Our Beautiful World


Part 9: South of Chukota - Kamchatka, Ussiraland

Animals, birds and flowers on this page:

Common nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus
King Crab, Paralithodes
Amur peony, Paeonia obovata
Siberian Musk Deer,
Moschus moschiferus
Fritillaria kamtschatica
Red-crowned cranes, Grus japonensis
Asian Black Bear,
Ursus thibetanus
Magnolia obovata
Rufous-backed Bunting,
Emberiza jankowskii
Fire-bellied Toad,
Bombina orientalis
Rhododendron camtschaticum
Great Bustard, Otis tarda Red-eyed Treefrog, Hylidae sp more...
Red Parrotbill,
Paradoxornis heudei

From a rearranged translation of Vladimir Dinets original pages to norwegian, with supplements.

Klikk på flagg for norsk versjon

South from Chukotka is the Kamchatka Peninsula, mostly known for its active volcanoes. Its tundras, birch forests, rocky coasts
and the isolated area of conifers in the central valley are a wildlife paradise. Here the world's largest brown bears and sea-eagles
live. In recent years, gold mining became the main treat to peninsular ecosystems, as river pollution threatens Kamchatka's
salmon populations - critical food source for the wildlife.

Amur peony, Paeonia obovata, Ussuriland.

Peony or paeony is a name for plants in the genus Paeonia, the only genus in the flowering plant family Paeoniaceae.
They are native to Asia, southern Europe and western North America. Boundaries between species are not clear and
estimates of the number of species range from 25 to 40.

Most are herbaceous perennial plants 0.5 - 1.5 metres tall, but some resemble trees up to 1.5 – 3 metres tall.
They have compound, deeply lobed leaves, and large, often fragrant flowers, ranging from red to white or yellow,
in late spring and early summer.

View of Ichinsky Volcano
from the Central Valley.
Atlasovo, Kamchatka
The Central Valley of Kamchatka is an island of boreal forest, made up by endemic varieties of Ayan spruce, Picea ezonensis, and Dahurian larch, Larix gmelini.
Many species of forest plants and animals are represented by local subspecies
there. Unfortunately, these unique forests have been almost completely logged,
so now all you can see outside nature reserves is young secondary forest..

Larch, Larix, Larches are conifers in the genus Larix, in the family Pinaceae. Growing from 20 to 45 m tall, they are native to much of the cooler temperate northern hemisphere, on lowlands in the north and high on mountains further south. Larch are among the dominant plants in the immense boreal forests of Russia and Canada.

Northern Kamchatka is almost never visited by tourists. Native population is
small, so the vast tundras and mountains are more or less untouched by civilization.
In summer, you can travel here for weeks, feeding on mushrooms, berries, and
salmon, and never seeing people. Parapolski Dol depression in Northern
Kamchatka is an important stopover site for migrating birds.

Boletus edulis, commonly known as penny bun, porcino or cep, is a basidiomycete
fungus, and the type species of the genus Boletus. Widely distributed in the Northern
Hemisphere across Europe, Asia, and North America, it does not occur naturally in
the Southern Hemisphere. The western North American species commonly known as the California king bolete (Boletus edulis var. grandedulis) is a large, darker-coloured variant that was first formally identified in 2007.
King boletus, Boletus edulis,
is an importantfood source for
native people and wildlife.
Kazarka Lagoon, Kamchatka

Kingberry, Rubus regius,
Uzon Caldera, Kamchatka

Uzon Caldera, Geyser Valley and other volcanic areas of the Russian Far East
may contain even more unique and diverse microflora than Yellowstone, but most
of them have never been studied using modern methods of microorganism
detection. Hot lakes and lush vegetation around them attract wildlife, from
endemic insects to bears and wintering whooper swans, Cygnus cygnus.

"Stove" Geysir,

Geyser Valley is by far the most famous place on Kamchatka Peninsula. It is small compared to Yellowstone, but has higher concentration of geysers and hot springs with more variety of weird-colored mineral deposits. Unfortunately, most of its wonders are not close enough to the helipad and cannot be seen on a regular one-day tour. Further upstream, there is seldom visited Valley of Death. Due to high concentration of carbon dioxide on its floor, this valley is sometimes full of bear and wolverine corpses.

Carbon dioxide (chemical formula CO2) is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. It is a gas at standard temperature and pressure and exists in Earth's atmosphere in this state, as a trace gas at a concentration of 0.039% by volume.

Carbon dioxide is mainly produced as an unrecovered side product of four technologies: combustion of fossil fuels, production of hydrogen by steam reforming, ammonia synthesis, and fermentation. It can be obtained by or from air distillation, however, this method is inefficient.

The combustion of all carbon-containing fuels, such as methane (natural gas), petroleum distillates (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, propane), but also of coal and wood, will yield carbon dioxide and, in most cases, water.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide

Upstream from Geyser Valley is a grim place called Valley of Death. Carbon dioxide seeps from the soil there, forming a dense layer on the ground. This toxic layer can be up to 60 cm thick in predawn hours. Every spring, reserve rangers try to get to this place and remove dead animals (mostly bears and wolverines), so that their corpses do not attract other scavengers to the deadly trap.
Valley of Death,

Tolbachik (right) and Klyuchevskoi (left) volcanoes.
Klyuchevskaya Group of Volcanoes is one of the most impressive volcanic landscapes in the world. Constant volcanic activity created eleven beautiful stratovolcanoes, surrounded by lava fields and dust deserts. In 1988 I found breeding common nightjars, Caprimulgus europaeus in these lava deserts, a few thousand miles from their previously known breeding range.

Common nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus
© http://www.ecosystema.ru/

The European Nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus, or just Nightjar, is the only representative of the nightjar
family of birds in most of Europe and temperate Asia.

It is a late migrant, seldom appearing before the end of April or beginning of May. It occurs throughout northern
and central Europe, and winters in Africa, as far south as the Cape.

In southern Europe, and the warmer parts of Africa and Asia, it is replaced by other members of the nightjar
family. In Great Britain and Ireland it occurs in many suitable localities, but in the Shetlands and other northern
islands it is only known as an occasional migrant. It is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
The Irish population has declined significantly in recent years.

Open heathy wastes, Lowland heath, bracken-covered slopes and open woods are the haunts of the
crepuscular Nightjar.

Common nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus

No nest is made - they occupy unvegetated gaps:
* lowland heath - unvegetated gaps in deep heather in dry heath. This offers shelter and camouflage, and concealment from potential predators. Scattered trees are used to sing from, and to roost in.
* In conifer forest clearings, clearfells and restocks, especially those on former heathland, nightjars use vegetation structures that are very like that on heathland, as well as gaps in lying brash, for concealment.
* In coppice woods, nightjars nest in large recently cut coups (clearings), which remain suitable until the canopy closes, in about four to five years.

The two elongated and elliptical eggs, creamy white mottled with brown, purple and liver-colour are placed upon the bare ground amongst bracken or stones; the brooding bird, sitting closely, is their best protection. They are seldom laid before the end of May. The male occasionally broods. The female will "squatter" away to attract attention if disturbed, rolling and fluttering in a perfect frenzy.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Nightjar

Klyuchevskaya Sopka, the tallest of Kamchatka's volcanoes, is rapidly growing, and currently rises to 5800 m (17,000') almost from the sea level. It is also one of the most beautiful peaks in the area, although Kronotsky Volcano has even more perfect shape.

Klyuchevskaya Sopka

Klyuchevskaya Sopka

Koryaksky Volcano at sunset.

Kronotsky Lake and Volcano
Altogether, there are about 500 volcanoes in Kamchatka, and 50-60 of them are still active or dormant. Their slopes are inhabited by ptarmigans, snow sheep and marmots, Marmota camtschatica.

Southern Kamchatka is mostly uninhabited. It is a land of world's heaviest snow cover (25-30 m/80-100' on average), deep canyons, and the world's largest salmon run at Kurilskoe Lake, which attracts hundreds of brown bears.

Volchy (Wolf) Fjord,
Southeastern Kamchatka.

Kurilskoe Lake and Kambalny
Volcano, Kamchatka.

Boarding a ship
to Kamchatka, Bering I.

Sunset and furseals at
Commander Islands, Russia
East from Kamchatka is the Russian part of the Aleutian Islands - the Commander Islands, always wrapped in sea fog. They were so difficult to find in the sea that the Aleuts had never discovered them until Bering's expedition found them by chance. Even now, getting there can be a problem because of the weather.
There is only one village on the islands, inhabited by Russians and Aleuts - descendants of Russian-American Company employees, who were brought there in the 18th century to hunt fur seals and sea otters.

Øst for Kamchatka ligger den russiske delen av Aleute-øyene. of the Aleutian Islands - the Commander Islands, alltid innhyllet i tåke.
De var så vanskelig å finne ute i havet, at Aleutene aldri hadde blitt oppdaget,
om ikke Bering-ekspedisjonen fant dem ved en tilfeldighet.
Selv nå kan det være et problem på grunn av værfoholdene. Det er bare en landsby på øyene, bebodd av russere og Aleuter, etterkommere av det Russisk-Amerikanske kompaniets ansatte, som ble satt ut der i det 18. århundre for å jakte på pelsseler, Callorhinus ursinus, og sjøotere, Latax lutris - Enhydra lutris

The Pacific Rim is probably the best place to watch sunsets. This one was really a good luck, because there are only 20-30 sunny days per year at Commander Islands. These islands are so well hidden in sea fog, that even the Aleuts had not found them until Bering's expedition discovered them occasionally in the 18th century.

The endemic species - Steller's sea cow, Hydrodamalis gigas, and flightless cormorant, Phalacrocorax stelleri are long extinct, but the islands still have some of world's largest fur seal rookeries, seabird colonies, and kelp forests. Three species of rare Aethia auklets breed here.

Endemism (Zoologic) is the ecological state of being unique to a defined
geographic location, such as an island, nation or other defined zone, or habitat
type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are
also found elsewhere. For example, all species of lemur are endemic to the
island of Madagascar; none are native elsewhere. The extreme opposite of
endemism is cosmopolitan distribution.
Red-legged kittiwakes,
Rissa brevirostris,
one of the species of
American origin on
the Islands.
Glaucous-winged gull
Larus glaucescens
here nests only at
fur seal rookeries.

Snowy owl protecting
its nest,
Medny Island, Russia

The Commander Islands are a good place to see some rare seabirds and cetaceans. Each of the two larger islands has its own subspecies of Arctic fox, and in upland areas there are isolated populations of some tundra species, such as snowy owl, Bubo scandiacus.


Common colonial seabirds of Commander Islands, left to right: tufted puffin, Fratercula cirrhata, horned puffin,
Fratercula corniculata, common murre, Uria aalge, pigeon guillemot, Cepphus columba, and red-faced cormorant,
Phalacrocorax urile.

© http://staff.aist.go.jp/y.ishizuka/ikip/ikip.html

The most spectacular, diverse and understudied part of RFE are the Kuril Islands - a volcanic chain between Kamchatka and Japan. Northern islands are covered with alder and pine shrub; moving south, you pass through tundra, coastal meadows, birch parklands, dense conifers and subtropical rainforests. World's largest and most diverse seabird colonies can be seen in the central part of the island chain.
Birch parklands, Iturup I.
Morning off Matua I.,Middle Kuril Is.

Kuril Islands are currently almost uninhabited. The southern part is claimed by Japan, and there are plans for full-scale colonization and commercial development. Marine and terrestrial ecosystems, especially unique marine invertebrates and mammals, are under serious treat.

Opprinnelig var farvannene utenfor bedre enn dem utenfor California, men århundreder med slakt har ført til utryddelse av noen arter, og kraftig tilbakegang for andre. Nå er det bare de fjeneste øygruppene som har stor bestand av marine patterdyr. Nordlige Kurillene, tatt av Russland i 1945, og er en av de beste stedene - de fleste arter, untatt for dem som overvinterer i japanske farvann har fullstendig restaurert seg.

The Kuril Islands are one of the most beautiful parts of our planet, their natural wonders could be a great tourist attraction. The best way to settle the claim would be to establish a Russian-Japanese Nature reserve on the islands. There are a few existing reserves in the area, but they can't efficiently protect it from mining and overfishing.
End of The World Cape, Shikotan I.
Lava formations at Kunashir I.
(Hokkaido I., Japan, is visible on the horizon)

But if they were openly or secretly sold to Japan by the corrupt Russian government, they'd be soon covered by golf courses, paved highways, and canning factories. The first projects had already emerged and had been discussed by local authorities even before most of the population left the islands following a tsunami in 1994.

Lava formations at Cape Stolbchaty

View of Shiretoko Peninsula, Japan,
from Cape Stolbchaty

Under the Japanese ownership of the islands in 1904-1945, native Ainu people
were killed or deported. Most seal rookeries, sea otter and whale populations were depleted, and forests loggeed. It took local ecosystems half a century to recover. Some species, such as the endemic race of sika deer, Cervus nippon kurilensis, became extinct; others, such as sea otters, have only survived in the northern part of the island chain.

(Viewpoints regarding the dispute between Russia and Japan, is from
the pages of Vladimir Dimets, and stands for his view alone.)
Shikotan, Russia



Flowers of the Kuril Islands, left to right: Fritillaria kamtschatica, Magnolia obovata, Rhododendron camchaticum, Arisaema japonica

Fritillaria is a genus of about 100 species of bulbous plants in the family Liliaceae, native to temperate regions of the
Northern Hemisphere. The name is derived from the Latin term for a dice-box (fritillus), and probably refers to the checkered
pattern, frequently of chocolate-brown and greenish yellow, that is common to many species' flowers. Collectively, the genus
is known in English as fritillaries; some North American species are called missionbells.

Magnolia is a large genus of about 210 flowering plant species in the subfamily Magnolioideae of the family Magnoliaceae.
It is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol.

Magnolia is an ancient genus. The flowers have the possibility to encourage pollination by beetles. To avoid damage from pollinating beetles, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are extremely tough.

The natural range of Magnolia species is a disjunct distribution, with a main centre in east and southeast Asia and a secondary centre in eastern North America, Central America, the West Indies, and some species in South America.
Sources: Wikipedia

Rhododendron camtschaticum

Golden Waterfall owes its color to an
undiscribed algae species. Kunashir.
Fumaroles at Mendeleev
Volcano, Kunashir.
Shikotan Island and the southern part of Kunashir have particularly high biodiversity. Many species of plants are common on the islands, but rare or endangered elsewhere. Hot springs and lakes shelter a world of heat-adapted organisms which nobody has ever studied.

Shikotan, in Russian, , is one of the bigger islands of the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia. It is one of the four southernmost islands which Japan maintains a claim for.
It is one of the islands the Soviet Union agreed to transfer to
Japan in the event of a peace treaty between the two countries.
The name of "Shikotan" derives from the Ainu language and
means "land with big communities."

Among the rare birds of Kunashir and Shikotan are Red-crowned crane, Grus japonensis (japonicus),
Blakiston's fishing owl, Bubo blakistoni, two sea eagles, Haliaeetus, and mountain hawk-eagle,
Spizaetus nipalensis, which nests on the rocky summit of Mendeleev Volcano. Unfortunately, these two islands will probably be the first to be re-colonized and intensely developed by the Japanese.
Sea Eagle,
Northern fulmar
Fulmarus glacialis, off Iturup I.

Marine ecosystems will be probably hit even worse than terrestrial ones.
Beaches around the four remaining villages on the southern Kurils are lined with
fishing and whaling boats confiscated from Japanese poachers, who daily cross
the border looking for fish, sea urchin, crab, dolphins, whales and seaweed.

King crabs, Paralithodes, and related species are highly prized
and mercilessly harvested throughout the North Pacific.

The day the border will be opened, the massacre will begin full-scale. Japanese opinion on whaling is well known, there is little doubt that these activities will not be stopped by the government soon enough. Estimates suggest that it will take 2-3 years to do an irreversible damage to marine and forest ecosystems, and that in 5-10 years almost all rare and endangered species will be wiped out.
Hardwood forest with
dwarf bamboo (Susa)
in the undergrowth, Kunashir..


Amur is the largest river of RFE. Its valley is mostly developed, but some fine forests and wetlands still exist. The river itself is home to over 200 fish species, some of them very impressive.

Giant kaluga sturgeon,
Huso dauricus, Amur River,

The Kaluga (Huso dauricus) is a large predatory sturgeon found in the Amur River basin. Also known as the river beluga, they are claimed to be the largest freshwater fish in the world, with a maximum size of at least 1,000 kg and 5.6 m. Like the slightly larger Beluga, it spends part of its life in saltwater. The Kaluga is one of the biggest of the sturgeon family.

Kaluga caviar comes from the Kaluga "River Beluga" sturgeon.

Larch taiga, Zeya River, Russia.
Fir taiga, Amut Lake, Russia.

Rare and endemic birds of the area include Siberian grouse, Dendragapus falcipennis,
Baer's porchard, Aethya baeri, oriental stork, Ciconia boyciana, swan goose, Anser cygnoides,
Scaly-sided merganser, Mergus squamatus, Swinhoe's rail, Coturnicops exquisitus,
Japanese waxwing, Bombycilla japonica, and many others. Some birds are common here, but rare in other parts of their range, such as smew, Mergus albellus, azure tit, Parus cyanus,
and Eurasian eagle owl, Bubo bubo.
Eagle owls,
Bureya River, Russia.

Khanka Lake.
Hooded crane,
near Evoron

Five species of cranes breed in Amur Basin. Demoiselle cranes, Grus virgo,
and common cranes, Grus grus, cranes are widespread, but others are mostly endemic
to the area. Red-crowned cranes, Grus japonensis, white-naped cranes, Grus vipio,
and hooded cranes, Grus. monachus cranes can be easily seen on their wintering grounds in Japan, but it is much more interesting and challenging to look for them during the breeding season.

ARKive video - Japanese crane - overview
Japantrane, Grus japonicus
BBC Natural History Unit

See more here

Ussuriland, the southernmost part of the Russian Far East, has especially diverse flora and fauna, with a strange mixture of
Siberian and Oriental species and a lot of endemics. Here the ecosystems face numerous problems, such as rapidly growing
Chinese immigration.

Within a decade (1990-2000), local populations of snakes, medicinal plants, musk deer, Moschus moschiferus and
bears, Ursus arctos, Ursus tibetanus, have collapsed. Now many species are caught and smuggled out of the country for
pet and souvenir trade. International organizations try to help protect some species, but they mostly care about large animals,
such as tigers or cranes. Overcollecting of rare insects of Ussurilandis also a problem. Among the birds suffering from illegal pet trade are robins, (Luscinia, redstarts, Phoenicurus, buntings, Emberiza, rock-thrushes, Monticola, various finches and flycatchers.

Moschus moschiferus
© www.ecosystema.ru

The Siberian musk deer, Moschus moschiferus, is a musk deer found in the mountain forests of Northeast Asia. Its is most common in the taiga of southern Siberia, but is also found in parts of Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Manchuria and the Korean peninsula. It is largely nocturnal, and migrates only over short distances.
It prefers altitudes of more than 2600 m. Adults are small, weighing 7–17 kg.

The Siberian musk deer is classified as threatened by the IUCN. It is hunted for its musk gland, which fetches prices as high as $45,000 per kilogram. Only a few tens of grams can be extracted from an adult male. It is possible to remove the gland without killing the deer, but this is seldom done.

The most striking characteristics of the Siberian musk deer are its vampire teeth and a face like a kangaroo. Males grow the teeth for display instead of antlers. A distinct subspecies roams the island of Sakhalin
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberian_Musk_Deer

The Asian black bear, Ursus thibetanus, also known as the moon bear or white-chested
bear is a medium-sized species of bear, largely adapted for arboreal life, which occurs
through much of southern Asia, Korea, northeastern China, the Russian far east and Honshu
and Shikoku islands of Japan.

It is classed by the IUCN as a vulnerable species, mostly due to deforestation and active
hunting for its body parts. Though largely herbivorous, Asian black bears can be very
aggressive toward humans, and have frequently attacked people without provocation.
The species was described by Rudyard Kipling as "the most bizarre of the ursine species."

Asian black bears are diurnal, though they become nocturnal near human habitations.
They may live in family groups consisting of two adults and two successive litters of young.
They will walk in a procession of largest to smallest. They are good climbers of rocks and
trees, and will climb to feed, rest, sun, elude enemies and hibernate. Some older bears may
become too heavy to climb. Half of their life is spent in trees and they are one of the largest
arboreal mammals. In the Ussuri territory, black bears can spend up to 15% of their time
in trees. Asian black bears break branches and twigs to place under themselves when
feeding on trees, thus causing many trees in their home ranges to have nest-like structures on
their tops.Asian black bears will rest for short periods in nests on trees standing fifteen feet
or higher. Asian black bears do not hibernate over most of their range.
Source, incl. picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_black_bear

Asiatic Black Bear (Wroclaw zoo)
Photo: Guérin Nicolas

Asiatic Black Bear suckling_cubs

Firebelly toad
Bombina orientalis,
Russia's most beautiful frog, is now common
only in Western pet stores.
Tree frog,
Hyla orientalis,
another victim
of pet trade.

Bombina orientalis

The Fire-bellied Toads is a group comprising eight species of small toads (typically no longer than 3,5cm)
belonging to the genus Bombina. Common variants of the name 'Fire-bellied toad' include 'firebelly toad' and
'firebellied toad'.

"Fire-bellied" is derived from the brightly coloured red- or yellow-and-black patterns on the toads' ventral regions,
which act as aposematic coloration, a warning to predators of the toads' reputedly foul taste. The other parts of
the toads' skins are green or dark brown. When confronted with a potential predator, these toads commonly
engage in an Unkenreflex, "Unken" being the plural form of "Unke", German for firebellied toad. In the Unkenreflex, the toad arches its back, raising its front and back legs to display the aposematic coloration of its ventral side.

Red-eyed treefrog (female), photographed on Barro
Colorado Island, Panama
Photo: Christian R. Linder

Hylidae is a wide-ranging family of frogs commonly referred to as "tree frogs and their allies". However,
the hylids include a diversity of frog species, many of which do not live in trees, but are terrestrial or semi-aquatic.

Most hylids show adaptations suitable for an arboreal lifestyle, including forward-facing eyes providing binocular vision, and adhesive pads on the fingers and toes. In the non-arboreal species, these features may be greatly reduced, or absent. The Cyclorana species are burrowing frogs, that spend much of their lives underground.[1]

Hylids mostly feed on insects and other invertebrates, but some larger species can feed on small vertebrates.
Source including photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.....species

Asian brown flycatcher,
Muscicapa dauurica,
Lazo, Ussuriland.

Great Bustard, Otis tarda

There are 420-450 species of birds in Ussuriland (nobody knows
for sure). Here you can see red-crowned cranes, white-necked and hooded cranes in spring; minivets, buttonquails and paradise-flycatchers in summer; lots of Arctic migrants in the fall;
Steller's sea eagles and great bustards in winter; scaled mergansers and Blakiston's fish-owls year-round. Unfortunately, many species are endangered or already extinct. In 1986,
I happened to be the last person to see rufous-backed bunting, Emberiza jankowskii, in Russia. Some birds of this beautiful species still survive in China, but their numbers decline there as well.

Rufous-backed Bunting, Emberiza jankowskii
Justification This species has been uplisted to Endangered as it is undergoing a very rapid population decline, perhaps primarily owing to conversion of its grassland habitat for agriculture, pasture and forestry. Surveys are urgently required to determine its status over its large former range, and unless additional stable populations are discovered in the near future it may require uplisting to Critically Endangered.

It is a 16 cm small bird. Strongly rufescent bunting with bold head
pattern and mantle streaks and pale underparts. Grey ear-coverts,
centre of breast and white wing-bars. Male has oval blackish-chestnut
belly patch. Non-breeding male has more obscured belly patch and
duller, more heavily streaked upperparts.Female has browner ear-
coverts and buffish breast and buff wing-bars.

Emberiza jankowskii breeds in extreme north-eastern North Korea and in Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Jilin, China. In China, it disperses south and west outside the breeding season, when there are records from Liaoning, Hebei and Beijing. In Russia, it was previously locally common in southern Primorye, with a population estimated at several hundred pairs, but had disappeared from its former breeding sites by the early 1970s, and there have been no subsequent records. In the past, it was not uncommon within its small range in North Korea, but there is little recent information. In China, the breeding population at three sites in Jilin province was estimated at 330-430 pairs in 1994, and in the first half of the 20th century it was locally common in Heilongjiang, however there are very few recent records and it appears to have disappeared or drastically declined at most of its known sites.
Source: BirdLife International (2012) Species factsheet: Emberiza jankowskii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/02/2012. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2012) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/02/2012.


Nests of some birds of Amur and Ussuri valleys, left to right: Oriental stork, Ciconia boyciana,
Orange-flanked Robin, Luscinia cyanurus, Scaly Thrush, Zoothera dauma,
Ashy Minivet, Pericrocotus divaricatus, and Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus.

For many years, the main concern of environmentalists in Ussuriland was habitat loss in the beautiful
forests of the area, particularly in mixed forest zone. Korean pine, Pinus koraensis, locally known as "cedar", was logged despite its importance as food source for wildlife. Now most old-growth forests
outside nature reserves have been lost. Another problem is agricultural development in grasslands,
wetlands, meadows and woodlands of Southern Ussuriland. For many East Asian plants and animals,
this is the northernmost part of their range.
There are also some endemics there, such as Reed Parrotbill, Paradoxornis heudei.

Red Parrotbill, Paradoxornis heudei.

Photo © Ulf Ståhle

Korean pine, Ussuriland


Flowers of Southern Ussuriland, left to right:Lilium distichum, Hemerocallis thunbergi,
Lihnis splendens, Platanthera orientalis,
H. minor, Hypericum shrenkii.


Plants and mushrooms of Southern Ussuriland, left to right: Iris chrysonrarches,
Lotus nuciferum var. komarovi
(2 photos), Mutinus raveneli

Steller's sea eagle,
Haliaetus pelagicus,
Kamchatka River
Narrows, Kamchatka.
Sus scrofa ussuriensis,
world's largest
subspecies of wild boar, Kedrovaya Pad',

As the regional economy is slowly making it out of decline, environmental situation is steadily worsening. River valleys are destroyed first because of their accessibility, so riparian birds and other animals are the largest group of endangered species.



Snakes of Ussuriland, left to right: Elaphe asiatica, E. schrenkii, clutch of Amphiesma japonica, Agkistrodon blomhoffi (rare red phase).

Meanwhile, local birds try to adapt to changing conditions and new habitats. Some are successful, but many species are in decline. Ten species are already extinct in the region, and more than a hundred are endangered. The next 20-30 years will be the most difficult time for the nature of the Far East - let's hope it will survive.

Nest of snow bunting,
Plectophenax nivalis,
in a pile of barbed wire,
Vrangel I., Russia

Nest of carrion crow,
Corvus corone, made
of electric cables,
Vladivostok, Russia.

Nest of Japanese skylark,
Alauda japonica,
in a haystack,
Sakhalin I., Russia.

The population of wild vertebrate species fell by an average of nearly
one- third (31%) globally between 1970 and 2006, with the decline
especially severe in the tropics (59%) and in freshwater ecosystems (41%).

Observed trends in populations of wild species include:

* Farmland bird populations in Europe have declined by on average 50% since 1980.

* Bird populations in North American grasslands declined by nearly 40% between
   1968 and 2003, showing a slight recovery over the past five years; those in
   North American drylands have declined by nearly 30% since the late 1960s.

* Of the 1,200 waterbird populations with known trends, 44% are in decline.

* 42% of all amphibian species and 40% of bird species are declining in population.
Source: http://www.cbd.int/gbo3/?pub=6667&section=6691

Klyuchevskaya Sopka
, Kamchatka.

Northern Pacific and Russian Arctic

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All pictures, unless otherwise stated, Copyright © Vladimir Dinets


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