Kuzminskiy forest in one of the biggest ‘green islands’ in Moscow. It lies within the Moscow River watershed and spans over 1000 hectares. Goledjanka River that runs through the entire territory of the forest was dammed in XVIII century to create a cascade of four ponds with a total area of 30 hectares.
The forest supports a wide variety of birds and a few mammals, but they are harder to see. Part of the forest, particularly around the ponds has been converted into recreational parklands that attract a large number of people in summer. In winter, though there are significantly less people in the park, there are even fewer animals, as not many of them are equipped to handle the freezing cold weather. Some go into torpor, others, like most bird species migrate to greener pastures.
I grew up near Kuzminskiy forest and as a child spent almost every weekend there. 20 years later, in winter 2009-10 I returned to Russia to visit my family and visited the park to see some local wildlife. That year brought a surprisingly good winter to Russia. The temperatures always stayed below zero just like in the good old days of my childhood. Snow cover remained throughout the months of December and January. Though the particularly low temperatures (-20ºC and below) held for only one week, the weather remained crispy fresh. Thick carpet of snow on tree branches and on the forest floor turned the park in to a winter wonderland.
Apart from Russia’s iconic spectacular snowscapes I saw a number of birds that were active in the park. To help the wildlife survive hard Russian winters, a number of feeding stations were set up throughout the territory of the park that attracted a number of species. Big tit or Большая синица (Parus major), Blue tit or Лазаревка (Parus caeruleus), Eurasian tree sparrow or Полевой воробей (Passer montanus), House sparrow or Домовой воробей (Passer domesticus), Eurasian nuthatch or Поползень (Sitta europaea), and Hooded Crow or Серая ворона (Corvus cornix) all were frequent visitors to the feeders. I also spotted some Goldcrestor Желтоголовый королек (Regulus regulus) in the canopy of the tall 100-year-old pine trees. Fieldfare or Дрозд рябинник(Turdus merula) could also be seen in the forest feeding on some snow covered berries.
The ponds of the park are home to a rather large colony of Mallard ducks or Кряква (Anas platyrhynchos) that happily overwinter there, supplementing their food with regular donations of white bread from park visitors. When I was a kid, there were also White swans on the ponds, but it appears they were poached heavily during the 90s and haven’t returned.
European red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) were the only mammals visible in the park. They changed their red summer fur to a thicker greyer coat and looked particularly fluffy.