Turkey is one of the more important countries in terms of biodiversity in the western Palaearctic. For birds, its relevance may be expressed by its long list of species, presently standing at 478 with new species added frequently. Turkey harbours 400 regular species and around 320 breeding species (with over 300 proven so far). It compasses forests, steppes and mediterranean vegetation, including lots of high mountains and freshwater and salt-water wetlands. It has a long coastline in the north, west and east.
Turkey has important populations for some species like Rüppels Warbler (Sylvia ruppelli), Olive-tree Warbler (Hippolais olivetorum), Krüpers Nuthatch (Sitta krueperi), Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), and Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca).
The interview was provided by Kerem Ali Boyla, Turkish national coordinator and Dilek Şahin, communication officer for EBBA2 in Turkey.
Q1. Has your country already produced a national Breeding Bird Atlas and was it covered in EBBA1?
KAB: Turkey has never produced a national bird atlas, however four regional bird atlas work have been done and partially published. In the first European breeding bird Atlas, Turkey was not covered.
Q2. What do you believe are the reasons Turkey never managed to produce a breeding bird atlas?
KAB: I think that Turkey never had a national atlas mainly because of the lack of interested people that are at the same time secured economically and are capable of recognizing birds in the field while they follow pre-set atlas methodology.
Q3. What is your experience with doing atlas work?
KAB: I, personally, have some good experience in doing atlas work and I have studied the methodology very well. Moreover I have done a total of 3 weeks of Atlas work in Central Anatolia and Thrace.
Q4. How do you collect the data and are there any difficulties that you are experiencing in the field?
KAB: We are using the grid system with 50×50 squares, for each bigger square we visit two 10×10 squares where we do four transects (within each 10×10 square). In general, our volunteers have most difficulties in using maps and reading the GPS.
Q5. How many squares do you have and how many people are contributing to your Atlas work?
KAB: We have in total 258 squares of 50×50 km. In 2015, we had around 25 active people contributing to the atlas work. We expect to have up to 80 people in Turkey within the next breeding season. Some are professional ornithologist, but most are amateurs.
Q6. What are the most problematic areas for mapping?
KAB: The most problematic are south-eastern parts of Turkey, which are placed at the border with Syria and warzone, moreover there are some armed conflicts in some towns and cities. Those parts are excluded from the atlas work and will not be visited. Most of our birders are residents to 4-5 large cities, and usually do the mapping in the vicinity of where they live. Therefore there are very few birders present in the vicinity of the majority of our atlas squares.
Q7. What do you see as the biggest issues currently?
KAB: We are not able to run the atlas without international financial support. The second issue is that it is very difficult to mobilise amateur birdwatchers in Turkey to do any project, so we are struggling with the lack of people.
Q8. Did you had any foreigners that helped you in mapping?
KAB: Yes, we had them in the previous year and we know that some foreigners will continue to help with the atlas work. From our local capacities, we had only a single atlas fieldworker that worked full time in 2015 (Lider Sinav), accompanied by the Turkish birders that I already mentioned. Access to large parts of the country is still considered safe. If you are planning a birding holiday in next spring to Turkey and are willing to contribute your data, or even better, spend three days to count one square please check the call on our web and contact us directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green are the priority squares for mapping in Turkey, red are the squares that should be avoided due to security reasons. 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.
Q9. What is the biggest challenge for you personally as a national coordinator?
KAB: The biggest challenge for me as a national atlas coordinator is to believe in this project and to keep working on it.
Q10. Would you like to produce your first national Atlas?
KAB: Yes, we do plan to produce a national atlas work, but it is very early to discuss the details. A national atlas publication would be a good way to acknowledge the national contributors and to have a national identity of the work.
Q11. Do you have any take home message for people reading this?
DS: Turkey is a huge country, a meeting point for biodiversity hotspots thereby hosting hundreds of different bird species. Despite the rich biodiversity, there are very few birdwatchers in the country and the quality of the ornithological studies is inadequate for undertaking certain conservation measures. The Atlas project is the perfect opportunity for Turkish bird community, as it will provide a strong basis and contribute to the capacity building for our future ornithological studies. The completion of the first national Atlas is therefore of high importance.
Kerem Ali Boyla developed his interest in birds and started birding at the age of 13. He is a freelance bird watching guide and ecologist, organising and running birdwatching tours in Turkey. As an ecologist he also writes reports on environmental impact assessment for birds and bats. He was also a team member in some conservation projects by WWF Turkey. In the past, he worked for BirdLife International Secretariat in Ecuador for 3 years.
Atlas team members, Dilek Şahin and Lider Sinav:
Dilek Şahin (left) is an ornithologist and currently a PhD student. After she started birdwatching she became hooked by the seabirds and have been studying them in Turkey since 2010. She had been involved in several bird researches as a volunteer. In the past, she took an active role in Istanbul Birdwatching Society and contributed to the capacity building activities.
5.4.2016. Marina Kipson