Getting warm welcome home

August 9, 2013

By early spring thousands of migrating birds head from their wintering areas to northern Russia to breed. Many of them settle close to Gazprom’s production facilities. To find out why, we went to the Tyumen Region to the vicinity of compressor station No.11 (CS-11), Gazprom Transgaz Surgut. According to the ecologists, this year a number of nestings there hit record high.

CS-11 is well known to the locals of nearby settlements not only because it was constructed in 1978 on impassable swamps…

…but also because for another year round the station has been a sophisticated environmentally-friendly facility of Gazprom Transgaz Surgut. One of the best gas testing labs of Gazprom operates here.

However, the environmental reports cannot give us the best overview of the ecological situation in the area, let’s face another fact: over 30 bird species live permanently at the CS itself and near it.

What attracts them here? Even for experts it is difficult to find a decisive answer to this question. Although it seems clear: blackbirds and linnets are attracted by rowans growing at the station, nightingales – by bird-cherries, waxwings – by wild trees.

All in all, the Tyumen forests house almost the whole global fauna of the most beautiful feathered singers, who come back home even from Africa after wintering there.

“And the greenfinches choose to nest right here coming from faraway Georgia!” Alexander Zernov, veteran of Gazprom Transgaz Surgut surprises us with this fact.

Alexander Zernov is known far beyond Tyumen as the man who has been raising songbirds for over 30 years. It seems that he knows everything about them. He came to love birds in the distant 1950s, when he was building pigeon houses in the village together with his pals.

But let us return to our station. As we have already said, there are not only many birds at the station and its vicinity, but there are also many nests.

The most popular one was made by a swallow under the canopy of the CS administration building’s roof, two meters away from the office window of Andrey Kalinkin, Chief Engineer of the line pipe operation center (rightmost window of the second floor).

From time to time, the nestlings stick out their beaks and their mother regularly feeds them.

As for Andrey Kalinkin, he has a philosophic attitude to his neighbors: it is a kind of an opportunity to leave behind my thoughts about work for a minute.

Andrey is not the only one who witnesses all kinds of ‘breakfasts’, ‘lunches’ and ‘dinners’, but also his numerous colleagues when gathering in the Chief Engineer’s office for meetings. “Aren’t you distracted by the birds?” we ask them. “No, we are not,” assures us Mikhail Sustavov, a site manager. “Besides, some people say that swallow nesting brings luck, and it is really so – recently we have known about the plans to upgrade the first workshop in our station. This is exactly what the whole team has been waiting for so long!”

So, from what has been said, it follows that at CS-11 there are those in need of birdhouses. But where exactly should these birdhouses be fixed? The best option is a birch, as Mr. Zernov explains, but that tree should be quite mature and strong.

Also, there are even more helpful suggestions to bear in mind: a birdhouse should face eastwards, it shouldn’t be placed under direct sunlight and should be fixed no higher than three meters from the ground (as it might sway in the treetops).

But before leaving for the forest, we will peep into the joinery shop where these birdhouses were made. It was the carpenter Dzhalil Khabibzyanov who had arranged their regular production line-up and now kindly agreed not only to tell us how they had been made, but also to teach us a master class.

There is nothing difficult in this art, for many of us building birdhouses was an obligatory course at handicrafts classes back in the school days. So...

To make a box, a wooden board should be shaped on one side only, leaving the rough side to be used for the interior (so that the nestlings can scramble up).

A 35 to 40 millimeter hole, au contraire, should be polished (so that the birds can’t get hurt). It should be made at 18–20 centimeters from the lower part of the birdhouse (so that a cat can’t stretch a paw inside).

Before driving a nail in, its point should be a bit blunt (so that the wood can’t be broken).

Taking measurements…

Sawing off the redundant parts…

And – voila! – another lot of cozy houses!

Now the business will be handled by the wiremen brigade represented by Igor Plesovskikh, Zaky Rakhmanov as well as the station ecologist Galina Strekalova.

Even though the installation of birdhouses is not straightly connected to the production process, health and safety measures in the workplace are the same as at gas pipeline retrofitting sites.

Igor Plesovskikh confides that he hung up his first birdhouse as a schoolboy. Since then, he has never climbed trees.

Galina Strekalova and her husband installed three birdhouses at their summer cottage and each of them is occupied by a bird family.

The gas workers are absolutely sure that birds will settle in the birdhouses at the station. When workshops are closed down for repairs, birdsongs, especially those of nightingales, can be heard quite clearly, particularly in the morning.

It looks impossible to install birdhouses without equipment. The wiremen are aided by their colleagues from the fire station.

First, the ‘environmental brigade’ installed several birdhouses at the station.

Later on, they headed for the forest in the fire truck.

When the driver shut the engine down, we began rejoicing in the beautiful sounds of birch groves…

… vivid summer colors…

…and a breathtaking sky.

Well, it’s enough of poetry now, let’s get down to business. Carrying a fire ladder through the forest on a hot day, it’s not the most pleasant activity. It’s not easy to cope with it on your own.

Igor Plesovskikh mounts on the tree, and Alexander Zernov directs him what to do and how to do it.

It is prohibited to nail the birdhouses to trees, that’s why they tie them.

Everyone acts in a well-coordinated way, and everything is done properly.

Three hours later, when it looks like our mission has been accomplished, we return to the compressor station, dropping by to see an important site on our way. The overhaul of process pipework is currently in progress here.

Ivan Mosyagin, gas compressor service engineer whom we met at the site has been already aware of the work on birdhouse installation as everyone else at the station. “Did everything go well?” he asked his colleagues. “As usual, we’ve hit the target!” answered Alexander Zernov.

We all are used to the traditional image of Gazprom’s production facilities. We hope that this photo essay broadened your views on life and work at a gas pipeline site. What we had a chance to witness is not directly connected to the production process at first glance. However, it would be wrong to say that it bears no relation to the work of gasmen, as it is actually the clearest evidence of their attitude to nature and environment they live and work in.

Oleg Ermolayev, Oksana Platonenko, Nikolai Giryavenko, Gazprom Transgaz Surgut; Gazprom website editorial board

You can find large size images in Photos.