On July 20, 2019, the CZIP team had an incredibly demanding endeavor, when it set up a satellite transmitter on the now famous snake eagle, which we named Kaja. Satellite tracking is an increasingly popular technology that, among other things, enables the collection of numerous and important data concerning the ecology and endangerment of birds. In this case, it was a young bird, whose sex could not be determined precisely on the spot. However, many ornithologists tend to give these species male names. We opted for a different practice.
The snake eagle is known as, not so common a bird of prey in our country. It mainly inhabits dry open habitats, rocky areas, with the presence of lonely trees or smaller forest complexes. In our country it is most common in the Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean part. As the name suggests, it usually feeds on snakes, which are also most accessible to it in the habitat types described above. It is often possible to see them flying with their prey, and to snakes that are especially noticeable from the ground. It is one of the few birds of prey that knows how to stand in the wind in the air, and thus explores the environment looking for prey. It nests on lower trees, while only the nest is made of dry branches, covered with leaves and grass.
Last summer, this snake-eater nested in the vicinity of Skadar Lake. One period was followed by observing the nest from a safe distance, and since there was a young bird in it, we waited for it to reach a size optimal for setting up a transmitter. After placing the same on the back of this little bird, we patiently waited for Cain’s first flight. That happened after about 10 days, whose route was more or less reduced to getting to know the surroundings.
When Kaja’s flight reached a certain maturity and security, the time also came for him to leave his native nest. Leaving the borders of Montenegro, in 11 days, as long as her journey lasted, she covered a distance of 1,800 km, flying over 7 countries, reporting her position from 5,917 points and reaching the highest point of her flight at 3,205 meters above sea level. Kaja flew over Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon … On the border of Lebanon and Israel, every trace of her is lost and we are already beginning to suspect that she became a victim of poaching. It was not difficult to conclude something like that, considering that this area is known for poaching and killing birds during migrations, which has great consequences for their population and survival.
A lesson about optimism
For six months, we have not received any data to confirm that Kaja is alive. We have lost all hope for a signal that confirms to us that everything is fine after all.
The next date that we will remember very well is April 14, 2020. That morning, no less and no more, Kaja announced herself after half a year and left us all speechless. This snake-eater crossed Mount Sinai and reached Sudan. In communication with technical support, we know that there are 29 thousand positions on the card, which means we are one: Kaja is alive and has started her first migration. The reason why we have not received data so far is that the bird was in large areas not covered by the GPRSM network.
In addition to the great excitement that Kaja brought us, we can say that she also taught us a lesson about optimism.