Artek naturalists explore Russia’s largest shag colony

Young ornithologists accompanied by a scientist from Moscow explored Russia’s largest shag colony during a voyage by sea to the Adalary rocks and the Ayu-Dag cape, which crowned the Artek bird studying program timed to the Year of the Environment in Russia.

The program was implemented in Artek’s partnership with the Your Nature nonprofit center for children and teenagers and Moscow Lomonosov State University. Children studied the feathered world watching birds in the camp’s old parks, on the seashore, and in the Ayu-Dag foothills.

“This work is very important from a practical point of view: during a period of three weeks the children spotted, classified and watched 61 bird species out of the 160 inhabiting Artek,” says Valentin Volkov, program trustee from the Your Nature center. “It was an eventful and fruitful project. The research carried out by the children was very interesting. They even made a small discovery: for the first time ever in Artek, during the latest session they spotted a Syrian woodpecker.

The program finished with a sea voyage led by a Moscow scientist to the Ayu-Dag cape and the Adalary rocks, Russia’s largest shag nesting ground. These birds, enlisted in the national Red Book of endangered animal species, prosper in perfect safety in the Artek Bay, as the children discovered.

“We came close to Adalary, with their shag and laughing gull colonies. There were many nests there, and even more young birds, from last year’s brood. They were easy to recognize by their white bellies,” says Nikita Zaitsev, a young ornithologist from the Altai Territory. An experienced bird-watcher, he ringed birds many times – a job which other adult ornithologists consider he is top-notch at doing. “We also saw other birds during the voyage. We started two little egrets on Far Adalar, and we learned that ravens and blue hill pigeons nest on the Adalary. We saw a hovering peregrine falcon above Ayu-Dag – it was never before spotted there since regular bird-watching began. Though peregrine falcons are enlisted in the Russian national and Crimean red books among the endangered bird species, they feel at home in Artek and nest on Ayu-Dag. We also saw two herons on the Ayu-Dag shore – a gray one, as it was fighting seagulls, and a pond heron.”

A schoolboy says that the feathered world is of tremendous interest. Attentive bird-watchers learn where birds live, what their habits are, how they breed, nourish and protect their fledglings. “A bird-watcher is always in search, always on the move hand-in-hand with nature. Step by step, he grows to realize how the world is made. That’s why I have chosen ornithology as my future profession,” Nikita says.