Posted on Thursday, August 6th, 2009
David Waters, Director of the Great Bustard Group, has just returned from a short trip to Russia checking on how the bustards at the Saratov field station are doing (and discovering an unusual way Muscovite conservationists put dead cats to use!). Here's an update from him...
I have just come back from a successful veterinary trip to Russia. The trip is to check the Bustards reared at the field station are both free from infectious disease and also 100% fit and healthy for release into the wild. There is no point in releasing any Bustards in either Russia of the UK unless they are 100% fit.
David checks a microchip is working
The trip is also to have the project vet, John Chitty, examine and chicks that have died and any eggs that have failed to hatch (see image below). With the best efforts in the world, there will always be a few chicks that die. Happily there were not more than a few this year, and there were no underlying causes.
I am now working with my Russian colleagues to get the paperwork up together for the import of the birds to the UK. The swabs we took have been tested at the UK virology lab and have tested all clear.
Whilst in Russia we have to pass through Moscow on the way to and from Saratov. On the return leg it was a pleasure to meet up with an old friend who is the head of the All Russia Scientific Institute for Nature Protection. Amongst other great project, like the Siberian Crane Project, Sasha has led the release of Peregrines in the city of Moscow. It was quite incredible to be outside the huge gothic building which the the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (one of the 7 buildings called Stalin's Sisters), combing the ledges with a telescope looking for Peregrines. This is an act which was unthinkable in my youth!
Outside Moscow's Ministry of Foreign Affairs - with binoculars!
We then went onto another of the Stalin's Sisters - the magnificent Moscow University. It was here that the Peregrines were first released. We searched the ledges finding both Peregrine feathers and numerous prey species. From the highest levels we looked out over the whole city. Looking down we saw 2 young Goshawks circling over the city. These two were then driven away by one of the Peregrines which had bred on the University building. The first Moscow releases were from the University.
Young Goshawk over Moscow
It was super to see two rare raptors over the buildings of a huge city, and both are species being carefully nurtured and restored to their former status. The Goshawks nest in the city parks. The spring public holidays see huge numbers of city folk going to the parks to barbeque. Conservation volunteers carefully throw rubbish around the trees in which the Goshawks nest. The more offensive the rubbish the better - I was told a dead cat is best!! The rubbish keeps the revelers away from the sensitive nests and once the public holiday is over, the volunteers come and clear it all away again.
It may not add anything to your life list, but such actions are examples of real conservation!
All images copyright David Waters/GBG, 2009