The survey on Maliy Zhemchuzhniy Island

On April 11, 2020, researchers of the Astrakhan State Biosphere Nature Reserve named after Order of the Red Banner of Labor conducted a comprehensive scientific monitoring on Maliy Zhemchuzhniy Island.

The boat approaching Maliy Zhemchuzhniy Island. Photo by Maxim Perkovsky.

The research team included Kirill Litvinov, Deputy Director for Sciences at the Astrakhan Nature Reserve, Natalya Meshcheryakova, Leading Researcher, Head of the ornithology laboratory, and Maxim Perkovsky, Researcher, an ornithologist.

The research team on Maliy Zhemchuzhniy. Photo by Maxim Perkovsky.

The island is a state nature monument of federal significance, located in the northwestern part of the Caspian Sea. Maliy Zhemchuzhniy is known as a nesting site for a number of rare birds, and as a rookery for the Caspian seal. The island is inhabited by two species of birds listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation – the great black-headed gull (Larus ichthyaetus) and the Caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia). In addition to these species, the Caspian gull (Larus cachinnans) and the Sandwich tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) nest on Maliy Zhemchuzhniy.

Photo by Maxim Perkovsky.

A Caspian gull’s nest. Photo by Maxim Perkovsky.

Maliy Zhemchuzhniy is a stopping place for migratory species of birds. On the island, Dalmatian pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) were found. They use Maliy Zhemchuzhniy as a resting place after hunting.

Resting Dalmatian pelicans and a sleeping Caspian seal. Photo by Maxim Perkovsky.

The expedition members conducted the survey of the Caspian seal on the island and adjacent water area. Over 750 seals rested on in the southern part of the island. On several small sand spits, two haul-out sits were found, numbering about 300 animals. For recreation, seals also used the skeleton of an old sunken ship protruding from the water.

Caspian seals are on an old sunken ship. Photo by Maxim Perkovsky.

Caspian seals are on an old sunken ship. Photo by Maxim Perkovsky.

The researchers made a planned mapping of the coastline of Maliy Zhemchuzhniy. This is necessary because the island changes its shape every year and shifts due to strong storms. This year, there was a significant change in its configuration. Washings were formed in the form of sharp increases, as well as areas of strong depressions. All information and materials received during the expedition will be analyzed and replenish the treasury of knowledge about Maliy Zhemchuzhniy.

Authors: Kirill Litvinov, Maxim Perkovsky.
Photos of Maxim Perkovsky.
Source: Astrakhan Biosphere Nature Reserve FSBI.



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