Local volunteers participate in Montenegro’s first ringing programme
Studies of Montenegro’s birds over the last 20 years have pointed to the importance of the Adriatic Flyway. However, the focus of conservation efforts has largely been on water birds. Song birds – passerines – have largely been ignored. But a new initiative, and the work of volunteers, is changing that.
Hotspots for migrants in Montenegro include the coastal area of the Adriatic Sea, the delta of Bojana and the Skadar Lake basin. One of most important habitats for migrating birds is the area surrounding the River Mareza, 3 km to the northwest of Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital. Migrants feed within a complex mosaic of habitats. Mareza isn’t only a haven for bird visitors – it is also the favorite excursion site of citizens of Podgorica, especially during the summer months.
The participation and support of local people is critical to effective, sustainable conservation. BirdLife’s Local Engagement and Empowerment Programme supports the individuals and organisations who work with the BirdLife Partnership to deliver conservation, for biodiversity and for people, at the local level.
Based on its significance for resting, feeding and migrating birds, Mareza Ornithological Station was established earlier this year, and bird ringing is now being done for the first time with the support of CZIP Montenegro (BirdLife Partner in Montenegro). The need for the organization of this local group arose at the beginning of the year when the Center for Protection and Research of Birds established the Center for Marking Animals in Montenegro. Mareza Ornithological Station was launched for the purpose of studying bird migration in this poorly researched region. The team working at Mareza consists of professionally educated and licensed ringers working with a volunteer group of biology students and nature lovers.
CZIP helped facilitate the permissions required for bird-ringing from the Environmental Protection Agency and also provided mist nets, rings, and other equipment. It also organized a clean-up of the ringing area by a group of its volunteers. The ringing is done every day bringing together many volunteers, aged from 7 to 87 years, all of whom are excited to be a part of this activity. The number of volunteers is increasing every day and the programme is becoming widely known amongst the wider public as a result of stories in the local media.
Filip Matanović, a 15-year old student and one of the youngest CZIP volunteers, spends most of his free time taking part in the ringing to learn more about birds. He explains why:
“The idea of practical work with birds and learning about species and bird characteristics which cannot be learned from books attracted me to take part in the ringing. I like it because it allows the simple tracking and studying of birds and gives direct contact with them. I have mostly assisted by taking birds out of the nets, holding birds and closing the nets. I have learned about warblers, nightingales, learned how to catch and hold a bird properly without hurting it, and how to distinguish adults and juveniles, males and females. Bird ringing is very significant because you can follow the abundance and movement of the bird population and receive more data than by just bird counting”.
Since the beginning of ringing, Filip comes every day and will continue to participate. “The most attractive ringed species which I have seen is the kingfisher, and the most peaceful during ringing is the common nightingale. We have many recaptures, but mostly warblers which were ringed a few days ago”.
The ringing at Podgorica will continue until the end of autumn migration and will provide significant scientific data and maybe new species for the territory of Montenegro. The results will be summarized and sent to EURING and other relevant institutions and will be used to communicate the importance of migration to the wider public in Montenegro.
The bird ringing in Montenegro will help to increase knowledge about migration of passerines in the Adriatic Flyway, including the identification of important sites for these birds. But it will also build capacity of biologists, students, NGOs and local communities to effectively address the purpose of bird ringing, and engage new local enthusiasts and volunteers, like Filip, who will marvel at the miracle of migration. It is the hope of CZIP that in the near future Montenegro will have young, skilled and enthusiastic ringers, who will contribute to the development of ringing as a regular practice for monitoring birds in the country.
The bird diversity in Montenegro and the work of LCG Podgorica can be followed via the Facebook page of the Mareza Ornithological Station:
https://www.facebook.com/marezaornismontenegro?fref=nf as well as via CZIP's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/czip.cg?fref=ts.
Generously funded by the MAVA Foundation, the 'Capacity Development for Flyway Conservation in the Mediterranean' initiative aims to establish and strengthen a dynamic network of conservation NGOs working effectively with local people, national governments, and the international community to protect key migratory species, sites and habitats in the Mediterranean region.