Montenegro is situated in the south of the Adriatic. It can be divided into two main bio-geographical regions – Mediterranean and Alpine – and has a very wide range of ecosystems and habitat types for a country of its size. Its southern areas along the coast enjoy mediterranean climate, having dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Central and northern regions have continental climate, where temperature varies greatly with elevation. Montenegro’s mountainous regions receive some of the highest amounts of rainfall in Europe. In the northern mountains, snow is present throughout the spring. The terrain of Montenegro ranges from high mountains through a segment of the karst of the western Balkan Peninsula, to a narrow coastal plain that is only one to four miles wide. Montenegro’s section of the karst lies generally at elevations of aprox. 1,000m above sea level-although some areas rise to 1800m. The high mountains of Montenegro include some of the most rugged terrain in Europe. Diversity of geological base, landscape, climate and soil, as well as the very position of Montenegro on the Balkan peninsula and Adriatic Sea, created conditions for formation of biological diversity with very high values, that puts Montenegro among biological “hot-spots” of European and world’s biodiversity.
The interview on the contributing to the European Breeding Bird Atlas 2 and progress on bird mapping in Montenegro was provided by Mihailo Jovićević, one of the national coordinators in Montenegro.
Q1. What would be specific landscape features that people can expect when visiting Montenegro?
MJ: In Montenegro one can expect to find various karst formations. Canyons occur throughout Montenegro, and can have a Mediterranean (canyons of Morača and Cijevna rivers) or continental (canyon of Tara and Piva) climate, and usually have very different, very often endemic, species assemblages to their neighbouring mountain areas. The Tara River canyon – maximum depth of 1,300m is the deepest canyon in Europe and second deepest in the world. Montenegro has a high biological diversity for such a small European country, due to its geographic position, heterogenic distribution of habitats, topographic variations, geological history and climate conditions.
Q2. Could you please present to the readers the diversity of bird species that occur in Montenegro?
MJ: Montenegro’s location along a major migratory route (the Adriatic flyway) together with the diversity of natural habitats result in high avian diversity. Of total of 526 European bird species, 348 can be found in Montenegro. Of these, 215 species nest in the country. Montenegro has a wide variety of bird groups, including many raptors, forest and wetland species, and provides an important refuge for a number of rare and threatened bird species.
Q3. Has your country already produced a national Breeding Bird Atlas and were there any data that were already included in EBBA1?
MJ: Montenegro never had a national breeding bird atlas, so this is our first chance of achieving one. There were some data that were included already for the purpose of EBBA1 and these were solely based on expert opinion.
Q4. Why do you think that you never produced a national atlas?
MJ: Basically, the lack of people. In this moment there are just two ornithologists who work on atlas: my colleague Darko Saveljić and me.
Q5. How much experience do you have with atlas work?
MJ: I personally started to do atlas work for the first time in 2013. It was together with Marti Franch from Catalan Ornithological Institute who showed me the methodology and we spent time in the field again in 2014. In the last breeding season, 2015, we received MAVA funding, but unfortunately a bit late so the work was postponed and we could have done more if the funding came earlier.
Q6. How do you collect the data?
MJ: Our methodology is based on recording all species in a line transect placed within 1X1 km square. It is standardised by time, so we do it for one hour and during that time we try to cover all habitat types that are placed in that square. We do at least 2-5 such smaller squares within one 10×10 km square. Similarly, scaling this up, we try to cover at least 2-5 of 10×10 km squares for the purposes of producing data on a 50×50 km squares level.
Q7. What is methodologically most problematic in Montenegro?
MJ: Our biggest problem, as I already mentioned, is the lack of skilled ornithologists that would help out in the field. The second problem is the inaccessibility of the terrain within some quadrants. Most problematic squares are placed in highest mountains and deep canyons.
Q8. How many squares do you have?
MJ: In total, we have only 12 50X50 km squares, out of which 6 are only negligibly represented within Montenegrin territory. This translates into 170 squares of 10X10 km, but due to the terrain, we try to do the mapping on a much finer scale (1×1 km squares), so these mapping squares are much more numerous. As I already mentioned, only two of us are doing the mapping for the atlas which is our biggest issue that we are facing.
Q9. Did you had any foreigners that helped you in mapping?
MJ: Yes, actually, we had quite good experience with foreigners so far and they did a big part of the job for EBBA2 in Montenegro. As I already mentioned Marti Franch from Barcelona was here in 2014, and last year we had two German people that helped us in mapping.
Green are the priority squares for mapping in Montenegro. Squares without any colour should be covered by national capacities, but any additional data is also welcomed. Please click on the square to see its UTM code and priority explanation. You can find more details on how to contribute as a foreign birdwatcher here.
Q10. What is the biggest challenge for you personally as a national coordinator?
MJ: Currently, the work on EBBA2 is divided between two organizations: Montenegrin Ecologists Society and Centre for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro-BirdLife. The biggest challenge for me is to ensure a good coordination, especially in the coverage of the two organizations and hence their productive cooperation.
Q11. Would you like to produce your first national Atlas?
MJ: It is not sure that we could have enough capacities do make our first national atlas but we would like to try. For sure, Atlas will help as a tool for conservation of species and habitats and in establishing Important Bird Areas.
Q12. Do you have any take home message for people reading this?
MJ: Montenegro is a beautiful country with rich ornithofauna. Many parts are still undiscovered. For example, when Marti Franch from ICO was here, we found two new breeding species for Montenegro (Vanellus vanellus and Carpodacus erythrinus). So, although small in surface, there is still a lot of space to discover new species for our country. Therefore, I would like to invite all skilled ornithologists to contribute to the exploring of Montenegrin ornithofauna and consequently to the European Breeding Bird Atlas.
Mihailo Jovićević works at Faculty of Natural Science, Department Biology. He started to study birds after graduating in Biology, first in the Centre for Protection of Birds in Montenegro, and after that in Spain. During his stay in Spain he volunteered in different organizations, mostly ringing birds, but also doing winter census in Delta Ebro and counting raptors in Tarifa. Upon his return he formed one ringing station whose purpose is to fallow bird migration and recruit new bird ringers and young ornithologists. He is also an active member in the NGO Montenegrin Ecologists Society, non-profit organization whose aim is to offer an effective model for facing current challenges in the area of nature conservation and has so far conducted several projects concerning the research and protection of a few endangered species on both national and regional level.
29.3.2016. Marina Kipson