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x0x Where the firebird beats its wings Homa Lagoon

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  • TRH
    x0x Where the firebird beats its wings Homa Lagoon By Alpay Tiril Close to the city of Izmir on the Aegean is a natural paradise for wildlife, the Gediz Delta.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2005
      x0x Where the firebird beats its wings Homa Lagoon

      By Alpay Tiril

      Close to the city of Izmir on the Aegean is a natural
      paradise for wildlife, the Gediz Delta. The mudflats,
      salt marshes, reed beds, lagoons, salt pans, shallows,
      hills and farmland of the delta are home to a great
      diversity of living creatures. Around 230 species of
      birds, mammals, reptiles and fish, not to mention
      plants and insects make their home here. Homa Lagoon is
      one of the most important parts of the delta in terms
      of biological diversity. The lagoon adjoins the Çamalti
      Salt Pan and is divided from the sea by a narrow bank
      of alluvium carried down by the River Gediz. Flamingos
      come to breed in this shallow still expanse of water.
      The name of the flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) comes
      from the Portuguese flamengo, meaning firebird, and its
      colours indeed justify this name, with its long slender
      red legs, red beak and red wings; and white or pink
      head, neck and body; and black plumage beneath the
      wings visible only when it is in flight. The flamingo
      feeds mainly on artemia (Artemia salina) a marine
      invertebrate which increases the pink colour of the
      flamingses plumage.

      Although they live in salt water, flamingos drink fresh
      water. When the breeding season begins the flamingos
      begin to perform their mating dance. Couples which
      intend to mate stretch out their graceful necks and
      circle around one another in a dance of extraordinary
      beauty which is said to have inspired flamenco dancing.
      Dalmatian pelicans (Pelecanus crispus), an endangered
      species throughout the world, are also among the
      visitors to Homa Lagoon. With a wingspan of over three
      metres these are among the largest seabirds in
      existence. For these pelicans with their orange pouches
      and off-white plumage the muddy islets of the lagoon
      are of special significance, because it is here that
      they breed, safe from interference by humans and
      animals. Another bird that comes to these islets to
      breed is the sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis), whose
      only breeding ground in Turkey is the Gediz Delta. The
      spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) is another species to
      be seen in the lagoon, which is home to a large colony
      of these beautiful birds.

      Smaller coastal birds can also be seen here in
      abundance, such as the Kentish plover (Charadrius
      alexandrinus), the dunlin (Calidris alpina) and the
      curlew sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea). The Homa Lagoon
      is managed by the Fishery Products Faculty of Ege
      University, which conducts research and training
      activities here as well as fish farming. The European
      pilchard (Sardina pilchardus) the round sardinella
      (Sardinella aurita), anchovy (Engraulis encrasicholus),
      silverside (Atherina boyeri), sea bass Dicentrarchus
      labrax and flathead mullet (Mugil cephalus) are just
      some of the fish species found here, and in the open
      sea beyond the lagoon fishermen hunt the many
      octopuses. Üçtepe, the so-called Three Hills, on the
      shore of Homa Lagoon were an island in antiquity, but
      as a result of silt brought down by the river became a
      part of the mainland around 2000 years ago. The hill
      known as Lodos Tepe rising from the shore is the best
      vantage point for a bird's eye view of the lagoon, the
      Gediz Delta, Izmir, the Karaburun Peninsular, and above
      all, the sunset.

      The Roman ruins of Leukai, which was inhabited through
      into Byzantine times, sprawl across the three hills,
      and fragments of ancient tiles and pottery can be found
      here. Homa Lagoon has been listed under the provisions
      of the international Ramsar Convention for the
      protection of the habitats of water birds by the
      Ministry of the Environment, and designated a nature
      reserve by the Ministry of Culture. Furthermore it is
      recognised as a game preserve by the Ministry of
      Forests, while the ruins of Leukai are an
      archaeological preservation site. There is a visitors
      centre at the delta where further information is
      available. Boat tours to the Homa Lagoon start out
      from here, and this is the perfect way to enjoy a view
      of the open sea on the one hand and the brilliantly
      coloured flocks of flamingos on the other, and to
      stroll along a sand beach strewn with sea shells. In
      March and April the white and purple blossoms of
      three-horned stock (Matthiola tricuspidata) bedeck the

      Walking tours take visitors to Lodos Tepe to look out
      over the lagoon, and if you take binoculars you can
      watch the many birds of the area. Homa Lagoon, with
      its beautiful scenery, wildlife and ancient ruins is
      the perfect place to enjoy unspoiled nature within easy
      reach of the city of Izmir. If you end your visit on
      Lodos Tepe, time and space will dissolve into the sense
      of tranquillity that all we city dwellers need as you
      gaze upon the spectacular sunset.

      * Alpay Tiril is a member of the Aegean Wildlife
      Conservation Society
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