April – December 2018
Lake Baikal Foundation advocates for saving Baikal fauna and in 2018 launched the first joint project with ornithologists from Baikal Natural Biosphere reserve on protecting and studying the population of yellow-breasted bunting.
Yellow-breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola) is a Eurasian passerine bird in the bunting family (Emberizidae). It used to be one of the most widespread bird species in Russia. Its breeding area stretched from Finland and south-western border of Ukraine in the west to Kamchatka and Japan in the east. Yellow-breasted bunting inhabited the whole territory within Baikal region and dominated in some areas. However, over the last 30 years this bird has drastically decreased in numbers.
Being one of the most widespread species, yellow-breasted bunting is now on the Red List of the International Union for Nature Conservation in category EN (endangered). The species is included in the Red Books of the Irkutsk Region and the Republic of Buryatia. There is a threat of extinction of the species, both in the Baikal natural territory and the world fauna in general.
As part of the international monitoring program for terrestrial bird species in East Asia in November 2016, China held a meeting on the preservation of yellow-breasted bunting. The directions of work were determined with the aim to preserve the species. Scientists consider that the main reasons for its number decline are the degradation of habitats and the direct extraction of a species by a human in the wintering places and migration.
The Selenga delta, the key ornithological territory of world significance, was selected for researching. Wetlands of the delta of Selenga River are included in the list of the Ramsar Convention sites, are a part of the World Natural Heritage site of UNESCO «Lake Baikal», they are also under the protection of the Federal Reserve «Kabansky». One of the most massive nesting settlements of yellow-breasted bunting in the region and the world is situated here.
- recruitment of yellow-breast bunting in the Baikal natural area.
- to provide grant assistance to the Baikal reserve for implementing the project «Detecting the migration routes of yellow-breasted bunting in the Selenga delta»;
- as a part of grant assistance to conduct the following works:
- tracking the migration routes and wintering areas of birds;
- purchasing and installing loggers – light sensors which allow to detect the bird situation correct to 20-100 km. This method was put into practice since 2000. Thanks to its lightness (from 0,65 g) and lower cost, it is possible to set them up on small birds;
- second catch and information reading from the logger. This task is not a hard one: yellow-breasted buntings are characterized by nesting conservatism. That’s why the bird returns to the same breeding site from year to year, which makes possible to catch it again next year in the same place.
What has been done:
- Lake Baikal Foundation allocated a grant of 250 000 rubles;
- all necessary equipment has been purchased;
- from 6 to 19 of June 2018 the employees of Baikal reserve carried on field work for tracking the migration routes and wintering areas of birds in the Selenga delta. The scientific expedition consisted of 10 people, including 6 specialists from Westphalian Wilhelms University, Germany;
- Lake Baikal Foundation provide media support to the project.
- the researchers found 34 singing male birds instead of 19 found a year ago;
- they detected the main breeding area in the delta which are willow branches 1-4 m high near meadows and in buggy areas;
- they made biotopical description of 25 areas;
- 11 birds got ringed (8 males and 3 females) for further observation of their migration routes during this year;
- on May 30, 2018 in the framework of cooperation with Lake Baikal Foundation National Geographic Russia magazine published the article «Where has the yellow breasted bunting gone?».
Preliminary conclusions of the scientists:
According to initial observations, yellow-breasted bunting still lives in the Selenga delta, but its density is significantly lower than 30-40 years ago.
What will be done:
- as a result of the project, a direct tracking of the migration route for small passerine birds inhabiting the Baikal region and Siberia will be achieved for the first time; this will allow to draw conclusions about the necessary measures to preserve the species. By the way, earlier instrumental tracking of the autumn migration of Baikal birds was conducted only once 20 years ago;
- in addition to grant support, the Lake Baikal Foundation will provide media support to the project, as well as launch crowdfunding on the Foundation’s website, where additional funds will be raised to expand the capabilities and geography of the project.