Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rock climbing bears.

What would make this large male bear pretend to be an avid rock climber to climb up as these slippery rocks? This takes place in the middle of May in the Valley of the Geysers in Kronotsky Nature Reserve in Kamchatka. At this time of year the rest of Kamchatka is still covered with thick snow. These rocks are warmed by volcanic warmth, and covered with first lush grass. That grass must be very tasty for bears after they spent half a year with no food in their winter dens.

In the Valley of the Geysers bears graze on the river banks of the Geysernaya river as well as on the edges of the geysers. Geysers are hot, so in this area, despite all the precautions, people get injured almost every year. Do bears also burn their paws in hot geysers?

It is funny to watch how young and inexperienced animals behave around the geysers. They look like tourists who are left without a guide. When they first see eruption of geysers they get scared and try to run away burning their paws in hot. And only later they learn to carefully try the ground underneath before putting all weight on it.

Experienced animals find use of park wooden paths in the places where the land is especially hot...

...and use stones when crossing the hot springs.

And this bear has made the best prescription for his chemical burn injury: he submerged himself in the Geyser River for couple of hours. The cool waters cooled down the burn and washed away the chemicals. So the bear survived. As a matter of fact, there are no recorded deaths of bears due to chemical and temperature burns. As opposed to humans who did have lethal incidents...

Read more about my observations how bears avoid injuries at one of my previous posts (this link will take you to google-translation of the original story).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snow blizzard.

Kamchatka is a land of winds. There are often snow blizzards even with clear skies above. That happens when strong wind is dragging large masses of snow from one place to another in open tundra. In temperatures way below freezing these blizzards pose a serious challenge for humans. I have been knocked down by the winds several times while walking in this weather. This is the best weather to get yourself frostbites all over the face. Even opening eyes is a challenge…

Snow blizzards are just as difficult for animals… Especially given the fact that they don’t have cabins heated by fireplaces…

Golden eagle that ate too much.

This golden eagle has fought and won a salmon from a Steller’s sea eagle and has eaten half of the fish. He cannot eat any more. It simply does not fit… So the eagle is sitting on top of the fish remains, dozing and swinging from side to side; his eyes are clearly bleary of too much food… But he does not want to leave his catch unattended: as soon as leaves other birds will immediately finish it…

This picture was taken at the Lake Kurile in winter of 2007. I wish I could be there now…

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bear trails.

Bears are constantly on the move throughout their life. When travelling for large distances they use a system of trails that is believed to be several hundred years old. This system optimally connects their various hunting grounds and hibernation places.

The bear trail system is especially dense and entangled around salmon spawning rivers.

The ground under the trails is strongly compacted through the years by the paws of these heavy animals. Sometimes the grounds are so tight that you won’t even see the claw marks. It is often much easier to use these bear than going through virgin tundra for humans. However, there are certain drawbacks in such travel, for example, sudden close encounters with rightful owners of this system, the bears, are very frequent, especially in the places with tall grass around.

These are the Kronotsky Nature Reserve rangers on a bear trail. They are alert and armed with signal flairs. Usually, bears are very polite and give right of way to humans despite the fact that they are rightful owners of these roads of tundra.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nature reserve at my desk.

My life has been disconnected from the nature resently: I either work on the computer, preparing photos for presentations and books, or I find myself behind the wheel driving somewhere... I haven't even been to the forest this year, and that is despite the fact that I live on the border of Bryansk Forest Nature Reserve (Zapovednik Bryansky Les)... In order not to forget at least how to press the camera button I took this photo in the morning. And here you go, I've got three animals captured, a bear, a mouse, and a cat.

This is my famous cat, Ryska, who didn't always serve as my secretary. In the past she spend a cold and difficult winter with me in the middle of Kronotsky nature reserve in Kamchatka, in harsh taiga environment. Over there she showed how brave she is by protecting my cabin from foxes.

You are welcome to read more about this period of our life at this award winning photo description:
Respect by Igor Shpilenok at BBC Wildlife photographer of the year competition 2009

Or, if you understand Russian you can read more here:

Wild nature festival "Golden Turtle" and meeting with my dear readers in Moscow.

Tomorrow I am leaving to go to Moscow for the opening of Wild Nature festival Golden Turtle. My presentation there is scheduled for 20th of January at 3:30pm. For me, every festival like this is a great opportunity to spend time with my friends and meet new people who care about wild nature conservation. I plan to be in Moscow from 18th to 20th of January.

On 19th of January at 3pm I will be at Biblio-Globus book store for an informal meeting with my readers. At both of the meetings you will have a chance to buy my new book "My Kamchatkan neighbors".

You can find out details in the original post in Russian:

And on the photo, it is our friend, Cosmo (Кузя in Russian), who is curious about new icelings on my window.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Winter camouflage.

There are at least a dosen willow grouses pictured on this photo in winter tundra in Kronotsky Nature Reserve.

Animal tracks by the river.

Look how unusual these tracks look. The animal that left them has habitat ranging across all Eurasia. Click below for answer.

Snowshoe hare.

Blurred photos...

Wildlife photographers are usually fighting very hard for the sharpness in their images: they are saving money to buy very expensive and heavy, but fast lenses, they are carrying heavy tripods with them wherever they go, they use smart imaging software to improve the clarity of the image. And I have always been one of them... But maybe the sharpness is not all that important, should I concentrate on the blurry images, just like the ones below?

Wolverenes in tundra.

Thermal spring in the Uzon caldera in winter.

See more pictures of the Uzon caldera in Kronotsky Nature Reserve in this post:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Snowy fox.

Playing with first ice.

This November at South Kamchatka Sanctuary I was fortunate to observe a family of bears, mother and two cubs born earlier this year. These animals continued with their business even when humans were around: this allowed me to witness several intimate and seasonal moments of their life. Such as this one, where a bear cub is investigating the properties of ice for the first time in his life. 

Read original story in Russian here:

This is a photo that proves that I'm not the only adult playing with ice.