Winged songs of spring

Sandpiper Festival in Gomel Region’s Turov gathers increasing number of guests each year

By Anna Overianova

Turov residents are proud of the ancient status of their city, their history and their famous countrymen. Turov meadow is a chain of small islands, inaccessible to people or animals. It seems that nature takes care of birds there, with a huge quantity residing in the meadow: about 50,000 migrating geese, over 30,000 ducks and over 100,000 ruffs overwinter there. Meanwhile, about 3,000 wetland birds nest — almost the same number as the town’s population.

Norbert Schaffer, from the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, notes that, fifteen years ago, he was virtually the only foreigner in Turov who came to observe birds. Today, groups from the UK, Poland, Holland, Germany and elsewhere arrive. “Interestingly, this unique natural territory is situated near the town — not in the middle of nowhere,” Mr. Schaffer smiles. “Fifteen years ago, it seemed that this habitat was in danger, since cities tend to expand into the countryside. Pleasingly, on returning here many years later, I’ve seen that Turov meadow has not been ‘strangled’. Many birds remain.”
Apart from ‘green’ tourism, the site attracts scientific tourists. A local ‘laboratory’ is available on the local river bridge.

Moreover, the only Belarusian station for bird ringing is situated in Turov. “The importance of preserving biological diversity has been much spoken of — by us and the whole world — for the past few years,” asserts the Head of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry’s Department for Biological and Landscape Diversity, Natalia Minchenko. “We need to know more about the surrounding flora and fauna, doing our best to preserve them. In this respect, the Sandpiper Festival is a wonderful way to conduct educational work.”

Like any other natural territory, Turov meadow has its own problems. “The meadow is severely overgrown, so we are cutting it back as best we can,” explains the Director of APB-BirdLife Belarus Public Association, Victor Fenchuk. “Nature is responding to our efforts, with new bird habitats emerging on cleared territories — of sandpipers, gulls and terns.”

“Many issues arise regarding spring hunting,” adds the Head of the Turov Regional Inspectorate for the Protection of Flora and Fauna, Anatoly Markevich. “Many people wish to shoot, with even ‘legal’ hunters being undesirable. One shot disturbs meadow residents for a radius of several kilometres, causing stress to birds. This can stop them from breeding, so we ask the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry to restrict spring hunting — as is enforced at other unique territories countrywide.”

Ms. Minchenko assures us that the Ministry isn’t indifferent to this problem.

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