Digest February 2021

Chronicle of news for the month. 

On 28 January, there was a meeting of the Academic Council in the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve, where the plan of scientific and technical works was approved. The meeting was held in the hall of the central estate of the reserve expanded and renewed according to the Regulation of the Academic Council in the reserve. For those council members who were unable to be in person, a parallel online conference was organized. The main topic of the meeting was to develop a plan of scientific and technical works for 2021. Moreover, research of the Chronicle of Nature and observation of elements of the natural environment within the framework of environmental monitoring are fully carried out by the reserve. New research in 2021 are going to be the following: selection of marsh peat columns for spore-pollen analysis in order to reconstruct the history of forest and meadow-steppe vegetation in the Holocene, study of soil horizons connected with the search for traces of slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as detailed relief mapping using high-precision Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) survey. The reserve plans to publish an annotated list of spiders this year. The research plan for 2021 approved by the Academic Council will be published on the reserve’s website.  

It is February and not so far before the start of the fire hazardous season (it often occurs in the Moscow region immediately after the snow disappears. The Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve guards specially protected natural area from any human impact including preventing the occurrence and spreading of wildfires. On February 3, a training session of forest fire formation of the reserve was held in order to prevent and prepare for the dangerous period. The lecturers were two specialists from the VDPO Training Center: Nikolay Zhandarov, deputy director of the UKK VDPO educational institution, and Valery Kovtun, senior lecturer of the UKK VDPO educational institution. In the process of training, participants received theoretical knowledge and got practical part for development their skills (methods of fire extinguishing techniques using basic firefighting capability). Taking into consideration the fact that it is strictly forbidden to make a fire in the reserve, practical exercises used an imitation of a fire. To extinguish it, participants used heavy fire equipment. At the end of theoretical and practical studies, the staff of the reserve passed the exam and received certificates from VDPO Training Center. We hope that the acquired skills will never be useful and that the special equipment stays in the garage and will leave only for preventive examination and training in forest fire formation of the reserve. 

On February 6 and 7, winter route tracking (WRT) took place in the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve. It is an important event preceded by serous preparation work: it is necessary to work with staff, to lay a ski track on the routes (if possible), clear backlogs and wait for suitable weather. Several times during the winter, training was conducted for staff and volunteers planning to participate in the WRT on the determination of animal tracks. Classes were both theoretical and practical with field trips. This winter was snowy and frosty unlike the previous one. That is why the reserve employees hoped very much for a cleat nice weather, and finally it turned out to be a good moment. On Friday, the snowfall stopped and, a day later, fresh animal tracks became clearly visible in the forest – the time has come! The event was attended by representatives of all structural departments of the reserve: state inspectors, employees of the scientific department and environmental education, animal breeders and volunteers. The routes followed by the surveyors are distributed throughout the entire reserve. There are totally 11 of them, with a length about 100 km. On the first day, February 6, the surveyors diligently erased all the tracks they encountered, having previously written down the species of animals, their number and direction of movement in the route card. On the second day, February 7, each route was repeated in order to track how many new tracks appeared during the day after grouting. As a result, in two days, the surveyors walked twice along the perimeter of 47 quarters of the reserve, in total this distance was more than 200 km. Despite of the fact that there was a severe frost, animals were quite active. Numerous tracks of elk and deer were encountered. There were traces of wild boars, roe deer, hares, martens and squirrels. Furthermore, the presence of a lynx was noted. On the second day, a high activity of foxes took place – it seems that the rutting period began among the red inhabitants of the reserve, and frivolous chains of tracks dotted almost all the glades. Some animals and birds turned out to be quite careless: three times they allowed themselves to be seen by wood grouses, twice – by foxes and sika deer. Once the employee was forced to use his voice to drive away three surprised moose, who did not expect to meet two-legged in such frost, heavy snow, and, moreover, in the reserve. Now the obtained data will be processed and published in the scientific report of the Nature Chronicle reserve. We would like to express our gratitude to all the participants in the winter route tracking in 2021. This important and difficult work has been carried out in the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve every year since 1954 in order to provide data on the species composition and fluctuations in the number of animals in this specially protected natural area. 

February 13, the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve opened the photo exhibition called The Symbol of the Year Is a Pride of the Century. About 100 years ago, the largest mammal in Europe, the bison, was on the verge of complete destruction. Humanity almost lost the last wild bull, who for centuries lived next to it, entered the written legends of many peoples, personifying the strength and irrepressibility of wild nature. At the beginning of the last century, a species that practically ceased to exist was given a chance to survive! In the premises of the lecture hall, projects dedicated to the problems of restoring the bison population in Russia were presented: 

  • “On a Visit to the Bison”, a virtual tour of the Central Bison Nursery, organized in 1948 to bison’s recovery. 
  • “Orlov woodland – the territory of the bison”, a lecture on the largest group of free bison in Russia. 
  • “Forest, people and bison”, a lecture on the relationship between man and a rare species of animal living in the same territory. 
  • “Following in the footsteps of the project “Restoring forests – bringing back bison”, presentation on the successful experience of partnership between the charity foundation “Beautiful children in the beautiful world” and the national park “Ugra”. 

The children’s library hosted an interactive program organized by the staff of the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve for young friends of nature, and the adult library hosted a master class on painting by the watercolor artist Elena Vlasova. The program of the first day was completed by the screening of the film “4 seasons of the Prioksky forest”, which was filmed on the territory of the Prioksko-Terrasny reserve by documentary director Mikhail Rodionov during one calendar year. 

For a quarter of a century, there has been an interesting tradition in our country to choose a representative of birds as a symbol of the new year. Usually it becomes a well-known and easily recognizable bird. It all started in 1996, when the Russian Bird Conservation Union (RBCU) held the first “Bird of the Year” campaign. Ecological and educational events and environmental actions are dedicated to the selected bird. For example, in 2018, the osprey was the bird of the year, in 2019 the common turtle dove, and in 2020 the crane. In the new year 2021, the feathered symbol was not a large predator – a Falco vespertinus. Its body length is up to 30 cm, the wings have a span of up to 80 cm and a weight of up to 200 grams. Due to its small size, the Falco hunts large insects, such as beetles and dragonflies, but is ready to get acquainted with small rodents, as well as birds up to the size of a pigeon, although very rarely. A successfully caught insect can be eaten right on the fly. It is distributed in the forest, forest-steppe zone from Eastern Europe to Eastern Siberia. In the forest zone, although it reaches the middle and northern taiga, it is very rare everywhere. It is surprising that the fillies fly to Africa or South Asia for the winter, gathering in large flocks, and also return together. Departure for wintering takes place in August — September, but they usually arrive back to our places in May. They also nest in a colony, but they can also nest separately. For their nests, birds choose small woodlands, copses, forest belts. In the Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve, the presence of a Falco has not been registered for a long time, which is completely normal — the bird avoids solid woodlands and prefers open spaces. On the southern side of the Oka River, in the floodplain, Falco were found in 2007. 

On February 25, an ecological and educational event was organized in the visit center of the Prioksko-Terrasny State Nature Reserve for pupils of the Serpukhov and its district. “Holidays in the Reserve” was the name of the event, for which the specialists of the Department of Environmental Education and educational tourism of the Prioksko-Terrasny State Nature Reserve prepared very seriously. An interesting program waited for the young pupils of the Center, which began with the screening of the short documentary “Winter in the Reserve” — the audience quickly identified all the animals that appeared on the screen. Then the children took part in the environmental quiz “Interesting facts”. The audience turned out to be very interested and, as it should be at the lesson, everyone diligently stretched out their hands for an answer. Simple questions were not as easy as it seemed at first glance, but by joint efforts, the correct answers were found quickly enough. Everyone was a little tired, but the best rest wass a change of activity. After quickly holding a photo session with life-size dolls of “Bison” and promising to come up with names for them, everyone went on an excursion to the Central Bison Nursery, where real bison were waiting for them. “We are always happy to meet children from the Center, they strive for knowledge and are very grateful listeners, each of our meetings is a holiday,” said Marina Muzychenko, a leading specialist in tourism development who became one of the organizers of this meeting.