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BELARUS

Sunday 10th May - Thursday 21st May 2015

Mike Watson

Azure Tit (Mike Watson)

Azure Tit (Mike Watson)

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!

Great Grey Owl (Mike Watson)

Great Grey Owl (Mike Watson)