Results of spring counts in the alienated zone of Chornobyl Atomic Power Station (CAPS) in March 2011Sunday, June 5th, 2011 Posted in Chornobyl alienation zone, Field researches, Migrations, Photos | No Comments »
The Chornobyl alienated zone always attracts researches with its wild surroundings almost deprived of traces of human activity, and with abundance of various groups of animals and birds. We used a chance to realize our old desire for searching Strigiformes birds in this region, and carried out counts 21 to 25.03.2011.
For this purpose we applied a well-known method of provoking owls by records of their voices. In forest sites we played voices of the Pygmy and Tengmalm’s Owls, Great Grey Owl, in open areas – those of the Eagle Owl. Records of the Tawny Owl we used only occasionally since the species is numerous in forest areas and frequently responses voices of the above-mentioned owl species.
Information on availability of owls in the alienated zone is very poor. Data on the Great Grey Owl is limited by 6 encounters, mainly in the western part of the zone (Gashchak et al. 2006; Domashevsky 2004; pers. comm. A.V. Yastremsky). A Pygmy Owl was observed in twilight at Belorus border by S.P. Gashchak 30.06.2009 (pers. comm.) In addition, there were several records of the Eagle Owl including a fledgling found nearby the atomic station (Gashchak et al. 2006).
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.
In spring of 2010 we continued studies of migration features of raptors in various regions in Ukraine.
To observe migrations of birds of prey we have chosen three regions in the territory of Polissia in Zhytomyr and Kyiv regions. From 26 to 29.03.2010 investigations were carried out on Slovechansko-Ovrutskyi Ridge, located in Ovruch district of Zhytomyr region. This forest-covered ridge stretched from west to east for about 50 km, the maximum altitude is 316 m above sea level. The observations were done from two points, placed at the height about 260 m above s.l. near the villages Barvinkovo and Pokalev on abandoned agricultural lands. There, the open landscape prevails in the upper Ridge, resembling steppe areas with their gully systems. The southern wind dominated in the days of observation; the wind velocity changed from 3 to 12 m/sec. The bird passage went in eastern, north-eastern and north directions.
In addition to observations we caught raptors to mark them with rings. The captured birds were measured and weighed. Two Goshawk females, one female of Sparrowhawk and one Corvidae (Raven) have been captured. That was the period when only juvenile Goshawks migrate with mass not exceeding 1200 g. The goshawks differentiated in coloration from those, for instance, captured in the vicinity of Kyiv (these were lighter). Apparently, these birds do not relate to ‘Ukrainian’ breeding population. Unfortunately our observations got into a drop of the migration wave, so with every day there was smaller and smaller number of migratory birds. Similar picture was seen for other species of hovering birds such as White and Black Storks, Common Crane. It was registered the appearance of first migratory birds in the region – Lesser Spotted Eagle (26.03), Osprey (28.03), Short-toed Eagle (29.03). Among local birds of prey we saw only the Common Buzzard, actively displaying, and also the Goshawk.
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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.
The second cycle of counts of birds of prey in the alienated zone of Chornobyl Atomic Power Station (CAPS) was carried out from 20 to 22.01.2009. The length of automobile counts was about 380 km within the zone.
Snow cover was 15-40 cm thick. In the first day of works, 20th January, the weather was windless and sunny. A plot in the Pripyat-Dnieper interfluve was chosen for a visit, recommended by S.P. Gashchak (Chornobyl Centre on Problems of Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology). Unfortunately, during our last visit into CAPS zone this region had remained unsearched because of difficulties arisen with a permission to get there. That was a reason of underestimation of birds. Having gone by car along the Pripyat upstream, we turned to the north-west. On open areas we recorded 3 White-tailed Eagles. A concentration of White-tailed Eagles was revealed near the village of Gorodchan in Chornobyl district on ice-covered ponds of the Nesvich River, which separates borders of Ukraine and Byelorus (Braginsky district of Gomel region). Birds sat there on ice and trees. Several White-tailed Eagles were recorded also in the village of Chapaevka. In a total, 16 birds were registered there. One of the reasons of the bird concentration was two small unfrozen patches of water near closed sluices. On ice and walkways there were many tracks of birds. Some blood spots of the fish eaten by predators were discovered. In water, there were well seen backs of several fish species, gathered near the source of oxygen. On our way back, we observed 2 other individuals of White-tailed Eagles, and another bird was registered in the Pripyat floodplain. Overall, 22 White-tailed Eagles were counted during the day, 6 of them in adult plumage.
The 30 Kilometer Chornobyl’s alienation zone is poorly studied and at the same time one of the most interesting area. Participants of the expedition from 23th December to 26th December 2008 by car ‘Niva’ conducted counts of wintering large birds of prey in the zone.
During studies, snow cover was about 6-8 cm. Night temperature fell to -5˚C. Frequent snowfalls worsened visibility in open areas, causing underestimation of raptors. The counts were taking during all daylight period. There were studied areas of the Pripyat river channel from the city of Pripyat to the river mouth. Besides, we visited several points in the lower reaches of Uzh River till the place of its inflow in the Pripyat River, some points in the Uzh floodplain 40 km upstream, a part of Kyiv Reservoir near the village of Strakholesye, bordering on the alienated zone. Read the rest of this entry »