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The Republic of Kalmykia

Chyornye Zemli Nature Reserve

Chyornye Zemli («Black earth») Nature Reserve is located on the Caspian lowlands, between the lower reaches of the Volga and Kuma rivers. It was established to protect the saiga (steppe antelope). The reserve is divided into the steppe part, where the saiga migrates, and the ornithological area, the swampy shores of Lake Manych-Gudilo, the largest stop on the mass migration route of many rare species of birds.

Visitors are invited to see the reserve following the two routes: «Birds of Manych Gudilo Lake» and «The Saiga Route».

On the first route, visitors can use binoculars to see the lake and the surrounding islands with nesting colonies of birds (pelicans, gulls, spoonbills, gannets).

173 species of birds can be seen in this area. This is an area of mass nesting of the Dalmatian pelican and European white pelican. Other birds that nest on the islands include spoonbill, gray and white heron, black-headed gull, slender-billed gull; walking along the shore, you can meet up to 18 species of waterfowl and watch the feeding flocks of ducks, waders, terns, and gulls.

One of the most beautiful and amazing phenomena in the reserve is the mass flowering of Schrenck's tulip, a flower listed in the Red Book.

Visitors are offered binoculars, as well as pocket field guides to  birds and plants found in the area. The route is 11 kilometers long.

«The Saiga Route,» 12 kilometers long, crosses a plain. At any time of the year, you can see the saiga and other animals here, Their numbers and the species present depend on the season. including the corsac, fox, hare, wild cat, wolf, and rodents: gerbils, house mice, field mice, and gray hamsters. In summer, you can watch young foxes, saigas with their calves, long-eared hedgehog and, less frequently, the white-breasted hedgehog.

Spring is the best season to observe the fauna here. At this time, visitors who take the route can see not only the animals that live in the reserve throughout the year, but also many birds coming from the south and nesting in the reserve, as well as birds flying through the reserve to the northern regions.

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