Khan of the steppe

  Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) is the largest bird of prey breeding in open steppes and semi-deserts of Eurasia. Other eagles crossing the steppe belt during migration do not breed in the open and normally need trees or cliffs for nesting. It is the only eagle to have adapted to nesting on the ground in treeless and flat landscapes, although sometimes it builds nests on trees and rocky hills. Majestic posture, imposing gaze and absence of enemies, with the exception of wolves and humans, make this bird a true winged khan of the steppe.                        Steppe Eagle breeding range stretches from Kalmyki...
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Dragon waterfalls

Four-spotted chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata), which got its name from four distinct spots on its wings, is probably the most common and the most numerous dragonfly of the Kazakh steppe.   This species is widely distributed across northern Eurasia and North America but almost completely disappeared from Europe, although there are reports of impressive migrations from a number of European countries from 100-150 years ago. Four-spotted chaser is officially the state insect of Alaska, suggesting it has some cultural importance there.   Females lay eggs onto vegetation in freshwater lakes and rivers and their larvae live under water for up to two years, hunting other water ...
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The world smallest crane

Demoiselle Crane (Anthropoides virgo) is the world smallest crane (up to 76 cm tall, wingspan 155 – 180 cm, weight 2–3 kg) and is 2.5 times shorter compared to its tallest relative Sarus Crane (Grus antigone), which also happens to be the world’s tallest flying bird (up to 180 cm tall). You can find this species breeding in steppes and semi-deserts stretching from Ukraine to northern China, and although patterns of distribution and local densities are largely unknown, Kazakh steppe is likely one of the most important species’ strongholds. This crane species was named “demoiselle” (French “young lady”) by French Queen Marie Antoinette for its ...
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The enigmatic life of the Black Lark

Johannes Kamp (with contributions by Ruslan Urazaliev, Thijs Fijen, Thomas Lameris, Genrietta Pulikova and Paul Donald).      The breeding distribution of the Black Lark (Melanocorypha yeltoniensis) is restricted to the steppes and semi-deserts of Kazakhstan, with only a few small populations found in the neighbouring steppes of Russia. For birdwatchers in Western Europe, the lark is one of the most sought-after species, as only a handful Black Larks have been recorded as vagrants in Europe. But even for ornithologists working in Kazakhstan, much of the life of the species remains a mystery. We have been studying the natural history and breeding biology of the species for a ...
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‘Old lady’s hair’

   I always wanted to know more about a beautiful steppe plant, which takes a special place in my life, as it always reminds me about some amazing bits of steppe and some unforgettable trips. Here I would like to share with you what I have learnt.    In Russia this plant used to be called ‘old man’s beard’ and in Hungarian steppe local people called it ‘young girl’s hair’. Among its English names are: needle grass, spear grass and more commonly used – feather grass, as some species have seed heads resembling feathers. For me it actually looks more like old lady’s hair!    There are over 300 species of feather g...
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Welcome to the Kazakh Steppe!

 Dear friend of the steppe and dear curious one who opened this page just by chance! This website is here to open for you a small window into the world of the beautiful and unforgettable steppes of Kazakhstan. Looking through the albums with photos you can get an idea about which animals live in the steppe, which plants you can find there and how the steppe looks like in different seasons. The steppe ecosystem is under threat and hopefully this website with time will become a collection of information which can help to protect it. I will regularly use my blog to share interesting facts about steppe and news from various projects and initiatives about its research and conservation. Hope you will enjoy it and find it useful! Maxim

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