Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012
Apologies for the lack of news of the Autumn Great Bustard Census in Saratov.
I have been sending messages by Twitter but technology and I have our usual interface problem. I flew out to Moscow on Monday night and arrived at 4am on Tuesday.
I Moscow I met with the Russian Woodcock Group – another interest of mine, and then with the staff a Moscow Zoo about our forthcoming conference on breeding Great Bustards in captivity. In the afternoon I caught the overnight train to Saratov. I then had a very interesting meeting with the Director of the Board of Hunting for Saratov Oblast. He has received some funding to help the Great Bustard work and we also spoke about special anti poaching operations as although the Great Bustard is fully protected they are still hunted illegally.
Before leaving I was presented with a huge pair of Moose antlers and after receiving such a gift I could not refuse a vodka toast to the Queen. There then followed half a dozen other toasts, never minding it was 10 am.
I then met Mikhail Oparin in the Severtsov Institute Office and we headed out to the Field Station arriving in the late afternoon.
Since then the weather has been good for the census so we are up at 5 and out to the fields.
All my allocated squares have provided Great Bustards and the census has given a few other good sights as well: wolves, big flocks of several hundred Little Bustards and many raptors. The ploughed fields are full of Common, Steppe, Long Legged and Rough Legged Buzzards, presumably feeding on the rodents killed by the ploughing. Yesterday I saw 15 species of raptors and had great views of a Golden Eagle today.
The weather is turning against us now, and rain will stop our work as the tracks become impassable. I hope it manages to stay dry, even though one day of rest does have an appeal at the moment!