Thursday, April 22, 2010

Special Thank You

As with last year, our work here would not be possible without the help and support of many organizations and individuals. We are eternally grateful to all those who have supported the Parks endeavors. In particular, the work Cara and I are accomplishing have been supported by; The International Crane Foundation ( who provided us with airline tickets along with tons of emotional and logistical help, The Wildlife World Zoo ( and Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo ( who has again contributed financial support. Professor Baldassarre ( of SUNY-ESF provided a Spotting Scope and logistical support. Most recently, The Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy ( has provided funds to purchase a motorcycle to census waterfowl in the area.

Thank you all for your continuing help.

Mid-April Part 2

Well as I mentioned in my post several days ago, the idea of spring has finally hit the region! But the real sign of change came in seeing our first blooming flower!
Even with the warmer temperatures, all the lakes still remain frozen. The main lake near the headquarters has begun to thaw....albiet slow. It is still possible to walk on its surface and during the process it has created a beautiful, unique icy scene.

This spring shows alot of promise for the upcoming breeding season. The water level is much higher than last year and Sergei has remarked that he has not seen such a wet spring since 2000! We have been sinking waist high in some places when we are doing prescribed burning.

Migrants have been arriving more or less on schedule with last season's dates, but the numbers are lower. We have been able to band some of the early migrants like this red-flanked bluetail.

The last of the capitve birds (our four mandarin ducks) have been let outside and their exhibit prepared for the breeding season.

We acquired a new creature for education - A patterned ratsnake (Elaphe dione). This is a snake common to the forested areas in the southern part of the Amur Region, however it is not found in the park (no reptiles are found in the Park due to lack of wintering sites). The snake was a hit with the school children who visited the Park for Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mid April 2010

The snow has finally all melted here at the Park, although it is still quite cold. We had our first night that was above freezing on April 19th. The lack of snow means that the threat of wildfire has become a very real concern. We have begun to perform prescribed burns in the evening to prevent potential problems in a few weeks.

The storks have for the most part all laid their eggs. A few pairs are still in the process of constructing new nests - those who lost theirs in the fires or winds last season.

There is a considerable about of water in the wetlands this spring and I believe that this will translate into a better breeding season for the cranes. We have spotted at least 6 pairs of White-naped cranes and 2 pairs of Red-crowned cranes at the Park thus far.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Beginning of April 2010

Spring is the air here at the Park..but one look at the temperature guage and one would argue with me. It is still only around 0 degrees during the day and still drops considerably lower at night. despite this the snow is melting and the animals are peeking out.

The first migrants have begun to arrive at the Park. Skylarks, corvids (Carrion crows, jungle crows, and jackdaws), and rustic buntings are now a regular at the Park. A small flock of herons came to the Park, but seemed at little confused with the ice and snow still covering all of the open water.
Flocks of Pine buntings have been seen along the open spots in the road - - a bird that was not seen at the Park at all last year.

In preparation for all of these migrants, the Park has set out feeding stations in the wetlands and along the roads. We have unloaded five tractor loads of grains and several hundred kilos of frozen fish.

These feeding sites were easily encountered by the migrants who began immediately to refuel on all of this food. The first cranes arrived on the 30 of March and two date only two pairs of White-naped cranes have been seen at the Park. One pair has made complete use of the free food.
Storks arrived on the 2 of April and days later found our fish along the shores of the lake.

We have also been preparing our captive birds for the spring. Reed hiding places were placed in the crane pen to encourage nesting...and when the weather warmed up the birds were let out to enjoy the sunshine and outdoors once again!

We also made a special trip to several schools in the district to lecture on environmental issues of the region.

In the last several days there has been hope that winter will leave us for the year. The ice finally broke on lake Kapustiha..

One highlight of the week was the chance arrival of a steppe eagle... the juvenile bird made its way to our feeding stations and was immediately mobbed by the magpies and crows.