Tuesday, 11 October 2005

See, the pelicans are falling

The most clear sign of autumn here on Lesvos is not the falling leaves, but the nets which are spread under the olive trees. Of course you do have falling leaves on the island, but a lot less than in the more northern countries. This island has a lot of evergreen trees. The olive trees, the orange and lemon trees, the fir trees, they all stay green. It is only the earth underneath which gets black from the nets.

When you count all the olives in the trees it looks like it is going to be a good olive year. The olives already start colouring from green to purple to black. The strong northeastern wind which tried for a week to cool off the island makes that many olives fall into the nets.

But that is not all that is falling on the island. Pelicans also fall. Well, they do not just tumble out of the sky, although some of them literary fall down in the meaning that they do not survive their journey.

Last weekend we enjoyed a marvellous meal at the beach of Avlaki. On the deep blue sea some small fishing boats floated up and down, as well as a young brown pelican who was admiring the island and later on set out for the beach to have a little nap.

I was a little surprised because there are only two pelicans known on the island. One in Skala Kaloni and the big Maki who shuttles between Perama and Skala Loutra. The one in Skala Kaloni is a widower, his partner died in an accident some years ago. Stupid, because how can you drive into such a big bird... (*)

Two birds can make small ones, that I do know. With one of the parents in Skala Kaloni and the other in Perama, what does the youngster do in Avlaki... I was not thinking clearly enough, because birds can fly and pelicans can even swim. And autumn means as well: the migration of the birds.

After our lunch we decided to take a better look of the pelican. But the bird was gone. We could not find him anymore. The only thing we did find on the beach was another young pelican, but that one was as dead as a door-nail. His beak was gone and for sure he died a long time ago.

When we came home I phoned the Wildlife Hospital in Agia Paraskevi in order to inform them what we saw and to ask if they knew more. Joris was a little panicky because he just heard that in Turkey there was a probable outbreak of the bird flu. 250 km southwest from Istanbul, which is pretty close to our island. Earlier this week Joris picked up a pelican from Anaxos beach. The bird was really ill and did not survive many days. Did the pelican have the bird flu? And would Joris be contaminated?

Joris probably paid for it with a sleeplessness night. The next morning he phoned all his colleague veterinarians and finally there was only one conclusion: the young pelican which died in Agia Paraskevi did not die from the bird flu.

We all got a little scared. Especially Joris. Besides the risk of a deadly flu for humans it must be horrible that so many birds must get killed just for prevention. And how can you protect a bird island like Lesvos? The migration in the autumn is not that famous, but the migration in the spring means that thousands of birdwatchers come to the island. Is it possible to shoot all those flying and migrating birds?

Today Joris was called out again to pick up a pelican. This time it was found in Skala Sykaminia. It had big holes, which looked like there was somebody who did not like him. I presume that when Joris makes his monthly report for his site on the internet, he will describe it with his usual strong words.(*)

In these precarious times there is only one thing left: keep your fingers crossed or pray and burn a candle in one of the many chapels in order to please the Greek gods. The bird flu on Lesvos could become a real danger because of all the migrating birds coming from Turkey and Russia. We should keep our eyes open. That is why again I give here the website of the Wildlife Hospital. When you notice anything unusual, please contact them or a local veterinary surgeon.

(*) News about the pelicans from Joris (Wildlife Hospital): The Pelican in Skala Kalonis is a young bird (female) which we delivered THIS year ourselves, after she recovered from shot-wounds and now misses one wing. So this is NOT the last bird (who was found dead last year) and who was AS WELL a female (who got a male name, well, we are on Lesvos here!!) Concerning the pelican from Skala Sykaminia: the holes in the bird will not say that those are due to human practice. We are also known with crashes into trees what can cause the same injuries. And by the way, there was a whole 'bunch' of pelicans seen nearby Skala Polichnitos. It was a Dutch man reporting this from Lisvori.

Copyright © Smitaki 2005

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