Rough-legged buzzard in the tundra of the Russian North

Rough-legged buzzard in the tundra of the Russian North

With this amazing bird of prey I met more than forty years ago in the tundra near Vorkuta, where he went in the first Russian expedition to the North. The next day, after arriving in the northern city, we went with a companion in the route that ran through the deep valley of a small river Bezymyanka. On the left slope of the valley of the river, three hundred meters away from our path, rising 70 to 80 cm unusual eye in this treeless area of ​​natural gray pile of firewood. It turned out, this time from the ‘gray twigs of willow and dwarf birch. Flattened the tip had some recess lined with slightly last year sedge and grasses, wool reindeer. The deepening were three dirty greenish-white with mottled eggs (it was in June), and overhead, from above, heard strange sounds resembling not meow, not the plaintive cries. Looked up, I saw a pair of soaring high in the sky, the birds with large rounded wings and tails; bottom of their plumage was light yellow-brown. I guess what it is «home» nest, which they defend in a similar way. By checking the appearance and the description of the birds with the determinant, I realized at me with anxious cries of male and female fly Upland Buzzard, or Rough-legged Buzzard, and folded on the side of a pile of firewood on top with three eggs — their nest. Bird, this is quite common in the North, but it is not easy to detect.

Later, after the first meeting with the family of buzzards, I often looked into the valley of the river. Bezymyanka to visit already familiar to me buzzards nest and watch their chicks. Week and a half in the nest were sitting chicks. Two chicks appeared large, and the third — just puny creature, if it is not fed, or he always got less food. Visiting for nearly twenty years, the river valley. Bezymyanka, I have always found here and elsewhere on its slopes nests of buzzards, but always with a different number of eggs or chicks. For example, in one of the years in the nest sitting just five charming, covered with sparse white-gray down, but with a predatory downward curved ends of the beaks of chicks; beside them lay gnawed bones partridges and ducks. In other years, I found the nest from 2 to 4 chicks. To my surprise, I noted (in contrast to the well-known books on birds in Russia, where it is said that the buzzard feeds primarily on lemmings and mice), which is in the vicinity of Vorkuta and in neighboring areas Bolshezemelskaya tundra mouse are present in the diet of buzzards on a par with ducks and partridges .

For more than twenty years traveling the Bolshezemelskaya tundra from the western slopes of the Polar Urals to the river. Sea-U, I often managed to find nests of buzzards. All are located on slopes and hilltops, often converts in the river or lake. With this arrangement, the socket before adult birds to look out for prey with elevation, opens a huge panorama, an area of ​​several square kilometers, where they can hunt successfully. In the lowlands, the water and on dry, overgrown with willow and sedge, nest sites of ducks, sandpipers and quail, basic food items predators. In addition, moist places in the so-called «rat years» satisfied with their colonies lemmings, but because all the sedge meadows and trails imbued with lemming that these animals gnaw on grass. They also become a desirable prey Buzzards, which often bring lemmings, voles and simultaneously, eternally hungry nestlings.

As a rule, the hunting territory of each family kanyuchinoy found more than a dozen different elevations — bumps, triangulation signs, pylons, hills, etc., which during the flyby its territory sit down and resting birds from watching all his movements victims. Such additives buzzards place easily visible from afar: they are determined by the presence here castings, and not only the buzzards, but also other northern predator — the polar owls, skuas, peregrine falcon.

There were also those nests of buzzards, birds that were only one — three years. From perennial them different form — more like a «pancake» and towered above the ground not more than 20-30 cm., And their descendants organized experienced a «baby boom» kanyuchinyh families and only in the years that followed both the rich to «harvest» lemmings and mass nesting ducks and partridges. Favourable feeding conditions «Mouse’s» predetermined the successful development and Living out chicks to adulthood, increasing the populations of buzzards. As a rule, «harvest mouse year» or a pair of consecutive years, followed by the decline in the number of lemmings. Therefore, to come back here after wintering kanyuchinoe proliferating offspring, «children» of last year’s parental pairs, the spring are worse than the year before, conditions. Increase the population of birds of prey nesting suit (it is shaped like «pancake»), but these turned out to be short-lived kanyuchinye family, making nests, and they were just a year or three. Nutrition something was not enough, and the birds were forced to migrate to other areas.

Long-term familiarity with the buzzards convinced me of the opinion that not all the offspring of the same nest survive to become adults and autumn birds. Almost every seat, as well as in the first, which began with my acquaintance with the buzzards were always a single egg from which gave the chick, or a weak chick. Their fate, alas, always provided unenviable. Egg throwing or chicks or adult birds, and if it is still developing, and comes out of it chick, he was always weaker than the other fellow and his zaklёvyvali, thrown out of the nest or he died because he almost never got it brought in by their parents feed.

According to my observations buzzards nesting structures, like the fact that I found on the slopes of the river. Bezymyanka were perennial, and served at least 5-7 years, sometimes — up to 10-15 years.

Having spent many years in the tundra near the settlements, I noticed an interesting feature in the biology of buzzards. So, near Vorkuta and arranged around her miner towns held their birds actively nesting on poles of power lines (PTL). These wooden buildings height of 20-25 meters they built nests in the highest horizons — on the fastening of the transverse vertical poles logs. No less surprising appeared nests, arranged kanyuchinymi families on iron electric poles, but at a higher altitude. Here, too, attracted predators upper tiers of iron structures, where the cross-rungs are so close together that fit securely between the willow and birch twigs are fixed very firmly and should not razmёtyvaet even strong winds.

I have repeatedly examined the 100-kilometer transmission line route from Vorkuta to the village. Halmer-U, and at different times I found on wooden poles 20 to 25 nests of buzzards. On the route of a similar extent the number of nests — a unique phenomenon, as «wild» number tundra nesting birds is much less. Apparently, the human exploration of the North contributes to a radical restructuring of the ecological situation in the region, in particular, leads to changes in the biology of birds living here. The latter, especially predatory, often settle in anthropogenically modified landscapes or in the neighborhood, a few kilometers from the villages and transport communications, agricultural. In these centers of economic development they are almost always guaranteed to be available in a large number of food items. There are many suitable places for nesting, more comfortable temperature conditions and long snowless period. In other words, many environmental removable barriers which, in varying degrees, in the natural environment to limit and regulate the distribution and abundance of these animals. It is therefore not surprising that there holds the most predatory birds with mainly southern spread — Merlins and hooded crows (tundra gray crows almost exclusively prey), here it is for kormёzhki flock and other large predators, common in the south of the subarctic — eared and polar owls, skuas and gulls.

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