Only males can be counted, since females do not sing, or make themselves otherwise visible. In all, 170 male aquatic warblers were counted, known to sing from May until August, while the females nurture their young.
National Park ornithologist Anton Kuzmitsky tells us that aquatic warblers were last counted on Dikoe marshes in the late 1990s, then in 2007, and in 2013. He comments, “It’s remarkable that all other birds sing in the morning and are silent in the evening, while the aquatic warbler, on the contrary, sings in the evening. An hour before sunset, we sent a group of volunteers to count males. The group then verified the data. This summer, we achieved the most complete record-keeping ever. We once recorded 1,500 males, but now have fewer than 200. It’s impossible to say that the number has fallen, as the population has been stable for the last ten years. Truly, we’ve improved our counting methods, giving us more exact figures.”
Dikoe marshes cover more than 23,000 hectares; however, monitoring has shown that only around a thousand are suitable for aquatic warblers’ nesting. This season, counting of the rare bird also took place on Servech marshes, in the Vitebsk Region, where specialists counted 57 singing males. In 2017, other territories of nesting aquatic warblers will join the programme. Incredibly, about half of the world population of this bird lives on Belarusian marshes.
By Valentina Kozlovich