Migrations of Saker Falcons with satellite transmitters: results of June – September 2011

We bring to your attention the first results of tracking the Saker Falcons, marked with satellite transmitters in the south of Ukraine in 2011. About the previous expedition on searching Saker’s nests and marking the birds read here.

As you probably remember from the earlier article, eight Saker’s chicks were marked in their nests, each of them got its own name.

Authors of photos: M.Gavrilyuk, M.Prommer, V.Vetrov, Yu.Milobog

The male, named «Gagarin» was marked 1 June 2011 on Kerch Peninsula. Why ‘Gagarin’? There are several reasons of it. Yury Gagarin was the first spaceman and we wanted the chick’s flight to be distant and successful, and also the name of our leading saker’s expert in Ukraine is Yury (and he was born exactly on the Cosmonautics Day). So, could we give the chick any other name? Gagarin flew out of the nest already 5 June, but not far away; 11 June he flew for the distance of 100 m. At first he was staying in the vicinity of the nest and often returned into it. About a month he was keeping within the nesting area; after 10 July extended the territory of his flight over Kerch Peninsula; on 22 June went on an eastward trip around the Sea of Azov. It took for him a total of 5 days to fly over the sea and realize that ‘east or west the Crimea is best’. From late July until now he has chosen for himself rather a limited area on Tarkhankut Peninsula and stay there (map of movements).

The female «Irina» was marked in the same nest with Gagarin. We intended to see a route of flight chosen by two birds from the same nest. This chick was named after a local girl, showed us the way to the nest. Surprisingly, but the female had the same preferences as her brother. Having made the first flight attempt on 2 June, on the 12th of June she for the first time flew away for the distance of 100 m. Similar to her brother, she for a long time stayed not far from the nest. Only since the beginning of the third decade of July, she expanded her flight territory over Kerch Peninsula. On 5 August, Irina went eastward almost following the route of her brother, though made during five days a much larger hook around the Sea of Azov. Having visited the regions of Rostov, Luhansk, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk on 9 August she returned to the Crimea across Kherson region. Immediately after that, she flew to Tarkhankut, only a dozen kilometers from the place where her brother had stayed. However, Irina chose a different area – closer to Sivash, where she continues to stay until now (map of movements).

The female, named «Nadia», (Hope) was marked on 2 June in the foothills of the Crimea. She was the youngest of the marked birds, and we all hoped that she would survive and be able to tell much about her movements. She flew out of the nest on 16 June, and 21 June she already flew away for the distance of 1.1 km from the nest, but still held within the nesting area. On 19 July Nadia started her journey by flying to Kakhovske Reservoir, then along the Azov coast eastward into Rostov region, where near the village Novostoevka she turned opposite direction and 29 July returned to the Crimea (map of movements). But soon the bird died. The signal for a long time went from one point – from a forest belt in agricultural lands near the village Tokareve (Kirovske district, Crimea). Some later, by our request, S. Prokopenko after thorough and persistent search found some remains of our dead bird and the transmitter. The cause of death was not possible to establish – the forest fire in that place destroyed all evidences. The found transmitter will be repaired and used next year to mark a saker falcon in Ukraine.

A male named «Tarkhankut» was marked on the eponymous peninsula on 4 June. His first flight of more than 150 m he made 7 June. Exactly for one month he stayed within the nesting area and 8 July flew eastward, overcoming 150 km per one day, and next day the same distance, having reached by the evening the vicinity of Kerch City. What an amazing agility for a chick only a month after leaving his nest! On 10 July, he was near the village Zaboysky on Taman Peninsula, where turned around and flew back to the Crimea, again flying 180 km per day. On 13 July in the morning he was in his nesting area only a few hundred meters from the nest. He easily found the way back to the nest at a straight distance of 400 km! For a week Tarkhankut again held within his nesting territory, gathering strength. On 20 July, he flew on a northward journey, reaching 22 July the neighborhood of Svitlovodsk City (Kirovohrad region). And then across Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson regions on 25 July he returned to the Crimea. In the evening of 28 July he was again at his nest. In the morning of 6 August, he went on a long journey – the received signals indicated that he flew to the west over the Black Sea and spent night already in Romania. Then Tarkhankut flew southward through Bulgaria and Turkey, crossed the Bosphorus, and with short stops moved over Turkey, having reached the Mediterranean coast on 3 September. In the morning of 4 September he was on Cyprus, where spent 4 days. After this he returned to Turkey, and soon the transmitter started sending signals from one point. Soon Turkish colleagues told M. Prommer, the project manager for the saker research, that they found a dead bird of prey with the transmitter. Tarkhankut died of electrocution in the territory of Konya National Park (map of movements).

The male «Chernomor» was marked on 4 June in the area of Tarkhankut Peninsula. On 8 June, he flew a distance of about 50 m away from the nest, but stayed for a long within his nesting territory. In the morning of 22 July he went on a journey by flying per day approximately 260 km to Mykhailivka district of Zaporizhzhia region. Having reached on 23 July the village Virnopillia (Izium district) Chernomor turned the opposite direction and soon came back. Since 27 July he chose for himself rather a limited area in Zaporizhzhia region (map of movements).

The male named «Kurgan» (Mound) was marked in the area of Tarkhankut Peninsula on 5 June. He got its name because of two mounds located in the vicinity of his nest. On 11 June he for the first time flew for the distance of about 100 m from the nest. Until the end of July he stayed within two rather limited areas, making flights up to several dozens of kilometers. On 31 July he set off for a northward journey and reached by the evening the vicinity of the village Piskoshenе (Veselе district of Zaporizhzhia region) having overcome more than 220 km. However, the next day, morning of 1 August, he flew back and the same evening was in the Crimea, where continues staying until now (map of movements).

The male, called «Kazak» (Cossack), was marked in Hornostaivka district of Kherson region on 6 June. We hoped that he would be a worthy successor of brave Cossack folk. But it was not his fortune; the last signal was received from the chick still in the nest on 12 June. This is the most mysterious disappearance of a chick with the transmitter. We cannot exclude a version that the chick was taken out of the nest and the transmitter was destroyed. When, after a week, Yury Milobog checked this area he revealed neither chick nor transmitter.

A male called «Schastlivchik» (Lucky) did not justify his name. At first, on 6 June we found the chick under the power line pole where his nest was located, on the right bank of the Dnieper in Kherson region. Careful examination showed that the chick didn’t have any damage, and flew well, which he successfully demonstrated to us after we tagged the transmitter and returned him to the nest. If we had not returned him to the nest he might have been eaten by the fox, which den was nearby. The chick left the nest after 9 June. Probably he died at the very first day. After some time, we received several signals of the transmitter at the distance of approximately 200 m from the nest just under the wires of power lines. Yu. Milobog with V. Strigunov twice visited this place to search the transmitter. But their efforts were unavailing – it disappeared.

ТThus, of 8 marked chicks 3 died during the first 3 months, another disappeared and the cause is unknown reasons. These data confirm a higher mortality in the first-year sakers. Movements of sakers from Ukraine are similar to those of Hungarian sakers. Already in mid-July, some birds can fly away from their nest for hundreds of kilometers, so a record of young sakers in this period is not always an evidence of nesting in the observation area.

I would like to express gratitude for the project management and taking care of marked birds to M. Prommer (Hungary), and to Yury Milobog, Vladimir Strigunov and Sergey Prokopenko for their extra efforts in searching the lost chicks.

On-line maps of saker’s movements will be soon available at our website.

Maxim Gavrilyuk

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