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A volunteer counts Great Crested Grebes as part of his training for bird monitoring at an IBA. Photo: Claire Thompson

From casual birdwatching to bird monitoring and conservation

Thirty Macedonians converged on Prespa in the Republic of Macedonia from 2 to 4 October to celebrate Euro Birdwatch 2015 with 32.000 others from 41 European and Central Asian countries.
The Euro Birdwatch event in Macedonia was organised by the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES, BirdLife in Macedonia) and brought together Local Conservation Groups (LCGs) and volunteers to observe the beginning of the autumn migration (five million birds were recorded over Europe and Central Asia).
While the number of Macedonian participants may be small, the team was doing more than just birdwatching around the Stenje wetland and the foothills of Galicia National Park. MES representatives and LCGs spent time with volunteers by the Prespa Lakes, learning how to conduct bird monitoring for the international mid-winter waterfowl census. This is a skill they will be able to use while volunteering in the field with MES.
“I can’t wait to participate in the regular threat monitoring for the lake. I understand that migratory birds face many threats and I would like to contribute to the efforts to decrease them in Macedonia,” said Slave Nakev, an MES volunteer from Radoviš.
The event was also used as an opportunity to spread the message about the need for safe flyways for migratory birds. A new study by BirdLife International recently showed that every year, approximately 25 million birds are being killed illegally in the Mediterranean region. On top of this, migratory birds face a number of other threats along their journey through the Mediterranean, including collision with wind turbines, electrocution by power lines and loss of key breeding, stop-over and wintering sites to development.  
As a result, MES organised a two-day workshop during Euro Birdwatch. The first day focused on a new strategy for working with LCGs in Macedonia, developed as part of the Capacity Development for Flyway Conservation in the Mediterranean project (developing resources to conserve birds’ migratory path), coordinated by BirdLife International with support from the MAVA Foundation.
“This strategy provides us with an overview and guidance for further cooperation of MES with local organisations and volunteers, which are of great importance to our activities at a national scale,” said Robertina Brajanoska, MES’s executive director.
The second day of the workshop was dedicated to training young volunteers in project planning and joint action to show them how their conservation ideas can really be accomplished. This is in line with BirdLife’s Local Engagement and Empowerment Programme, which supports individuals and organisations who work with the BirdLife Partnership to deliver local conservation actions for biodiversity and people.
“I am now aware that there is a structured way in which I can work towards achieving my goals and I hope that with other volunteers and guidance from MES, we can work as a team to manage a joint project someday,” said Andrej Gonev, an MES volunteer from Skopje. 
This event was funded by the MAVA Foundation as part of the Capacity Development for Flyway Conservation in the Mediterranean.
Source: David Thomas, birdlife.org

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