Bad summer weather affected the birds of prey in Siberia
The ornithologists sum up the results of 2019 period of the unique Altai saker falcon restoration project in Southern Siberia. The scientists place the 20-30-days-old chicks hatched in captivity in the nests of the pairs of wild Saker falcons who have their own chicks this year. The pair of parents does not distinguish the adoptees from their own chicks. They feed and raise them with no difference. The chicks from captivity easier adapt to living in the wild and contribute to the rise of the numbers of the population of the wild Altai saker falcons. The project is supported by Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF Russia and World Around You Foundation of Siberian Wellness Corporation.
(c) RCCN Saker falcon feeds the chicks. The camera set on one of th nests.
All chicks from captivity were successfully fed and raised by wild parents. Along with most of the native chicks they left their nests on June, 15 to 25. The ornithologists marked three chicks from captivity and five native chicks with GPS/GSM transmitters to track their routes. Unfortunately this season the project lost many birds. In 20-30 days after the chicks left the nests all chicks from captivity and one native chick marked with the transmitters died of different reasons. One chick was attacked by the owl, another by an eagle, the third chick died in a fight with a kite. The other birds died because of the bad weather that affected the ability of the young and unexperienced birds to hunt.
“Unfortunately this year the weather in summer was horrible. Gold weather with thunderstorms and hail directly or indirectly led to the death of the big number of young birds of prey. I also reckon that the smoke of the forest fires of this summer did not let the birds of prey hunt from the air. They had to hunt from the ground and it was not really successful as we can see. We found a lot of corpses of the birds and lost some of Altai saker falcons of our project “, — says Igor Karyakin, WWF experts, the ornithologist of the Russian Raptor Research and Conservation Network.
In June the expedition of the ornithologist was filmed by Russia Today company. The film about the unique project Wild and Free will be released in September or October.
The scientists follow the chicks’ migration and will report about their life further. The project is a long-term programme. The results of the experiment on Altai saker falcon restoration will be clear when the first birds raised by wild birds will hatch their own chicks.
Altai-Sayan Project of WWF Russia in partnership with World Around You Foundation of Siberian Wellness Corporation have ben implementing the project since 2017 in partnership with Russian Raptor Research and Conservation Network (RCCN). The experts plan to restore the population of the rare Altai saker falcons that have a special dark colour and are only born in Altai-Sayan Ecoregion. They only make up to 5 % of the whole saker falcon population in Russia, they are not found anywhere else in the world and may soon disappear forever.
In spring 2019 the ornithologists surveyed all known nests of the Saker falcon in the region of the planned placing. The experts defined only 17 nests of saker falcon were suitable for placing the captive chicks. Unfortunately some nests that the ornithologists used for placing the chicks last year were empty. This year saker falcons did not settle these nests however last year they were all settled. The reasons that the birds disappeared are different. For instance three families were killed by poachers, one female saker falcons was shot and the male was the one to feed and raise the chicks, the other nest could not be used as the pair of the birds started mating too late.
It was interesting that the birds nested in all artificial boxes and platforms that had been placed by the ornithologists in 2018 to provide for the suitable places for nesting of the birds. The saker falcons also occupied three boxes and two platforms. The boxes are better protected from bad weather (storm and rain) that helped the birds to successfully raise all chicks. The experts put from 2 to 3 chicks into such nests. Unfortunately no boxes can protect the birds that leave the nests.
In May 2019 20 chicks were bought in two nurseries of Russia, Vitasphera in Moscow and Altai-Falcon in Barnaul. These are only nurseries in Russia that can provide the Altai saker falcons chicks and 20 birds is the maximum number a year. Thevolonteers helped to organize the delivery of the chicks by air to the city of Novosibirsk in Siberia. The chicks were met by the experts and transported by car to the region of placing. The chicks from Altai-Falcon nursery were taken on the way.
At the beginning of June the team of experts placed 20 chicks in the birds’ nests either the nests were natural or artificial. Artificial nest and platform even provided better protection for the chicks as the birds do not fall off the nests and the roof helps protect the birds from bad weather. All pairs of wild birds adopted the birds successfully. The experts observed the nests for 40 days after the placing using cameras, The prey for the birds such as daur pika, pika or Mongolian gerbil) was abandon but the ornithologists added some food in the nests to help the birds feed the chicks. The experts also helped the male falcon whose female bird was shot and he had to raise the chicks alone.
(с) RCCN. The camera on the nest helps monitor the birds.
In June the experts marked 8 chicks with GPS/GSM transmitters to follow the birds’ migration. The trackers help the scientists to collect the precious data on birds’ behavior and life. Such as the case of poaching the Altai saker falcon in Pakistan last year that was discovered with the help of transmitter. Unfortunately the birds could not be released although WWF Russia and WWF Pakistan organized the operation to release the falcon. In 2017-2018 the trackers helped prove the key threats for Saker falcon such as poaching and the death from electrocuting. The signals help track the birds and discover their routes.