Welcome to Birdquest
Sunday 10th May - Thursday 21st May 2015
I was wondering how we could follow our successful first visit to Belarus in 2014... I need not have worried. New for 2015 on our expanded itinerary were: Hazel Grouse (both in the north and the south, including a female on its nest); Western Capercaillie, Black Grouse and Ural and Tengmalm’s Owls on our Northern Belarus pre-tour extension, to the wonderful Krasny Bor reserve on the Russian border and we also enjoyed some great encounters with old favourites, including: point blank views of Corn Crakes; lekking Great Snipes on meadows by the Pripyat River; 46(!) Terek Sandpipers; hundreds of ‘marsh’ terns (White-winged, Black and Whiskered); Great Grey Owl (an even better close encounter than last time!); Eurasian Pygmy Owl; nine species of woodpecker including White-backed (three) and Eurasian Three-toed (five); Azure Tits at five different sites including our best views yet; Aquatic Warblers buzzing away in an ancient sedge fen (again our best views yet of this rapidly declining bird). With the benefit of the new pre-tour extension to the boreal zone of northern Belarus as well as some good fortune on the main tour we recorded a new high total of 184 bird species and other avian highlights included: Smew; Black Stork; Greater Spotted, Lesser Spotted and White-tailed Eagles; Northern Goshawk; Wood Sandpipers and Temminck’s Stints on passage in the south and breeding Whimbrels and Common Greenshanks on raised bogs in the north; 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 and lovely old forests full of Wood Warblers and Red-breasted Flycatchers. However, the encounter of the tour was not a bird, instead a fabulous Eurasian Lynx on a night drive at Belowezhskaya Pushcha. Other mammal highlights included: Eurasian Beaver (3); Pine Marten (2); Elk and European Bison (2). All of these, plus good hotels and tasty food, a modern road network and the welcoming people of Belarus are the reasons why many birders in the west will be making their way here in the near future!