Monday, November 2, 2009

Encounter of our instrumented birds

To my amusement I see that our 2nd year old bird and the adult eagle have met each other at an estuary of a small river in the Russian Far East. The GPS parser still does not pick it up (see red and yellow lines in the pix), but the automated system does (in lower picture, both lines are white).

The river is not on the Steller's Sea Eagle maps, but it not far from the Belaya Gora village with its infamous clearcuts.

Monday, October 19, 2009

View of Magadan

Here is the web-cam's view of the Magadan. Currently there is some snow on the mountains.

Below is a graph of temperature

GISMETEO: Weather in Magadan

Adult eagle start migrating

The adult eagle has started it s journey away from the first snowfall on 12 October 2009. In one day it managed to cross over from the Motykley Bay to the Okhota river valley (over 300 Km). For 3 days (and counting) it stayed at the Okhota river valley.

Young eagle is on the move!

The second-year old Steller's Sea Eagle has left the treacherous Okhota river and went south to the Nurki Bay, and currently is near Ayan town. Hope he will pass this place safely.

Adult and young eagle had the same stopover place, but in different time

The adult Steller's Sea Eagle stopped over on the Okhota rive, at the same place, as the young Steller's stayed. The departure of the young eagle coincided with the arrival of the adult eagle. A coincidence?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Yamaha outboard

Boat at the Nagaeva Bay

Low Tide, Odyan Bay

Dr. Irina Utekhina in loaded boat

By mid-June the new outboard Yamaha-30 hp, purchased thanks to the funds of the San-Diego Zoo was broke into full extend. Break-in period required to ride the outboard on "not-very heavy" boat with half-trottle. Both conditions are difficult to meet.  In addition the gas/petrol has to contain double amount of 2-stroke oil. After the Odyan trip it was time to reduce the oil to the normal level. From now on we are ready for 'full throttle ride' in the sea!

The old Mariner 30Hp with damaged low gear unit was converted to a Jet outboard and await to be deployed in rivers. The engine head (now 10 years old) is still firing on all cylinders.

Thank you San Diego Zoo!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Odyan trip, day 2

Day 2 (July 23)

This day was dedicated to surveying the Odyan Bay proper, including the Melkovodnaya Bay. We set off early in the morning at rising tide, so that we would reach the Melkovodnaya Bay with the high tide. The weather was calm, sunny, there were hardly any waves.

We passed one unoccupied territory before we saw our fist pair with one chick at the nest. It was the nest Odyan-3 with 1 chick. The chick was laying flat in the nest, so it was not easy to spot it. One adult was at the nest at the time we passed it.

The next two nests Odyan-4 and Odyan-5 were empty, but the presence of an adult at both nests lead us to categorize these nests as 'occupied'. Next nest, Odyan-6, has disappeared, but there were 2 adult eagles present in this territory.

The nest Odyan-7 was shifted some 200 m along the coast and had 1 chick. The old nest was also noticeable, but had partially collapsed.

This was the last nest with a chick that we saw at the Odyan bay. The other 3 known nests were empty, including the one at the Umara island. On the bright side we managed to see a group of 12 adult and 6 immature eagles a shallow bay east from the Kalkuty bay.

At the eastern side of the bay we say a great number of Spectacled Guillemots, Crested Auklets and Ancient Murrelet, and many weak-looking Horned Puffins- it was a strange place for these birds....

On the way to the Umara island we encountered a very stiff headwind, to the extent that we had to stop and wait it out for some hours. A few hours before dawn we managed to resume the move to the Umara island, which we circumnavigated running against the time.

At the crossing from the Umara island to the Naydenaya bay we once again hit the storm, but the waves were coming from the side. Dr. Larisa Zelenskaya created lot of noise while crossing.

Nobody get seasick.

Thus, between the Ola and Umara Island we count 11 occupied territories producing 6 chicks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Odyan trip, day 1

Odyan Bay trip.


Day 1.

We have started from the Ola village lagoon on July 22 immediately after the high tide time. We were accompanied by another boat manned by my close friends who wanted to go out of town for few days. Our plan was to reach the Naydenaya bay, and set a camp there. From the camp we planned to make few trips to cover the Odyan Bay up to the Umara Island.

            The weather was perfect: calm sea, sun chining and superb visibility in all directions since the sun did not warm up the air to the haze point.

            We went slowly, as my companion in this trip was Dr. Larisa Zelenskaya, who wanted to count all shore-bird colonies along the coast. Immediately we bumped into a huge cormorant/Slaty-backed gull colony at the Habriz Cape, some 20 min of drive from the lagoon, and stuck there for some time.

            Slowly going along the shore-line we found a new (and rather unusual) nest of the Steller's Sea Eagle. It was on a 5 m high pinnacle in the mountain tundra, some 150 m above the sea level. One chick was looking at us from the heights of the nest together with an adult.

            Next occupied nest was on a larch tree at the Rechnoy Bay. This nest is known for its steady productivity. This year it has 2 chicks ready to fledge soon.

            Close to the evening we were approaching the Naydenaya Bay in anticipation to set up a camp in a view of the Steller's Sea Eagle nest. Unfortunately, this pair did not breed: both nests within their territory were not refurbished, but both adults were present at the nest.

            So, out of 5 territories, 4 were occupied and only 2 had chicks.

            We set the camp in a comfortable bay of Naydenaya at very low tide. The shore was full of starfish and mussels exposed by this low tide so we had an opportunity to get enough mollusks for supper.


we are on TV!

Meanwhile the TV crew who accompanied us on the Zavyalova/Koni trip came up with some aired clips. They all are on the internet here:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Trip around Staritskogo Peninsula

It took me a while to make a new floorboard. Thanks to kind help by Sergei Rudakov who let me use his workshop, the job was done to the highest quality standards. In addition I have made an extension to the transom to support the jet for the river trips.

On Sunday, July 18 we set up to survey the Startitskiy peninsula. The weather was warm (but choppy). We were pleased to find the 3 Steller's Sea Eagles, all with chicks. In addition we found a new nest near the Nedorazumenya Island with 2 chicks. This is a newly built nest, easily accessible to the bears. Hope the chicks will survive.

The front foorboard I made held very well….

The new Yamaha outboard is still in the process of breaking in, but so far has performed well, too…

Trip to Zavialova and Koni

Finally, we have arranged the boat, the TV crew was ready (by the order of Irina they rushed to the town to get wading boots and repellent). Now the trick was that nobody, yes I mean, nobody goes away from the sea port of Magadan on Monday, especially the Monday, 13th. So the captain made a compromise. We had to leave the port at 11:45 pm. So we did. Well, we tried out best to cheat on the sea-port authorities, but we were not able to cheat on the local spirits. And the troubles came without delays.

The crossing from the Nagaevo Bay to the Zavyalova island was very rough. The TV crew was sea-sick, but we arrived and enhoyed sunrise at the "Rassvet" (Dawn) bay at the island. With Irina we made a short trip, and within an hour we found a new nest of the Steller's Sea Eagle. It was a newly built nest, the eagles did not lay, but the pair looked healthy. It was few hours later at this very nest when I had some troubles with my dry box. Wet cash and soaking passport was the price to the TSA (see earlier post).

During the first half of the day we surveyed the western part of the island, and found only one pair of Steller's (without a nest). From the southern tip of the island we took a course to the Taran point of the Koni peninsula.

The second half of the day we motorboated along the coast of the Koni peninsula. This section was partially surveyed by Irina earlier in June. We found 2 pairs with chicks there. The coast was full of bears. It was close to the Skalisty point when I realize that my front floorboard was badly damaged. The plywood did not hold the joint with the rest of the floorboards.

The boat was usable, but I had to reduce the loading, because if fully cracked the front floorboard can severely damage the boat.

At the end of the day I attempted to land at the Ploskiy cape ranger's station (bread delivery), but had to abort it, as the swell and shallow water made the landing very difficult (and damaging to bread). Lost one propeller at the swell in shallow waters.

In the evening we arrived to the Umara island. Initial plan was that the ship with the TV crew would leave for Magadan, and me and Irina will survey the Odyan Bay and come to the town 2 days later. However the cracked floorboards has forced us to abort the initial plan and we loaded the boat onto the ship setting course to Magadan…

Arrival to Magadan

The flight to Magadan (via Moscow) was more of less smooth.
At the Domodedovo airport I had a great meeting with Dr. Vladimir Galushin. We sat in a small cafe and chated away before I was called for my flight to Magadan.

This time I tried Transaero airline, which surprised me when they allowed me to pay for excess luggage by visa card. What a change compared to previous years.

I arrived to Magadan on Thursday, July 9th, 2009, about noon and was greeted my my friends. By 2 pm I had bought a new outboard (Yamaha 30) to replace my old Mariner 30 hp, which at the age of 13 started to leak oil out of the lower gear box.

At 3 pm I realised that I left my boat documents (technical compliance certificate, boat driving license) in Philadelphia. Evidently I took a wrong folder.

By 3-30 I had arranged delivery of the dox to a place in Oregon where a friend of my friend will pick it up and deliver to St. Petersburg.

By 4 pm I had re-register my boat (using photocopies of my originals).

At 4-30 I was with Irina Utekhina making plans for the sea trips. What was left to make us sea-worthy was the coast guard permission. Another trouble was the "Fisherman's Day" on the coming weekend.

Irina has shown her glamor photographs, suggesting that she was enjoying her directorship of the Magadan Nature Reserve. It so happened that my arrival coincided with the appointment of the new director of the reserve, Mr. Yuriy Berezhnoy. This makes Irina his vice-director.

On Friday, July 10, 2009 I was in the line at the coast guard headquarters. For some reason the border troops (I would call it the border army) consider the sea of Okhotsk as 'International' sea, but not internal waters of Russian Federation, and demand every inflatable boat to be registered with them. So I had to queue up in a prison-like 'reception' of the coast guard...

Irina has arranged a ride with the TV crew of the "Russia Today" program to the Zavialov island. The ride was not entirely free since we promised to put their operator and a bear (and naturally with the Steller's Sea Eagle) within 'operating range' of their TV camera. The only trouble was that all available ships were not willing to go to the sea anticipating the "Fisherman's day" celebration.

Now the first trip to the sea depends on the vodka drinking abilities of the captain and the crew....

Durning the weekend I was fitting the jet kit to our old Mariner 30 hp.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Transatlantic Crossing

Well, my trip to the Steller's Sea Eagle began with a Air France trans-atlantic crossing. Despite the company's recent track record the journey was more or less successful. Interesting details to mention were:
H1N1 virus phycosis. In the plane we were given some forms where we have to state the seat number and relative's address. The form was designed for those whose destination is Paris. For those who are making transit flight the form was confusing, and flight attendants were not helpful. The arriving public was greated by medical control in the St. Petersburg by hi-tech IR imaging devise pointed at faces of the passengers. I guess that if the face temperature was a bit elevated then there was a firing squard was at hand. This reminds me my experience with SARS adventures in China. The world (of airlines) never learns....
A strip search at Charles de Gaulle International Airpor, Paris. Well, the 'security' guys were very interested in my cameras. I have had similar experience only in Mongolia, where 'security' guys simply wanted to steal my binoculars. French 'security' went to a new horizons of 'security' by scanning my passport (placed in a separate plastic container!) twice. I thought that was a diversion and watched my smaller items scattered in 5 (!) containers at different sides of the 'security' machine. Interesting to know when harassing of passengers will eventually kill the air companies.
At Charles de Gualle I saw a pilot at the cockpit reading the plane's manual. Scary.
And usual stuff. Typically, TSA ('security' again) was very interested in the outboard jet kit parts in my checked luggage. They put in their card, but failed to pack the parts in the same order. I guess that the 'security' folks cannot identify outboard propeller's in x-ray machine. Seemingly we need 'security' against such 'security'.

Travel continues

Eugene (the Siberian)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Before the flood

This is how the ranger station looked like before the flood. Photo taken in
2007 by Dave Rimlinger.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Steller's Sea Eagle River flooded

The Kava-Chelomdza portion of the Magadan Nature Reserve has been severely flooded. All June the water level has been at a 50 year record level. The eagle's breeding performance is expected to be low.

Irina Utekhina

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June adventure

On 2 June 2009 we set off in a small tug boat to visit the Koni penninsula and the Yama Islands, south of Magadan. Initially we managed to survey the coasts of the Koni, the Kekurnaya and the Udacha bays. On 7 June the tug boat was trapped by the ice and we were at the mercy of the ice fields for almost a week. The tides were ripping at the tug boat while we progressed through the ice fields at the speed of 10 km/hr. Because of the ice we did not reach the Yama Islands, and returned safely but with frazzled nerves.

Irina Utekhina/ Photos by Larisa Zelenskaya