Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunrise in Chyornye Zemli Nature Reserve.

These are endangered saiga antilope gathering for water near a well location within Chyornye Zemli Nature reserve. Read more about this unique animal in these articles:

And at this web-site:

Spring colors of steppe!

I was quite unlucky with weather during the bloom of these beautiful wild tulips in steppes this year. It was plain and boring from sunrise to sunset. At times very windy. When it was calm I was improvising with macro-photography. I hope that these pictures at least partially will show you how beautiful are the colors of spring steppes.

"In mid-spring, tulips (Tulipa shrenkii, T. biebersteiniana) bloom red across the low green hills of the Manych Valley.  In fact, the tulips that are grown in Holland today and popular around the world originated from the Manych Valley.  The first flowers first traveled to Turkey in the 17th century, where they earned the name of the Turkish tulip, then went on to conquer Europe and the world.  Yet, the Shrenk’s tulip is highly endangered in its place of origin.
Tulips flower on a green backdrop of fescue (Festuca valesiaca) and feathergrass (Stipa lessingiana, S. capillata, S. ucrainica, S. pulcherima) steppe communities, which make up the majority of the plant cover in the zapovednik.  Islands are covered with tall grasses and flowers with purple, pink, yellow, white, and red blossoms. Hair-like feathergrass (Agropyron pectinatum), sea lavender (Limonium sareptanum), and sagebrush (Artemisia austriaca) are common in valley steppe habitats, while low shrubs (Kochia prostrata, Artemesia lerchiana, A. pauciflora, A. santonica) are found in drier areas.  Austrian flax (Linum austriacum) is common in areas.  Patches of desert are found in places that were subject to overgrazing or other human impacts.
Two species of feathergrass (Stipa zalesskii, S. ucrainica), Shrenk’s tulip, and meadow saffron (Colchicum laetum) are some of the endangered plants in the reserve listed in the Russian Red Book.  In all, there are 384 species of vascular plants in the zapovednik, representing 54 families. "

Original post:

Wild horses and wild tulips.

There is a small island on Lake Manych-Gudilo that is within Chernye Zemli Nature Reserve in the south of Russia. It is home to wild tulips and wild horses. I have spend several days in the end of April watching those horses and I can tell you wild horses behave very different from domesticated ones...

Original story can be found here:
Read more about these protected steppes here: 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

On-the-road impressions.

I spend the night of April 22nd on the banks of the Manych. I woke up to the sound of rain and someone signing deeply woke me up. The camels on the photo above were the ones signing. They come from a farm that I photographed below.

All along my way I see spring blossoms. The fruit trees in bloom make me happy when I see them in the villages I pass by.

Originally posted at

April 22nd is 12th day of my expedition. This is an expedition map:

A - Bryansky Les Nature Reserve (10.04.2013)
B - Национальный парк Орловское Полесье
С - Воронежский Заповедник
D - Воронеж, Воронежская область (15.04.2013)
E - Элиста, Калмыкия
F - Природоохранный фестиваль тюльпанов в Калмыкии (20.04.2013)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The first environment-oriented tulip festival in Kalmykia (Russia).

Yesterday morning was cold, windy and uncomfortable. The sun only appeared for a minute at the sunrise and hid in the clouds for the rest of the morning. I was crawling between the tulips in the morning frost, looking for inspiring view, but all in vain. Cold and tired I was going back to my home on wheels...

And as I reached it I found a surprise!

Several more photos from The first environment-oriented tulip festival in Kalmykia (Russia)..

Today is April 21, 11th day of expedition. Photos taken yesterday.
Originally posted at and

Friday, April 19, 2013

Kalmykian steppe.

Steppes are open, there is no shelter for a human or animal. It is a not an easy place to live. At nights it's freezing cold, and during the day, the heat of sun is interlaced with cold winds.

Above is a photo of local shepherd.  Below is this morning view, full of tulips.

Today is April 19th, day 9th of my expedition.

Originally posted at and

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Two villages are so different, but still in one country.

It has been just one week since I left home for this expedition. I took the top photo after my first overnight stop not far from Orlovskoe Polesye National Park. 

Bottom photo is from this morning in the steppe of Kalmykia. The tulips are blossoming! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


In the middle of the day today I made it to this southern city, Elista, and did my grocery shopping. After that I headed to the steppes, to wild tulips, 100 km away from the city. Just before going to bed, I found out that 3G internet is working well here. Stay tuned for tomorrow report!

Originally posted at

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunrise in Voronezhskiy Nature Reserve.

Early morning in high spring waters at Voronezhskiy Nature Reserve (Воронежский Заповедник). The snow is gone, fresh air is filled with birds' love songs... First spring flowers are covering the forest floor... Wonderful and happy morning for me...

Originally posted at

Bisons in Orlovskoye Polesye National Park.

First night I spent in Orlovskoye Polesye National Park (Национальный Парк Орловское Полесье). There, I was entrusted to feed supplement food to wild bison population. It is the most amazing feeling to be surrounded by these ancient animals. However, I had to escape to the roof of the truck from them: they are no bears, I don't know what to expect from them :)

Bisons were reintroduced to this area in 1996, and now mostly wild population is around 200 bisons. These animals gather for the supplemental food during harsh winters. Read more about this park in my earlier story here:

Originally posted at

Photo from the road.

First two days I was mostly driving; landscapes are passing by my windshield. Sometimes, the view outside catches my eyes, and I have to stop my truck to take a picture. Like this village in Bryansk Region called Krasnyi Kolodets (Красный Колодец - Red Well in Russian)...

Right now I made it to Voronezh Oblast.
Originally posted at

Friday, April 12, 2013

I am on my way to a dream expedition!

Since my childhood I had a dream to travel across Russia recording the beauty of wild nature... Today I am starting a journey of my dreams. It is planned to take 3 years for me to go in this car above from Western border of Russia to far East, all the way to Kamchatka and back. The photo above is taken by my brother, Nikolay Shpilenok. I am leaving my home Nature Reserve - Bryansky Forest.

At first I will be heading south to catch wild tulips blooming. Blossom of millions of wild tulips in steppes is one of the most spectacular nature event I have ever seen. I plan to participate in First Tulip Festival in Kalmykia, organized by nature activists. It will take place from 20th to 30th of April and everyone is welcome to join!Read more about this event here:

You can read more about my expedition here and here. And below are the photos from my previous, one month long expeditions around my home in Western Russia. Photos are by Nikolay Shpilenok.

Originally posted at:
Уже в дороге! 
I am on my way.
Приезжайте на фестиваль тюльпанов в Калмыкии!
Join me at Wild Tulips festival in Kalmykiya!
Почему в этом году я не полечу на Камчатку.
Why am I not flying to Kamchatka this year.
Живет во мне мечта...
I have a dream...