Bocian Biały w dolinach rzek

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Winter is coming. More and more people who are sensitive to the fate of animals are worried about the situation of storks which have not flown to wintering grounds in Africa. That's why we decided to prepare information on this subject in order to clarify a few issues related to this topic and to debunk some myths. Is there really anything to worry about? We encourage you to read the text below.

Based on observations made in recent years, it seems that recently the phenomenon of storks staying in our country has started to intensify. Is it really so? It is not known, because it can simply be an effect of faster and further spreading of information on this topic (e.g. through social media). This phenomenon has indeed occurred in Portugal and Spain, where some birds no longer migrate at all.

A recent study carried out in Germany using GPS-GSM transmitters, which were fixed to young birds, showed that all the individuals which tried to winter in Europe survived. Almost 40% of the storks who flew to wintering grounds in Africa for the winter died. This is also confirmed by the studies of PTOP (Polish Bird Protection Society) and many other scientists from Poland, who follow the migration using GPS-GSM transmitters. The majority of the birds do not reach the wintering grounds and die along the way on power lines. This is how almost all of our storks, healed in rehabilitation centers, fitted with transmitters in the years 2017-2018, ended their lives.

Food is scarce during winter. However, the last winters, during which the snow cover only lingers for 1-4 weeks, make it easier to find something to eat. There is not much of it, sometimes a vole or a carrion, leftovers from a landfill site, but with economical use of energy (little movement, a lot of rest), it is often enough. That is why many birds, not only storks, are "dulled" on frosty days. It is not, however, a sign of their weakness or illness, but a way to survive the winter. Attempts to catch storks during this period may harm them rather than help them. The loss of energy while escaping from the "rescuers" can lead to death during a freezing night.

Another frequently discussed aspect is the cold and the likelihood of a stork’s freezing. The feathers, or actually the air stored between them, is the best thermal insulator in the world. Let's not forget which jackets are the warmest during cold winters. Of course, down jackets! But there are also legs that are usually not feathered. Birds have a different cardiovascular system than humans. The special arrangement of blood vessels in the leg causes the hot arterial blood to be cooled by the venous one, and the other way round - the venous blood is heated by the arterial one. As a result, the returning blood does not cool the organism, and the temperature difference between the blood reaching the legs and the environment is small, which reduces the loss of heat, and a smaller temperature amplitude mitigates the feeling of cold. An additional solution for coping with the cold is to reduce blood flow by shrinking blood vessels. There is still a beak left.

This organ is not supplied with blood as it is made of corneous tissue, therefore its freezing is not possible. The truth is that if it were not for the lack of food in winter, many storks would not go to the so-called warm countries, where they fly not for the purpose of warming up, but to have something to eat.
So when should we intervene and try to help a wintering stork? First of all, we should observe such an individual. If it flies and moves easily, there is no need to intervene. We also should not feed such birds, because they get used to the feed and will not try to migrate to other warmer regions when the cold comes and the snow falls. In addition, feeding proper food is very expensive for the person who decides to do so. Only storks showing clear signs of weakness or injury should be caught and transferred to rehabilitation centers, and this decision should be made after careful prior observation of the wintering stork.

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We have started the next stage of task C.2. Do you remember how, in spring, we studied the birds' migration over the high-voltage line in the Ruś locality with the help of a radar? At this point, the line crosses the Narew River, to which the Biebrza River flows a few hundred meters away. We would like to remind you that the radar monitoring was aimed at assessing the threat posed by this part of the power line in connection with fatal collisions, prior to the installation of markers for birds. A few days ago ELTEL Networks Energetyka S.A. installed FireFly type markers on the lightning conductor, using a drone specially designed for this purpose. These small rotating and reflective devices are designed to increase the visibility of cables. Preliminary research confirmed their high effectiveness in the protection of birds against collisions with overhead power networks. Next year, we will use the radar again to examine the effectiveness of the measures taken. This is the first research of its kind in the world using a radar and one of the first applications of a drone to secure high-voltage lines in order to protect birds.

 

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Between 2-7.10. 2018 combined stork crews from the Biebrza National Park, the Łomża National Park of the Narew Valley and the PTOP stayed in Portugal and western Spain. The trip took place as part of the task F.4 Creating a network with other projects. We had the opportunity to see how the local, probably the largest population of storks in the world is coping and to meet with representatives of organizations carrying out similar activities to those we are carrying out in our project. In that area, the threat from power lines has long been identified as significantly increasing the mortality of many species of birds, not only the common storks, but also claw-birds present in large numbers on the Iberian Peninsula. The #LigaparaaProtecção and #AssociaçãoTransumãnciaeNatureza associations have impressed us with their protections installed on thousands of high-voltage poles, which protect birds from shock, and many kilometers of power lines with fixed markers, making them much more visible to birds. Since some of these devices were already installed several years ago, our Portuguese colleagues were able to boast a great deal of knowledge about the effectiveness and durability of individual solutions. For inquisitive people who want to know the details of these projects, we provide the numbers: LIFE14 NAT/PT/000855 and LIFE13 NAT/PT/001300. We, in turn, surprised them with the use of radar to assess line collision and the quick and inexpensive installation of markers on lines using a specialist drone.

In addition to the meetings, we visited a Spanish stork village - Caseres, not far from Portugal. It is worth noting that storks are completely indiscriminate when it comes to the choice of nesting place, they commonly occupy: high voltage poles, all types of roofs - including flat roofs, they gratefully accept platforms, regardless of the density and quality of workmanship, or - as in this village - they occupy boulders and rocks!

 

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The results of our research, carried out in the Life project concerning the protection of the white stork, were presented at the 27th International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver! Our colleague Adam Zbyryt presented the data collected during the last relocation of nests, where most of the removed nests were accurately measured and weighed. The Congress also included 2000 delegates from all over the world, 7 days of great lectures by the best scientists in the world, exhibitions of artists, including indigenous ones, presenting traditional products, stands of optical and telemetric equipment manufacturers, concerts and many other attractions. Our presence at this event was marked twice: first in the form of a scientific poster, and secondly during a lecture on the wanderings of black-tailed godwits given by Dutch scientists, with whom we cooperated within the framework of joint research

 

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... and soon most of them will fly south, through the Bosporus Strait to South Africa. We keep our fingers crossed for them.
In July, when young birds were still in nests, we monitored the breeding success of storks nesting in Natura 2000 areas located in the valleys of the rivers: Narew, Bug, Biebrza, Omulew (Narew tributary) and Liwiec (Bug tributary). We checked more than 2000 nests: working in 3 two-person teams, we drove almost 8000 km. We counted birds from the ground and from the air: using a throne.
We spent two weeks in the field - the period when we count storks is short. If we start too early we won't see the young, which are lying in the middle of the nest and are practically invisible from the ground, and if counting is prolonged some of the birds can already start flying. Small chicks can be clearly seen from the throne - in such situations we are supported by modern technology, and on July 13th we already had the first flying young in the Narew valley, luckily they kept close to the nest.
It is a great pleasure for us to visit places where we replaced the endangered nests with new ones and we see that they are occupied by storks.
A note with the results of the monitoring will soon be published on our project website. We will see how this year's breeding success came out. Due to the fact that the Summer was dry and hot, we were afraid that storks had too little food. However, it is also possible that in the area monitored by us, the proximity of the river eliminated the impact of drought, and the lack of storms, gusty winds and squalls protected the nests and the young from destruction. According to preliminary observations, there were many nests with 4 and 5 young ones. We even found one nest with 6 birds, in Izbiszcze in Natura area - the Narew Marshy Valley! Whether storks brought up more chicks compared to the previous year - we will find out after summarizing and comparing the data.

bocianBronowo. Narew Valley.Dron „flights to work”Every nest it Każde gniazdo wprowadzamy do bazy interenetowej wraz z danymi o połozeniu GPS ale dane zapisujemy też w sposób tradycyjny - analogowo na papierze.Ornithologist and the object of monitoring.A very big nest, placed at a roof of an old building, Mordy town, Liwiec valley.PTOP team wearing „formal, working t-shirts”. Korczew, Bug valley.Nest moved to the new pole at the begining of 2018. Accepted by storks the same spring: 4 young in the nest. Nesting boxes for sparrows also occupied. Ścięciel, Omulew valley.Nest with 6 young storks. Izbiszcza, Bagienna Dolina Narwi.

Baza GIS zrzut Storks’ nests and breeding success data, busily gathered by us, are now put into the system and may be browsed easily. We encourage to click on the banner with “Baza GIS” (“GIS base”) on it. Please remember, that for now, we present the data gathered during last year’s monitoring. In the next years, the base will expand.

It is pleasant to be a part of creating something that works and makes the world a better place. One of the greatest dangers for the white stork is death as a result of an electric shock after contact with power lines. We tried to find a method to counteract this, sadly - to no avail. No one offered, nor had a solution that would satisfy us. Strange, taking the scale of storks’ mortal electric shocks into consideration. At last, we used all of our knowledge of these birds and in consultation with the specialists from the electric industry, we managed to create a prototype of a device, which as you can see in the picture enclosed, works perfectly. It was installed thanks to our recommendation and A Chance for The Stork Association’s (Stowarzyszenie Szansa dla Bociana) Kamil Piwowarczyk’s persistence, on a few disconnectors, which have been causing mortal electric shocks, around his rehabilitation centre. If not for our device, this stork would have been dead. Soon, 270 most dangerous devices in north-east Poland will be secured by the PTOP, within our project “Protection of the white stork in the river valleys of eastern Poland” LIFE15 NAT/PL/000728 in cooperation with the PGE S.A. Białystok Branch, to protect storks. And to make the world a better place. Photos: Kamil Piwowarczyk

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6864A spring birds’ passage is taking place right now and we are observing their movements on the ornithological radar. Within the Life project, we have planned the installation of the warning markers on the 110kV lines, in order to reduce the amount of fatal collisions of storks and other bird species. The chosen section of the lines, where we conduct our monitoring, runs over the Narew River. This is the place, where each year passages of thousands of flocks of geese, Ruffs, hundreds of Cranes, swans, gulls, terns, birds of prey and of course White Storks take place. The ornithological radar helps us specify, which birds are at the biggest risk of collisions with the wires at this particular place and what is their reaction to it. Next year, at the same time, after installing the markers, we intend to estimate the efficiency of the actions taken with the same method. We are the first in Europe to use this innovative method in the Life project and one of the first to use it within a project involving the protection of birds.

 

 

IMG 1302During the transfer of the most endangered nests of White Stork to the free-standing posts, performed during this winter, we measured their weight. We managed to obtain results for 88 nests. Despite the fact that this species has been perfectly examined, the weight of their nest has not been the subject of thorough examinations so far. Literature provides only some data on this subject. In Poland, 3 nests have been weighted, worldwide – only a few. Our results offer a significant practical meaning for people having a stork nest on the roof of the building, or for energy plants in case of nests on posts, since based on this data they are able to estimate the risk they pose for these structures.

The average weight of all nests is 346 kg (the lightest 70 kg, the heaviest 1250 kg). It turned out that on the basis of such a simple parameter as a height of the nest, you can estimate the weight of a stork nest with an extreme precision, since these two parameters are very strongly correlated. And therefore, a nest with a height of 0.5 m weighs approx. 300 kg, and a nest with a height of 1 meter - approx. 700 kg!

For few nests which size has never been reduced by people, we were able to estimate a precise age, which allowed us to estimate how much of a building material for a nest storks bring every year – more than 60 kg – which is almost 20 times their own weight!

goscieLVOn February 27th we hosted visitors – representatives of the Latvian Environment Protection Fund: Artūrs Tribis and Jānis Vēbers. This Fund and these men are co-beneficiaries of the LIFE Program Capacity Building Project in Latvia (CAP LIFE LAT). We have shown them some of the works performed in connection with our project. At that time, we have just been carrying out a radar monitoring near to Wizna, therefore we had an opportunity to present this unconventional approach to the problem of limiting the birds collision with power lines. The radar in operation and the possibilities it offers made a great impression on the visitors.

 

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