Studies of birds of prey in the alienated zone of Chornobyl atomic power station (CAPS) in April 2012

August 2nd, 2012 Posted in Fauna, Field researches, Photos

In April 2012 we continued studies on fauna, numbers and ecological characteristics of birds of prey in the CAPS alienated zone. This time our works were conducted under the program “Study and revealing in the alienated zone the sites with valuable natural complexes deserving the highest protection status and their passportisation”.

Photos by Sergey Domashevsky

The studies were carried out over the period from 2 to 8.04. A particular attention was paid to forest biotopes: we investigated 2 sites of aged forest, one of them situated in the Uzh river valley, another – in Tolstolesivske Forestry. During the daytime we searched raptor’s nests by combing most promising sites; nesting pairs were also recorded during automobile rides and near open spaces. During the night we counted owls using records of their voices. We also registered migratory birds.

A total of 14 raptor’s nests were found, two of them belonged to the Lesser Spotted Eagle, another was presumably of the Goshawk and the rest belonged to the Buzzard. Besides, we registered 12 territorial Buzzards, 2 Goshawks, 1 Short-toed Eagle, 3 Kestrels and 3 White-tailed Eagles. Compared to the size of investigated nest-suitable area numbers of the birds of prey were low. We relate this to succession processes in the alienated zone: thus, overgrowing of open spaces with trees and high grass in the period of chick-feeding make it impossible for raptors to get enough quantity of prey.

Among migratory raptors there were recorded: Buzzard-13 birds; Lesser Spotted Eagle – 8; Goshawk – 1; Sparrowhawk – 3; Hen Harrier -2; Marsh Harrier – 3; Golden Eagle -1; Kestrel -1.
As for Owls we revealed 8 breeding sites of the Tawny Owl, one of the Long-eared Owl and 3 of the Short-Eared Owl (of them two breeding sites in the Uzh river valley). Especially interesting is a finding of one pair of the Eagle Owl which is a rare breeding bird of the study region. One individual we visually recorded before the evening at the abandoned village Bovishche. This bird gave a response call after playing a record of the Eagle Owl’s voice. Next day we started to search the Eagle Owl’s nest in deserted village houses. We didn’t find any, though discovered two pellets of this species composing of bones and feathers of the Mallard; two sites where the bird ate a duck; and also some perches which were indentified due to droppings. Until recently in Ukrainian part of the Chornobyl alienated zone only two breeding sites of this species were known (Gashchak, etc. 2006).
As for other birds listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine we repeatedly observed the Black Stork, Common Crane, Black and Hazel Grouses, and Great Grey Shrike.

Sergey Domashevsky, Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre
Sergey Gashchak, State Scientific Research Organization “Chornobyl Centre on Issues of Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and its Radioecology”
Igor Chizhevsky, Chornobyl Radioecological Centre