The third cycle of counts of BP in the alienated zone of CAPS
The third cycle of counts of large birds of prey during winter 2008-2009 was carried out 17-20.02.2009. Snowfalls, started on the threshold of counts, have returned leaving winter. The ground was covered with fresh snow, but on the rivers Pripyat and Uzh big ice-holes were formed. Therefore, the wintering birds were dispersed. The renewed frosts equaled to – 6 °C at night, in the afternoon the temperature kept within 0… +1°C.
On February, 17th we surveyed the left bank of the Pripyat going along the route of the last census. On ponds of river Nesvich, where in January White-tailed Eagles had concentrated, only 3 juveniles were noticed. The ice-hole at the sluice strongly increased, and we did not observe any signs of fish suffocation in this season. One young White-tailed Eagle was met at the village of Staroselye. Further we surveyed the left bank of Pripyat upstream till the Belarus border (Mosany village). There we did not register any White-tailed Eagle. Survey of areas of the Kyiv Reservoir at villages of Ladyzhichi and Teremtsy also did not brought desirable results. Carrying out of counts was negatively affected by snow going during the daylight, so visibility sometimes worsened to 800 m.
On February, 18th because of abundant snowfalls which did not allow to carry out high-grade researches, we were forced to refuse visits for counts.
On February, 19th it was wonderful windless and sunny weather. We surveyed areas of an upper reaches of the Kyiv Reservoir from Domantov Island. So we moved ahead to the Pripyat mouth and finished a route near the mouth of Uzh River. That day 7 young White-tailed Eagles were counted. At the nest of White-tailed Eagles, found in December near the village of Otashev, we did not see any signs of presence of adult birds. It was still under a snow layer. It was unknown why birds did not start repairing the nest. They probably abandoned it or would appear at the nest later.
On February, 20th we spent a part of day at the Uzh mouth. There were some meetings of young birds, number of the counted birds equaled to 2-3 individuals.
In total, during February counts we covered by car the distance of 370 km, and 13-14 juveniles of White-tailed Eagles were counted.
We assume that small number of the White-tailed Eagles, observed in this season, was connected with movement of adult individuals to breeding grounds and appearance of open patches of water on the rivers and the Kyiv Reservoir, and possibly the part of White-tailed Eagles had moved in that direction. An indirect proof of our assumption is absence of any adult birds met by us.
As we wrote earlier, the number of wintering White-tailed Eagles also could be reduced because of stopped work of the Chornobyl Atomic Power Station that entailed freezing of a cooling pond where the considerable quantity of waterfowl earlier wintered and was a lot of fish. According to G.M.Panov (2004), in the area at villages Krasnoye and Zimovishche in the winter 1998-1999 during a period of fish suffocation stayed about 30 White-tailed Eagles. Similar data are available for the same area in winter 1998, where according to data of the game-keeper service 40 birds were recorded (Gashchak, 2002).
In winter 1998, in a frontier Belarus area (Polissia Radiation Reserve) number of wintering White-tailed Eagles was estimated as 40-60 birds (Dombrovsky, Pareiko, 1999).
According to results of the work carried by us in December – February, 52-53 White-tailed Eagles were counted. Of them, 14 were in adult plumage, 35-36 in juvenile plumage, and the age of 3 birds was not identified. Taking into account not completely surveyed area of the alienated zone of CAPS, it is possible to assume presence of 45-55 White-tailed Eagles at the winter season in this territory.
The total length of census routes was 1,280 km.
During counts we did never observe other wintering large bird of prey – the Golden Eagle. Cases of its registration in this area in a winter season are available. According to our Belarus colleagues (Dombrovsky, Pareiko, 1999), number of the Golden Eagle in the area of Polissia Radiation Reserve (Braginsky, Hoyniksky districts) was estimated as 5-10 birds in the winter 1998.
We are sincerely thankful to the Director of the building firm “Remontnik” (Kyiv) A.A. Mikhalko for sponsor support of our works. Also we thank S.P.Gashchak for assistance in organization issues in the alienated zone.
Sergey Domashevsky, Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre
Igor Chizhevsky, Chornobyl Radioecological Centre