Bird spring migration at Khakassky reserve

By Elena Kim

More than 200 whooper swans have migrated to reserve’s Lake Ulug-Kol this weekend. Saline lakes usually thaw out earlier than fresh water lakes; and it is the early spring that encouraged the birds to come to Khakassia these days. The bird spring migration to Lake Ulug-Kol started two weeks earlier than last year.

For two days of field work members of the reserve’s Research Department have counted more than 360 birds: ruddy and common shelducks, pintails, Caspian gulls, mallards, goldeneyes, and cranes, most of which are gathering at north coast. By this time last year, only ruddy shelducks were observed at the lake.

It is worth mentioning that in spite of spring coming so early and almost a week with the average air temperature being quite high with maximum of 24 degrees Celsius, the lakes are still covered with ice. For example, Ulugkol and Terpekkol lake edges are covered with the same amount of ice as it was by this time in 2013. Most part of Lake Ulugkol is under the ice.

There are a lot of lakes and steppe rivers overgrown with bulrushes and reeds in Khakass steppes. Such places are like paradise for migrating birds. Most of all they prefer to stay at Ulug-Kol and neighboring small lakes during spring and fall migrations.

Lake Ulug-Kol is relatively small; its water is bitter and salty, the depth is less than 1 meter, and the lakeside is overgrown with reeds and sedges. The lake does not look very attractive for people since it is placed in the middle of bare steppe. However, it is considered to be a wetland of international importance because of many migrating birds staying there in spring and fall. Lake Ulug-Kol is one of the reserve’s territories and is protected by the government.

The bird migration routes depend on water bodies position. Migratory birds in the Western and Eastern hemispheres have their routes to follow. There are definite flyways in the Eastern hemisphere, for example, Central Asian flyway comprises several important migration routes. It extends from the Arctic coast to Indian subcontinent covering the territories of Eurasia between the Arctic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Birds make their nests and have rest at the wetlands they pass through. The republic of Khakassia is rich in wetlands which constitute a part of the continental flyway. Therefore, tens of thousands of birds come to Khakassia each spring and fall.

Bird migration places ecological responsibility on the Khakassky reserve and the whole republic. Thousands of birds come to Khakassia’s lakes to rest and feed during long-term migrations. It is essentially important for Earth’s ecology to assure that birds are safe at places they stay. Migrating birds visit not only one but many countries and contribute to ecology of the whole planet. Therefore, people of all countries situated along the birds’ migration routes should think about birds’ safety, all the more so should Khakassia take care of reserve’s territories conservation.


Photo: Bird spring migration at the lake Ulug-Kol by Alexandr Makeev (Click on image for bigger view)

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