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.
The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) – is a rare accidental species of Ukrainian fauna (Kostin, 2004), entered in the Red Data Book of Ukraine in a ‘vanishing’ (Beskaravainy, Klestov, 2009). A majority of accidental visits of this bird were registered in southern and south-western regions (Knysh et al., 2005). However, this vulture was also recorded in Dnipropetrovsk (Ponomarenko, 2001), Sumy (Knysh et al., 2005) and Donetsk regions (Burakov, Vetrov, 2010).
26.05.2012 in Zolotonosha City (Cherkasy region) over houses of individual building plot at a small altitude (approx. 20 m) an adult Egyptian vulture was making circles haunted by two Rooks. Having made several circles and gained altitude the raptor flew to the south. Several photos of the bird were unfortunately made from a big distance that is why they are not of good quality. However, they allow to see unmistakably a typical silhouette and coloration underneath.
The described accidental visit of the Egyptian Vulture is the first observation of the species in Cherkasy region.
N.N.Borisenko, Kaniv Natural Reserve
Beskaravainy M.M., Klestov М. L., Kostin S. Yu., Osipova M. O., Tsvelykh O. M. Egyptian Vulture// Red Data Book of Ukraine. Animal world / Ed. by. I. A. Akimov. – Kyiv: Globalkonsalting, 2009. – P. 433. [in Ukrainian]
Burakov G.K., Vetrov V.V. About a record of the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Donetsk region // Birds of Seversky Donets basin: Iss. 11: Proc. of 15 scient. conf.of Working Group for Birds of Seversky Donets Basin dedicated to memory of I.A.Krivitsky (16–18 October 2009). – Donetsk, 2010. – P. 271. [in Russian]
Knysh N.P., Bugaev I.A., Parkhomenko V.V., Kurash I.I. Accidental visits of the Egyptian Vulture to the north-east of Ukraine // Berkut. – 2005. – Vol. 14, Iss. 2. – P. 270-272. [in Russian]
Kostin S.Yu. History and perspectives of studies of necrophage birds of Ukraine // Zapovdina sprava v Ukrayini – 2004. – Vol. 10, Iss. 1–2. – P. 40–43. [in Russian]
Ponomarenko A.L. About accidental visit of the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) into the territory of Dnipropetrovsk region// Vestnik zoologii. – 2001. – Vol. 35, No 5. – P. 96. [in Russian]
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.
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.
In a previous material we have presented the results of studies of birds of prey during the automobile trip to Orenburg for the 13th international ornithological conference. On the way back the route of our travel was changed. Observation results for birds of prey during the car expedition from Orenburg (Russia) to Luhansk (Ukraine) are presented below.
Photo: M. Gavrilyuk, V.Vetrov, E.M. Pisanets, V. Remenny
On the 4th May 2010, immediately after the conference, we left the hospitable Orenburg City and in the evening already reached a famous Buzuluk Forest (Orenburg region) where camped for the night. In the surrounding area we discovered an adult Imperial Eagle which is not unusual since the forest is known as a habitat for this species.
A pair of Steppe Eagles in their nesting site
Next morning, 5th May 2010, our team split into two groups, and afterwards went by different routes. One group composed of V. Milobog, E.M Pisanets, V. Remenny and A.Rashelevskaya, intended to reach the Ciscaucasia as fast as possible to conduct the foreseen herpetological and ornithological observations. The main purpose ofanother group including V.P. Belik, V.V. Vetrov, M.N. Gavrilyuk, E.V. Guguev, S.P. Litvinenko, A.B. Chaplygina, G.A. Yevtushenko and N.I. Konoplya was the ornithological survey in steppe areas of Volgograd and Astrakhan Regions. Below there are results of these particular observations.
Research on the population status of birds of prey in the alienated zone of the Chornobyl Atomic Power Station in summer 2010Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 Posted in Chornobyl alienation zone, Fauna, Field researches, Monitoring, Photos | No Comments »
During June-July 2010 we have three times traveled to the alienated zone of the Chornobyl Atomic Power Station (CAPS), which noticeably added to our knowledge of raptors in this area. A number of visits had been also taken before, to study wintering fauna of Falconiformes.
Two visits in the alienated zone of CAPS have been associated with our participation in shooting a documentary movie about nature and self-settled people in the alienated zone. Therefore, materials on birds during these visits were collected along the way, although they gave good results. From 5 to 08.07.2010, this area has been surveyed to determine distribution and numbers of birds of prey.
We used the methodology of point census. Working in open areas where raptors are well- visible, we did counts with the optics at fixed points for a certain period of time. We recorded flying and hunting birds. Thus, we have partly examined a central section of the Uzh river valley, some of the reclaimed areas, abandoned farmlands and meadows. Birds of prey were also recorded during our movements. It has been also surveyed by vessel the section downstream from Chornobyl through the Pripyat river delta to the confluence with Kyiv Reservoir and in the opposite direction. Taking into account meanders of the river, the distance of the journey by vessel was about 60 km. Within the zone, we investigated the area of Ivankovo Region and only few areas of Polissia Region. We didn’t survey large forest stands of the north-western part of the alinetated zone – Polissia Region.
Below there are data on the size of breeding populations of Falconiformes and Strigiformes of Ukraine (table). If have a look, they prove that numbers of many raptors go on declining. Compared to the previous one (Red Data Book of Ukraine, 1994) the new edition (Red Data Book of Ukraine, 2009) additionally added two species of Falconiformes and Owls. Numbers of eight species don’t exceed several dozens of pairs. Two species (Red Kite и Pallid Harrier) stopped breeding in Ukraine, another two (Osprey и Lesser Kestrel), are also obviously extinct.
For the last 15 years increase of numbers was noted for 6 species of Falconiformes, while 5 species have decreased, and 5 have a stable population; as for the other, their trend isn’t possible to estimate since they stopped breeding or breed only in few quantity.
Quite a great reduction of numbers has been recorded for the Black Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Spotted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk и Lesser Kestrel. Increased numbers have the Long-legged Buzzard, Imperial Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Saker и Peregrine Falcons. Stable, with small fluctuations, are populations of the Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Golden Eagle, Black Vulture и Griffon Vulture.
As for Owls, growth of numbers was registered for the Eagle Owl, Ural Owl and Great Grey Owl. Trends of other Strigiformes are hard to estimate reliably because these birds are poor studied.