It is believed that the winter months are the time for processing of collected materials and analysis of the obtained data. However, for the scientists of the reserve, winter is filled with interesting events − scientific expeditions. During this period it is possible to reach protected areas, which are difficult to pass in the rest of the year.
So, at the end of January, a research expedition to the southern part of the reserve took place. Researchers, accompanied by a forest guard, visited the Kraitsy and Palik forestries in the natural boundaries "Uvyazok" and "Zaluzhye", as well as in the floodplain of the Smolyanka River. The hiking route was about 15 km long. This winter, field work is proceeding in comfortable weather conditions. Slightly low air temperatures, shallow and stable snow cover are just perfect for going through the frozen forest.
The main purpose of scientific expedition was to search for the nests of rare birds and traces of large animals in the area. Researchers visited remote places surrounded by marshy black alder forests. On the way of research route, areas with young spruce undergrowth alternated with territories of the real southern taiga, where 200-year-old pines are pretty common.
Researchers noted fresh tracks of three lynxes on the snow.
One of them made a refuge under an old summerhouse.
A male capercaillie was found on a forest road, as well as traces of a hazel grouse.
Many traces of ungulates were noticed, the most common include elk footprints on the snow and trees with damaged bark.
One of the tasks of scientific research was searching for and examinating the nests of the rarest bird species included in the Red Book − the black stork. In a dense swampy pine forest, the habitation of this secretive species of birds was found and explored. A massive nest about a meter in diameter was located at a height of 10 m above the ground.
Their location is typical – in the lateral crotch of the branches of the main trunk of age-old pines. Storks often use their nests for many years. Therefore, there is a very high probability that the detected nests will be populated by black storks in the spring of this year as well. A nest of a bird of prey was also found on an alder tree.
The camera traps installed earlier were checked, then hung in new areas of the protected forest, where the activity of wild animals is the greatest.
On the way back from the monitoring route through a spruce forest, the researchers found traces of a brown bear on a forest road. The width of the footprint of its front paw was about 16 cm. Most likely, the melt water during the thaw, which lasted more than a week just the day before, flooded the place where the animal hibernated, which forced it to wake up and leave the den. During warmer winters, bears may wake up and roam nearby in search of a more suitable place to sleep. One animal can have several interchangeable dens (from 2 to 5 were found in the reserve). Sometimes the bear fails to find a suitable place to hibernate again before the next frost. Such “rolling stones” roam the territory of the Berezinsky Reserve in search of food, as their fat accumulated by winter is quickly depleted.
Interesting finds were a partisan dugout and the remains of a carriage from a light artillery gun of the World War II.
The difficult, but rewarding research work on monitoring wildlife by the staff of the scientific department continues. And wildlife, in turn, prepares curious meetings with its inhabitants throughout the year.
Photos by Denis Ivkovich, Alexander Rak and Christina Malkova