Studies of birds of prey in the alienated zone of Chornobyl atomic power station, continued in May 2012Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 Posted in Fauna, Field researches, Photos | 1 Comment »
Prior studies in the CAPS alienated zone were provided by us in the first and second decades of April 2012. That time we did night census of owls and in the daylight searched for nests of birds of prey in special distinguished parts of forest areas. From 21 to 27 May we undertook the second expedition.
Photo: S. Domashevsky, S. Gashchak
In the morning hours expedition participants carried bird censuses along transects, during the daytime checked occupation of raptor’s nests which had been found in April.
First sites of forests and meadows we investigated in Tolstolesivske Forestry. There were surveyed 9 nests of feathery raptors, of them only 2 were occupied by birds. One nest belonged to the Buzzard, four chicks there; the eldest is about 2 weeks. One of the most impressing finds was an occupied nest of the Spotted Eagle. Obviously, this is a single known case of breeding this species in Kyiv Region for over last 30-40 years. However, this pair of birds were hybrids: female of the Spotted and the male of the Lesser Spotted Eagle. Another luck was discovery of an Eagle Owl’s nest in the place where we had observed an adult bird from a breeding pair on 7 April in the village of Bovishshe. The birds reared chicks in an attic of the small bathhouse which still stand half-flooded by waters of a small rivulet. The brood included 3 chicks (2 females and a male, which was the youngest). The eldest owlet was about 1 month age. The attic roof composed of planks, slits between them about 5 cm wide. The floor was covered with feathers and pieces of bones belonged to the Eagle Owl’s prey. Judging by the state of some feathers and bones, the Eagle Owls nested in the place for at least the second year.
Studies of birds of prey in the alienated zone of Chornobyl atomic power station (CAPS) in April 2012Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 Posted in Fauna, Field researches, Photos | No Comments »
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.
In autumn 2011 we proceeded monitoring of autumn concentration sites of the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) at the Middle Dnieper. Results are presented below. Results of the year 2009 please see here, за 2010 год – here.
Counts were conducted in key concentration sites of these eagles: at fishponds and other areas with high bird numbers which we had revealed in previous years. We monitored ponds near the town of Irkliiv (Chornobaiv district of Cherkasy region), ponds between the villages of Lypove-Chervona Sloboda (Cherkasy district), territory of Kremenchuhske Reservoir adjacent to the ponds, and the reservoir shallows near Lypovsky Ornithological Zakaznik (sanctuary). Each site we visited at least once a month, in Lypovsky Zakaznik counts were taken 2-3 times a month, and in case of repeated counts the table below reflects maximum numbers of these birds during the month.
Photo by P.Vatrasevich, N.Borisenko
We conducted a total of 15 counts, the automobile route comprised approximately 1,100 km. Also, in November 2011, Irkliiv ponds were visited by Roman Vatrasevich intending to take photos of the White-tailed Eagles. His beautiful pictures were used in this material.
The Pallas’s Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) is a rare accidental species in Ukraine. By the present time only two registrations have been known. 29.05.1910 a female in the first plumage was shot in “Askania Nova” (Zubarovsky, 1977). The female at the age of about 1 year was hunted in the first decade of June 1964 in Poltava Region (Gavrilenko, 1967).
A new visit was recorded by us on 27.04.2011 during an expedition to the Orel river floodplain, at the border of the regions of Dnipropetrovsk (vicinity of Hupalovka Village, Mahdalynivka District) and Poltava (vicinity of Nekhvoroshcha Village, Novi Sanzhary District). This area is crossed by the Dnieper-Donbass Canal. Going by car along the river channel, I saw a large raptor sitting on a tree in the distance. At first I tried to scrutinize a bird in the binoculars and immediately took notice of its brownish-rusty plumage colouration. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to take a photo of the sitting bird. My camera was in the rucksack and while I was taking it out and stopping the car, the bird flew off the tree and I could only pictured her in flight.
A.S.Nadtochiy, Kharkiv State University named after H.S.Skovoroda
We already mentioned at our web-pages, that migration intensity of birds of prey significantly differs for various regions of Ukraine. However, numbers of migrating raptors can be also greatly impacted by weather conditions, forming migration waves. It is the phenomenon which we observed in mid-October 2011.
MIGRATION OF BIRDS OF PREY ALONG KYIV RESERVOIR
15 and 16.10.2011 we observed migration of birds of prey at one of our observation stations located to the north from the village Lebedivka (Vyshhorod district of Kyiv region) at the shore of Kyiv Reservoir. On 15 October it rained until 11 a.m., alternated with hail. Only when it stopped and the sky was getting clear, we saw single Buzzards and their pairs. Gradually, the number of birds in groups became higher, and in the afternoon the sky was full of migrating raptors.
At first, bird groups flew to the south-west, then to the south and to the end of the day the migration mass of raptors were moving to the east and south-east. The birds, which chose the latter direction, flew from the reservoir; we saw about 400 of them and for many years of observations we recorded such direction of passage for the first time. One of Buzzard’s flocks included 212 birds. Big flocks of these birds stretched for several kilometres.
We intentionally selected this territory to study migration of birds of prey. A vast area of the reservoir stretched from the north to the south makes migrating birds to keep to the left bank during their autumn passage. Thus, raptors fly around the water obstacle and form a narrow stream of migrants. Besides, after the cold spell numerous birds actively left northern territories.
This post finishes a story about the scientific expedition to Kazakhstan in 2011. Part 1 is available here, Part 2 is here. The period of observations covers the middle of the third decade of May to the middle of the third decade of June
In the third decade of May the Nightjars were already actively displaying. In the evenings a pair of these birds constantly hunted in the camp area, attracted by a huge number of various insects circling in the light of electric lamps. Often, when returned late to the camp, we saw Nightjars well visible in the headlights of the car.
Photo by S.Domashevsky, May-June 2011.
Once, crossing the bridge across the Ayaguz river, we disturbed a group of White Pelicans. One of these birds had eaten so much fish that couldn’t fly off. To lift in the air it had to regurgitate its catch and only after that was able to fly away. The catch mainly consisted of minnows and some Caspian roaches. There were 395 fishes, with a total weight of 3.2 kg. Fresh and brackish lakes always were full of active bird life. In this period we could observe there up to 8 species of ducks and 13 species of waders.
Some nests of the Long-legged Buzzards were occupied by several pairs of Indian Sparrows. Their nests, similar to those in Ukraine, located among large twigs of the raptor’s construction or were stuck as balls at the margin of interlacement of lower branches of the big nest. Some rocky outputs were occupying with colonies of Rosy Starlings, some of them include over 2,000 birds.
The Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) − is a rare breeding species of birds of prey, listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine. Its number has sharply declined in the first half of the 20th century. Then a gradual restoration of the population started in the 1980s, and in the Red Data Book of Ukraine (Milobog, 2009) the bird number was estimated as 250-300 pairs. As a result of the population growth in Europe BirdLife International in 2010 revised the conservation status of this raptor and moved it from the category «endangered» (EN) to «vulnerable» (VU). This fact caused many negative responses of birds of prey experts (see, for instance, articles of O.V.Belyalov, A.V.Moshkin in the journal “Raptors Conservation” (2010)).
The Saker population in Ukraine is extremely vulnerable. Major threats are poaching (includes taking out birds for falconry), inadequate food supply, lack of breeding sites. Therefore, we support a reasonable position to return the status «endangered» for the species.
At the Saker International Conference in Hungary, September 2010, there was presented a report by Yu. V. Milobog and V.V. Vetrov on the current state of population of this species in Ukraine and adjacent territories. As a result of more detailed studies conducted in recent years, the number was estimated as 315-345 pairs. The report is available here:
Milobog Y., Vetrov V. Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) in Ukraine and adjacent areas // Conservation of the Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) in Europe – Sharing the results of the life06nat/h/000096 “Conservation of the Falco cherrug in the Carpathian Basin” Project (Bukk National Park Directorate Eger, Hungary, 16-18 September 2010)
Size 40 kB, pdf-file
This post continues a story about the scientific expedition to Kazakhstan in 2011. Part 1 is available to read here.
The middle of the first decade of May was marked with appearance of first Rosy Starlings. And the Lesser Short-toed Lark and Calandra Larks had first fledglings which become easy and accessible prey for raptors. Just at that period, we began finding first broods of the Houbara Bustard and saw displaying Asian Sparrowhawks in the river valleys of Bakanaska and Ayaguz. During daily field visits it was recorded an increasing number of migratory Sparrowhawks, Merlins, Hobby Falcons, Honey Buzzards and Crested Honey Buzzards. Sites of concentration of rodent colonies (sousliks, Libyan jirds) accumulated immature or not yet started breeding Steppe Eagles, Imperial Eagles, Long-legged Buzzard and Pallid Harriers. First chicks of Long-legged Buzzards started appearing in the nests in the late first and early second decade of May. The Quail could be already seen in mass numbers, and we often observed Pallid Harriers hunting these small Gallinaceae birds.
Photo by S. Domashevsky, May 2011.
On the river Ayaguz (flowing into Lake Balkhash) water levels began dropping and bars with rapid waters accumulated small fish species rising to spawn. It has lead to concentration of immature Black Storks (13 birds) and White Pelicans (about 200 individuals), as well as dozens of Yellow-legged and Great Black-headed Gulls, Comon Terns. In mid-May we found Great Bustard chicks aged 2-3 days. The plains and valleys of the rivers were full of small passerine birds migrating northward. Just in the river valleys there were found nesting Montagu’s Harriers, and their males often fly away to hunt at the distance up to 5 km from their nesting sites. Lesser Kestrels in the early third decade of May incubated full clutches. Their nests were located in the chimneys of destroyed buildings of an abandoned village. At the beginning of the third decade of May in a saxaul wood there it was revealed the Short-toed Eagle’s nest, located at the height of about two meters, where the female was incubating the full clutch – 1 egg. Our Hungarian colleague, Gabor Papp, birds of prey expert, was lucky to see a young Pallas’s Fish Eagle, which is now extremely rare in Kazakhstan.
During April – June 2011 I had the opportunity to conduct ornithological fieldworks in Kazakhstan. The expedition was organized under support of the International Fund for for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) and participated by representatives of France, UAE, Morocco, India, China, Africa, Hungary, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Great Britain. The main objective was to study the Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulate). At the same time it was collected material for other species of birds. This essay presents the results of observations conducted 14-17 April, and a series of photographs for the first month of the expedition.
Photo by S. Domashevsky, mid April – first decade of May, 2011
On the 1st of April, 2011 the swift-winged Boeing in 4.5 hours took me from the International Borispol Airport (Ukraine) to the airport of Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan), than it was additional 3.5 hours of waiting and one-hour flight to Shymkent (South Kazakhstan Region). From the airplane window it could be seen snow-capped peaks of the Tian Shan, plain and hilly steppes. Waiting for the arrival of other members of the expedition and setting of the good weather in the eastern part of Kazakhstan, I had to spend 2 weeks in the city. Not to lose time, we conducted ornithological observations with our Belarusian colleagues around the city and in its parks.
On the 14th of April, the procession consisting of 16 crossover vehicles and 10 trailers set off. For 3 days we drove 1440 km, saw a variety of steppe landscapes and mountains, went along the Alatau in 100 km from the Chinese border, and only when it got dark arrived in the Ayaguz district of Eastern Kazakhstan Region.
31.05-6.06.2011 a joint Ukrainian-Hungarian-Romanian expedition trip to study the Saker Falcon in the south of Ukraine was carried out. The main purpose was to mark Saker’s chicks with satellite transmitters to investigate their It is the first project in Ukraine dedicated to satellite telemetry of birds of prey.
Photo: M.Prommer, M.Gavrilyuk, V.Vetrov, H.Torok
As we wrote in the previous material, the project aimed at protection and study of the Saker Falcon has been implemented in countries of Eastern Europe since 2007. One of its directions is studying migration of these raptors using satellite telemetry. Generally, over the period 2007-2010 our colleagues marked over 30 Saker Falcons. It was found out that young birds widely roamed over the steppe zone of Eastern Europe: thus, birds born in Hungary often visited the territory of Ukraine. It has lead to the idea of marking birds in Ukraine as well.
Hungarian ornithologists supplied us with 9 satellite transmitters, for which we are sincerely grateful to the project manager Jozsef Fidloczky, and to Saker experts from Bükk National Park Directorate and MME/BirdLife Hungary. Participants of the expedition were Yury Milobog, Maxim Gavrilyuk, Vitaly Vetrov, Vladimir Strigunov, Matyas Prommer (MME/BirdLife Hungary), Hunor Török (Bükk National Park Directorate, Hungary), Szilárd Daróczi (Milvus Group, Romania).
Preliminary, it was planned to mark Saker’s chicks in several regions of Ukraine to clarify differences in directions of their further migration. Besides, we intended marking birds which nest in different places – on cliffs, power line poles and clay precipices (in case of they survive until their first breeding we will be able to find out their fidelity in selection nesting sites).