Kuscenneti National Park occupies a special place among Turkey’s national parks, since the only reason for its classification as a national park are its bird colonies. Also it is the smallest national park in the country, covering only 64 Hectares, beside Lake Kus (formerly Lake Manyas), an area which is approximately 1/400 th of the whole lake.Owing to its unique natural features and despite its small size, Kuscenneti attracts a great number of visitors in comparison with other national parks.
The location Kuscenneti was discovered by Prof. Dr . C. Kosswig, the Director of the Zoological institute of the istanbul University Faculty of Science, and his wife, (Leonore Kosswig on the Ist. of April, 1938) who had come to the lake to fish, saw bird colonies nesting on willow trees to the west of Sigirciatik Village. Mish impressed with what they had seen, they named the place “Kuscenneti” or Bird Paradise” As a result of Professor Kosswig’s activities, Kuscenneti was made known to nature lovers, and thanks to subsequent visitis by scientists the value of this bird colony was more fully understood.
In 1952 a secondary Hydrobiological Research Station of istanbul University was built here, and the staff of this station was also entrusted with the wardening of Kuscenneti. To provide better protection for the site Kuscenneti was brought under the Forest Regime in 1959 and was hence classified as a national park by the General Directorate of Forestry. Owing to the efficient conservation measures taken after this date, considerable increases in the bird colonies have been recorded.
GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION AND ACCESS
Kuscenneti lies in the Marmara region in northwestern Turkey. The park is within the provincial boundaries of Balikesir and in the sub-province Bandirma. A three kilometre secondary tarmac surfaced road links the park with the Bandirma-Balikesir highway, 15 km. from Bandirma.
HABITAT AND SEASONS
Anyone who visits Kuscenneti on a spring day will find it different from what he imagines. At first sight he will be surprised with hundreds of herons, pelicans and spoonbills rather than a chorus of singing birds. But despite the lack of birdsong the visitor will be impressed and delighted with the beauty of the scene. Towards the end of winter the waters of Lake Kus start to rise, flooding the lake shores with muddy water . The willows, reeds and grassy areas, left dry in the summer after the retreat of the water, are flooded in this part of the lake. Migratory birds, which have spent the winter in the south, start coming back in small groups with the onset of spring. During the first few days they feed greedily to recover from the tiring migration. Later they fly over the lake to find suitable nesting places. The first place they choose is the obviously peaceful Kuscenneti because it is efficiently protected. Most of their old nests are still roughly intact, so nesting starts immediately after they arrive. The first comers are usually cormorants, grey herons and spoonbills. Although they may fight with each other during the settlement period, this does not last long. Firstly they repair their nests, which were darnaged in the winter, and then they settle in and start hatching their eggs. Ducks, geese, coots and moorhens choose nesting places in the reeds and rushes. Towards the end of March little egrets, night herons, purple herons, glossy ibises and pelicans arrive. In the reeds. rhe song of the reed warblers echoes around while they build their nests. All in all it is a very hectic time in the woods and reeds.
The pairs take turns at hatching the eggs on the repaired or newly built nests. One of the pair incubates the eggs while the other feeds. As soon as on bird has had its fiil it returns to the nest to take its turn at incubating. In May with the arrival of other warblers and the turtle doves the breeding communities of the park are complete.
Kuscenneti is as much an ideal habitat for the spawing of fish in the lake is it is an excellent sanctuary for birds. In spring the calm waters around the reeds start seething with fish that have come to spawn. The habitat, enriched by vegetation growing on bird droppings, is suitable for fish to lay eggs and for the growth of larva.
The early comers to Kuscenneti hatch their nestlings in the second half to May. During this period the adults struggle to feed the nestlings. After a couple of weeks, the youngsters make their first attempts at flying. At first they circle around the nests and later they learn to feed in the shallow pans.
Towards the end of June, some of the breeding birds start leaving the part with their young. At this time of year the waters receed from the woods and reeds. On the damp and fertile lake shore soil various grasses and wild flowers grow, and reeds and rushes also thrive.
At the beginning of autumn large flocks of pelicans are seen here and there. These are a different species from the ones that bred in the spring. These fly about in flocks of thousands and usually rest on the western side of Kuscenneti. Sometimes white storks also rest on the park’s quiet shores on their way south. The cranes do not fail to greet Kuscenneti while they fly high over the lake. Ducks are seen in increasing numbers day by day. Passerines visit the willow woods and reeds in flocks and feed for a few days on their way south.
With the migration of other birds, Kuscenneti undergoes an invasion of ducks, geese and coots. In the evenings, while the ducks fily to flooded pastures and fields for feeding, thousands, of starlings come to roost on trees and reeds. Jackdaws and magpies fly screaming through the last rays of the sun, eventually roosting on dead trees and becoming still as if they are part of the trees. As the light fades their movements and sounds fade away. The night is interrupted with the hoots of the long-eared owl and the scops owl coming from the depths of the wood.
Winter continues like this, and from time to time wild geese and wood pigeons come in large flocks. The numbers and species of ducks varies from day to day, the ones coming from the north replacing those that have flown south. As the weather gets colder, northern divers and swans appear at Kuscenneti and sometimes stay for a couple of weeks.
As the days get longer and warmer, a flapping in the sky heralds the spring. Thus with the coming of spring., Kuscenneti enters a new period of life and the yearly cycle repeats itself, except for the one unfortunate difference that birds continue to loose their right to live in many places because of environmental pollution caused by man. Hence birds tend to retreat more and more to the secure and peaceful paradise of Kuscenneti.
Up to the end of June 1975,239 species of birds have been recorded in Kuscenneti, (according to the observations of Tansu Gürpinar). Of these species 66 breed regularly every year in the national park and in some years 21 more species have joined the breeding population. The remaining 152 species visit Kuscenneti during migration. It has been estimated that the number of birds visiting Kuscenneti is approximately 2-3 million, and most of these are migratory species.
It is not a coincidence that large breeding colonies of birds occur in the willow woods and reeds on the banks of the lake. On the contrary, this stems from the following important reasons:
4- Climate and migration routes
1- Security: In the spring the water level of the lake rises and the trees and reeds are flooded with up to one metre of water. This pheomenon means security for the birds, since predators likely to come from inland cannot cross the water and reach the nests on flooded trees and feeds.
2- Shelter: Kuscenneti has luxuriant vegetation which is suitable for the nesting of a variety of birds and of fers protection against their enemies and against poor weather conditions.
3- Food: Owing to the thriving plant life, fish, frogs, worms and insects occur in abundance at Kuscenneti. Particularly during the breeding season in spring, the birds pay special attention to providing their young with protein-rich food. From this standpoint, the birds, can find ample food both for themselves and for their young at Kuscenneti.
4- Climate and migration routes: The mild climate of the Marmara region is very suitable for birds in almost every season. Also this region is on the migration route between the continents of Asia and Europe. Thus many species of birds stop over at Kuscenneti, which provides food shelter and breeding grounds for them.
The natural relationship between living creatures and inanimate things has an extraordinary quality in Kuscenneti. The water, soil, climate, grasses, reeds, trees and fish exist in a harmonious unity. Undoubtedly it is the warm waters of the lake which unite the different elements of this ecosystem and support the dynamic equilibrium. The regular rise and fall of the water is repeated every year. If the water level did not fall in summer and autumn then the willows would not be able to live through lack of air. On the other hand, if the.water did not flood the wood then the birds would not build their nests in the trees. One can thus say that Kuscenneti owes its existence to the seasonal movements of the lake.
The rhythmical fluctuation of the water not only affects birds and plant life but also provides a good habitat for many other creatures. The soil, fertilized with the droppings o thousands o birds, makes the dense growth o plants possible, and this in turn provides a habitat for millions of invertabrates. During the period of high water these organisms live in the water and are a source of food for fish. Thus Kuscenneti not only attracts birds but also fish which spawn in this area.
Through efficient means of protection Kuscenneti has become an exclusive laboratory, continuously contributing to the scientific, educational and cultural life of the country. The park is also a great library of knowledge offering a dynamic picture of the creative power of nature. Despite these positive factors, even Kuscenneti may be subjected to the dangers of a changing world. Any drainage scheme or the construction of a dam in the watershed of the lake that would destroy the natural rhythm of water fluctuation, would seriously damage the ecology of Kuscenneti. Also industrial pollution and insecticides brought by rivers to the lake may damage the ecosystem. Hence the preservation of this national park is the duty of everyone.
Kusgolu, (formerly Lake Manyas) is one of the four lakes of the Marmara region. It is 162 sq. km. and 15 m. above sea level, and its deepest point is 6 m. From a limnological standpoint, Kusgolu is an argilotrophe type of lake and from the aspect of biological productivity it is an eutrophic lake. Its shallowness allows wave motion to reach the bottom. Aside from this it contains plenty of plankton. Thus the water always appears cloudy.
Around the lake are formations belonging to the Tertiary and even earlier periods. The formation of the lake dates from the Quaternary Pleistocene period. Before this the Marmara lake system was a set of gulfs belonging to the Black Sea. This is of significance from the standpoint of the lake’s fish, in that some salt water fish have adapted themselves to freshwater conditions, such as the freshwater sardine (Caspialosa meotica) .
The lake shores and areas that are seasonally flooded are covered with very rich vegetation. Along the shores the most luxuriant vegetation is at Kuscenneti.
The dominant tree is the willow (Salix sp.) Tamerisks (Tamerix sp.), are found oh the south and east shores. Reeds (Phragmites sp.), cattail (Typha sp.), rushes (Juncus sp.), sedge (Carex sp.) are all found along the shores. Hundreds of species of herbs occur on the marshlands around the lake.
The crayfish (Astacus leptodactylus) is abundant in the lake and is caught for commercial purposes. Frogs are also residents of the lake. There are more than twenty species of fish in the lake, such as carp (Cyprinus carpio), catfish (Silurus glanis), pike (Esox lucius), grey mullet (Leuciscus cephalus), which are all caught for food.