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Премия рунета 2017

In the Amur River basin 80 Oriental storks were fitted with GPS trackers

11 july 2019
80 chicks of the Oriental stork are fitted with GPS trackers and rings in Amurskaya, Evreiskaya, Primorsky and Khabarovsky provinces with the support of WWF Russia. Radio tags will help to trace migration routes of the rare birds to winter “apartments” from the Russian Far East to China.
The works on tagging Oriental stork were carried out in stork nesting sites in the Arkhara and Khanka lowlands, the Zeya-Bureya plain and the Bolonsky Nature Reserve from the end of July and literally until yesterday. Oriental stork nests in the Russian and Chinese parts of the Amur basin, flies here in spring, breeds, and with the beginning of autumn, when the chicks got stronger and finally got on the wing, they fly away to the wintering grounds in the Yangtze River basin, Poyang Lake in China.
The Oriental stork - the symbol of the Amur River
Anna Serdyuk / WWF Russia

The program on tracking is implemented under the Memorandum of cooperation signed in April 2018 between the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Honghe Nature Reserve, the Coordination Board of Directors of the nature reserves of the Southern Far East and WWF Russia Amur branch. All necessary governmental permits were obtained, and in the summer of 2018 ornithologists placed the first batch of GPS transmitters provided by the Chinese side for the first birds.

The work on stork tracking in Amurskaya province
Anna Serdyuk / WWF Russia

“This work is of both scientific and practical value. Such studies were conducted the first and last time 20 years ago, and it is important for us to find out the changes in the Oriental stork migration routes over this time,” commented Anna Serdyuk (Barma), PhD, senior coordinator of protected areas at WWF Russia Amur branch. - Our studies have already revealed important stop overs and concentrations of birds; protection of these wetlands is already in plan. It is interesting that only 45% of tagged chicks have returned this year to those areas of the Amur basin, where they were born. The rest migrate within the Yangtze River basin and the Yellow Sea coast in China. This year, 80 chicks were fitted with radio trackers in the Amur basin. This device is equipped with solar batteries, its weight is 50 grams, about 1% of the chick’s weight, and the straps with which it is mounted on the back of the bird, will not stop storks from further growing and flying. The transmitter is designed for 3-5 years, moreover, the fastenings are made of such a material that decomposes under ultraviolet rays, and after that the “backpack” simply falls from the back of the bird”.

Tracking the Oriental stork in Amurskaya province
Anna Serdyuk / WWF Russia

The group of specialists from NGO AmurSEU, WWF Russia Amur branch, Blagoveshchensk Pedagogical University and the Directorate of protected areas management were involved in the storks tracking work in Zeya-Bureya plain in Amurskaya province. In order to tag the GPS transmitter and ring the bird, specialists first need to get to the nest. Oriental stork, unlike its European cousin, prefers to nest away from people, in swamps and mashes, on lakes and valley streams. And it’s a luck if it’s possible to get to the tree with nest on wheels.

The work on stork tracking in Amurskaya province
Evgeny Egidarev / WWF Russia
Anton Sasin, PhD, coordinator of the program for the Oriental stork conservation in NGO AmurSEU shares his story about the tracking work: “Most often, having examined the territory and the nest with a drone, we have to leave the car on the road, and keep going on foot knee-deep in a swamp with a ladder, backpacks with equipment, fighting off mosquitoes and midges. Then, after setting the ladder, we climb into the nest, gently pull out chicks of the right size and physical condition, put them in the cradle, lower it down on the ground, measure the length of the body, beak, wing and other morphological parameters, fix the ring on the bird’s leg, mount the GPS transmitter on the back of the bird and, just as carefully and safely, return this feathered kindergarten back to the parents’ nest. Not all the chicks are easily given into the hands of researchers: some individual long-legged birds, who still fly badly and must be returned to the nest, are trying to run away. And judging by the bruises on our bodies, the beaks of the young birds are already very strong.”
The work on stork tracking in Amurskaya province
Anna Serdyuk / WWF Russia

In Bolonsky Nature Reserve in Khabarovsky province, 7 Oriental stork were fitted with the trackers. From July 1 – 5, Rimma Andronova and Irina Nikitina, the specialists from “Zapovednoye Priamurye”, organized an expedition to the territory of Bolonsky Nature Reserve along with Leonid Yasnev, the head of the reserve. Storks were tagged with GPS transmitters at this PAs for the first time, however, the program to install artificial pillars for nests in the Simmi river valley, which has been carried out in Bolonsky Nature Reserve for many years, and the annual monitoring of nesting sites help to select the right nests. At the same time, pieces of the shell and biomaterials under the nests were collected for bacteriological research and for heavy metals analysis. 

Oriental stork tracking in Bolonsky Nature Reserve in Khabarovsky province
Zapovednoye Priamurye
“The tracking of the Oriental stork turned out successful due to the survey which was carried out on model territories in the Amur basin in May and June. This work helped to identify a great number of new inhabited nests. For example, only in the Amursky Wildlife Refuge, the number of inhabited nests has increased from 23 to 29. And in general, more than 80 new nests have been found in the Amur basin this year, and this is fantastic! Now, one of the priority tasks for the species conservation is creating the conditions for successful nesting and preservation of the nutritive base of the Oriental stork.” - said Anna Serdyuk.
15 storks were tracked in Khingansky Nature Reserve
Mikhail Parilov
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