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Oriental stork tracking will be launched in a few days in the Amur-Heilong ecoregion

26 june 2018
Russian and Chinese specialists will be able to track Oriental stork migration routes with GPS transmitters from the breeding to wintering sites. 80 birds will be fitted with transmitters in four provinces of the Russian Far East.
An international workshop “Research on the Oriental stork migrations with GPS transmitters” was organized on 24-25 June in Khabarovsk by WWF Russia Amur branch and the United Directorate “Zapovednoye Priamurye”. Among the participants of the workshop are the ornithologists from Khanka and Khingan Nature Reserves, the United Directorate of Zapovednoye Priamurye of Khabarovsky province, NGO “Bagulnik” of Evreiskaya province, NGO “AmurSEU” of Amurskaya province as well as the ornithologists from Honghe Nature Reserve in China and the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
This activity is organized as a part of the Memorandum on transboundary cooperation between 16 Chinese and 12 Russian protected areas located along Amur and Ussury Rivers on Sino-Russian border signed in June, 2016 by the Heilongjiang Forest Department (China), the Coordination Council of nature reserves and national parks of the southern Far East (Russia) and WWF.
Discussions during the workshop
Transmitters provided by the ornithologists from China
Vladimir Andronov (the United Directorate "Zapovednoye Priamurye") headed the workshop
Anton Sasin (NGO AmurSEU) is in charge in tracking on the territory of Amurskaya province
The workshop “Research on the Oriental stork migrations with GPS transmitters”
WWF Russia

At the workshop the specialists discussed technical characteristics and the methodology of fixing transmitters on birds. They also discussed the method to mount the belt so it neither harms the bird no damages in the course of movements, the method of safe fixing of the transmitter to prevent it from falling down. Experts figured out what additional morphological parameters should be measured in the course of tracking: length of the body, beak and other. Tracking will be carried out on the chicks of the Oriental stork. 

The ornithologist has to get to the nest to set the transmitters on the chicks
It is not that easy
The procces is recorded by the video camera
Drone helps to identify the age of chicks in the nests in remote areas
Checking the footage from the drone
New technologies for wildlife conservation
Training practical skills in the field
Anna Barma / WWF Russia

The chicks have to be big enough to be fitted with the transmitters. One of the important results was the experience in bird tracking shared by Chinese specialists. After theoretical part of the workshop the specialists continued practicing tracking in the field.

The first similar program was launched in Russia in 1998-2001 with satellite transmitters of Argos system in Amurskaya, Evreiskaya, Khabarovsky and Primorsky provinces. That time 31 chicks of the Oriental stork were fitted with trackers. Thanks to that program the first data was received on Oriental stork migration from the Amur River basin to Yantze River wintering sites.
Results of the Oriental stork satellite tracking in 1998-2001
“After 20 years, the research program on this rare bird migration is launched again. The specialists from China brought 80 transmitters of two types HQBG 3621P and OrniTrack-E50 3G supporting GSM/GPRS. The specialists-ornithologists will fix the transmitters on the juvenile chicks of the Oriental stork in the coming days in the following areas: Zeya-Bureya plain, Khingan-Arkhara lowlands in Amurskaya province, Bastak Nature Reserve in Evreiskaya province, Bolon Nature Reserve in Khabarovsky province and in Khanka Nature Reserve in Primorsky province, - comments Anna Barma, Ph.D., coordinator of protected areas projects of WWF Russia Amur branch, coordinator of stork survey in the Amur basin.

According to Anna Barma the data will be received on migration routes of the Oriental stork in their breeding and wintering sites. It is of a high interest to compare the picture of migration route 20 years after the first surveys taking into account all the landscape changes and rapid agricultural development. It is important to register the main stopover sites and bird concentrations for further protection measures in Russia and China. 

The chicks have to be juvenile to be fitted with transmitters
Igor Ischenko
“The conservation to the Oriental stork is getting strengthened by the enhanced international cooperation between China and Russia. With the joint effort of the administrative departments of both sides of the Amur Rriver and WWF, the Sino-Russian Protected Area Network in bordering area is established which provides a platform for information exchange, sharing experience, and conducting joint conservation programs to the key species of migratory birds and their habitats as well. Right now, the network is playing its function and will be enlarged in future to meet the need of conservation.” – comments Liu Peiqi, director of WWF China North-East Office.

WWF and the Amur Coalition of environmental NGOs announced 2018 the Year of the Oriental stork. More than 90% of the Oriental stork nests are located in Russia in the Amur River basin, and according to the expert estimates the world population of this are bird has increased at 4000 birds. This winter the pioneer search of the trees with stork nests was carried out in remote areas, and in April-May the aerial surveys were organized to check the number of occupied nests. Tracking of the Oriental stork will open the window into the life of this rare bird of the Amur-Heilong ecoregion.