Sunday, September 13, 2009

First half of September 2009

There is now a chill in the morning air reminding you that fall is here. Although we have not received our first frost just yet, it still is chilly in the morning with temperatures around 43 degrees F (5 C). The typical fall events are occurring here at the park – like the harvesting of our fields:

And the changing colors of the leaves:

We have been working on several projects for the wildlife in preparation for fall and winter as well… For instance, we have been placing piles of grain to help the pheasants, deer, and cranes to prepare for migration or fatten up for winter.

The insane growing season is finally winding down and it is a good time to remove a lot of grass and shrubs that are near the stork nests. As these plants die, they become huge piles of fuel for the upcoming fires we are anticipating in later fall and spring – and by clearing an area around the stork nests we can ensure that they will not fall victims to the fires themselves – as we saw earlier in the spring… After the brush was cleared we took an added precaution by spraying the trunks of the trees with a fire suppressing solution.

As we visited each of the nests this last week to remove the excess brush, we discovered that one of the nests utilized this year fell victim to high winds…. Judging by our data, this nest toppled over sometime in late-June/early July. We had visited this nest earlier in the season and banded three chicks. Unfortunately, the nest was destroyed before these chicks had fledged and all three perished.

Fall hunting is also well underway and much of the wildlife is seeking refuge close to the headquarters. This is especially true for ducks and the lake which is easily visible from the nature center had over 1000 ducks present this week!!

The bizarre caterpillars, which began appearing in late August are still popping up here and there in the bushes. Here are a few other species I have encountered this month:

September has also been a great month for the herpefauna of the park. It is hard not to see a toad or a frog bounding in front of you on the path and the very elusive treefrogs are also making themselves seen! The big excitement however, is the rediscovery of the Siberian salamander at the park… Once fairly common here, they have not been seen in sometime due to the drought and were presumed locally extinct. But several individuals were found during our monitoring.

In the world of birds, we are seeing an increase in the number of cranes. Upwards of 70 white-naped cranes now regularly fly in to roost below the terrace – There are little hooded cranes thus far with only the scattered group of 3 –7 individuals seen flying overhead. The two baby Red-crowned cranes are growing quite quickly and are a regular sight off the terrace. We were also greeted this week by a large flock of Azure tits… These beautiful birds are not that commonly seen at the park which makes any visit from them a somewhat special event.

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