The field survey was conducted between 15 - 18 January 2009 by Alexander Solokha (WI Russia Programme), Mukhtar Turaev, (Bukhara University), and Nodyr Azimov (local volunteer). Other local rangers also took part in the field activities and in the organisation of the survey and training activites. The IWC is the main monitoring scheme that ensures data input for establishing the size and status of the populations of waterbirds on global scale. The implementation of this monitoring scheme entirely depends on the voluntary participation of national coordinators and local field workers and volunteers implementing the counts. The WOW Project aims to increase capacity and to support the local IWC and IBA monitoring networks, by promoting cooperation and integration between existing or similar schemes and increasing the local capacity for implementing such activities. The implementation of monitoring training activities in the Central Asia and Caucasus region is included as a specific action point in the WOW Project.
The monitoring training expedition in Uzbekistan covered a range of artificial wetlands - Hadicha, Deukhona, Zekry, Dengizkul, Tudakul and Kuimazar which were known to be important wintering sites for migratory waterbirds, but which have been covered irregularly in the recent years. The fieldwork resulted in some 35 species of waterbirds and wetland-dependent raptors registered with a total number of more than 67,000 individuals counted. The Zekry and Kuimazar wetlands accounted for the highest numbers of waterbirds, with the Mallard, Red-creasted Pochard and Coot being the most abundant species.
“This year’s count in mild and warmish winter conditions, produced much lower total numbers compared to previous years of IWC, particularly compared to the counts from January 2005 and 2006, when about 195,000 and 254,000 individuals respectively were counted at these wetlands.” said Alexander Solokha from the Wetlands International Office in Moscow.
Totals for many species have also shown significantly lower figures. For example, only 16,300 Coots were reported compared to 65,300 in 2005 and 125,300 in 2006. Just one Great Cormorant and one Pygmy Cormorant were recorded this year, while they were quite abundant previously. Surprising was that no White-headed Duck was found at all, compared to around 1,300 individuals counted at Bukhara wetlands, mainly on Dengizkul in January 2005 and 2006.
“The extremely cold winter of 2008 has very likely affected the waterbirds wintering in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and neighboring countries. As all wetlands were frozen and upland habitats were under deep snow, the mortality of waterbirds seemed to be quite extreme in 2008. On-going mid-winter counts could bring more light on the numbers and distribution of waterbirds across the sub-region.” pointed out Solokha.