Russia and Europe’s smallest bird sighted at Artek

Young bird watchers from the Artek International Children’s Center have made their first discoveries in time for International Bird Day. They have established that Russia and Europe’s smallest bird lives at Artek.

A bird watching session held at Artek and on Crimea’s southern coast has been conducted by children, ornithologists from the Your Nature center for children and teenagers, and researchers from Moscow State University.

The common firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla), an endangered species of bird in the Russian Red Data Book, is the smallest bird breeding in Artek parks. The firecrest feels comfortable and breeds in large numbers here. The bird only weighs several grams and is half the size of a sparrow. Observing the firecrest in its natural environment is quite difficult, yet the Artek bird watchers have accomplished this feat.

Yelena Litvinova, a research fellow from Moscow State University, taught the children to attract birds for research purposes. “Litvinova played the recording of the firecrest’s song, which is low, though the bird can whistle quite shrilly. Suddenly, we saw a bright and very beautiful bird landing on a branch. It was a male firecrest who flew over in search of the rival whose voice it had heard. It paid no attention to us at all,” said Miroslav Panfilov from the Vladimir Region.

The children have learned that there are some 160 species of birds at Artek, 49 of which come to breed here while the rest are migratory birds. There are 13 bird species from the Red Data Books of Crimea and Russia, including the squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides), the graylag goose (Anser anser), the red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator), and the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus).

“I took no notice of birds before, thinking that there are only two or three species around. But bird watching helps you see small details and a world full of wildlife,” said Yana Pleshkova, an eighth-grade student from the Altai Territory.

Katya Konovalenko, an eighth-grader from the Novgorod Region, took up ornithology at Artek. “Ornithology is a complex and very important science. By watching birds, you can forecast weather and even earthquakes. If you know how to listen to nature, to the animals and birds, you can tell what will happen.”

“By watching birds, the children have seen that there are very many interesting things around them, and if you observe nature carefully and closely, you can discover many natural secrets. This is why we are teaching the kids to take care of the environment,” Yelena Litvinova said.   

“Ecology is the study of the interrelation between all living things. The goal of our program is to acquaint children with nature. We tell them that if the smallest link such as a tiny bird is removed from the chain, the whole system will collapse,” said Valentin Volkov, a Moscow ecologist and the curator of the young ornithologist project at Artek. “Bird watching is the best way to judge the state of the environment. When children watch birds, they become aware of their role in the life of animals and nature as a whole. In a matter of two or three weeks, young bird watchers have seen some 60 bird species in the Artek parks.”