Friday, January 10, 2014

Birthdays and Bald Ibis

I climbed Mt. Nemrut on my 65th birthday (with a lot of assistance from Ulaş, as I had a cold-induced respiratory problem for a lot of the trip), and the day was crowned at the end by dinner alongside the Euphrates River at dusk with a lovely birthday cake!

On our departure from Shanlıurfa the next day, we stopped at a sanctuary for the Northern Bald Ibis near Birecik. These birds winter in Africa, but the populations have been decimated by hunters between here and Africa. Near extinction, only 11 birds, they've made a comeback at this sanctuary to about 160. Since 2007, they've been releasing birds to follow their instinctive migration to Africa, but few have returned. I suspect they are too used to humans for their own good. They are monogamous for life and do not take new partners if something happens to theirs. They also only lay a clutch of eggs once every five years. All of this contributes to their small numbers, so sanctuaries like this (there's another in Morocco) are this species' only hope. They aren't the most attractive things, but isn't that iridescent blue plumage gorgeous?

Nesting boxes outside the cage enclosure:

The Ataturk dam project has transformed the landscape here, and there are vast farms growing  pomegranate, peach fig, cotton, chickpea, barley, and, of course, pistachio:
I think they’ve come to take the abundance of water for granted, unfortunately - it's not unusual to see hoses gushing water unattended.

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