LETTER FROM SIBERIA Feeding the birds in Khakassia

Posted: 20 January 2010

Author: Elena Kim

In Siberia, as elsewhere, birds are under pressure from loss of wild habitat, industrial farming and pollution. And even from the loss of old traditions of winter feeding. But now, says Elena Kim, children are learning to help more of the region's birds through the long cold winter.

From earliest childhood, we have been taught that birds are our friends and helpers. Since kindergarten, we had bird-feeders and left millet and bread crumbs in the winter. In the spring, children made starling houses at school and hung them on trees on the first sunny day. But, gradually, this tradition began to disappear - at first in big cities, and then in villages and settlements. In cities, starlings have almost disappeared, sparrows have became few, and the arrival of bullfinches has became a real winter surprise.

Waxwing
Waxwing
The waxwing, a common bird in Siberia.
Some enthusiasts continued their small, good deeds, because they understood that the reduction in numbers of our feathered neighbours leads to a deterioration of the environment in which we live. Thanks to the support of ecological funds and associations from different parts of Russia, whole school classes and kindergartens are helping birds to winter, and helping to find nesting places for birds arriving in the spring

In Khakassia, a small Republic in the centre of Siberia, the ecological project called "Feed the birds in winter!" has operated for 5 years, and every year, the number of participants increases. By communicating with our friends from other regions, we have learned that similar projects are taking place there annually. And this year, a decision was reached to unite our efforts for preservation of the biodiversity in Siberia and efforts to improve the wellbeing of the environment in Siberian cities and settlements.

On December 15, 2009, the regional, ecological project, "Preserve the well-being of birds", was begun. The project has the support of the All-Russian NGO, Centre for Environmental Policy and Culture; the State Natural Reserve "Khakassky"; the Interregional Charity Organization, Siberian Environmental Centre; the Ecological Fund "Live Planet"; and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Tomsk Region.

Gifts and diplomas

This year, participants in the project will not only make bird-feeders and feed wintering birds, but will also build artificial nests for migratory birds. In addition, all participants will do informational and educational work with children and adults - to draw and distribute leaflets appealing to everyone to care for our feathery friends. There is much work for participants in the project, so it will last until May, 2010. Gifts and diplomas await the winners.

On Friday, December 11, a very special event took place in a conference hall of the State Natural Reserve "Khakassky". It was a lesson-tour to initiate the Regional ecological bird perservaton project. Pupils of a class of Lycée of Abakan discussed wintering birds, collected puzzles with their images, and read verses. The lesson ended with a thematic tour of the Museum of the Reserve. Children from Abaza have carried out a similar event. Older pupils came to younger students with a lesson about wintering birds. A schoolgirl from the 4th class of the same school gave a presentation in which she made a pantomime on feeding birds in winter, and all participants decided to take part in all stages of the project. Thanks to the hard work of enthusiasts and participants of project, one more brick in the wall of ecological well-being of Siberia has been added , and therefore, one more component of the ecological well-being of all the Earth. We invite everyone to join this project - to make bird-feeders, starling houses, to create informational leaflets - to help make the birds' world less difficult and to protect them for posterity. By taking care of birds, we take care of the Earth.

Elena Kim works with the Khakass Regional Public Ecological Fund "Live planet"