Further Russian census updates

Posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2012

On the 24th Sept the weather changed and we had heavy rain. The field tracks on which we drive quickly become impossible to drive on. The afternoon brightened up and the rain stopped.

He big numbers of Buzzard species continued to be seen, feeding out on the recently ploughed fields. Mice, voles and hamsters all live in the fields in big numbers and some species make extensive runs with special storage areas for enough food to see them through the winter. All these are destroyed by ploughing and the Buzzards feed on both rodents killed by the ploughing or on rodents rapidly trying to remake their home for the oncoming winter.

Almost all of the Buzzards will move further south in the coming weeks. Other big groups of migrating birds are also evident. Flocks of 50+ White Wagtails are numerous and the odd Grey Wagtail is amongst them. There are several different races of Wagtails present here.

The census continued to be a great chance to watch birds of prey; species seen included Golden Eagle,White Tailed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Common, Rough Legged, Long Legged and Steppe Buzzards, Kestrel and Lesser Kestrel, Red Footed Falcon, Merlin, and Saker Falcon, Sparrow Hawk, Black Kite, Montagu’s and Hen, Marsh and Pallid Harriers. Raptors I would have expected to see but did not include Hobby and Steppe Eagle and on tis trip I did not see a single owl species. It was not possible to stop and look at every raptor in the sky, so the observations are either close views from the car, or ones made when the telescope was in use when searching for Bustards.

The census is conducted over a series of 20km by 10 km rectangle with one being done each day by an observer and a driver. None of the rectangles I undertook failed to produce Great Bustards, despite a sizeable town taking up much of one of them. The highest number I counted in a day was 119 Great Bustards.

My personal counts were slightly up on the previous autumn but this doesn’t really tell us anything. The full results from all the census team will be drawn together by Mikhail Oparin and compared with previous years. Factors such as the weather can make a huge difference in the counting efficiency of such a census so comparisons from one years to the next are also dangerous, but over a longer period any population trends should become evident.

David Waters

Posted by David Waters

David Waters is the founder and director of the Great Bustard Group.

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