Darvinsky Zapovednik

Rare golden eagles and one of the largest populations of ospreys and white-tailed sea eagles in Europe nest—sometimes in huge structures in old treetops or cliff ledges—in this 539-square-mile (1,397-km2) largely aquatic reserve, Darvinsky Zapovednik (named for the British naturalist Charles Darwin), on a peninsula in the Rybninskoye Reservoir in northwest Russia. Moose, huge brown bears, and wild boars come to feed along sandy shores with waterfowl and shorebirds which nest or stop in north–south migration. Capercaillie males, largest Old-World grouse, fan out tail feathers and strut in courtship display in clearings among pine stands and birch trees.

Foxes and raccoon dogs prey on rodents, as do badgers and ermine, and from overhead, northern eagle owls, greater spotted eagles, and black kites. Hares forage on summer grasses. Beavers build dens on floating peat islands, inaccessible to most predators, making them attractive nest sites also for common terns and black-headed, herring, and mew gulls.

Some 230 species of migratory and nesting birds include northern hazelhens, northern black grouse, willow ptarmigans, Siberian jays and, on the water, black and white-winged scoters, long-tailed ducks, tufted pochards, bean and greater white-fronted geese. Altogether 15 rare bird species listed in the Russian Red Book are protected in the reserve.

Pollution from Cherepovets Industrial Center, 19 miles (30 km) north is a problem, though the zapovednik’s ecosystem cleanses much of it with beneficial effect for the entire region’s biodiversity.