Majestic nesting golden, steppe, and white-tailed eagles are
among rare and endangered species finding sanctuary in this
virgin forest-swamp steppe territory. This 50-square-mile
(130-km2) U.N. Biosphere Reserve in the mid-Russian uplands,
only six miles (10 km) from Kursk, preserves the world’s
last intact chernozem, a broad strip of deep rich humus known
as “black earth”, a yard or more deep.
Mostly converted to agriculture, here it is home to more
than 800 species of butterflies, more than 200 bird species,
and 46 kinds of mammals, including moose, roe deer, wild boars,
red foxes, badgers, Siberian polecats, and blind mole-rats.
Living entirely underground, these bizarre creatures with no
tails or ear cavities, their eyes closed under a layer of skin,
emerge only once in their lives, to burrow a new den.
A succession of brilliant wildflowers burst into bloom from
early spring on—purple pasqueflowers, golden-yellow
cowslips and pheasant’s eyes, blue forget-me-nots, rare,
shimmering azure feathergrass and fernleaf peonies, rose
daphnes and a succession of wild fruit trees—cherries,
apples, pears, blackthorn prunes.
Flutelike songs of European golden orioles float through the
canopy in summer, contrasting with screeches of quarrelsome
corncrakes. Brilliant Eurasian (European) rollers, aquamarine
with bright chestnut backs, nest in hollow trees, as do hoopoes
with showy Indian-chief crests. Black kites sometimes re-use
nests of other large species such as northern goshawks and
common buzzards. Other rare nesters are peregrine and Saker
falcons, long-legged buzzards, and Levant sparrowhawks.
Greatest problem is layout of this preserve in six separate
tracts vulnerable to encroachment and poaching from surrounding
villages. A system for linking corridors is in planning
ALSO OF INTEREST
In addition to zapovedniks found in Southwest Russia there
are a number of important national parks, among them
Nizhnyaya Kama, 100 square miles (261 km2), particularly
good for raptors, including white-tailed, golden, short-toed,
and imperial eagles, and Saker and peregrine falcons.