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Publication number 77. Stichting WIWO

Title: Breeding birds of Medusa Bay, Taimyr, Russia. Methods for biological monitoring in the Arctic with results of 1998 and 1999.
Authors: Frank Willems, Chris van Turnhout, Hein van Kleef & Rob Felix
Publication date: 2002


In 1998 and 1999 two expeditions of the Working Group International Waterbird and Wetland Research (WIWO) visited the Medusa Bay area, near Dikson on the Taimyr peninsula, in northern Siberia (Russia), at 73°23'N 80°32'E. The main aim of the 1998 expedition was to develop and apply a standardized breeding bird monitoring method.
Carrying out such a monitoring programme in future years will reveal temporal changes in breeding bird numbers at Medusa Bay. This will improve our knowledge of population dynamics of waders and other bird species. The main aim of the 1999 expedition was to apply and evaluate the monitoring programme developed the year before.
The main goal of the monitoring programme is to focus on numbers of all bird species present within fixed plots. Furthermore some important demographic variables, being nest success and adult survival, environmental variables (snow cover, temperature) and biotic variables (lemming and Arctic Fox abundance, arthropod availability) are monitored to be able to explain changes in breeding bird numbers and breeding succes.
Apart from developing and carrying out the monitoring scheme, research activities included (colour) ringing and collecting biometric data of waders and Brent Geese, assessing nest choice and breeding succes of Brent Geese in relation to Snowy Owls, mapping distribution and numbers of breeding birds along some major rivers and islands outside the study area, studying distribution and ecology of bumble bees and lemming behaviour.

The breeding season of 1998 at Medusa Bay can be characterised as a typical 'predator year' in the three-year lemming cycle, although this year was expected to be an 'intermediate year', with 1997 being a 'predator year' and 1999 a 'lemming peak year', lemmings were almost absent and Arctic Foxes common. Avian predators did not breed and breeding success was low in all wader species and probably also most other bird species. The breeding season of 1999 was a typical lemming peak year with high densities of lemmings and breeding abian predators and an absence of Arctic Foxes in the study area. Based on the breeding density and clutch size of the avian predators, lemming densities were very high compared to the last peak year 1996. Breeding success was high in all bird species.
The Medusa Bay monitoring scheme has shown to be suitable for basic biological monitoring goals. The scheme covers all breeding bird species as well as the most important biological and environmental parameters. It is of great importance that the monitoring scheme is continued in forthcoming years. The programme will gain crucial insights in fluctuations and (long-term) changes in numbers of breeding birds and their breeding success as well as in the factors explaining this. Results of monitoring programmes like the one presented here are of crucial importance for a proper management of the Great Arctic Reserve and the Arctic in general, as well as for the management of all natural areas along the migration routes of the bird species, for example in western Europe and Africa.

The report contains:
  • Summary and introduction
  • Description of the study area
  • Monitoring schemes and methods
  • Results, monitoring discussion, conclusions and recommendations
  • Chapters on ringing data, breeding relationship of Dark-bellied Geese and Snowy Owls, birds of Maksimovka, Efremova and Lembrova rivers and the Oleni Islands, species composition and ecology of arctic bumblebees and lemming and other mammal studies.