In 2012 I spent most of summer and early autumn in Moscow and made frequent forays in to the park. In summer it was even more impressive than in winter. The lush canopy blocked out almost all of the sun and cast a dappled shadow on the forest floor. The air was moist and the ground was covered with a thick carpet of leaf litter. June is an excellent time to see bird-life as most species have newly fledged chicks that hop from branch to branch following their parents filling the air with a cacophony of their begging calls.
There were the usual suspects, that I saw in winter: Great tit (Parus major), Blue tit (Parus caeruleus), Black-capped chikadee or Черноголовая гаичка (Poecile atricapillus), Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus), House sparrow (Passer domesticus), Eurasian nuthatch (Sitta europaea), and Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix).
But there also were some very interesting new ‘summer additions’: Chaffinch or Зяблик (Fringilla coelebs), European goldfinch or Черноголовый щегол (Carduelis carduelis), European greenfinch or Зеленушка(Chloris chloris), White wagtail or Белая трясогузка(Motacilla alba), Common swift or Черный чиж(Apus apus), Great Spotted Woodpecker or Большой пестрый дятел (Dendrocopos major), Pied Flycatcher or Мухоловка пеструшка (Ficedula hypoleuca) and Common starling or Скворец (Sturnus vulgaris), Common Blackbird or Черный дрозд (Turdus merula), Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), Song thrush or Певчий дрозд (Turdus philomelos), European robin or Зарянка (Erithacus rubecula) and Blackcap or Черноголовая славка (Sylvia atricapilla). I even caught a glimpse of a Common Cuckoo or Обыкновенная кукушка (Cuculus canorus) and the rare Black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius).
The ponds turned up two new bird species, both listed as ‘Threatened’ in Moscow Red Book. Black-headed gull or Озерная чайка(Larus ridibundus) and Common tern or Речная крачка(Sterna hirundo). Both species, though present in small numbers, seemed to make a rather good living on the abundant fish in the ponds. I was told that spring came late this year and the gulls turned up a week too early, while the ponds in the park were still frozen. Hungry, the birds kept flying over the ponds and the surrounding city blocks screaming in incomprehension and desperation, until the weather turned and the ponds started to thaw out.
One of the most unexpected critters I spotted was Eurasian marsh frog or Озерная лягушка (Pelophylax ridibundus). These frogs are active during the day with males calling while floating on the water. They also seemed to enjoy huddling together. I spotted two groups (more like piles) of at least 11 frogs each right next to each other busking in the sun.
The only other reptile I have seen in Kuzminskiy forest was a very uncharacteristic for Russia water turtle – a Red-eared slider. This species is native to North America and was probably released into the pond as an unwanted pet. It managed to over winter in the park and seem to have adapted quite well to its new environment. These turtles are considered to be highly invasive. A few Red-eared sliders have been released in the city parks in Zurich where they established stable populations and cause significant damage to the ecology of the city parks.