Friday, January 12, 2018

ABP 2017 & 2018

ABP spring team 2017 with Russian friends at Muraviovka Park © Arend Heim

2017 was a very successful year for the Amur Bird Project at Muraviovka Park. We managed to keep the ringing station running during both spring and autumn season, and more than 10.000 birds were trapped. 9969 individuals of 131 species were ringed – a record year. We can use the collected data to answer diverse questions regarding migration ecology. For example, we analysed potential flight ranges of Yellow-browed Warblers Phylloscopus inornatus, with the results now published in Bird Study. But more important, we can use the annual numbers of ringed birds to estimate population trends of migrant songbirds, as we collect the ringing data in a standardized way – first results were published here.
One bird, infamous for its sharp decline, is the Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola – one of our target species, and recently uplisted to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. In spring 2017, we mapped more than 150 territories in and around Muraviovka Park, and collected data on habitat use and niche overlap with co-occuring bunting species. First results were presented during the conference of the European Ornithologist´s Union in Turku/Finland and during the annual meeting of the German Ornithologists´ Society in Halle/Germany.

Yellow-breasted Bunting with geolocator returned to Muraviovka Park © Arend Heim
 Furthermore, we were able to re-trap several Yellow-breasted Buntings equipped with geolocators in 2016. Three devices were recovered, containing valuable information about their autumn stop-over sites and wintering areas – a publication is currently in preparation. We also recovered three geolocators carried by Siberian Rubythroats Calliope calliope, and our manuscript containing details about their spatio-temporal behaviour is now under review. 86 more birds of six species were equipped with data loggers in 2017, and hopefully many of them will return in 2018.
Another hot topic are the annual fires in the wetlands at Muraviovka Park. We continued our studies  on the effects of fires on bird and plant diversity in 2017, and first results were presented at the “Ecology across borders” conference in Gent. But not only fires have an impact on threatened birds: we were able to show that crane populations at Muraviovka Park depend on regular flooding – published in Waterbirds journal October 2017. Unfortunately, recent dam constructions will limit the natural floods in the Amur river valley.
Another threat is the agricultural intensification - huge areas of fallow land were converted recently to crop lands. In 2017, we were shocked to see that former wet meadows were ploughed - even inside the protected area of Muraviovka Park!

Participants of Muraviovka Park´s Bird Ecology Summer School © Arend Heim
To raise awareness among local people, the staff of Muraviovka Park organized two camps for local schoolchildren in 2017 – one of them lead by us, the Bird Ecology Summer School. All participants visited our ringing station and learned about bird migration and nature conservation. In total, several hundred visitors came to our ringing station in 2017, and we visited a village school in June 2017 to reach an even greater audience. To my opinion, showing the beauty and explaining the value of their surrounding nature to the local people is one of our most rewarding and most important tasks.
In May 2018, our field studies in Far East Russia will start again, and we hope to continue our educational program as well.

I want to thank Sergei Smirenski and the staff of Muraviovka Park for their long-lasting cooperation and for hosting us since seven years.
Many thanks also to all members of the field team in 2017 – a total of 21 volunteers and researchers from 9 countries took part: Carmen Azahara, Isabelle Berner, Nils Bigalke, Laszlo Bozo, Erna Bozone, Hans-Jürgen Eilts, Euan Ferguson, Mickael Fivat, Arend Heim, Ramona Heim, Tim Korschefsky, Jennifer Leung, Benjamin Meißner, Sissel Sjöberg, Alexander Thomas, Mikkel Willemoes, Jonas Wobker, Tom Wulf, Anna Zimin and Sean Zimin.
Furthermore, I want to thank all private donors, sponsors and supporters, especially the German Ornithologists´ Society (DO-G e.V.), the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, NABU RV Erzgebirge e.V. and Zeiss Sports Optics.
Further thanks go to Aleksey Antonov, Vassili Dugincov, Norbert Hölzel, Johannes Kamp, Lykke Pedersen, Dmitriy Matushevich, Yuriy Shpak, Anders Tottrup, Kasper Thorup. Additional thanks go to Avtoluxe Blagoveshchensk.

2017 Highlights:

  • standardized bird ringing during spring & autumn: 10.000 birds of 131 species trapped
  • recovery of three geolocators each from Yellow-breasted Buntings and Siberian Rubythroats
  • continuation of breeding bird counts
  • studies on habitat use of buntings and fire impacts on birds and plants
  • discovery of new sites for Swinhoe´s Rail
  • bird ecology summer school for local children
  • 6 articles published, 4 of them in international peer-reviewed journals (see here)
  • 12 contributions during 3 national and international conferences

Höhepunkte 2017:

  • Netzfang an der Beringungsstation im Frühjahr und Herbst: 10.000 Vögel aus 131 Arten
  • Rückfang von je drei mit Geolokatoren ausgestatteten Weidenammern und Rubinkehlchen
  • Fortführung der Brutvogelzählung
  • Studien zur Habitatnutzung von Ammern und zum Feuereinfluss auf Vögel und Vegetation
  • Entdeckung neuer Vorkommen des Mandschurensumpfhuhns
  • Sommerschule für Kinder aus umliegenden Dörfern
  • 6 Artikel publiziert, davon 4 in renommierten internationalen Fachzeitschriften (siehe hier)
  • 12 Beiträge auf nationalen und internationalen Tagungen


six more Swinhoe´s Rails were ringed at Muraviovka Park © Alex Thomas/Tom Wulf