11 May 2017 The weather still doesn’t want to be in our side. So, one more day without new frogs collected here in Chernobyl.

Since we didn’t went to the fiel last night, we had no frogs to work with in the lab. So, we started the day helping Sergey (Gaschak) on his regular checks of next boxes, occupied mainly by great tits (Parus major). These next boxes are distributed across the Exclusion Zone, covering different habitats and levels of radiation. 

One a the first places we visited was located inside the “famous” Chernobyl’s Red Forest. This area, one of the more radioactively contaminated places in the world, took this name shortly after the 1986 accident when most of the pine trees in the zone died as a consequence of the high radiation levels experienced and the pine needles that turned to a red-brown color. 

Although radiation levels can be very variable here, they are always in the highest levels. The maximum dose rate that we detected today here was of 60 microSv/hr, when background radiation levels can be in normal circumstances around 0.2 microSv/hr.

 This area was also affected by a big fire last year, which quite likely can cause the mobilization of radiation accumulated in the soil and vegetation, destabilizing the zone.

After the Red Forest , we visited other areas, including beautiful deciduous forest, mainly composed of birches where we keep on checking more next boxes, and even found a sparrow hawk nest. During the morning , we visited several ponds, ditches and bogs, as potential good habitats for treefrogs. On our way back to Chernobyl we spotted a raccoon dog, a first for me!!

Despite the relatively sunny and nice weather of the morning, clouds started to cover the sky in early afternoon, followed by rain. After dinner we went out to the field with the idea of visiting some of the places checked during the morning, in particular the ones located inside the Red Forest in order to collect frogs from highly contaminated places. But, once again in this trip, we were unlucky. Only a few water frogs were calling in all the places we visited during the night, and even these for a very short period.

We decided to change a bit our strategy in the field, and instead of looking for new localities, going back to the places in which we collected treefrogs last year (see “Chernobyl recap: the Science”). If frogs are not active in these localities we know certainly that it’s because of the cold weather conditions has stopped all breeding activity. Even more, since half of the samples that we are collecting this year are new, this will help us to have a more complete sample design, even if the sample fewer localities. Anyway, we visited the place that the sampled in first place last year (see “Day2: At the shadow of Chernobyl reactor 4), in which treefrogs, water frogs and fired-bellied toads were really abundant. After a while, we only hear very few and short calls by water frogs. No trace of frog breeding activity. So, back to Chernobyl without frogs, and looking for better weather tomorrow and a bit of frog activity. Weather forecast looks a bit similar than today, slightly better maybe. We will be back to the field in the afternoon. Let’s see..

The only positive thing of returning earlier than expected tonight is that it gave me the opportunity, in the very last moment, of calling back home and talk with my older daughter on her 8th birthday, the second consecutive of her birthdays that I miss for being in Chernobyl. Not happy about that…

Apart from the raccoon dog, we also saw today among others moose, roe deer, black grouse, white tailed eagle, and lots of hares and nightjars.

Visiting the Red Forest and other medium radiation areas means that our accumulated dose raised today from 6 microSv to 58 microSv, a quite significant increase.