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Olga Bresgunova

Chalk steppes, chalk slopes, chalk mountains, chalk hills…. Feeling from bright whitish colour (even chalk light), from chalk ledge impressed me like white snow which I first seen in childhood. The joy from meeting with inhabitants of chalk slopes, plants and animals, marked for all my life. Cosy cushions of Androsace koso-poljanskii with absolutely wonderful many-coloured flower middles, tiny little Linaria cretacea, which only at close distance reminded to Common Toadflax, yellow, like summer sun, Spring pheasant's eye, striking poppies and peonies… Butterflies, beetles, bugs and flies, which pollinate chalk’ plants… European Bee-eaters, which burrowed in chalk… Elusive Sand Lizards on a chalk slope… And, of course, Daphne sophia… For the first time I saw Daphne on the right bank of Volchaya river, when participate in the expedition in 2004. This plant differs from the rest in reddish colour of bark, in exceptionally beautiful small flowers, tiny fruits and its ancient «look». Suppose that men, who have the opportunity to watch Daphne sophia all the year round, are fortunate. They afford to observe how leaves change colours, how pollinators try to penetrate into little flowers, how fruits gradually replace the flowers and how the snow covers these amazing secretive plants…

Inhabitants of an ancient sea, belemnites and fossil shells, were able to tell us a lot about that life in pre-human period…. Hopefully that striking chalk plants, often with pretty white and yellow flowers, vividly coloured or barely visible, undoubtedly deserving of research, don’t perish from human ignorance. I would think that our children not only will be able to tell about chalk steppe to their descendants in the future but also accompany them to the hills and carefully walk between cushions of plants… I believe that human love to beauty and the wish to keep the chalk steppes unchanged will continue in our children.

Olga Bresgunova, ornithologist