Unseen wildlife in Turkey

Our travels to historical points of interest in Turkey wasn’t really conducive to viewing wildlife.  However, we visited out-of-the-way places where I would have expected to see a few more bird species.  Surprisingly, gulls and cormorants were rare along the ocean shore, even where fishermen were active, and there were few species other than House Sparrows out in the country where fruit trees and some native vegetation were prevalent.  Hawks soaring over open fields or perched along the road were rarely seen, but it’s hard to believe that those fields were devoid of rodents.

We did visit one area near the Dalyan River (on our way to explore Lycian ruins at Caunus) where we might have seen the endangered Loggerhead Turtles during their breeding season.

(photo from http://www.earthtimes.org/nature/loggerhead-turtle-migration-mystery-solved/332/)

The sand spit at Iztuzu Beach is protected from human incursion from May 1 to Oct 31, so the females can come ashore and lay a clutch of up to 70 eggs in the warm sand.  They lay up to four successive clutches, one every two weeks or so, each batch of eggs requiring about 80 days to mature and hatch.   Even with this high productivity per female, these large sea turtles are rare because of loss of or disturbance to their breeding habitat, as well as the usual predation on eggs and hatchlings.

Loggerhead Turtles also breed along beaches in southeastern U.S., and their biology is much the same as that of the turtles in Turkey.  The species is notable for its long distance migration after hatching, some 8000 miles from the U.S. around the coastline of the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (including beaches inTurkey and Greece) from birth to its first breeding, when it returns exactly to the beach on which it hatched.  Even though Florida-hatched Loggerheads may swim in the Atlantic and Mediterranean with those hatched in Turkey, each turtle returns to its natal beach and the populations remain genetically distinct.

(photo from http://www.unc.edu/spotlight/turtle-migration)

How do they know where to go, you might ask?

Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings have magnetite crystals in their brains and can “read” the earth’s magnetic field.  They can determine their north-south and east-west orientation based on differences in the magnetic field strength and use those differences to navigate around the Atlantic and back “home” again.  Although this is a remarkable feat (using magnetic cues for long-distance navigation), some researchers have found that pigeons can also use magnetic field strength to find their way back to their roost.

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