Thursday, November 12, 2009

Full Circle

This is my farewell posting for the season. The seasons have gone full circle since my arrival in March - the spring migrants have left and the winter birds have arrived - the snow now blankets the wetlands and Muraviovka Park begins its winter slumber.

The posts will continue again with my arrival in the park in spring.... and until that time I leave you with a time-lapsed scene from the terrace of the past year:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wildlife Disease Workshop

During 26-31 of October, Muraviovka Park initiated and hosted an International Workshop on Wildlife Disease Issues of the Amur Region. The goal of this workshop was to discuss disease threats to wildlife in the region, create a dialog between those institutions that deal with wildlife diseases, and to develop a network that would study and combat these issues. We had participants from the Veterinarian University in Blagoveshensk, the Directorate of Wildlife Protection, the Moscow Zoo, the Okra Nature Reserve, Khinghansky Nature Reserve, Bolonsky Nature Reserve, and the International Crane Foundation. The Workshop was sponsored by the Trust for Mutual Understanding, In all there were over twenty participants.

The conference began with a day of labs and demonstrations given by ICF’s veterinarian Barry Hartup, to the students of the local Veterinarian University.

The following day, the conference began with several lectures at the University as well as a question/answer session involving the local media.

Days three and four, consisted of talks and discussions at Muraviovka Park.

The last day Barry Hartup performed a health check on the Parks captive birds. We used this opportunity to demonstrate techniques of handling and health protocols to the participants of the workshop.

The general consensus was that the conference was a success and we are already beginning to plan a follow-up meeting…..

Monday, November 2, 2009

October 2009

Although the locals will say that October is not officially winter, the daytime temperatures have only been reaching a high of –10 to –20 degrees C. We have received our first snowfall, albeit there was only slight accumulation.

The lake began to freeze over in the beginning of the month and now we have to break through the ice to obtain fish for the captive cranes.

Our activities at the Park have centered around preparing for the upcoming spring fires. This means conducting prescribed burning in critical areas and cleaning debris and leaves near buildings. We were lucky to have the help of a group of students from the nearby village of Korepatina. They volunteered an afternoon to rake and clean around the summer camp.

We have also been creating another nature trail that will allow visitors to explore the oak forests adjacent to terrace, while catching glimpses of the wetland below.

The creation of the trail has also stirred the curiosity of the local wildlife. Birds like the European nuthatch and Eurasian jay, have enjoyed exploring the raked leaves for insects and other edible debris.

The trail has already proven very productive. It winds near the burrow of a local Raccoon-dog, who made himself visible the other day. Additionally, a Ural owl was spotted in a tree adjacent to the trail!

Our family of Red-crowned cranes are still present and doing well. We were concerned that the late hatch date of the chicks may hinder their ability to migrate on time, but they are flying around the wetlands and looking quite strong.

Unfortunately, another crane is also still present at the park, a lone white-naped crane. This crane was observed in the nearby farm fields and allowed close approach.

After a moment of observation, it became apparent why the crane was still here and unwary. It sustained a grave injury to its leg. Its future still remains uncertain.

On another note, the final mist-netting episode yielded a great capture…a small flock of Azure-winged magpies…

I would like to end this blog by wishing everyone Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

News Stories on Stork Protection

Our joint efforts with the Office of Nature Protection to protect stork nests was picked up by several media outlets and you can read the coverage by following the below links:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

End of September 2009

The fall colors at the Park have peaked in the last few weeks as we enjoyed a wave of beautiful weather during our “Indian Summer”.

We also celebrated our final festival of the year. This festival focused on Birds of Prey. Again we had busloads of visitors come to participate. The visitors were able to go with one of several guides who showed off artwork related to birds of prey, played informative videos, and gave nature walks around the headquarters.

Although the Park is most famous for its cranes, it does have quite a diversity of hawks, eagles, and owls that use the Park for migration and/or breeding. As a matter of fact over 22 species have been recorded at the Park including the golden eagle and pied harrier depicted below. (These are photos I took earlier in the season)

The Park was also involved in a “rescue mission” this week. A local farmer contacted us and said he had a young white-naped crane in his possession. He continued by telling us that his grandson had found the bird near their chicken coop cold, lost and hungry. The boys initial reaction was to shoot the big bird, but the grandfather stopped him and they captured the bird and began calling around for guidance and assistance. The bird was in their care for nearly a month before we were finally contacted to help. During this period the bird was fed mainly bread. We transported the bird back to the Park, where we cared for it for nearly a week before our colleagues at Khingkonsky Nature Reserve came and took the bird (Khingkonsky Nature Reserve has larger facilities and therefore would make a more suitable location for the bird).

We also made a trip out to Amursky Game Refuge, which is located about an hour and a half southeast from the Park. This refuge is also a huge stopover for migrating cranes and we camped one night in the fields so that in the morning we could get an estimate of the number of roosting cranes at the refuge.

Over a thousand cranes were present and I was able to make a short clip of the birds as they flew from their roosts (click play to watch)

Our trip to Amursky was just in time, because several days afterwards the hooded cranes were observed catching thermals and preparing to move further south. At the Park, we have gone from over 1000 migrating cranes to roughly 100.

There has been a huge crop of acorns from the Mongolian Oaks and everyone here is excited to take this opportunity to utilize them in our re-forestation efforts. Every afternoon we take several hours to put them into the ground in areas where they were originally or in areas that they would serve as a good firebreak. This is a time-consuming endeavor, but to date we have planted well over two hundred acorns!

On the smaller scale, I ran across these two interesting invertebrates this past week- yet another colorful and bizarre caterpillar and this spider protecting its egg sac!