I have already posted about our previous expedition from earlier this year. This time we got to see the same areas during the summer ( July 1-14th).
Everything was together for an exceptionally good trip travelling with 3 trucks loaded with 12 raptorphils. Our aim was to check all the known Imperial Eagle nests. The Hungarian and the Bulgarian team counted 8 and 4 people, respectively. The latter were members of the BSPB.
After certain problems in the beginning on July 3rd we reached our first destination, the Basin of Eskisehir where we found 10 pairs of IEs this spring. Our plan was to check the breeding results of these pairs and collect food remains and feathers for DNA samples. We couldn’t find all the nests in these territories before, so we also tried to finish it now and look for new territories in other parts of the basin. The area was full of raptors during spring, which gave us hope for some goodies this time too. Fortunately we didn’t have to be disappointed.
- Landscape of the Eskisehir Basin
Most of the pairs had a succesful breeding season here having at least one chick in almost every nest. Only two pairs caused us a big surprise having failed this year. These were particularly close to each other and the area was very rich in sousliks. A possible explanation for the failure could be disturbance due to close vicinity of a human settlement.
No doubt, the biggest surprise was the very same Steppe Eagle we observed a few months before almost at the same spot. Our happines turned into euphoria pretty soon after we saw that this male Steppe actually had a mate, a female Imperial Eagle! We found there nest and the remains of 2 dead chicks under it. Although the final results of the DNA analysis are not known yet, no doubt it is a very unique observation. So far literature mentiones only a handful of proven cases of the hybridization of the Imperial Eagle with other Aquila species but not with Steppe Eagle.
- Territory of the presumed Steppe X Imperial pair
The discovery of a probably unknown (to nature conservationists at least) colony of Black Vultures is also worth to be mentioned, as well as the findings of nest of Lammergeiers and Egyptian Vultures.
- Valley of Black Vultures
From Eskisehir we travelled east to Bolu and Gerede, where there wasn’t done any fieldwork this spring, so we had no information about the nesting pairs. Our results mirrored this perfectly, we found only a few nests and those had very bad breeding success. Other pairs known from earlier years simply disappeared giving us an impression that something really bad must have affected the Imperial Eagle population in these areas.
During our 2-week trip we saw 25 species of raptors of which the Steppe Eagle and a single Eleonora’s Falcon were the jewels.