Posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Arriving in Moscow on Thursday evening saw a pleasant temperature, but all the ponds and lakes were still covered in ice.
I had a productive meeting with the staff at Moscow Zoo about captive breeding of Great Bustards and about the autumn conference on the same subject.
I am with Austin Weldon, making his first trip to Russia. We got a train on Friday afternoon and as we went south we could see the trees changing from stark blackness to a bright spring like green.
We arrived in Saratov late on Saturday morning to a temperature in the high twenties and bright sunshine.
On Saturday evening we were at the Diakovka Field Station where it was warmer still. Another guest joined us, a friend and colleague who is the Director of the All Russia Scientific Institute for Nature Protection. Matters concerning the licensing, keeping of birds and collaborative GBG work in Russia were discussed. Austin had a first taste of the Russian traditional toasting with vodka!
We started the census work on Sunday afternoon. As well as the Great Bustards I have seen a Booted Eagle, White Tailed Eagles, huge numbers of Marsh and Montagus Harriers, Little Bustards and a Bittern at the side of the road. I have also seen plenty of Demoiselle Cranes, both feeding in pairs and flying north in small flocks.
Spring arrivals like the Red Footed Falcons are here, but we await the Bee Eaters and Rollers.
The field tracks are rough and dusty, but when counting Great Bustards at leks it is always rewarding.