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Where the firebird beats its wings Homa Lagoon
2003 /June

Close to the city of Izmir on the Aegean is a natural paradise for wildlife, the Gediz Delta. The mudflats, salt marshes, reed beds, lagoons, salt pans, shallows, hills and farmland of the delta are home to a great diversity of living creatures. Around 230 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish, not to mention plants and insects make their home here. Homa Lagoon is one of the most important parts of the delta in terms of biological diversity. The lagoon adjoins the Çamalti Salt Pan and is divided from the sea by a narrow bank of alluvium carried down by the River Gediz. Flamingos come to breed in this shallow still expanse of water. The name of the flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) comes from the Portuguese flamengo, meaning firebird, and its colours indeed justify this name, with its long slender red legs, red beak and red wings; and white or pink head, neck and body; and black plumage beneath the wings visible only when it is in flight. The flamingo feeds mainly on artemia (Artemia salina) a marine invertebrate which increases the pink colour of the flamingses plumage.

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Where the firebird beats its wings Homa Lagoon
2003 /June

Although they live in salt water, flamingos drink fresh water. When the breeding season begins the flamingos begin to perform their mating dance. Couples which intend to mate stretch out their graceful necks and circle around one another in a dance of extraordinary beauty which is said to have inspired flamenco dancing. Dalmatian pelicans (Pelecanus crispus), an endangered species throughout the world, are also among the visitors to Homa Lagoon. With a wingspan of over three metres these are among the largest seabirds in existence. For these pelicans with their orange pouches and off-white plumage the muddy islets of the lagoon are of special significance, because it is here that they breed, safe from interference by humans and animals. Another bird that comes to these islets to breed is the sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis), whose only breeding ground in Turkey is the Gediz Delta. The spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) is another species to be seen in the lagoon, which is home to a large colony of these beautiful birds.

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Where the firebird beats its wings Homa Lagoon
2003 /June
Smaller coastal birds can also be seen here in abundance, such as the Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), the dunlin (Calidris alpina) and the curlew sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea). The Homa Lagoon is managed by the Fishery Products Faculty of Ege University, which conducts research and training activities here as well as fish farming. The European pilchard (Sardina pilchardus) the round sardinella (Sardinella aurita), anchovy (Engraulis encrasicholus), silverside (Atherina boyeri), sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax and flathead mullet (Mugil cephalus) are just some of the fish species found here, and in the open sea beyond the lagoon fishermen hunt the many octopuses. Üçtepe, the so-called Three Hills, on the shore of Homa Lagoon were an island in antiquity, but as a result of silt brought down by the river became a part of the mainland around 2000 years ago. The hill known as Lodos Tepe rising from the shore is the best vantage point for a bird’s eye view of the lagoon, the Gediz Delta, Izmir, the Karaburun Peninsular, and above all, the sunset.
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Where the firebird beats its wings Homa Lagoon
2003 /June
The Roman ruins of Leukai, which was inhabited through into Byzantine times, sprawl across the three hills, and fragments of ancient tiles and pottery can be found here. Homa Lagoon has been listed under the provisions of the international Ramsar Convention for the protection of the habitats of water birds by the Ministry of the Environment, and designated a nature reserve by the Ministry of Culture. Furthermore it is recognised as a game preserve by the Ministry of Forests, while the ruins of Leukai are an archaeological preservation site. There is a visitors centre at the delta where further information is available. Boat tours to the Homa Lagoon start out from here, and this is the perfect way to enjoy a view of the open sea on the one hand and the brilliantly coloured flocks of flamingos on the other, and to stroll along a sand beach strewn with sea shells. In March and April the white and purple blossoms of three-horned stock (Matthiola tricuspidata) bedeck the coast.
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Where the firebird beats its wings Homa Lagoon
2003 /June

Walking tours take visitors to Lodos Tepe to look out over the lagoon, and if you take binoculars you can watch the many birds of the area. Homa Lagoon, with its beautiful scenery, wildlife and ancient ruins is the perfect place to enjoy unspoiled nature within easy reach of the city of Izmir. If you end your visit on Lodos Tepe, time and space will dissolve into the sense of tranquillity that all we city dwellers need as you gaze upon the spectacular sunset.

* Alpay Tiril is a member of the Aegean Wildlife Conservation Society

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