I bird, therefore I am. Birding defines me, that much is clear. Yet, for the last month and a half I don’t remember doing any birding (my longest pause in the several years, for sure). I was mostly guiding journalists to “Belgrade Amazon” and I continue to do so these days. But what happened to birding?
Having mobility issues, I bird by car only (or by canoe, but that is another story, of friendship and loss). And most of my local patches, the best ones – at least, are not accessible by car any more.
Paving of the road across the Reva Pond started and was abandoned several months later: only the sidewalk was paved. Yet, the site is quite ruined. You can probably understand the disappointment of a herpetologist friend of mine when he discovered that his very research transect was now paved. I’d rather not discuss my disappointment.
Nearby embankments edging the magnificent Danube backwaters are now locked up. Strictly speaking, they were always forbidden for driving, but there is a difference between me, driving along the very top of the dyke and collecting scientific data for the first national breeding birds atlas and someone exploring the possibilities of his flashy new 4×4 while driving figures of eight along the embankment slopes. My driving was tolerated, but because of such idiots, I can no longer get there. At the same time, driving up the slopes – they can.
The last of my local patches was the Beljarica backwaters, nicknamed the Belgrade Amazon. As my readers already know, that area is threatened with “development” for some, or the total annihilation for you and me. That embankment was technically forbidden, but mostly accessible during working hours. Yet, I was there with journalists every other day, the site was in the media almost every day and the first effect of the Save the Belgrade Amazon campaign is now visible: quite unusual for Serbia, the rules are strictly applied.
Basically, I managed to cut myself off my favourite birding area. There’s enough scientific data collected already (eBird illustrated checklist), it is not as if we really need more. And the area is accessible to walkers, it is only me who found himself cut out.
Protection of the area is far more important than my personal birding needs (my birding obsession, to be honest, addiction even). The problem is, I do not believe that we can possibly save the area against the authorities who want to drain it, fill it up and cover by concrete. Then, if I have no hope of a positive outcome, why do I fight?
In the 21st century this may sound like 19th century reasoning, but I fight because it’s the right thing to do. In one of my personal top-10 movies, Clint Eastwood pretty much sums it all: “How ’bout that. I feel pretty good, really. It’s like I always tell ya kid, you gotta fight when you think it’s the right thing to do. Otherwise, you feel like your gut’s full of puss. Even if you get the hell beat outta ya, if ya fight, ya feel ok about it.”
Cover photo: White Hunter Black Heart, 1990