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Today it “warmed up” – the temperature almost reached -18C(0F)! And this was enough for the ice on Kronotskaya river to break and drift away to the ocean. Whooper Swans are excited about this fact the most! Now they can find more food in the open water here. These swans, the largest and the most noticeable birds wintering here with me, are close relatives to North American Trumpeter Swans.

Most of swans and ducks from the north-eastern part of Russia migrate to south in fall, but some stay for winter at their freezing cold homeland. During twilight hours they fly along the river searching for the safe place to spend the night. And during the bright and long moonlit nights when I hear their “trumpet” calls in my cabin, I feel if someone stirs up my feelings deep inside, I can’t help remembering of youth dreams, some of which, I know, will never come true…

During the winter nights in the coldest place of the Kronotsky Nature reserve, near the Listvennaya River, the temperature inside the ranger station drops so low that the water always freezes in the buckets. Every morning after such a night, when I unzip my sleeping bag to the cold and then put on a cold set of clothes, I always make myself a promise that I’ll give up Kamchatka and next year will go to Florida or Thailand for winter.

Couple of times I even tried to come to the beautiful, heavenly warm, subtropical place in Florida in late fall. But I just could not stay there for long, after ten days at most I would change the flights and say good bye to the alligators. I would hurry back to my frozen bucket in Kamchatka, back to my swans, who also choose severe winter in their homeland.

I cannot really explain why, but it feels “right” to break the ice in the bucket, to scoop some water with ice, to wash my face with this cold and burning mixture and to know that there is a cold but magical day ahead of me, a day filled with new discoveries…

Originally published at http://shpilenok.livejournal.com/38675.html in Russian.

Translated at http://wildlife-photo-russia.blogspot.com/2011/01/wintering-in-cold-homeland.html

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