We have two main study areas around Korgalzhyn and it means that we drive for about 80 kilometers over the steppe tracks each day, the scale is quite coarse here. We have an old Soviet state farm map where all tracks are drawn. It looks like a normal agricultural infrastructure, however the fields are 3 by 3 kilometers large. We use a Lada Niva from the ACBK for our fieldwork, a great car for the steppe! Although we sometimes have to tweak it a bit to make it work, it does a great job on the bumpy field rides.
A few days ago we dug 80 pitfalls in the two study areas. We do this to see if the dung around the nest is collected is beneficial to the amount of insects (mainly beetles) around the nest. If this is the case, females don't need to leave the nest for a long time and far distance to (shortly) feed. Therefore we paired the pitfals: one in a existing dung pile and one 5 meters away from that dung pile in the bare soil. In 2 weeks we will collect the pitfalls and count, indentify and weigh the insects.
And then, we are not always in the field and sometimes we are unable to go onto the steppe due to rain. In that case we spent some time birdwatching in the village or the near surroundings. Currently the Siberian Chiffchafs are replaced by Greenish Warblers (very numerous) and we see many many Lesser Whitethroats. Already for a few days there is massive migration of White-winged Terns and we had one day of massive migration of Black-winged Pratincoles. Everything is a bit late, but that doesn't matter to us, we have the time. This morning we saw one of the predators of the nests: a steppe polecat, we often see foxes as well. We also see many birds of prey, mainly Pallid Harriers, but also quite a few Short-eared Owls and sometimes Steppe Eagles. This year seems to be a good year for voles, which is good for the harriers and owls.
|Male Black Lark|
|Chicks of about 6 days old|
|Female stays on the nest for only the last moment. When she flies of she will try to fool us by pretending if she is hurt. Just like many waders.|
|Tulips make place for Lillies. In the background our Lada Niva|
|Pallid Harrier, photographed from the car at 40 km/ph. It seemed to play with us!|