Today we crossed greater Istanbul and made it all the way to Sarıyer in one hour— a fantastic feat, as driving anywhere near the city can be a hellish journey through traffic of the worst kind. Spring has officially arrived, and with it, the humming of bees and thousands of birds on their way back from their wintering grounds. As Sarıyer is located on one of the narrowest stretches of the Bosphorus, it is a major bottleneck for soaring birds on the Mediterranean/Black Sea Flyway.
We were prepared. Atilla the Krill Mobile (our noble, yet still slightly smelly car) was packed tightly with binoculars, folding stools, extra layers of clothes, sunscreen, bird guides, sketchbooks, and a telescope. The Dorjee thermos was full of mint tea, and our picnic basket held chocolate, oranges, cookies, and tuna sandwiches (which have become a bit of a birding tradition).
A group of three Turkish birders and a lone Englishman were scanning the sky with binoculars when we arrived at Sarıyer Keskin Viraj, a sharp curve in the road near Koç Universitesi which has some of the best views of the migratory crossing point. Pedro set up the telescope in a little clearing and I poured a cup of tea.
See all those dots in the sky?
In three hours, we saw over five hundred Lesser Spotted Eagles, 51 Short-toed Eagles, 86 Common Buzzards (including one Long-legged Buzzard), thirty Sparrowhawks, one Marsh Harrier, two Black Kites, two Booted Eagles, 116 White Storks, and the highlights: a Black Stork and one massive Imperial Eagle. How amazing is that?
At some point, while following an eagle through the trees, I noticed something that had not been there last year. Across the violet smog, something ominous was taking shape: the third Bosphorus Bridge. I understand the desperate need to alleviate the traffic situation, I do— but what will this bridge ultimately cost?
I remember Istanbul so much greener.
A third bridge, a third airport— there will be nothing left but concrete and thick air. Around two million soaring birds (pelicans, storks, raptors) pass through this point twice a year, every year. Where will they go when airplanes start claiming the sky and there's nowhere safe left to land?