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BELARUS

Tuesday 13th May - Wednesday 21st May 2014

Mike Watson

Great Snipe (Mike Watson)

Great Snipe (Mike Watson)

A huge female Great Grey Owl peers down at us in a remote forest reserve. Pretty little Azure Tits, looking like they were made from icing sugar, come and go from their nest hole in the wall of a rickety old village house. Great Snipes squabble and fight at their lek in a riverside meadow, the evening air filled by their weird popping and clicking calls. A delightful Aquatic Warbler delivers its buzzing song from an ancient sedge fen. These encounters were the highlights of our first visit to the former Soviet Republic of Belarus and they certainly lived up to our high expectations. Thanks to our expert local help we enjoyed many other wonderful wildlife experiences in attractive surroundings amongst a respectable total of 168 bird species, which included: Smew; Black Stork; Little Bittern; Greater Spotted, Lesser Spotted and White-tailed Eagles; Northern Goshawk; Corn Crake; hundreds of Ruffs, Wood Sandpipers, Temminck’s Stints and a couple of Marsh Sandpipers; an impressive total of 12 Terek Sandpipers; five species of terns at Turov Meadow including hundreds of White-winged; Eurasian Pygmy Owls in the Pripyatsky National Park; Eurasian Nightjar; a profusion of songsters mostly only known to western birders as scarce drift migrants including Wrynecks, Red-backed Shrikes, Marsh, Icterine and River Warblers as well as gaudy Citrine Wagtails and Common Rosefinches; nine species of woodpecker including the sought-after Eurasian Three-toed; lovely old forests full of Wood Warblers and Red-breasted Flycatchers. Mammals were also well represented with around 50 Wild Boars and 33 European Bison in the ancient forest of Beloweshskaya Pushcha in western Belarus. All of these, plus surprisingly good hotels and food, a modern road network and a warm welcome from the friendly people of Belarus are the reasons why many birders in the west will be making their way here in the near future!

Azure Tit (Mike Watson)

Azure Tit (Mike Watson)