Do you love cranes as much, as I do? Oka Narute Reserve
February 28, 2018 / Nature reserves and national parks
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My summer turned out to be full of events, including volunteering programs. But for sure, one and a half day in Oka Nature Reserve was the most cordial, unusual time for me, full of affection, bravery and strong sense of the top importance of everything around.
The place is located in 120 km away from Ryazan, lowlands of Meshera river, the right coast of Pra river, village Brykin Bor. There is central villa of nature reserve. The bird farm of rare species of cranes was founded there in 1979. Firstly, it was done in attempt to preserve population of Siberian white cranes.
Some general info about white crane. Have you ever heard lyrics of Rasul Gamzatov:
"I sometimes think that the fallen soldiers
Who have not returned from fields of blood
Never lied down to rot beneath our soil
But must have flown off as white cranes..."
White crane is mentioned in folklore works a lot. So, this is the very bird, I am writing about.
It is relic species of graceful bird, now being under the threat. Under serious threat. They are under threat of dying out, disappearing forever. I don’t dramatize. White cranes are very old animals. During millions of years they lived happily on the Earth, until the human beings became the owners of the planet. Oil production, morass drainage on nestling places, enlarging of agricultural territories on wintering places, and the most disgusting, shooting birds in migration period by Pakistaniand Afghanistan resulted in awful things. “Yakut” population lowered to three thousands, and “Ob” population dropped to 20. No, not to 20 thousands, but 20 animal units! Although, they have probably disappeared by now… And plus to this sad numbers, here are sad facts about people mentality. In 2010 two white cranes had flown to Kondinskoe village (Ugra). They were brought up in Oka nature reserve and were set free. One was called Yamal and the other Itera. It was a unique case, great luck, when white cranes adapted to wild nature and migrated. A few weeks later folks of the village had shot this couple (might be just for fun).
Well, that’s enough about sad facts. Last tiny piece of info is left and I’ll start with my personal experience.
Not only white cranes live in bird farm, but also birds of all seven species of cranes, which inhabit Russia. They live for 80 years, and love once. They need to fall in love, start synchronic way of life and then they become mates. Cranes oviposit only two eggs, the elder baby bird kills the junior one. The reasons are clear, I think. The nature can be cruel. Of course, in bird farm both eggs are preserved.
First global task for volunteers of Oka Nature Reserve
We had to brought up two baby birds of Japanese crane, called Kanazava (eng. golden apple) and Miuki (eng. beautiful snow) by manual method, and baby birds of common crane, called Zinovii (for close friends just Zyama). These cranes hatched in May. We fed and water them 5 times a day, and took for a walk in woods and morass. I used to open aviary, clang to them and 3 playful winged kids 1,5 metres high were ready to follow me and explore the world. Feeling and experience that I had are indescribable. Communication with cranes formulates on totally different level, in comparison with human relations. Imagine that you run across field, wave your hands and baby birds join the game and repeat your movements, trying to shoot upwards. Then you go to the forest on a path, and they follow your steps going in a line one by one. When you sit down for rest, they start playing with your shoe-laces and zippers. They could easily distinguish people, and most of all they loved Polina, also volunteer, who brought them up since they were in eggs. Cranes knew their names, though it is incredible level for bird intellect. It is clear enough that such attachment to people will not allow them to live in wild nature alone. So, they will be distributed to various zoos in a year.
Second global task for volunteers of Oka Nature Reserve
Upbringing of baby birds with their parents. The task, I had to do most of the time. Every day, keepers of birds farm went to aviary, hidden in the woods, 3 times a day (in the morning, afternoon and in the evening). They had to feed about 2 dozens of crane mates. Eight of them were happy parents of baby birds that would be set free soon! And what atmosphere is in that aviary? Mature and mighty, accurate, aggressive, strong birds were trying to protect their children from potential danger from two-legged creatures (although we had only good intentions). White crane were especially passionate. You must know the character and habits of every bird, be able to scan its poses, understand the meaning of its call, know all that to escape sparring with the most violent cocks. So many times we fled from aviary as fast as we could, we invented different abstractive tricks, so many times we went to cranes with shields and swords (actually we had only swabs)… We did all that to make white cranes, Japanese cranes, common cranes, white-naped cranes and their offsprings safe and sound. And when baby birds grew stronger and more mature, they would be able to live in wild nature!
Every day we cooked food for them, rolled “sausages” from mixture of cottage cheese, eggs, carrot, gammarus, dandelion leaves, vitamins and something else. And I strongly felt that all these steps as crumpling jumble in hands, cutting fish with scissors, mixing water with vitamins, cleaning muddy buckets and sweeping sawdust with droppings are petty, but so important and necessary. The global aim of them is to help humanity to preserve wonderful birds in nature.
Stunning place, stunning people, stunning birds are here! It is so great that volunteering is rather developed nowadays and such ordinary guy without special knowledge in biology or ecology has an opportunity to be engages in significant deal!
The 9th of September is the World Day of Cranes. It is really important event, which reminds people about noble cranes and necessity to promote their preservation. I admire the work of Oka Nature Reserve staff, volunteers, ornithologists and other enthusiasts again and again. Especially I want to thank Cristina and Natalia, brave keepers, for the cooperative work. Even entering the enclosure of Barde (the most aggressive white crane) seems to be an easy task if fearless girls accompany you.
You know, sometimes proverb can be wrong, I don’t need titmouse in hands, just let me look at the crane flying high in blue sky!
https://vk.com/oksky_reserve group of Oka Nature Reserve
http://oksky-reserve.ru/ website of Oka Nature Reserve
http://priroda1937.livejournal.com/2955.html detailed history of Brykin Bor
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crane_(bird) about cranes
Author of the text - Igor Ogibin
Translated by – Inga Nazarova
Date of event - August 16-27, 2017
Date of publication - 28.02.2018