Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Field surveys of 2011

The Steller’s Sea Eagle work in 2011

More pictures here Includes June-July trips by Irina Utekhina and Elsie Ashworth of the RSPB (UK); and our routine surveys in end of July and August (Irina Utekhina and Eugene Potapov). June trips. In June there were 2 trips made to the Kava-Cholomdja Portion of the Magadan State Reserve and to the Koni Penninsula. During these trips Irina was accompanied by the RSPB(UK) volunteer Elsie Ashworth. Thanks to superb climbing skills of Elsie who climbed several nests we know that the eagles tried to breed. There were a number of hatchlings in Kava and Chelomdja nests in June, but they all failed to fledge later in the season. So thanks to this season we know for sure that the eagles try to lay even if we do not see fledglings in August. I know that this June was a bit hard for both Irina and Elsie, as they initially though that the eagles were disturbed by the checking of nests. This was not the case, as the nests on Tauy river, which they did not climb, also failed. Elsie deployed a new technique of viewing the nests with severe overhang. She had a small camera in video mode on a stick, which she pushed from under the nest in order to film the nest contents. She managed to film some hatchlings and documented an episode when an older chick was biting smaller one. This behavior suggest that there is some food shortage. Under one nest on the Kava river they found 1 dead chick under the nest. One nest with incubating female was reported fallen into the river. At the end of the June Irina and Elsie visited Koni peninsula portion of the Magadan Nature Reserve and managed to visit some of the nests. The trip was paid for and organized by the Russia Today TV company. They made a short piece on the trip available on internet. You can see it here: Please forgive cormorant from the Commander islands, Humpback whale from the Pacific and Red-tailed Hawk call to document calls of Osprey and Steller’s. For some reasons the journalists always do that. July-August trips. In the end of July- beginning of August we made our customary surveys along the Kava and Chelomdja, as well as the coastal surveys of the Magadan vicinity (Staritskogo Peninsula), Odyan and Motykley Bay. In the end of July- beginning of August we made our customary surveys along the Kava and Chelomdja, as well as the coastal surveys of the Magadan vicinity (Staritskogo Peninsula), Odyan and Motykley Bay. Startiskogo Peninsula trip was made on 23 July. Moderate waves, but otherwise good weather. Staritskogy peninsula returned 3 nests (2 occupied), no nest at the Nedorazumenya Island, 1 occupied nest on the coast facing the Nedorazumenya island. The nest by the Magandan Power Company resort had 2 chicks. I made several trips to the nest on foot when Irina’s daughter was ill and we were delayed in our surveys. Motykley Inlet trip was made on 29 July – 2 August. The number of were somewhat higher compared to the last year. Talan Island had three (3!) active nests with 2 chicks each, but sadly one of the two chicks in the new nest disappeared (presumably took the first flight into the water). The new nest panorama is here The weather during the Motykley surveys were not that stable (as usual), however we managed to avoid rough waters and were hit by only one significant storm, which prevented us to go beyond the Shestakova Cape. Basically we had to exercise all survival skills while watching the nest at the Shestakova Cape. We retreated in deep fog to the Talan Island. Survey of the Spafarieva island was unthinkable due to fog. A. Andreev who was at the Talan at the time noted that the fog at the Spafarieva stayed there almost all 3 weeks and they were reluctant to go there. We went back to Balagannoe from the Talan island. The surveys of the Kava Chelomdja portion of the Magadan State Nature Reserve was carried out on 3-7 August 2011. We covered our usual study area (upstream to the upper chum spawning grounds at the Chelomdja (overnight at the Kheta ranger’s station), and up to the Ikremun ranger’s station on the Kava. All chicks which were reported in June by Irina and Elsie were no longer there. Only one nest (on Tauy river, at the estuary, outside the reserve) had a chick. The river system of Kava-Chelomdja did not produce any chicks. On the way back we got some new data on the floods at the Talon. The data on floods supplied by the Talon meteorological station proved to be of a great value. These data (snow depth) allowed us predicting the low breeding output in 2011 on the rivers already in early May. High and long flood this year indeed resulted in zero breeding output. This effectively means, that we can not only predict the breeding output of the eagles based in the snow depth in May, but also plan measures which can offset the results of high floods. What I have in mind, is to create a feeding station, such as a raft with mesh bottom, and get the rangers to put some live fish in it. A pilot experiment at a nest near ranger’s station might be a good start for the next year. Odyan Bay trip. We made a survey of the Odyan Bay on 8 and 9 August. The weather was tolerable. We surveyed Ola coast from the lagoon to the Umara Island and camped at the Naidenaya Bay. The numbers of the breeding eagles was comparable to the previous years surveys. No large concentrations of the immature and single eagles were observed on the Northern coasts of the Koni peninsula, in contrast to that of 2010. The nest at the Umara island was present, occupied and had one chick after a long break.

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