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What we know about Chokpak Ornithological Station
The Chokpak Pass is the narrowest place between the Talas Alatau and Karatau, the Tian Shan ridges, having heights of 2500 – 4200 meters. The height of this pass is up to 1200 meters above sea level. It is through these gates that a huge number of birds rush, migrating annually from north to south and south to north. Due to the fact that the Tien Shan is located in the meridional direction, birds fly around these mountains. Accordingly, in spring they fly from west to east, and in autumn — from east to west. Scientists have noticed this phenomenon for a long time and since the 60s of the last century they have been regularly monitoring bird migrations through the Chokpak Pass. Here, during the migration season, ornithologists of the ringing center set traps for catching birds. These traps are called “Heligolland”, named after the place where such traps were first used (Heligoland Island in the North Sea, Germany).
In total, over the years of operation of the station, more than 280 species have been captured and ringed. The total number of captured birds is about 2 million birds. There are days when more than 10 thousand birds are caught per day. In spring, the main mass of birds consists of two types of sparrows: the black–breasted and Indian and the village swallow, in autumn – the raven birds (rook and jackdaw).
These traps have the form of large venter with an entrance 35 meters wide and up to 12 meters high. The length of this “venter” is 50 meters. The trap ends with a receiving chamber, from which the birds fall into funny cages, which change as the birds accumulate. Birds are best caught in a headwind, they tend to fly lower. So in spring it is the east wind, in autumn it is the west wind. In calm weather, the catchability of the nets is much lower and visiting the station is not so interesting. This should be taken into account when planning excursions. With multi-day ornithological tours, the wind direction is determined in the morning, before planning a day excursion.
In addition to Heligoland traps, birds are caught in spider webs at the Chokpak ringing station. As a rule, small dendrophilous species that stop for rest and feeding in the forest belts on the Chokpak Pass fall into them. The catchability of these nets is higher in calm weather.