Monday, August 8, 2016

July, 28. Kava river trip and ‘flying with the eagle’ experience.

July, 28.  Kava river trip and ‘flying with the eagle’ experience.

Early in the morning we set off to check up the Kava river. The river used to accommodate quite a number of breeding pairs, but in the last years breeding there was dicey.

The first nest at the confluence of the Kava and Chelomdja rivers was empty; the second nest appeared to have no chick so we speed up drawing attention to a small pile of pink salmon, evidently stored by a bear.  We did not see the bear (fortunately), but failed to see any signs of life at the nest, which, as we discovered on the way back, did had a chick.

We moved upstream for 4 hours making short stops and looking at the nests. Upon reaching the upmost known nest, which was empty, we wend downstream checking every nest more thoroughly, and, if in doubt, we flew our drone.  The application of a relatively new technology revealed chicks hidden in a nest, which we mistook as an empty nest. The joy continued at the next nest, which we though was not active. At the time we arrived we saw an adult bird in the nest. The drone revealed a chick laying in the nest, being concealed by a big branch. The adult bird did not leave the nest up until the drone was too close; then it gracefully slipped away and sat on a tree nearby. Since I have never before seen an adult on a nest through the goggles, my heart went crazy and I had to calm myself before bringing the drone to the landing spot.

Next nest was the nest with the bird banded by us as a chick. We later identified the ring/band as 8C. This is the bird that we ringed as a chick on 25 July 2007 (with Dave Rimlinger and Mike McGrady) at the nest ‘Balagannoe B6A’. The nest is the coastline nest some 10 km off the Balagannoe village. The chick at the time was also instrumented with the PTT42678. The PTT transmitted until 5 Dec 2007 on the bird, and then until 7 Feb-2008 from the ground. We assumed that the bird was shot near the Dzhugdzur Nature Reserve ranger’s station, however, evidently the bird managed to get rid of the PTT and survived. The bird had weight 6150 g, and we considered it as a male. Now I believe it is a female, and it behaves like a female at the nest. The importance of this finding is that this bird was attempted to breed (or at least kept territory) in 2014 (7 years old), and was presumably first breeder in 2015 (8 years old). It did produce one chick last year. Unfortunately their nest was empty this time, but we did observe the eagle with our ring sitting it it’s customary posture on a tree. Let’s hope that they will breed next year. 

The same bird as a chick and as an adult at a breeding location.

The next was at the confluence of the Khalkindja creek and the Kava river. This nest did not produce chicks for more than a decade. They did try hard and even produced eggs in 2011, but no success up until this year.
The surprise came when we saw an adult bird in the second from the Kava-Chelomdja confluence nest. The very presence of an adult at the nest usually suggests the presence of a chick. The flight of the drone to the nest revealed a nice and neatly looking adult feeding a chick in the nest. This is a new nest built on the tree which did contain a nest some 20 years ago! The bird ignored drone and continued his duties, and then gently slipped away and landed on a tree-top some 50m away.  

So, the Kava river portion of the surveyed area gave us 4 chicks, and 7 occupied territories: not a bad year indeed.

UPDATE: in 2017 we have concluded that the ring number is 8E.
The full story is here 

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