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24 новембар 2011

Three nuances of yellow or longing for the South

Photos & translation © Ksenija Putilin

A few cars move through the first cold of November over yellow grasslands (and it was only a day ago that I had had coffee in the warmth of an Indian summer sun), mottled with wooded hills of planted conifers. The Lada Niva heading the convoy stops, followed by all of the vehicles behind it, and twenty-odd ornithologists from the area between the Macedonia and Slovenia busily search the gloomy sky.

These participants of the BirdLife workshop Wings Across the Balkans, have entered Ovche Pole, in the North-East of Macedonia – you have never heard of this place, unless you have relatives there. This is my first time here as well, after at least a decade of legends about it.

Ravens over the nearby hill, then a Common Buzzard and … the reason we stopped, the rare Eastern Imperial Eagle soars over the hill (If I had an eagle's wings, I would rise and fly with them, To our own shores, to our own climes,…) and lands on top of the hill. This is one of the best and most exclusive eco-touristic destinations in the entire Balkans. On the other side of the hill we spot two more Imperial Eagles, before the cold forces us back into the warm cocoons of the cars, where we quietly but quickly hear:

Across the dark and dusty plain
Where scars of old dry rivers run…

A little later, not far from the road we spot a couple of eagles. The cars screeching to a halt almost cause a traffic jam – or would have caused it had there been any traffic. Some of the ornithologists in the group are seeing these birds for the very first time. Within 45 minutes we’ve watched as many Imperial Eagles as we have in the whole of Serbia.

A narrow asphalt road across the dry grass ahead of us… a large falcon! All of the cars stop, I am watching something that at first looks like a Peregrine Falcon, but it hides its tail away from me too quickly and flies off. Other people’s opinions have swayed towards the much rarer Lanner Falcon but they too saw too little of it. In consolation we get a Saker Falcon and this one shows well.

The local road meanders through highland and ends in an almost deserted village of dilapidated and aging houses. We stand on a bridge over a smallish river, banks decorated with gloriously yellow leaves through which a Wren moves like a mouse (it’s the same Wren as the one from the story where it became the king of birds for riding upon the shoulders of the eagles...). We watch and wait. Ultimately we are rewarded with a Golden Eagle on the hill! …then another one, and another one, a total of three different birds.

Well frozen but smiling we get back to our cars …

…Towns asleep by empty roads
Churches rise from crooked roofs…

Nowhere in Serbia can you see an Imperial and a Golden eagle in the same habitat on the same day. The threatened Saker Falcon is holding up relatively well, but I can’t remember the last time someone saw a Lanner Falcon – nor have I ever watched it in Serbia (hmmm…maybe not even in Europe). I make this comment to a Macedonian colleague who says: “Maybe we are spoiled – we are out in the field there every weekend”

The flames are in the fireman's eye
Orange in the engines glow
Gleaming pistons whirling cranks
Wait for dawn the rooster's crow

More about the workshop here

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