My contribution to the IWC began in 2010, with the revival of the nation-wide winter waterbird census in Macedonia on behalf of Macedonian Ecological Society. I became national coordinator in 2014, and took over the reporting and the promotion of the census nationally. I have always found waterbirds fascinating – ever since I was a child – always wondering how they could dive and stay in and on the water for so long and still not get wet! Afterwards, as my studies progressed and I was learning more about their lives – my fascination continued. Every count presents something unique, but the best aspect is how birds react to the current conditions of the sites they visit and inhabit. The bird composition at each site serves as a “living barometer” for the state of that site and each year it tells a different story. Each year on a same site I would encounter completely different birds, different ornithological niches corresponding to the current state of the site where they occur.
For the last six years, we usually have 15 volunteers joining our counts. In order to encourage future volunteers to join in the count, I always put myself in their shoes. As individuals coming from different walks of life and different educational and social background, I try engaging them by telling a story – my story, of how I got involved in the work with birds. After that, I give them a taste of the real deal – via quizzes, contests and direct observations. And that, so far, has proved to be effective.
Count groups are usually divided in several teams and each team covers up to 6 (maximum of 8) sites. The most important ones are the Prespa and Dojran Lake – they are the only Wetlands of International importance in Macedonia. They also support the best quantities of birds per site area, yearly. Personally, Dojran Lake and Gjol Bogorodica are my favourite sites – these are two sites that are most prone to habitat changes and hence the bird inventory is different with every count.
So far, the data gathered in this subsequent six year period provide us with a hint of the state and the breeding/population status of the occurring waterfowl. In the future, we aim to obtain sufficient amount of data to estimate population trends of wintering and resident species occurring in the sites observed, which will eventually contribute to the conservation efforts of those sites and species.
Why do I go back and take part in IWC every year? I still remain fascinated and surprised by the birds I encounter there and the lives that they have on these sites.
Visit the Macedonian Ecological Society website to find out more about Danka and her colleagues’ work.