Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mid-June 2009

The unusually wet and variable weather we were experiencing at the beginning of the month has continued. Dark clouds dance across the sky and leave you uncertain when or whether the rain will begin to fall without warning. At any moment of the day, you can scan the horizon and see rain falling somewhere in the distance. The cloud cover and breezes have kept the temperatures mild and pleasant.

At the end of a particularly wet and rainy day, the sun came out warming up the wetlands which caused the valley below the terrace to fill with mist, leaving only the tops of the trees to be visible.

Another surprise was an afternoon hailstorm that pelted us after lunch for about 30 minutes.

The intermittent rain has brought out one of the strangest creatures that is found in the park.

Although this animal superficially resembles a horseshoe crab, it is actually a type of shrimp in the genus Triops. These types of shrimp are found throughout the world and their eggs hatch after warm summer rains. These eggs have a remarkable capacity to withstand drought and extreme temperatures. They have been known to hatch 25 years after being laid. The adults live for approximately 30 days and can reach their full size of roughly three inches in a couple of days.

The show of wildflowers is still continuing at the park, with several new species beginning to bloom this week including two species of red lily.

Among the wildflowers, pitfall traps used to study small mammal diversity within the park have continued to turn out a menagerie of cute faces.

More young faces are also being seen at the park as new fledgling birds begin to leave the nest like the Common Kestrel and Stone Chat pictured below.

Lastly, I wanted to leave you this week with a gratuitous crane photo as a reminder of just how magical Muraviovka Park can be!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Late May-Early June 2009

Summertime and the living is easy…..or busy…like here at Muraviovka. Yes, the summer has been a busy time here at the park both for the people and for the wildlife. The high winds have ceased and the summer rains have begun. The park has been hit with several good rainstorms that has brought back some surface water into the wetlands, helping to bring out a spectacular array of wildflowers.

The wildflowers have taken this cue to show themselves in the utmost glory and dazzle us with new arrivals and brilliant colors every day.

The last amphibian species found here at the park joined us as well with the arrival of these rains.

As spring has progressed so too has the circle of life. The park is host to thousands of nurseries all over. All new crane nests have all hatched and the families have dispersed around the park to feed. The new crane families are joined by many other bird species and the park is full of noisy nests waiting to be fed.

A pair of barn swallows has also started taking up residence in our entryway and have been taking full advantage of the recently available mud.

We have also had many events over the past couple weeks. The first few days of July we participated in an Exposé of the Amur region in Blago. We supplied the community with information about the park and local wildlife as well as giving them an opportunity to have a hands on experience with some of the local amphibians. In an effort to interact and communicate more with the public, we gave an hour-long lecture about global warming and some of the specific affects it has on nature, wildlife, as well as people both locally and globally which was open to the public.

During the last couple weeks we also had a group of international scientists from Russia and Japan looking at the health of our baby storks.

And lastly, in our efforts to compile an extensive species list for the park, we have also started monitoring the populations of small mammals in both the forested and wetland habitat throughout the park.