Tuesday, May 28, 2019

New publication: Tracing the origins of Siberian vagrants in Europe

Yellow-browed Warblers occur in increasing numbers in Europe, but their origin remains unknown © Arend Heim

De Jong A, Torniainen J, Bourski OV, Heim W, Edenius L (2019) Tracing the origin of vagrant Siberian songbirdswith stable isotopes: the case of Yellow-browed Warbler (Abrornis inornatus) in Fennoscandia. Ornis Fennica 96

Vagrant birds are mesmerizing birdwatchers worldwide, but the nature of vagrancy and the true origin of the vagrants are poorly known. To Western Europe, the massive Siberian land mass delivers most of the vagrant songbirds, e.g. Yellow-browed Warbler (YBW) Phylloscopus inornatus. In this study we used stable hydrogen isotope ratios in tail feathers (d2Hf) from two ringing stations in northern Fennoscandia in an attempt to link vagrant YBW to potential regions of origin. We could do this thanks to a collection of samples from nestling and breeding adult YBW in Central Siberia. Compared with the nestling samples, the Fennoscandian d2Hf data indicated origins in the western and/or southern parts of the breeding range. The assignment map created in IsoMAP showed high probabilities of origins in the Komi Republic, N/NW of the Ural Mountains. Although our study rules out a large proportion of the YBW breeding range, our method could not pin-point a precise region of origin. The main reason for this is the similarity of environmental hydrogen isotope ratios across longitudes in Eurasia. For increased precision, we propose a multi-method approach (e.g. stable isotopes and genetics) based on significantly more data from across the vast and challenging Siberian territory. More international collaboration will be vital for this endeavour.

Please find the full text here


In unseren neuesten Publikation gehen wir der Herkunft sibirischer Irrgäste in Europa auf die Spur. Dabei vergleichen wir die Isotopen-Signatur in Federn von Gelbbrauen-Laubsängern, welche westlich ihres bekannten Verbreitungsgebietes in Skandinavien aufgetaucht sind, mit der von Vögeln aus dem Brutgebiet in Sibirien. Das wahrscheinlichste Herkunftsgebiet der in Europa gefangenen Vögel liegt am nord-westlichen Verbreitungsrand der Art nahe des Uralgebirges, eine genaue Zuordnung scheitert jedoch an den bisher kaum untersuchten und wenig differenzierten Isotopengradienten in der borealen Zone Eurasiens. Es gibt noch viel zu entdecken!

Der Artikel kann hier heruntergeladen werden.

// Wieland

ABP in Russian Television


Our work with Aleksey Antonov at Khingansky state nature reserve has made it to the Russian Television! You can find the short report about our songbird migration studies here. We explain why the conservation of small songbirds is important, and how we catch them to study their migration with geolocators.

Das russische Fernsehen berichtet über unser Vogelzug-Forschungsprojekt mit Aleksey Antonov im Khinganski Schutzgebiet! Hier kann man den kurzen Bericht sehen. Wir erklären dabei, warum auch kleine Singvögel mehr Aufmerksamkeit im Naturschutz verdienen, und wie wir die Vögel fangen, um ihre Zugwege mit Hilfe von Geolokatoren zu erforschen.

// Wieland

Sunday, May 26, 2019

ABP 2019 - Part I: Khingansky Zapovednik


Elegant Bunting - probably the most beautfiul of the Emberiza species © Marc Bastardot

Mission accomplished – geolocators retrieved! During the last week we worked at Khingansky nature reserve to search for returned Blue-and-white Flycatchers Cyanoptila cyanomelana and Elegant Buntings Emberiza elegans. We were very happy to see that many of the colour-ringed birds returned to their territories, including 6 out of 13 geolocator-tagged buntings and 2 out of 6 flycatchers. Despite the bad weather with rain on almost all days we managed to retrap all but one of the buntings. Unfortunately, many had lost their data logger. The problem were most likely the flexible silicon harnesses that we had used to attach the geolocators. This time we used nylon strings to fit the devices on the bird backs, and we hope that many of the 20 newly tagged buntings will return with their logger in the coming year. Nevertheless, we retrieved one geolocator from each species, containing the very first data on the migration of these little-known songbird migrants. I am really looking forward to find out where they have spent the non-breeding season!
Working in the forest of the Khingansky nature reserve in spring is amazing, and we observed many species this year which we only rarely registered here before, like Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis, Northern Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx hyperythrus, Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps, Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane and Siberian Thrush Zoothera sibirica. Some of us were fortunate to see a Sable, but we did not encounter the two Siberian Tigers which were released last week as part of a reintroduction program for this threatened species only 15km away from our camp.
Many thanks to Aleksey Antonov for organizing everything, to Vera for her help during the fieldwork and to Aleksey Opaev and Schenja for the nice companionship. Thanks also to the Swiss Ornithological Institute for providing us with geolocators. Ilka, Leo, Fritzi, Marc and I will now travel to Lake Baikal, after a short stop in Blagoveshchensk. Stay tuned for the next update!


Mission erfüllt: Geolokatoren eingesammelt! In der letzten Woche arbeiteten wir im Khingansky Zapovednik, um nach zurückgekehrten Blauschnäppern und Gelbkehlammern zu suchen. Erfreulicherweise waren sehr viele der farb-beringten Vögel in ihre Reviere zurückgekehrt, so auch 6 der 13 beloggerten Ammern und 2 der 6 Schnäpper. Trotz des widrigen Wetters mit Regen an fast allen Tagen konnten wir alle bis auf eine der Ammern wiederfangen. Leider hatten die meisten der Vögel ihre Datenlogger verloren. Das Problem war höchstwahrscheinlich die Befestigung der „Rucksäcke“ mit flexiblen Silikon-Schnüren – diesmal haben wir Nylonschnüre verwendet, so dass hoffentlich keine der 20 neu beloggerten Gelbkehlammern ohne Logger im nächsten Jahr zurückkommen wird. Nichtsdestotrotz konnten wir je einen Logger von beiden Arten einsammeln, auf welchen die ersten Daten zu den Zugwegen der beiden kaum erforschten Singvögel gespeichert sind. Ich bin sehr gespannt darauf, zu erfahren, wo die Vögel sich außerhalb der Brutzeit aufgehalten haben!
In den Wäldern des Schutzgebietes arbeiten zu dürfen ist grandios im Frühling, und wir konnten uns über viele Arten freuen, welche wir in den vergangenen Jahren nur sehr selten entdeckt hatten, wie zum Beispiel Türkisracke, Rostbauch-Fluchtkuckuck, Stummelsänger, Blaunachtigall und Schieferdrossel. Einige von uns hatten das Glück, einen Zobel zu sehen, aber die Sibirischen Tiger sind uns nicht begegnet – obwohl letzte Woche zwei Individuen im Rahmen eines Auswilderungsprogrammes nur 15km von unserem Camp entfernt in die Wildnis entlassen worden waren.
Vielen Dank an Aleksey Antonov für die wunderbare Organisation, an Vera Volkova für die Hilfe während der Feldarbeit, und an Aleksey Opaev und Schenja für die angenehme Gesellschaft! Vielen Dank auch an die Schweizerische Vogelwarte Sempach für die Bereitstellung der Geolokatoren. Ilka, Leo, Fritzi, Marc und ich werden nun nach einem kurzen Stop in Blagoweschtschensk weiter an den Baikalsee reisen. Bis bald!

// Wieland
Getting ready for another rainy day © Ilka Beermann





Searching for our target species in the Karapcha river valley © Ilka Beermann

Blue-and-white Flycatcher lured into the net with our decoy © Ilka Beermann
Elegant Bunting with geolocator © Marc Bastardot
View of Khingansky nature reserve from Kundur village © Marc Bastardot
Hazel Grouse is a common species in the forest © Marc Bastardot
Heavy rainfalls turned the roads into rivers © Marc Bastardot

Tristram´s Bunting is also breeding in the reserve © Marc Bastardot
Eastern Crowned Warbler, another common breeder here © Marc Bastardot
Bycatch 1: Eastern Great Tit © Marc Bastardot
Bycatch 2: Taiga Flycatcher © Marc Bastardot
Bycatch 3: White-throated Rock Thrush © Marc Bastardot
Bycatch 4: Oriental Greenfinch © Marc Bastardot
Elaphe schrenkii, one of the two snake species that we observed © Marc Bastardot

Farewell at Kundur © Ilka Beermann

Total traps, 15.-23.05.2019: 68 birds out of 19 species


Gelbkehlammer Elegant Bunting Желтогорлая овсянка Emberiza elegans 33
Blauschnäpper Blue-and-white Flycatcher Синяя мухоловка Cyanoptila cyanomelana 5
Tannenmeise Coal Tit Московка Periparus ater 5
Blaunachtigall Siberian Blue Robin Синий соловей Luscinia cyane 3
Tristramammer Tristram´s Bunting Таежная овсянка Emberiza tristrami 3
Dunkellaubsänger Dusky Warbler Бурая пеночка Phylloscopus fuscatus 2
Sumpfmeise Marsh Tit Черноголовая гаичка Poecile palustris 2
Taigaschnäpper Taiga Flycatcher Восточная малая мухоловка Ficedula albicilla 2
Ussurilaubsänger Pale-legged Leaf Warbler Бледноногая пеночка Phylloscopus tenellipes 2
Fahldrossel Pale Thrush Бледный дрозд Turdus pallidus 2
Graumennigvogel Ashy Minivet Серый личинкоед Pericrocoutus divaricatus 1
Grauspecht Grey-faced Woodpecker Седой дятел Picus canus 1
Kleiber Eurasian Nuthatch Обыкновенный поползень Sitta europaea 1
Östliche Kohlmeise Eastern Great Tit Восточная синица  Parus [major] minor 1
Wanderlaubsänger Arctic Warbler Пеночка-таловка Phylloscopus borealis 1
Weißrückenspecht White-backed Woodpecker Белоспинный дятел Dendrocopus leucotos 1
Chinagrünfink Oriental Greenfinch Китайская зеленушка Chloris sinica 1
Schwanzmeise Long-tailed Tit Ополовник Aegithalos caudatus 1
Amurrötel White-throated Rock Thrush Белогорлый дрозд  Monticola gularis 1

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

ABP 2019: Art for Science

These beautiful decoys will hopefully help us to attract our target species to our nets © Dora Schilling
The Amur Bird Project field season has started! Ilka, Leo, Marc and I have arrived in Khabarovsk, and today we will take the train to Kundur. Here, in the Khingansky state nature reserve, we will work again with Aleksey Antonov, before travelling westwards to our other stations along the Trans-Siberian railway. Our aim is to get the geolocators back, which were carried by birds since last spring, to learn about their migration routes. And this time, we come with a new strategy!
Many of the species that we are working with have declining populations, like the critically endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola. The main reason for the decrease is suspected to be overhunting during the non-breeding season, when they can be caught easily in huge flocks. Ironically, catching these birds on the breeding grounds for science can be quite challenging. Dora Schilling, artist from Münster, has provided us now with a very special tool to lure the birds into our nets. She has built life-size models of some of our target species, which are not only incredibly beautiful, but will hopefully help us to effectively catch the birds we need, to minimize disturbance and to maximize the results of our work. Many thanks to Dora for these nice decoys! You can find out more about her illustrations and statuaries on her website: www.doraschilling.de

Die Amur Bird Projekt Feldsaison hat begonnen! Ilka, Leo, Marc und ich sind nun in Khabarovsk angekommen, und heute werden wir mit dem Zug nach Kundur fahren. Dort, im Khingansky Schutzgebiet, werden wir wieder mit Aleksey Antonov arbeiten, bevor es mit der Transsib weiter gen Westen geht. Unser Ziel ist es, möglichst viele der Geolokatoren zurückzubekommen, mit welchen wir im letzten Frühjahr zahlreiche Vögel ausgestattet haben, um mehr über ihre Zugwege herauszufinden. Und dieses Mal haben wir eine neue Strategie!
Viele der Arten, mit welchen wir uns beschäftigen, nehmen aktuell stark im Bestand ab, wie zum Beispiel die vom Aussterben bedrohte Weidenammer. Die Ursache für den Bestandsrückgang ist vermutlich die starke Bejagung während der Zugzeit, wenn die Vögel in großen Schwärmen gefangen werden können. Ironischerweise lassen sich die Ammern jedoch zur Brutzeit im Rahmen unserer Forschungsprojekte nur sehr schwer fangen. Dora Schilling, eine Künstlerin aus Münster, hat uns mit einem ganz besonderen Hilfsmittel ausgerüstet, um die Vögel ins Netz zu locken. Sie hat lebensgroße Modelle einiger unserer Zielarten erstellt, welche nicht nur unglaublich schön anzusehen sind, sondern uns hoffentlich auch dabei helfen, Vögel gezielt zu fangen, um die Störung zu minimieren und unsere Ergebnisse zu maximieren. Vielen Dank an Dora für diese tollen Lockvögel! Weitere Illustrationen und Plastiken von ihr finden sich auf ihrer Homepage: www.doraschilling.de

// Wieland

Birds in progress © Dora Schilling
Blue-and-white Flycatcher © Dora Schilling

Monday, May 13, 2019

Amur Bird Project Report 2018


2018 has been an exciting year for the Amur Bird Project. We have started cooperations with several new sites, and our teams have worked all over Russia. More than 100 birds were equipped with geolocators to study their migration, and many devices have been retrieved. Please see our report for all the details: 


2018 war ein ganz besonderes Jahr für das Amur Bird Project. Wir haben mit einigen neuen Partner kooperiert, und unsere Teams waren überall in Russland aktiv. Mehr als 100 Vögel wurden mit Geolokatoren ausgestattet, um mehr über die Zugwege zu erfahren, und viele Datenlogger konnten wir zurückgewinnen. Alle Details finden sich in unseren neuem Bericht:


// Wieland



Thursday, May 9, 2019

Muraviovka Park invites international volunteers


MURAVIOVKA PARK FOR SUSTAINABLE LAND USE
INVITES INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEERS
TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR PROJECTS IN 2019




If you are 18 or older and would like to stay at a beautiful wilderness place; to enjoy clean air, peace and quiet, vast Far-eastern prairies and wetlands, magnificent sunsets that look different every night, and clear skies full of stars; to meet amazing animals and plants; to listen to “barking” of Siberian Roe Deer, unison calls of cranes, drumming duets of Oriental Storks, and diverse bird songs; to watch the rarest cranes of the world walking nearby or flying over your head; to meet interesting people from other parts of Russia and faraway countries; learn about life of wetlands and their inhabitants, assist staff in their field research; and contribute to conservation of the Amur Basin wildlife and betterment of life standards and education of local communities – we invite you to apply for a volunteer position with Muraviovka Park.
Those who have already visited the park can tell you why people call it “The Island of Hope” and “The Land Where Crane Dance and Children Laugh,” why people write poems and songs about this place, and why in 1998 its volunteers from different countries established the first international group in support of a natural area in Russia – the Friends of Muraviovka Park. Read Zhuravl. FOMP annual bulletin at:
https://birdsrussia.ru/news/novosti-prirodookhrannogo-dvizheniya/novyy-vypusk-vestnika-muravevskogo-parka-v-amurskoy-oblasti-zhuravli/
Muraviovka Park was established in 1994 on 16 000 acres of wetland and arable lands leased by the International Socio-ecological Union in 45 km south of the city of Blagoveshchensk, the capital of the Amur Region, as the first in Russia area for sustainable land use to benefit both wildlife and people. It includes wetlands, meadows and crop fields in the Amur River Basin, with trees and shrubs representing just a little over 1% of the park area. Although there is no strict legal protection, biodiversity on these “working” lands is comparable to much larger governmental nature reserves with landscape that is more diverse and where economic activities are excluded.

The park is one of the most important breeding areas of the White-naped (Grus vipio) and Red-crowned (Grus japonensis) Cranes, Oriental Stork (Ciconia boyciana), Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola), Swinhoe's Rail (Coturnicops exquisitus) and a number of other endangered or threatened species. During migration seasons thousands of Hooded (Grus monacha), hundreds of White-naped Cranes and Oriental Storks, and dozens of Red-crowned and Siberian Cranes stop here for several weeks. A number of plant species are found only in this place in the Amur Region. All this attracts here researchers and nature lovers from all over the world.  

Muraviovka Park is an NGO with a very small staff, which cannot function to its full capacity without involvement of volunteers. In 1998, those who wished to help the park established Friends of Muraviovka Park (FOMP) – the first international group in support of a wildlife area in Russia. Thanks to FOMP we were able to build and equip a duplex with an office, a library, an apartment for staff, and guestrooms for visitors; sauna and showers; a 2-story nature center; campgrounds for children – participants of our summer ecological schools (annual since 1994); facilities for captive breeding of endangered cranes and geese We also develop 1000 hectares of fields to grow organic soybeans and small grain crops; conduct long-term Giltchin River Watershed research program; run reforestation and fire prevention & suppression programs; launch a program to support wild population of the endangered Red-crowned Crane; initiated ecological camps in Primorski and Khabarovski Regions, and China; organize training of Russian teachers and students in other regions of Russia and abroad; develop nature tourism, and many other programs and projects.    

People all ages and many nationalities participate in the park’s activities. Some come to help for a day or two, some – for a month or longer, other help the park remotely, by providing advice on administrative and legal issues, finding good but inexpensive equipment, shipping birds for our captive breeding program, designing souvenirs for our gift shop and layout for our publications, posting information about the park on their websites and social media, etc. Some volunteer’s proposals initiated our new activities or projects. For example, two students from Wisconsin had proposed to start language and ecology camp sessions, which allow participants to improve significantly their English language skills while evoking interest and care about wildlife in those who hardly paid any interest to it before the camp.

In 2018, volunteers from the Amur Region, Khabarovsk, Moscow, and the states of Wisconsin, Georgia, and Alaska helped us prepare the park’s Headquarters and Campgrounds for the summer season, raise two chicks of Red-crowned Cranes in our pens, renovate the duplex and nature Center, produce new souvenirs with the park’s theme, conduct two traditional crane festivals in June and September, attended by over 600 people, and implement many other important projects.

In April-October, volunteers are accommodated in the Headquarter duplex guest rooms, in May-September – in summer cabins at the campgrounds. There are no poisonous snakes or any other dangerous animals in the park area.

The park provides volunteers with a gas stove, dishes and a refrigerator, as well as supplies, tools, and equipment for work projects. There is a good drinking water well and you can use its water without boiling. In other areas, water may be of poor quality so you should not drink it without boiling, or use sealed bottled water!
Indoor hot and cold water shower stalls are attached to the sauna cabin, and toilets are outhouses. All facilities, except the toilets, have electricity but it would be useful to bring your own flashlight with spare batteries. Wireless internet access is available via flash modem, which volunteers can purchase in the city.

Volunteers cook for themselves together, taking turns, and buy their groceries in Blagoveshchensk, or they can give a shopping list and money to a staff person who is going to the city. Their workday does not exceed 6 hours and they are entitled to days off, as long as it does not interfere with an important event or field work. Some activities, such as giving tours to visitors, do not happen every day or last up to 3 hours a day, so volunteer tour guides assist with other projects when there are no visitors.

Sergei M. Smirenski
sergei@savingcranes.org