Monday, February 6, 2012


For those who came to my website to learn more about Muraviovka Park, please be aware that my feelings on the Park itself have evolved with the more experience that I had there. Of course the nature of the area is spectacular - but the current staff and director of the Park are not as they appear - that is they are not currently fulfilling the mission stated in the Park's website. I am saddened to have to say this or post this. I just wanted would-be visitors or volunteers to be aware of the current situation. These feelings are shared by Amur Oblast' s current governor and he recently expressed his concern with the park in a news clip that I have posted below from youtube:

I do hope that you still continue to view my photos of the area as they are spectacular and show much wildlife that is virtually unknown/unseen by many westerners.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beginning of May

The night of May 4th we again dropped below freezing but this still hasn’t stopped the forward progression of spring. Flowers are blooming, the trees are budding, the frogs have emerged and have begun to spawn.

Migrant birds are still arriving on schedule such as this pipit.

Waterfowl are beginning to appear on all the lakes which have just recently thawed. Periodically flocks of geese fly overhead.

The delay in the melting of the ice has left many of the waterfowl to find other bodies of water. Many ducks could be seen in ephemeral pools in farm fields. Two pairs of Mandarine Ducks have even been spotted in these pools, close to the road.

The pair of Storks have nearly completed their nest which they began constructing two weeks ago.

With the good that spring brings we have also noted our future demise. Millions of mosquito larvae have been seen twitching and writhing in all puddles.

At the beginning of the month we had our annual art contest to promote awareness of the problems wildfires have in the regions ecosystems.

Unfortunately, the message of wildfire prevention has not yet sunk in. At approximately 3:oo pm May 2nd smoke appeared on the horizon driven by strong winds.

The fire was heading in a north-eastern direction and had blazed across the majority of the west end of the Park. Then a shift in the winds caused the fire to change direction towards the Park headquarters. In a matter of minutes the fire had spread several kilometers and was literally at our doorstep. (Park headquarters marked in blue.)

We all struggled to control the fire and managed to subdue it within meters of the buildings.

By 6:30 pm the fire had been extinguished but left a devastating and grave aftermath.

From our best estimates 80-90% of the Park was severely burned.

Some of the heaviest tolls were two occupied stork nests, which were burned to the ground.

Although locations and numbers of crane nests were not available before the fire, we no doubt lost both White-naped and Red-crowned Crane nests. Given the severity of the burn it is unlikely that some, if any, pairs will be able to re-nest.

The fire not only affected the nests of the charismatic cranes and storks but also destroyed Magpie nests, Japanese Quail nests, and Pheasant nests.

Other animals lost more than just their nests.

Those animals that did survive are now left exposed to both predators, poachers, and the elements. Like the fox, badger, and deer.

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.