Together with nature: A lesser spotted eagle, whose habitat is near Saarde wind farm got into trouble in Ukraine

A lesser spotted eagle Neits, who is habitating near the under-construction Saarde wind farm in Pärnu County, and got a GPS transmitter last summer, started a migration journey on September 9th, but quickly got into trouble. Namely, his transmitter showed an anomalous behavior at location over Ukraine in the Vinnitsa region, which caused concern among eagle researchers.

The construction works of Utilitas Saarde wind farm in Pärnu County began in the summer 2022, and the eagle researchers-ornithologists installed a GPS transmitter on a male eagle habitating near the wind farm and named Neits after his habitat near the creek Neitsioja. GPS transmitter helps to collect valuable information, both during construction, but also after the wind farm is completed, whether and how the wind farm affects the life of the eagle.

Neits started his migration at the beginning of September, but his GPS transmitter showed unusual information at location over Ukraine. The eagle stopped for a strangely long time in Vinnitsa region, but after a while the transmitter’s signal moved along the road to a large farm. A few days later, the GPS showed, that the bird continued his journey to Africa along its normal migration path.

War also disturbs birds

At first, the researchers did not think anything of it, because other birds have also made unusual stunts while flying over Ukraine this year. War inevitably disturbs them too. But one day, the eagle researcher Urmas Sellis discovered a letter in Ukrainian with pictures of Neits in his mailbox. He let a fellow Ukrainian communicate with the sender of the letter, and the more precise circumstances of our eagle’s troubles became clear.

„It turned out that Neits had tried to eat some kind of lizard, but it got stuck in his throat. He couldn’t get rid of it by himself and couldn’t eat more, probably because he became weak. A local found the eagle in a field and took it to the veterinarian of a large farm, where he got help and was fed so that after a few days, the eagle could already continue his journey on his usual migration path,“ described Sellis. „Without this help, he very likely would have died. If he couldn’t fly anymore, he must not have eaten for about a week already.“

By now, thanks to the help of the Ukrainians, Neits is already behind the equator in Zambia, where his wintering area is very likely located. We are extremely grateful to the kind-hearted Ukrainians for taking the time and wishing to help one of the Estonian eagles in need in the midst of everything that is happening in their country. „Some day after the war, it would be nice to meet Alexander, who picked up our Neits from the field and took her to the nearest veterinarian. Very efficient action during wartime!“ added Sellis.

Comprehensive environmental studies

The development of wind farms is always accompanied by extensive environmental studies and monitoring, which are carried out both in finding the best locations for wind turbines and later during construction works and also after the farm is completed.

In the vicinity of the Utilitas Saarde wind farm, several lesser spotted eagles are habitating, and their nesting sites were already taken into account during the environmental impact assessment. Five possible wind turbines, whose locations were unsuitable for the lesser spotted eagle, remain unbuilt based on the results of the environmental impact assessment. The lesser spotted eagle is a bird species of category I protection in Estonia and the most numerous of the eagle species nesting here. Although there are more lesser spotted eagles than eagles of other species altogether (500-600 pairs), their habitats still need protection in order to maintain their numbers.

“Installing GPS transmitters on eagles is not very easy, and we only get one chance. We lure them into the net with the help of a stuffed bird, which the eagle comes to attack. If we don’t get him in the net on the first attempt, he won’t be hooked on this trick again,” explained eagle researcher Urmas Sellis.

Researchers have already managed to install transmitters on two eagles near the Saarde wind farm. In the years 2018-2020, the so-called Mälgand eagle was monitored, who unfortunately disappeared during the 2020 migration. A new eagle has already taken over his nest. According to Sellis, high power lines are the most dangerous for eagles during migration, but poisoned prey items or other accidents can also be fatal.

You can view the route of the autumn migration of Neits and the trajectory of his incident in Ukraine in details HERE.

Slava Ukraini!