KAMCHATKA PROVINCE (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky), (-)

53o01´08" N/158o38´45" E, 1,250 km peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of about 27,000,000 ha, sea-level to 4,750 m (Klyuchevskaya Sopka volcano)

April-September ()


Birding Site Guide

The Kamchatka Peninsula is a Russian District that lies in the Russian Pacific Ocean with the Sea of Okhotsk to the W. It does not extend to the far N (Chukotka District). Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is the largest city and has a commercial airport shared with Yelizovo. The towns have a road between them but there are no roads to these towns. Buses, taxis and hotels are easily found as is Wi-Fi. Other towns though smaller have airports, as these are the main connections between towns. Temperatures are mild in summer, to freezing for much of the winter, but dropping well below freezing (-20o) for the coldest month, which is generally February.

The area is very geologically active with many volcanoes, with Klyuchevskaya Sopka being the largest active volcano in the N hemisphere. In the N (the Krai) the River Kamchatka flows E for 758 km. This river as with others in the region is teeming with Pacific Salmon (all 6 known sub-species).

There are three main areas protected areas:

Kronotsky State Biosphere Reservation (1,142,134 ha) Now has 232 species of birds recorded, 31 of them are listed in the Red Book of Russia. It has the world's largest population of the Steller's Sea-Eagle and Aleutian Tern Sterna camtschatica and huge numbers of Whooper Swans winter here. The reservation is good for cetaceans, with 9 species on the Russian endangered species list. Of the vascular plants 763 species have been recorded including 16 endemics and 38 species are on the Far East endangered species list.

There are of course many geysers and lakes to see.

Commander Islands Reserve These islands lie off the E coast and are the first/last in the chain of the Aleutian Island chain. As with much of Kamchatka they are a geologists paradise. This is an obvious choice from where to observe the incredible bounty of pelagic species. The sea ridge and trench of the Aleutian Island chain cause a mixing of warm and cold ocean waters circulating rich bottom currents from the ocean floor and vents to the surface where the abundant marine life can feed on it. There are large colonies of sea birds and sea mammals to see.

Nalychevo National Park (309,320 ha) 3456 m (Koryaksky volcano) This is a geologically active area full of volcanoes, thermal springs and other features. Around 145 species of birds have been recorded, 90 of which have nested. There are 33 species of mammals and bears concentrate on salmon spawning rivers such as the Nalychevo River valley. In craggy areas Bighorn Sheep may be found. As well as salmon, rarer fishes occur such as, Eastern Siberian Char Salvelinus leucomaenis and Kamchatka Rainbow (mikizha) Oncorhynchus (Parasalmo) mykiss. Rare (for here) orchids are able to live here due to the grass layer on rock formations and thermal heat, species include the Lady's Slipper Orchid Cypripedium acaule. Access is by helicopter from Petropavlovsk or Yelizovo.

Other protected areas: Bystrinskiy Nature Park, Nalychevo Nature Park, South Kamchatka Nature Park and South Kamchatka National Sanctuary.

An excellent website which tells you much about the region is The Lost World, Travel Kamchatka, where it is possible to organise trips through their tours and operators. Be careful however, as some of the English (bird name) translations are a bit off the mark!

Travel Kamchatka

Birds: There are a number of breeding endemics and threatened species found here, though whether this is the best place to find them is debatable and depends on individual circumstances and opportunities. From a European point of view many of the species will be familiar and most easily seen at home. Other species are more easily sought on their migration routes or wintering grounds. However, here is a sample of the quality of species you could encounter. Emperor Goose Philacte canagica, Baikal Teal Anas Formosa, Steller's Eider Polysticta stelleri, Steller's Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus, Gray-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminate, Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus, Marbled Murrelet Brachyramphus marmoratus, Kittlitz's Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostris, Blakiston's Fish-Owl Ketupa blakistoni, Rufous-tailed Robin Larvivora sibilans, Naumann's Thrush Turdus naumanni. As usual a complete list of birds with their statuses can be found on Avibase.

Avibase: Kamchatka Bird List

Mammals: A complete list of mammals of Kamchatka can be found here: Travel Kamchatka: Kamchatka Mammals List

Fishes and marine invertebrates: There are more than 30 species of river fishes. Sea fishes include: Pollock, Cod, Herring, Halibut, lampreys and several species of flatfish. Kamchatka King Crab, Scallop, Squid. Fishing tours are big business and growing, look here.

Emerald Water Anglers

Herptiles: There are no reptiles and one species of amphibian the Siberian Salamander Hynobius kayserlingii.

Plants: 1,168 species have been recorded, 10% being endemic to Kamchatka. Typical trees are found in the birch and cedars and the wildflower Alpine and sub-Alpine meadows are unspoilt. Alder Alnus kamschatica, Aspen P. tremuloides, Siberian and Komarov Poplar Populus suaveolens and P.komarov and Willows Salix sachalinense and Chosenia macrolepis. The maritime taiga consists of White Birch Betula kamchatica, Kamchatcan and Cayander Larch Larix kamtschaticaand L. cayanderi, Ayan and Yeddo Spruce Picea ajarensis and P. jezoensis.

Travel Kamchatka

Other references:

The Encyclopaedia of Earth: Kamchatka 

Author: BSG