Following the traces of the willow ptarmigan
Work on studing Red Data Book species - the Central Russian willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus rossicus) continues in Polistovsky Reserve. From the 12th to the 16th of March, field work was carried out: a number of raised bog areas and edges of some settlements in the buffer zone of the Reserve were surveyed.
In total, four route surveys a total length of 128 kilometers were conducted in March. On the routes, the observers recorded one meeting of the willow ptarmigan near the bog lake, five places of the regular stay of these rare birds, as well as many traces of ptarmigans' vital activities.
"On the 12th and 13th of March the bog looked absolutely lifeless, we didn't see birds and animals, and even their tracks were extremely rare. However, a strong warming on the 13th-14th of March led to snow melting on cranberry hummocks in the bog, and some willow ptarmigans, along with the quickly-came black grouses, immediately began eating thawed cranberries. The bogs of the Reserve come back to life! Spring is coming! "- says Marina Rubtsova, a biologist, head of the research of the willow ptarmigan population in the Reserve.
Coordinates of ptarmigans' traces of vital activities are recorded in the GPS system and plotted on the map of Polistovsky Reserve. Excrements and willow shoots with traces of eating from the places of regular stay are collected for cameral research.
In addition, some conclusions have been made about the seasonal feeding of willow ptarmigans. In winter, the willow (kidneys and buds) is absolutely dominant in their diet, and only in some places ptarmigans eat birch buds. In March, a part of the birds switch to spring fodder: on the fields and roads ptarmigans comfortably move over the strong snow surface and continue to feed on the willow shoots, fragile after night frosts (winter food); and on the bog, where the hummocks have already cleared of snow, ptarmigans began to eat cranberries (spring food).
This year Polistovsky Reserve plans to conduct two more expeditions to study willow ptarmigan - in spring, during nesting, and in autumn. Also, throughout the year, state inspectors and researchers will fill out the meeting cards of the ptarmigans and their tracks. These data, combined with the data from last year's studies, will allow us to estimate the population status and seasonal distribution of the Central Russian subspecies of willow ptarmigan on the territory of Polistovsky Reserve.