Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A pleasant surprise

Our eaglet has grown! A pleasant surprise came from Japan. An eagle with band 8Z happened to cross a sight of the automatic camera at the Blackstone’s Fish Owl feeding station in Hokkaido. This is the eagle we ringed at the Motykley Bay in 2007.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oil developments

The state oil company demanded drilling rights in the sea coast between the Yamskiye Islands (off the Koni peninsula) to the Lysyanskiy Penninsula. The permission was granted. An oil platform Kolskaya was brought to Magadan from the Kola peninsula (across Cape Horn) and appeared in the Nagaevo bay in early August.
Sadly for the people (not the environment), the platform capsized in December 2011.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Field surveys of 2011

The Steller’s Sea Eagle work in 2011

More pictures here Includes June-July trips by Irina Utekhina and Elsie Ashworth of the RSPB (UK); and our routine surveys in end of July and August (Irina Utekhina and Eugene Potapov). June trips. In June there were 2 trips made to the Kava-Cholomdja Portion of the Magadan State Reserve and to the Koni Penninsula. During these trips Irina was accompanied by the RSPB(UK) volunteer Elsie Ashworth. Thanks to superb climbing skills of Elsie who climbed several nests we know that the eagles tried to breed. There were a number of hatchlings in Kava and Chelomdja nests in June, but they all failed to fledge later in the season. So thanks to this season we know for sure that the eagles try to lay even if we do not see fledglings in August. I know that this June was a bit hard for both Irina and Elsie, as they initially though that the eagles were disturbed by the checking of nests. This was not the case, as the nests on Tauy river, which they did not climb, also failed. Elsie deployed a new technique of viewing the nests with severe overhang. She had a small camera in video mode on a stick, which she pushed from under the nest in order to film the nest contents. She managed to film some hatchlings and documented an episode when an older chick was biting smaller one. This behavior suggest that there is some food shortage. Under one nest on the Kava river they found 1 dead chick under the nest. One nest with incubating female was reported fallen into the river. At the end of the June Irina and Elsie visited Koni peninsula portion of the Magadan Nature Reserve and managed to visit some of the nests. The trip was paid for and organized by the Russia Today TV company. They made a short piece on the trip available on internet. You can see it here: Please forgive cormorant from the Commander islands, Humpback whale from the Pacific and Red-tailed Hawk call to document calls of Osprey and Steller’s. For some reasons the journalists always do that. July-August trips. In the end of July- beginning of August we made our customary surveys along the Kava and Chelomdja, as well as the coastal surveys of the Magadan vicinity (Staritskogo Peninsula), Odyan and Motykley Bay. In the end of July- beginning of August we made our customary surveys along the Kava and Chelomdja, as well as the coastal surveys of the Magadan vicinity (Staritskogo Peninsula), Odyan and Motykley Bay. Startiskogo Peninsula trip was made on 23 July. Moderate waves, but otherwise good weather. Staritskogy peninsula returned 3 nests (2 occupied), no nest at the Nedorazumenya Island, 1 occupied nest on the coast facing the Nedorazumenya island. The nest by the Magandan Power Company resort had 2 chicks. I made several trips to the nest on foot when Irina’s daughter was ill and we were delayed in our surveys. Motykley Inlet trip was made on 29 July – 2 August. The number of were somewhat higher compared to the last year. Talan Island had three (3!) active nests with 2 chicks each, but sadly one of the two chicks in the new nest disappeared (presumably took the first flight into the water). The new nest panorama is here The weather during the Motykley surveys were not that stable (as usual), however we managed to avoid rough waters and were hit by only one significant storm, which prevented us to go beyond the Shestakova Cape. Basically we had to exercise all survival skills while watching the nest at the Shestakova Cape. We retreated in deep fog to the Talan Island. Survey of the Spafarieva island was unthinkable due to fog. A. Andreev who was at the Talan at the time noted that the fog at the Spafarieva stayed there almost all 3 weeks and they were reluctant to go there. We went back to Balagannoe from the Talan island. The surveys of the Kava Chelomdja portion of the Magadan State Nature Reserve was carried out on 3-7 August 2011. We covered our usual study area (upstream to the upper chum spawning grounds at the Chelomdja (overnight at the Kheta ranger’s station), and up to the Ikremun ranger’s station on the Kava. All chicks which were reported in June by Irina and Elsie were no longer there. Only one nest (on Tauy river, at the estuary, outside the reserve) had a chick. The river system of Kava-Chelomdja did not produce any chicks. On the way back we got some new data on the floods at the Talon. The data on floods supplied by the Talon meteorological station proved to be of a great value. These data (snow depth) allowed us predicting the low breeding output in 2011 on the rivers already in early May. High and long flood this year indeed resulted in zero breeding output. This effectively means, that we can not only predict the breeding output of the eagles based in the snow depth in May, but also plan measures which can offset the results of high floods. What I have in mind, is to create a feeding station, such as a raft with mesh bottom, and get the rangers to put some live fish in it. A pilot experiment at a nest near ranger’s station might be a good start for the next year. Odyan Bay trip. We made a survey of the Odyan Bay on 8 and 9 August. The weather was tolerable. We surveyed Ola coast from the lagoon to the Umara Island and camped at the Naidenaya Bay. The numbers of the breeding eagles was comparable to the previous years surveys. No large concentrations of the immature and single eagles were observed on the Northern coasts of the Koni peninsula, in contrast to that of 2010. The nest at the Umara island was present, occupied and had one chick after a long break.

Monday, June 13, 2011

End of the track

Sadly the bird's last coordinates were heard on April, 24, 2011 from the ice floe near the coast. The temperature of the transmitter showed negative values, which means only one thing, the bird is no longer alive.
The remote location of the last coordinates and ice breaking conditions excludes the possibiliy of human-caused death.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ice floe move

Today the adult eagle was transmitting from the area with broken up ice, at the edge of the open water. Next movement to the North is expected at any time now.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On ice again

From 31 March 2010 the adult eagle stayed on ice some 100 km east from the Shantar Islands. This place has the most solid ice in the area, and it is remarkable that the bird stayed in roughly the same region and in the same time in the previous spring. Last year it departed from the ice on 10 April 2010. Guess that the next transmission will bring up similar track.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring migration 2010 and 2011

It looks like the adult bird started it's spring migration in 2010 on March, 9, which is similar to the date of the onset of the spring migration of 2011. Although the starting point was  a bit different, the pace of movement is somewhat similar. Perhaps the earthquake is was just a coincidence. Whatever the reason, the bird did avoid the massive and tragic quake.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Migration started

After spending 4 days on the snowy east coast of Hokkaido (yes, up to 1.5 m of snow according to Japan Meteorological Agency Map), the adult eagle took off and headed North. Crossing to Sakhalin was done in the same place as last year. Interestingly,  now (21 March 2011), the eagle is on ice in the Tatar straight. Last year it was in the same spot at the same time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Earthquake, part 2

Just got the GPS data and cross-referenced it with the earthquake chronology. The data are very interesting.

9 March 2011, the eagle is at the top of a mountain ridge some 8 km SW from Ashbetsu town, Hokkaido. The fix is taken at noon, which is 2 am UTC. At 02:45:20 AM the global seismological network registers first earthquake of Hokkaido with magnitude  7.2 (source:
This transliterates into magnitude 3 tremor in some parts of Hokkaido (source Japan Meteorological Agency The bird takes off in a direction opposite to that of the earthquake, and the next fix comes on 10 March from the top of a small mountain ridge some 10 km east of Rumoi, a town on the west coast of Hokkaido. Direct line travel was 55 km.
During this time there were a number of earthquakes off the coast of Honshu, but the first one which was accompanied by a tremor of magnitude 3 on Hokkaido was reported on 15:32, i.e. after the fix. The bird was continuing to fly north-west, and the Doppler transmission (no GPS fix yet) was received from a mountain ridge some 15-20 km north of town Haboro. Direct line travel is 63 km.

On the attached picture: yellow line - gps track. White dots in close to the coast show latest doppler coordinates taken at 3 am UTC, that is roughly 2 hours before the main hit of 8.9 magnitude stroke (2011/03/11 05:46:24) off coast of Honshu.

So, can a bird predict an earthquake? Probably not, but certainly our Steller's Sea Eagle flew away from a modest tremor, and by the time the major hit came on 11 March, it was away from the zones where tremors occured. It is likely that the bird will continue to move. The general picture is that by moving away from first tremors the bird was farther away from the epicenter by the time the main quake occured. Perhaps birds are more observant to small signs of on-coming earthquakes?

Japan Earthquake and the Steller's Sea Eagle

Although our payers go out to the people of Japan who face the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami, I was looking anxiously at the data  coming in from the adult eagle (the last we have on the air). The latest batch of the data came when the internet was flooded with scary images of the megaflood and huge amounts of damage to the east coast of Japan. The plot of the latest Doppler coordinates  show that at the eagle flew from the Furuno city area, Hokkaido, straight north-west, to the western coast of the island. The bird has never visited this coast before during the monitoring period, and so it seems a bit strange, since movements in this year have only taken it to areas that it has visited before (last year). Whether it was traveling before or immediately after the earthquake is not known at the moment, but is it evident that the bird has moved from an area that suffered a magnitude 4 tremor to an area where the magnitude was only 2. The picture shows the land tremor (red dots = 6, violet =7, epicenter marked with red cross) as was issued by the Japan Meteorological Office and location of underwater tremors from USGS real-time earthquakes. The bird's track is shown in white moving from the center of Hokkaido to the west coast of the Island. Note that the bird was flying away from from the epicenter (thick white line shows the direction to the epicenter on both pictures).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Youngster's concerns

It looks like the GPS positions of the youngster are coming from one location from January 17, 2011. The temperature of the PTT also does not look good, and is well in the negative zone. That can happen in a storm, as happen recently to the adult (on Hokkaido, on Dec, 8, 2010), but it could also be a singnal that the bird is down or the tag has been removed. Before settling at Point Balkan (or in other maps Cape Kornelia), the bird made several frantic movements around the Aniva Peninsula, and now remain at one point (orange bar on the closeup map is 50 m).

Well, I do not know what to say. Let's wait for next 10 days, perhaps the next transmission will bring more news.

Meanwhile the adult remain in the center of Hokkaido (mountains).

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Youngster has Re-surfaced!

The bunch of coordinates received today has brought exciting news. The young eagle was heard from again and sent a signal from the Baklan Cape of the Sakhalin Island, some 25 km north of his previous transmission. So, it did not decide to cross the open sea after all.

The adult remains in the middle of the Hokkaido (last transmission on 20 January), close to the areas it visited last winter.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adult eagle news

It looks as if the adult eagle has moved close to the area it was staying in during winter last year. However these areas were visited only in February 2010.

Sadly, no news come from the youngster. Last fixes were on Jan 7, when the bird was at the southern tip of Sakhalin. We fear the bird may have attempted to cross over to the Kuril Islands, as it did last year.....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Early January

Early January has brought some movement by the eagles.

The youngster at the moment remains on the Aniva cape, the south eastern tip of  Sakhalin Island ( Probably it can not see Japan, and is reluctant to cross the open sea, as in the past winter.

The adult eagle, which crossed to Hokkaido at the beginning of the month has moved inland and is now in the area where it wintered last year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year!

The adult eagle moved from the Kuril Islands to the Shiretoko peninsula, Hokkaido, Japan on  New Year's Eve. The picture shows only Doppler locations as the e-mails from Argos do not have the complete GPS sentences. Hope the youngster is doing well too.