Stolby Nature Reserve: Animals!

One of the coolest things about Stolby was the abundant wildlife; there were so many different insects, birds, mammals found along the trails. Here’s what we found on our hikes in July:

Wolves

The purple trail takes you pretty far into the reserve, so it’s not surprising that’s where we saw wolves, a six-pack to be exact (no, really, not kidding and yes, pun intended). There’s no picture here because a) I wasn’t fast enough and b) I took me a few seconds to realize the dog-like creatures in front of us were wolves. We simply rounded a bend in the trail and suddenly there appeared to be five german shepards 20 feet in front of us. My first thought was “who left their dogs out hereeeooh MY GOD THESE AREN’T DOGS.” because as I scanned left, I noticed a massive black animal at the front of their pack. They paused, sniffed the air, and then they loped off into the bushes. Stoytcho apparently spent the three seconds ouf our encounter desperately searching for a nearby stick, so yay, survival skills.

Chipmunks

There are tons of Siberian chipmunks (Eutamias sibiricus) along the paved trail into the park because people feed them. I can’t comment on the ecological stability of this, but can say that the Russians know how to feed their animals. Everyone brings sunflower or other seeds for them, and any attempts to give them bread are met with strange looks. So at least the chipmunks won’t get diabetes. If you bring your own packet of seeds, you can get the chipmunks to eat out of your hand.

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Squirrels

Strangely, squirrels are much rarer than the chipmunks. We encountered this red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) along the paved trail into the park. It was pretty skiddish, though it feasted on the same sunflower seed bounty that its chipmunk cousins loved.

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Birds

We’re not well versed in birds, though we did recognize when we stumbled too close to a hawk or eagle nest and the thing just wouldn’t shut up. If you visit Stolby, though, the most common bird you’ll see is the great tit (Parus major). It’s a pretty yellow and gray bird that also partakes in the bounty of seeds visitors bring. If it’s early summer, you might also see a fun show of adolescent birds demanding to be fed by their parents, despite the fact that they can already fly.

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Snakes

We saw a snake! Tally one to our sightings of snakes on the trip so far (this number is around a woeful 3 or 4). This one was crossing the paved path on the way into the park. My tentative guess on the species would be Elaphe dione, the Steppe ratsnake, according to a nature guide of animals in Transbaikalia.

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Biting Bugs

It’s summer and the biting bugs are definitely abundant. Besides mosquitoes, two things to watch out for are horseflies and ticks. The horseflies have bites that hurt like hell, while the ticks here can transmit some kind of encephelitis. Yay.

We found two ticks in four days of hikes, so they’re pretty common. The first was on Stoytcho’s clothing while hiking the (blue?) loop trail to all of the climbing rocks. The second was on me. We climbed part of Manskaya Stenka on the purple trail and on the way back down, while clinging to tree roots I felt a tickle on my belly. I freed one hand and pulled my shirt up to find a tick crawling its way across my stomach. Fighting the frantic urge to flail, I kept one hand on the tree root and used the other to flick it off and FAR away.

So yeah, watch out for ticks.

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Other (more fun) bugs

There are a plethora of bugs in Stolby that don’t bite and can be downright lovely. You’ll encounter a lot of beetles on your hikes, with the largest and most common being black-colored scarabs that shimmer iridescent blue in the sunlight:

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Then there are a variety of ants, including the near-universal golden carpenter ant and ‘farmer’ ants that tend to their flocks of aphids:

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I had no idea what these insects were–they’re probably some kind of nymph and not the mature adult–but they would cluster together on railings along the trail. When disturbed, they would shiver and scatter in unison:

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Here’s a cute little ladybug sporting reverse colors:

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And lastly, snaaaaails!

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Stolby Nature Resere: Plants

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Siberia in summer contradicts every imagined image conjured up by the word. Devoid of ice and snow, the summer Siberian landscape clothes herself in emerald hues dotted with flecks of whites, reds, purples, and pinks from flowers and berries. Here are some of the beautiful summer plants we encountered on our hikes in Stolby:

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A cluster of Campanula flower.
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An unknown flower; though the flower cluster reminds me of a clover, the leaves are totally different. The flowers are long and thin, so they’re not slipperwort. They’re also not the correct shape to be foxglove or monkshood.
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A cluster of monkshood/Wolf’s Bane (Aconitum) flowers.
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Another unknown flower, although from the shape it could be a wild orchid.
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Two small Campanula or Adenophora flowers, after a rain.
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A lone dew-dipped cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) hangs from its stem.
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The autumn colors of this plant pop against the background of green summer foliage.
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Small, ever dainty forget-me-nots (Myosotis imitata).
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A bee pollinates elderberry flowers (Sambucus sp.)
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A small, bell-shaped flower, perhaps another Campanula.
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A rather stunning flower, though unknown. Maybe a type of carnation or Dianthus sp.?
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A blueberry (Vaccinium)peeks out from the bush.
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Flowers of Bupleurum longiradiatum, small perennial shrub whose cousin Bupleurum longifolium is popularly known as an ornamental.
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A yellow jewelweed/touch-me-not/balsam (Impatiens noli-tangere) flower.
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These dewspun leaves illustrate how jewelweed got its name.
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A small flower, possibly Geum aleppicum (Yellow Avens).
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A wild thistle (Synurus deltoides) with flowers in bloom.
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The unopened puffballs of wild thistle flowers (Synurus deltoides).

Stolby Nature Reserve: Fungi

Stolby Nature Reserve in the summer plays host to hundreds, if not thousands of fungi species. Here are some of the gorgeous specimins we saw during our camping and hiking in mid-July. Identified *tentatively* wherever possible.

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Saprophytic white mushrooms with reddish-brown spores growing  on a tree stump.
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A pair of tiny Russula sp. caps. Russula is notorious for being a genus vaguely-defined species.
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An Amanita sp. I would venture, based on the prominent volva and cap shape.
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A scaly/hairy golden mushroom that reminds me of plums and custard (Tricholomopsis rutilans), but without the purple coloring.
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The underside of some saprophytic mushrooms, probably a Pleurotus sp. (oyster mushroom).
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The top side of the same saprophytic mushroom cluster.
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Lycoperdon sp., though it does not appear to have the same properties of most puffballs (a central hole that emits a puff). Perhaps Lycoperdon saccatum?
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A cluster of Coprinellus sp. growing on a log. I’d guess Coprinellus disseminatus.
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A close up of the same Coprinellus cluster.
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A polypore fungi, maybe a young Fomitopsis sp., with guttation droplets on its surface.
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A small cap mushroom with a tiny cricketlike fly on the stem.
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An Artomyces sp. found on a log. The North American species is Artomyces pyxidatus, which looks highly similar to this, so this could either introduced sor a highly-similar native.
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A gilled mushroom hiding along the trail. You can see the lack of pigment on the right that results from shading by the leaf above it.
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The underside of the same mushroom, showing continuous gills down onto the stem.
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Crowded space – a plant shoot and fairy cap grow side-by-side.
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Another small fairy cap growing among moss.
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A bolete or slippery jack (from the porous underside). We found them this way, so it looks like someone else was doing a bit of mushroom ID.
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Another Coprinellus sp., maybe Coprinellus micaceus.
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Small gilled mushrooms growing from a log.
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Another mushroom, this time with gills that end abruptly on the stem (adnate gills).
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A cute little mushroom cluster illuminated by the sunset.

I’d lichen more…

Okay, so technically not just fungi, but lichens do consist of at least one fungal species! Here are two bonus shots of the local lichen for you.

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A free piece of lichen, perhaps fallen from a nearby tree. I can’t tell if this is multiple different lichens, or one that takes a variety of shapes.
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A whole wall of lichen for you!