threatened by construction of an airport

++ An airport is to be built in the Narta Lagoon on the Adriatic ++ A stopover site of major international importance for migratory water birds ++ 8th…

Valuable marshes in Poland endangered by mining project

The Australian company Balamara has plans to mine for coal in the Polish region of Lubelskie. This is not only harmful to the climate, but also…

Change in government in Montenegro brings new hope for Ulcinj Salina

++ Montenegro’s new government is intending to afford effective protection to Salina Ulcinj ++ On 2nd February it is World Wetlands Day ++ Ramsar…