Monday, August 29, 2011

Kronotsky Lake natural twilight theater.

The summer season got unexpected extention here in Kamchatka, so it is prohibited to stay indoors now.

I just came back from Kronotsky Lake and right away I am leaving my station again to go to caldera of Krasheninnikov Volcano. I will be offline for several days.

Originally posted by at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Little foxes"

These mushrooms are called chanterelle in English, but in Russian their name is "little foxes". Can you see why?

Here my little fox friend, Alisa, is eating delicious bog bilberries.
Originally posted at Лисички.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Autumn spirits.

Just several days ago it was crowded at my ranger station: family, colleagues, research staff. And now I'm alone again.

Just several days ago it was summer here. And now it is the beginning of northern autumn: first snowfalls in the mountaintops, first red and yellow leaves in tundra, flocks of birds gathering for migration.

Even the air tastes like autumn too, filled with smells of dry grass and mushrooms.

Originally posted by at Предосеннее...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kronotsky Lost&Found.

I found the radio transmitter from the bear collar (top photo) on one of the animal trails.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hunting for a ground squirrel: illustrated tutorial.

Alisa is the only fox around that trusts me completely. I can follow her anywhere and she would not even try to run away or hide to get rid of me. Couple of weeks ago, though, I couldn't simply keep up with her, her average speed was two times faster than mine.

Now, ripen bog bilberries are slowing her down a lot: she often stops to treat herself with some sweet berries, and during this time I can catch up with her. Sometimes, I even have time to pick some next to her. But the most interesting thing to observe is how she is hunting for ground squirrels!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A hunting moment.

My female fox neighbor, Alisa, is getting ready for a final strike to catch a ground squirrel.

Good morning from Kronotsky Nature Reserve!

Originally posted by  at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Almost sunflower fields.

Good morning from Kronotsky Nature Reserve!
We are resting from bears, foxes, and... I was about to say "from fogs", but that wouldn't be true. The fogs are here every day, including today.

The banks of Kronotskaya River are painted with these bright flowers for several weeks now. For myself I call them sunflowers, but technically it is a subspecies of ragworts.

Originally posted by at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Salmon runs - one of the most spectacular wildlife events!

The most spectacular action that I ever seen in wildlife is salmon runs on Kuril Lake, that is located in located at the southern tip of Kamchatka Peninsula, within the Southern Kamchatka Wildlife Refuge. This Refuge is a part of Kronotsky nature reserve, so in the past years I was lucky to work there. Now, in the middle of August, the most action is going on there. So let's virtually transport ourselves 250 miles south of my ranger station in kronotskaya tundra.

Kuril Lake is the largest spawning ground for sockeye salmon in Eurasia (if not in the world) and is of great importance to the world fishing industry. The fish is spawning in shallow waters of the lake and in the small rivers that flows into it.

The salmon that enters the lake does not rush to spawn right away. First it forms large groups of tens of thousands fish and "hangs out". Individuals in those groups stay so close to each other that these clusters look like solid red patches on lake surface from a helicopter. It was noticed a long time ago that fish does not fill the lake chaotically, salmon always moves along the shores in clockwise direction.

I was lucky to observe the fish entering a small river from the lake several past summers on a river Gavryushka, that flows into Kuril lake. The width of the river mouth is only about five feet and the depth at the shallow sand bar at the entrance to the river - couple of inches - it is easy to cross it without getting your shoes wet! Upstream from the entrance, which is part of the sand beach that surrounds the lake, the river gets deeper, and there are places near the banks with snags and boulders - the places where fish can hide from bears.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Too much to eat?

Our local bears, who just recently were so fit and slim, have got the bellies now, similar bear bellies, - it is the season of readily accessible food abundance.

Today on of them have stopped by on a helicopter landing ground near our ranger station. Apparently he thinks that crowberries are tastier here, even though they are covering everything around, I haven't ever seen a harvest as heavy as this year! In some places several layers of the berries are laying on the ground and it is difficult to walk: the "carpet" is too rich. As I walk I can feel how hundreds of berries explode under the soles of my shoes.

From a single point it is easy to gather a medium basket to eat, and you won't even need to move around. I am wondering if volcanic ash from Kizimen eruption this winter have such a wholesome effect on the soil...

Originally posted  at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Everyday scenes from Kronotsky.

Good morning from Kronotsky Nature Reserve!

One of Evildoer's cubs is patrolling the shores of the Kronotsky-Bogachevsky estuary.

Originally posted by at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer Fox-News!

For the past several weeks I was trying to get new photos of our friends-foxes, but with not much luck. The lush summer grass is always on the way. It is also problematic for foxes themselves to move through such abundant vegetation, so they often make use of bear trails.

For example, my female fox neighbor Alisa is using the bear beaten tracks that intersect near my cabin. She passes my window several times per day with prey in her teeth – that is the only moment when I can catch her on camera!!

Sometimes she is carrying birds, other times – ground squirrels, but most frequently - it is fish! Alisa has her own approach to handling fish – for her, the best fish is the fish without a head. As soon as she gets hold of salmon, dead or alive, Alisa eats his head and only then takes the rest to her cubs. In the end of July Alisa’s children left their first burrow, and now they roam from one temporary fox hole to another. I only see four out of original six cubs, the other two disappeared.

Alisa is a single mom now. Cosmo has lost all his interest in raising kids by the end of July, when the weather finally got hot by Kamchatka standards. But let’s not blame him too much for that, it is how foxes are. Now he is living all by himself, his fur has completely shed and he started to fatten for winter. It seems like the cubs are a burden for Alisa as well: as soon as she brings the prey to their hiding, she hurries to run away from them. Sometimes she takes rest from her kids in our backyard, where the grass is trimmed and therefore, there are fewer mosquitoes.

Mrs. Evildoer, on the other hand, was never easy to photograph, she is way too cautious – I don’t have a single good picture of her. But she is a great mother! All eight cubs, that survived a bear attack in the beginning of July, are doing well now. They are occupying three borrows at once now, the distance between the farthest is close to half a mile. Currently the instinct of digging is activated in all the cubs (Alisa’s and Mrs. Evildoer’s). They are broadening and deepening their burrows, spending most of their time digging.

Foxes do not have any food-related problems now: all the rivers and river banks are full of fish with more and more salmon coming upstream for spawning. The fox cubs sometimes pick up the fish themselves, but mostly for playing.

As it turns out, juvenile foxes are much more scared of humans than adults. I observed the same behavior among bear cubs as well – they would always be first to panic when a human approach. Probably the animal cubs have strong inherent fear of people. Only as they grow and only if they grow in the nature reserve, they learn that humans do not pose any danger and it is possible to peacefully live side by side.

This is how the largest of junior Evildoers look nowdays: he is very displeased by the fact that a human came up so close to his home.

Originally posted  at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Warm and calm weather has its downsides....

Wild reindeer is resting from bloodsucking insects in shallow waters of Kronotsky-Bogachevsky estuary, 7:06am, 4th of August 2011.

Good morning from Kronotsky Nature Reserve!

Past several days were warm and very calm. Mosquitoes, midges, horseflies and other bloodsucking insects are active all the time. If the weather forecast is right, in two days the rain and wind is coming. It should bring a relief for all the animals...

Originally posted at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A bear hug!

Translator's note:
Welcome to the English version of a blog by the nature photographer and environmental activist - Igor Shpilenok! Here you can use tags or list of entries at the bottom to navigate around.

Also, if you want to view the numerous comments to his original post and/or post your own, please use the link at starting "Originally posted at...", usually at the bottom of the post. There you can use "leave comment" option to ask author a question or just leave your feedback. Enjoy! :)

Originally posted  at Igor Shpilenok's blog in English. Мой блог на английском языке.

Mosquito eaters.

Good morning from Kronotsky Nature Reserve!

I got really annoyed by mosquitoes today, they were chasing me everywhere and finally made me run back to the station. So the choice of today's photos was easy - this is drosera, commonly known as sundews. This carnivorous plant feeds on mosquitoes and other small bugs by gluing them to its leaves with special trapping and digestion mechanism. Various species of drosera can be found growing natively on every continent except Antarctica (more in Wikipedia).

Sundews and cranberry flower.

Originally posted  at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Occupants of the morning estuary.

Good morning from Kronotsky Nature Reserve! These are the morning owners of the estuary.

A bear, fishing in the fog...

... and seals resting on the shallow water

Originally posted by at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A feast before departure.

Originally posted by  at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Good morning from Kronotsky Nature Reserve!

From the beginning of August large flocks of woodcock-berry-pickers arrived here. The tundra is full of simple whistles melodies every sunrise. These birds are fattening on rich local berries before continuing their migration south. The crow-berries are especially plentiful this year.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

There is trash even in the wildest corners of the World...

Today in Russia there is a country-wide activity going on: "Blogger against littering" (it was initiated by one of the popular bloggers in Russia, Sergay Dolya). At our ranger station the attendence was perfect! We were among the first in Russia who started this litter-cleaning event at 10 am local time, when it was still 2 am in Moscow. There were four of us: my sons, seven years old Makar and ten years old Andrey, my wife Laura and I. For today, we decided to clean two kilometers of reserve Pacific Ocean shoreline from man-made-debris and, by 3 pm we completed our task! The garbage, brought by the ocean, include parts of fishing nets and ropes, plastic bottles and other man-made objects. The ropes and fishing nets impose immediate danger to the wildlife here (do you remember what happened to Mr. Sneaky Evildoer two weeks ago..?).

Of course it is very important to keep our cities and villages clean. But also, it is important to remember that our trash is capable of killing wild animals if irresponsibly left in the nature. The bottle of soft drinks or alcohol thrown in the bushes will attract small animals that can often get trapped inside the bottle and die.

The cans can become a deadly muzzle for larger animals, such as foxes. The leftover food given to a bear will almost inevitably lead to it's future shooting. That is because the bear, that once tries human food will afterwards always try to get it more of it by any means. Every year in Kamchatka rangers have to shoot many such bears addicted to human "trash". This year is no exception, there were at least 10 bears shot for this reason in different parts of Kamchatka up till now, including one family of mother and two year old cubs that were fed by people on the road. They were fed by many visitors from their cars, and people even filmed them, before they were shot (you can watch a video of them, for example here).

unexpectedly we gained two additional participants to our activity: grown up male foxes joined us. Their actions, however were quite the opposite to ours, instead of collecting the trash, they were trying to steal it from our bags. One of the animals even started playing games with boys, that interrupted their productive work for a whole hour.

Originally posted  at И на краю света есть мусор... Сегодня в стране проходит акция "Блогеры против мусора".

Red on Blue.

Good morning from Kronotsky Nature Reserve!

Originally posted  at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The time to go home is getting closer...

Good morning from Kronotsky Nature Reserve!

On this exact date one year ago I left my home in Bryansk forest. The time to go back is getting closer. Today I was thinking what will I miss when I leave. I will miss the sounds of ocean waves, the snowy volcano tops, the freedom of emptiness of the tundra around my ranger station, the bears trails in high summer grass, the foxes under my windows... I will also miss the feeling of loneliness. And Kamchatka fogs! Every single day has started with a thick fog during the whole extend of the warm time of year near my house here.

And I really liked it! In the fog I like the smell of the wet grass, the vague silhouettes of bushes and trees, sudden and exciting encounters with animals. I like to see how the fog moves, like it is alive, how it shifts up as the sun warms it up and opens up the familiar surroundings. I love to return to the station in the damp clothes, light a fire in a stove, make the coffee and really enjoy every drop of it.

But there, back at home, there will be other joys of life...


Originally posted by  at Доброе утро из Кроноцкого заповедника!