Wintering counts of birds of prey in the alienated zone of Chornobyl atomic power station


The 30 Kilometer Chornobyl’s alienation zone is poorly studied and at the same time one of the most interesting area. Participants of the expedition from 23th December to 26th December 2008 by car ‘Niva’ conducted counts of wintering large birds of prey in the zone.

During studies, snow cover was about 6-8 cm. Night temperature fell to -5˚C. Frequent snowfalls worsened visibility in open areas, causing underestimation of raptors. The counts were taking during all daylight period. There were studied areas of the Pripyat river channel from the city of Pripyat to the river mouth. Besides, we visited several points in the lower reaches of Uzh River till the place of its inflow in the Pripyat River, some points in the Uzh floodplain 40 km upstream, a part of Kyiv Reservoir near the village of Strakholesye, bordering on the alienated zone.
For counts, there were binoculars with 15 x 50 magnification and a telescope with variable zoom 20×60. Totally, about 530 km was covered by counts.

Areas of the Pripyat River were covered by ice almost everywhere, only on some of them were small unfrozen patches of water. Ice moving downstream was observed only at the city of Pripyat. The ice completely covered the river already at the city of Chornobyl. Such a picture was seen along the whole river up to Kyiv Reservoir. After the atomic station had been closed, cooling ponds have been covering by ice in winter already for several years. Former concentrations of waterfowl vanished, and, as a result, numbers of wintering white-tailed eagles declined. In this area we counted only 2 individuals of White-tailed Eagles. Solitary eagles and their pairs were recorded by us only in the Pripyat floodplain. Spot visits to the Uzh floodplain did not bring any positive results. Firstly, river areas not always were well seen through optical devices, secondly, as already mentioned above, frequent snowfalls limited visibility to 300 m, making impossible to provide a comprehensive survey of open areas.

In a total, there were counted 11 White-tailed Eagles, of them 6 adults, 2 young birds, and age of 3 birds was not determined because of bad visibility.
Thus, during the preliminary survey we did not discover any concentrations of large raptors in the alienated zone.
We plan to continue our investigations during next two winter months.

We would like to thank the Director of the firm “Remontnik” (Kyiv) A.A. Mikhalko for the financial support of the counts.

Sergey Domashevsky, Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre
Igor Chizhevsky, Chornobyl Radioecological Centre

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