It began through the icy February of 1996. The evening temperatures in Belgrade, Serbia, have been already under minus 10 Celsius / 14 levels Fahrenheit for 2 weeks. All the things was frozen strong and pack ice was floating down the Danube. Hiding from the weather on the riverbank, I used to be sitting in a Yugo and staring on the murky sky. At any time when the windscreen acquired frozen, I couldn’t afford to show the engine on attributable to petrol shortages (through the UN embargo on the import of gasoline to the previous Yugoslavia), so I might activate a mini tenting fuel range to defrost the home windows and heat up my cocoon, protecting one eye on the sky and the opposite on the flames, to verify they don’t catch the seat. What was I doing there? Again in these days, Pygmy Cormorants Microcarbo pygmeus have been thought-about Weak by the IUCN Pink Record and have been fairly unusual, having simply returned to the town after half a century of absence.
As much as the mid-Twentieth century, Pygmy Cormorant was a typical breeding species of wetlands round Belgrade till most wetlands have been drained and the birds have been misplaced, at one second – from the complete territory of Serbia. With the development of the massive Iron Gates dam on the Danube, the birds returned to breed in newly flooded river islands. And within the late Eighties they returned to Belgrade, too, however solely to overwinter inside the metropolis. In recent times, the overwintering inhabitants in Belgrade is round 4,000 Pygmy Cormorants, representing 2 % of the worldwide inhabitants and over 5 % of the European inhabitants.
One of many very first Pygmy Cormorant promotions: League for Ornithological Motion organised this roost watch in December 2004. Photograph Milan Obradovic.
In the previous couple of hours of daylight, Pygmy Cormorants commute from the river Danube again to their roost on the Sava River, to a number of willow groves by the Ada Ciganlija Island, utilizing the rivers because the flight corridors. Subsequently, you possibly can observe them of their a whole bunch and hundreds when you spend the final hour of the day observing the flight hall and distinguishing distant black Pygmy Cormorant dots from different equally distant and black Rook and Jackdaw dots, all of them melting into tree crowns because the sundown thickens.
The most important menace to Pygmy Cormorants overwintering in Belgrade is urbanization of its riverbanks and destruction of remaining willow groves, which sparked the 2009 initiative by the Belgrade Land Improvement Public Company, League for Ornithological Motion (a neighborhood NGO) and the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia to guard the remaining roosting websites of this species.
By each Serbian laws and the Bern Conference on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Pure Habitats, Pygmy Cormorant is a strictly protected species. Within the European Union, they’re included on the Annex I of the Birds Directive and their habitats are subsequently potential Natura2000 ecological community websites.
For nearly 20 years throughout which the League for Ornithological Motion had been following the Pygmy Cormorant in Belgrade, the utmost quantity was recorded within the winter of 2007/2008, when the inhabitants counted 6,728 people. This exhibits the nice significance of the Sava riverbanks, within the coronary heart of a capital, for the conservation of organic range, which has an significance that transcends nationwide borders.
And after 13 years of campaigning by the League for Ornithological Motion, in March 2022 the Ministry of Environmental Safety knowledgeable the general public in regards to the process for initiating the safety of a pure space of the third class, because the Protected Habitat “Winter Roosts of Pygmy Cormorants”. The choice to declare the “Winter Roosts of Pygmy Cormorants” as a protected space was adopted on the final session of the Belgrade Metropolis Meeting.
I waited for a very long time, at one stage dropping all hope, however lastly, 23 ha / 57 ac of this tiny reserve are off the hook for the longer term improvement plans.
In the identical 2022, Beljarica and the wider Danube Backwaters – one other reserve that I initiated and proposed, additionally grew to become protected, bringing my private complete to 1881 ha / 4648 acres of newly protected areas (largely forests) in my metropolis. I hope that covers my carbon footprint.
Cowl picture (c) Maciej Szymanski