In the autumn of 2020, the search for lesser spotted eagle nests implemented within the framework of the LIFE AQPOM project was completed – this is one of the largest measures for identifying bird nesting sites ever implemented in the territory of Latvia. The aim of the nest search was to identify the distribution of this protected species in Latvia, as well as to provide protection for its nesting sites.
A total of 543 lesser spotted eagle nests were found during the four field work seasons. 2018 was especially successful, when the search for nests was facilitated by the very good breeding success. During the project, a large number of nests belonging to other bird species (for example, the common buzzard), as well as large nests of unclear affiliation, were found, the total number of nests found reaching 2,412. Some of the nests found belong to other specially protected species, such as the black stork, the white-tailed eagle, and also the northern goshawk.
The nest search results (Figure 1) show that a larger number of nests were found in areas where higher nesting densities were previously predicted (Figure 2). An overview of the knowledge about the distribution of this species in the project start-up phase (April 2017) is provided by an overview of the micro-reserves established for this species in force at that time (Figure 3, information from the Nature Data Management System “Ozols” maintained by the Nature Conservation Agency) – comparing the figures, we see that the most part of the new information has been added to Selija, as well as to western and north-western Vidzeme. Unfortunately, little is still known about the distribution of lesser spotted eagles in south-eastern Latgale (due to logistical reasons, the area was not given due attention in the project), while the empty area in Zemgale can be explained at least in part by the less suitable landscape for the species.
Figure 1. Color scheme represents number of nests in 5x5 km squares.
Figure 2. Expected distribution of lesser spotted eagles before project.
Figure 3. Number of microreserves established for lesser spotted eagle as on 2017. Color scheme – number of microreserve centroides in squares of 5x5 km.
The nest search work, which was carried out by dozens of field experts, was coordinated by the project partner, the Latvian Ornithological Society, while the preparation of the documentation necessary to initiate their protection is the responsibility of the Latvian Fund for Nature. By the end of 2020, 457 applications for the establishment of micro-reserves have been submitted to the responsible institutions (State Forest Service and – in some cases – Nature Conservation Agency), of which 362 have already been approved with a total micro-reserve area of 2,631 ha and buffer zone area of 15,759 ha.