Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trip to Zeasky Reserve

The Russian Far East is an enormously diverse region where the landscape can vary from broad open spaces like those found at Muraviovka Park to high mountain boreal forests. As an education center, Muraviovka Park strives to provide opportunities that give the public a chance to visit and learn about these diverse ecosystems. In mid-August, the director of Muraviovka Park, Marina, and myself visited the zeasky nature reserve in the north of the Amur Region to look at creating an educational partnership for next summer. This reserve is vastly different from that of Muraviovka Park – it is a mountainous taiga forest, containing many rivers and streams. Within its boundaries are a plethora of animal species such as moose, musk deer, and brown bears. The purpose of the trip was to scout out the facilities, get an understanding of the ecosystem, and to meet with the local scientists and staff of the reserve. We spent several days on a boat within the reservoir with several scientists and then several days in the mountains. The visit was a success and we are now in the planning process of next year’s summer camp… Below are some photos from the trip:

August 2009

As usual in the Park, the month of August has given us an unparalleled beautiful sky. The sunsets have been extraordinary and earlier in the month the full moon loomed over.

The young swallows from in the house also made their d├ębut into the real world earlier this month. One by one with the urging of all flock members, each of the four babies spread their wings and took flight. They stayed near the house with the rest of the flock for just under a week before finally departing south for the year.

We have also observed another juvenile white-naped crane that has came into view with its parents…

Other signs of late summer are also evident. Many of the birds are molting, replacing their feathers and looking rather shabby in the process.

Nature has also continues with its nice bounty. In the wetlands and along the terrace, you can find wild onions and hazelnuts in addition to the continual berry harvest.

The bounty is at its height in our own personal garden as well. We have gotten a glut of zucchini, tomatoes, peas, potatoes and carrots. In addition, the fruit trees on the property are producing some of the tastiest pears and plums around. Mmmmmm.

The insects are still omnipresent – and any trip in the wetlands will cause you to itch and scratch for several hours afterwards. But in one such trip out into the wetlands, I found someone that is truly appreciative of all of these biting insects. I think that this individual may be considered quite rich within its species:

A new group of insects have emerged during this month – caterpillars. Many different and beautiful types have been spotted on the surrounding vegetation. Several types have very interesting survival strategies…One that I have observed had long hairs that projected from its body in a fashion that gave it an appearance of a spider. If it is started. It will raise its body in an ominous fashion – similar to a menacing spider. Another had false antennae on its rear to confuse predators as to which end is its head..

On the lake the ducks, gulls, and terns are beginning to aggregate. The photo below was taken of three gulls feeding on the lake. A good look at this photo reveals some unusual bodily positions of the birds in flight – one even has its head cocked around!

Lastly, a sad site at the lake was found. One of the baby Great crested grebe chicks was found dead. The cause of death appears to be the chicks attempt to swallow too large of a fish…

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Special Report!!!

On August 5th two young white-naped crane chicks were seen feeding with their parents and on the following morning two young Red-crowned crane chicks were spotted with their parents in the same vicinity!!! The park had not confirmed a successful nesting pair of red-crowned cranes in the park this year, which made this sighting a special treat!! Now comes the hard part of determining where they nested!!!

New news about the Park

More news has been reported about the park and can be viewed by clicking on the following three links:

News about fourth of July celebration:

Special interview with the Director of the Park:

News about this year’s international summer camp

End of July 2009

There has been a lot of activity around the park the past few weeks. But first I wanted say that I failed to mention in the last entry that we had a fifth crane species visit the park in late June – one Eurasian crane was spotted among a small flock of hooded cranes. It was only seen that morning and has not been spotted since. During the month of July we have had a lot of visitors and researchers visit the park. In particular, there were three hydrology students and one tourism student from Universities in Moscow as well as a PhD student studying waterfowl from Bristol University. In addition to people visiting the park – the park sent several representatives to a summer camp for children living in social shelters. This camp is located approximately five hours north of the park and provides an opportunity for these children to spend the summer in nature. Every year Muraviovka Park sends staff to teach children about the nature and ecosystems of Russian and about the importance of conservation.

In mid-July there was explosion of edible goodies in every inch of the park – currants, raspberries, bird cherries, and mushrooms to name a few. Everyone at the park has spend a little time gathering these treats and adding them to our meals….

The omnipresent rain of June has transformed the wetlands from its earlier state of dryness in April and June. Areas that were burned in early spring are now filled with tall grass and water is nearly waist high in some parts…

The wildflowers are still persisting in the wetlands, although they are not at their full glory like the month of June. There are however, two orchids that bloom in mid-July.

One of these orchids is unbelievably tiny and almost overlooked.

It is also hard not to notice that Mid-June is the season of love for many of the insect species. The air was filled with butterflies and dragonflies engaged in coitus.

At the headquarters, the swallows nesting at the house have successfully hatched out their four eggs and the chicks have been growing at an amazing rate. I think that within the next several days we will see them leave the nest!!

Another amazing spectacle at the house occurs each evening when millions of insects flock to the porch light. Although the light may be on for less then an hour, it attracts hundreds of species. Many of these moths are so exquisitely beautiful that you may spend hours just looking at the different colors and body shapes.

The work with the small mammals have also identified two new species that reside on the property – the reed vole and Innokov’s bat.

One of the most photographed and distinctive features of Muraviovka Park is Lake Kapustikha. It is easily visible from the headquarters.

But we recently purchased a new piece of equipment – a small inflatable boat – that has allowed us to experience the lake from a whole new perspective. The main purpose of the boat is to enable the hydrology students to conduct research about the lake. But the boat also allows us to get close to otherwise elusive wildlife and hard to see water plants.

Inevitably, the month of July has showed yet another marvelously beautiful and wild side of the park –

But all the beauty does come with a price – A very abundant price at that!!!