Thursday, October 20, 2016

Oral presentation at the Annual Conference of the Wildlife Society, Ralleigh, NC

Oral presentation at the Annual Conference of the Wildlife Society, Raleigh, NC,
October 15-19, 2016.

On October 19 we presented talk entitled: "Impact Of Global Warming On the Riverine-nesting Steller’s Sea Eagles (Haliaetus pelagicus) In The Northern Part Of The Sea Of Okhotsk." at the meeting of the Wildlife Society in Raleigh, NC.

The presentation can be seen here
Presentation @ TWS conference Ralleigh, NC, 2016

Saturday, September 3, 2016

August 9 and 10. Concluding remarks

August 9 and 10. Concluding remarks

It appears that the year was 'average' in some aspects, above average in others.

The river nests produced 26 chicks from 31 territories. We recorded the first successful breeding on the Ola River, the basin of which previously had no chicks/active nests at all. There was no breeding at one of the nests in the Tauy estuary, but another nest had 2 chicks.

The sea coast surveys of routinely surveyed territories, returned 33 productive nests with 46 chicks, which is slightly below the average. We had, however added new territory (southern Koni) to the surveys. We hope to expand monitoring in this area in the future.

The bad news is that gas and oil exploration is set to occur in the area, thus increasing human pressure on the coastal and riverine systems.

Friday, September 2, 2016

August 7: Talan and theStanykevicha - Onatsevicha coast

August 7: Talan and the Stanykevicha - Onatsevicha coast

Long-term monitoring of the largest sea bird colony in the Tauy Bay occurs on Talan Island. We were greeted at the Institutes of Biological Problems of the North's research station by Helena Golubova. She was alone at the island and was going to stay alone there "till the end of the field season". Helena was also telling us that there was a major theft of food/equipment from the station in the winter by somebody who was catching crabs. What a disgrace....

There were only 2 active eagle nests on the island, one with 2 chicks, the other with 1.  Previous counts of the sea birds around Talan reached over 1 million, but Helena says numbers are down. The days when there were 3 eagle pairs nested on Talan island seem to be.

In the early morning we set off at low tide, so we can survey the stretch between the Cape Gavantsa and the Onatsevicha. The weather was perfect when we set off, so we had a splendid view of Talan's bird colonies.

We circumnavigated the island, but as soon as we set course to the Gavantsa Cape, we noticed a wall of fog. It was approaching very fast and that we would be unable to survey.
In twenty minutes we were surrounded by the thick fog but decided to continue, thinking that the heat rising from the land might keep the fog away from the coast.

We arrived to the Gavantsa Cape in thick fog, but nonetheless were able to see one chick at a spectacular nest on top of a seastack.

Further up, along the coast the fog was kept at bay by a thin corridor of the warm air. From here we could look back at Talan Island and see the wall of fog that separated us.

On the way back along the coast we coveredthe nests which we were intentionally skipping on the way out. These were the nests within view of Balagannoe village.  We did have a surprise at the Onatsevicha nest. On the way in we considered (I have to admit, in a rush) that there were no chicks in the nest, however when we were coming back we did see one chick there.

The remaining coast overlooking the Tauy estuary returned 5 chicks in 4 nests. Unfortunately, there was no nest within close proximity of the Balagannoe, on the banks of the Tauy river. The two adults were present, though.

By late night we were already ashore, packing up, and in the darkness of the advancing night we departed for Magadan.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

August, 6. The Motykley Bay Trip

The Motykley Bay Trip, August 6.

Early in the morning we set off to the Balagannoe village, a small fishing place at the estuary of the Tauy river. The village is populated by the almost exclusively by the caviar/fish poachers, as there is no other occupation in this place. We have a network of friends in the village and in the same tide cycle we managed to set our boat and escaped the massive mudflats in the view of the village at the coming tide. We were speeding up against the tidal waves in order to get to another shallow part of the Bay, namely the "Rotten Corner" of the Motykley bay, which can be surveyed only at the high tide. We did skip some of the nests on the Onatsevicha peninsula in order to get to the bay with the tide. And we managed just to do so. Just before the high tide started to disappear in the "Rotten Corner" we were coming out from the shallows. The surveys went along the populated (yes, two fishing camps were in place of the historic (est. 1690s) Motykley villages) coast at slow speed, thanks to the low tide, but at the time we came to the Tokareva bay we were greeted by the coming tidal wave. The Tokareva bay nest, after many years of dormancy, brought a nice chick.

On the photo above one can see an adult and a chick atop of a fine seastack of the Tokareva bay.

We went to the Stanukevicha peninsula coast in a view of the Talan island and were hit by the darkness. This determined our night destination: the Talan Island. We set course there for a night.

In total we surveyed 11 productive nests, three of which had 2 chicks. Not a bad result.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August, 5. The Ola nest.

August, 5. The Ola nest.

After barely managing to get our equipment in order (to dry boat, service the outboard, etc), and a short time for sleep, I went to the Ola lagoon to pick up the car we left there and to pay a visit to a new Steller's Sea Eagle nest at the bank of the Ola river. To the date (apart of unsupported rumours) we did not know about any nests at the Ola river. Intensive agriculture and too many people were to be blamed. However this time it was a sure thing. The nest was found by our colleague, Dr. Igor Dorogoi. However he was not able to see the inside the nest.

I was accompanied by Laria Zelenskaya, also a fellow ornithologist at the Institute of the Biological Problems of the North, Russian Academy of Sciences.

We arrived to a spot amidst the agricultural fields and saw a nest if full glory. It was located at the forested edge of the field not far away from the river bank. I deployed a drone to see the landscape and surrounding area. After all this is the first nest on the Ola river for many years, and it is in the full view of the Ola town. The drone mission returned a visual of 2 healthy chicks and no adults in sight.

August 4. The Odyan Bay and the Staritskogo Peninsula

August 4. The Odyan Bay and the Staritskogo Peninsula

We had a short sleep at the Ploskiy Ranger's Station we set off to the Odyan Bay early in the morning. In order to get high tide at the east-most part of the bay it has to be at the time of the high tide. Otherwise shallow bays wont be surveyed properly. By 6 am we were already in view of the Umara island. Unfortunately there were no eagles on the island, but the northern tip of the island greeted us with a group of the Steller's Sea lion. That was a surprise, as we have never seen the Sea Lions there. Especially the group.

The southern coast of the Odyan bay did not have any active nests, so we buzzed through this portion of the coastline with a considerable speed. However at the North-Eastern corner of the Odyan Bay while we stopped in order to look at an eagle nest, we had to slow down for some time. The reason was the orcas. A small pod of orcas were methodically diving around the boat.

Combination of calm waters and presence of these whales was rather unique. From 1994 we have never had such an opportunities.  Naturally we snapped view photos and I took the video.

The magnificent whales disappeared into the southern part of the bay, but we had to continue with the surveys and as now, yet, we have not seen any chicks in the eagle territories. We had to pass another 2 territories before we saw the first productive nest. Two chicks (although difficult to see from the water, as both started to hide), first productive nest for a day.

We continued to carry on, pass 2 shallow bays in critically correct high tide point and came out to the Naydenay bay, the place surveyed on July, 24. So far, the route return 2 occupied nests with chicks.
We plugged on towards the Ola river estuary. This portion of the coast returned 8 productive nest including two with 2 chicks. There was one new nest built in the area, but not yet productive.

By the middle of the day we were close to the entrance of the Ola lagoon, and guess, what, it was low tide. Since both the weather and fuel allowed, we took the decesion to check the Staritskogo peninsula in the same day.

The famous nest of the eagles at the Power Station's resort was not occupied. But the Startskogo Peninsula returned four occupied nests including one new nest which was occupied and had 2 chicks (sic!).  We suspect that this was the pair from the Power Station resort. A mere guess on our behalf. So, the three Startiskogo peninsula nests had 2 chicks and 1 had only one chick. A really great result across years. The nest at the Nedorasumenya Island had also 2 chicks, suggesting some good conditions for the eagles this year. However both pairs on the mainland behind the Nedorasumenya island were not occupied.

We went into the Nagaeva bay and while entering the bay we saw a ship coming out of the sea port.

Bourbon Explorer 516. An Oil Rig supply ship. From Marcelle, France. In Magadan. This suggests that the Big Oil is going to be a factor in the Steller's Sea Eagle Ecology very soon.

At the evening with the coming tide we were in Magadan at the mercy of our friends who had to pick us up with little warning.

The global result of this day was: Odyan portion of the coastline had low breeding output, but the Staritskogo peninsula part had a great breeding rate. No clues why. The track length was 237 km, not a bad for a day.

August, 3. Around the Koni Peninsula, Return

August, 3. Around the Koni Peninsula, Return.

The  return trip was uneventful. We did cross occasional fog strip along the coast, but  still hoped to survey the un-surveyed portion of the coast which was covered by fog in the morning. On the way we happen to see a group of young Steller's Sea Lions waiting for a high tide. That was an indication that the Steller's Sea Lions are showing more and more interest to the protected coasts. 


 Now and then we see these animals in water.

 When we were approaching the Bligan Cape, the place which was skipped in the morning due to fog, we saw the fog was forming up again. We sped up, thanks to the favorable wave direction and, hooray! we managed to get the portion thoroughly checked. Some of the nest location were difficult to view, due to fast forming fog, but still we managed.

 This was the last sea-stack we were so desperate to check.

The Taran Cape was, surprisingly , fog free, and as soon as we came to the waters inside the Tauy Bay, the sea was very calm. 

In the view of the Taran Cape lighthouse we decided to catch some fish and observe, if there are any whales of dolphins in the area. 


 Our Skipper, Sergei had a fishing line and some hooks.  Instead of fishing I attached my trusted GoPro camera and cast it overboard. 

The camera did get exciting photos of bottom life. 

But whales and dolphins did not show up. With some caught fish we took course directly to the Ploskiy Ranger's station and managed to get back right before the sunset.

The time-lapse shows at least two wind systems one above each other, typical for this area.

It was been a very long, but useful day. We have checked the southern coast of the Koni Peninsula, the portion of the coast which we did not survey regularly.   The regular surveys are conducted in the 'inner' portion of the Koni portion of the reserve, up to the Taran Cape. This year this portion had 2 productive Steller's Sea Eagle nest (2 and 1 chick) and one new pair with a new nest. There were also 2 territorial pairs without breeding. There was a notable decrease of the bear sightings on this coast: 4 in total which contrast to 10 on average in the previous years.

The outer portion of the Koni Peninsula had 18 known territories, 13 of which were occupied and 4 nests had chicks including 2 nests with 2 chicks. In total we covered 100 km of the coastline thus making 200 km surveys in the most treacherous coastline where there are not place to hide from the storm. Not a bad day indeed.