Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest's Belarus birding tour explores an area that is still little known to birdwatchers but which holds some superb birds. Our springtime journey through the forests and marshes of Belarus (White Russia) focusses on such specialities as Greater Spotted Eagle, Hazel and Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie, Great Snipe, the magnificent Great Grey Owl, Ural and Tengmalm's (or Boreal) Owls, Eurasian Pygmy-Owl, Eurasian Three-toed and White-backed Woodpeckers, Citrine Wagtail, Aquatic Warbler and the most westerly population of the beautiful Azure Tit.
Monday 14th May —
Tuesday 22nd May 2018
Northern Belarus Extension: Friday 11th May — Monday 14th May (4 days)
Leaders: Dima Shamovich and Nik Borrow
Group Size Limit: 10
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations
Imagine a place where birds that are fast disappearing from Europe’s woodland and countryside still thrive in abundance, marshes where Great Snipes conduct their peculiar lekking displays from grass tussocks, the trilling song of the Aquatic Warbler is a common sound within vast fen mires, Great Grey Owls watch over primeval forests where bison roam and super-smart little Azure Tits can be found in stands of willows. This is Belarus in a nutshell. As our natural landscape has deteriorated across Europe in the wake of EU agricultural policy, the fledgling republic of Belarus has been protected from this change, by a now rather rusty iron curtain. It also has a sparse population of only 9.5 million people spread over a country a little smaller than the United Kingdom and over 90% of this area is still covered by natural vegetation. With largely traditional agricultural methods still in use, Belarus has retained a landscape like no other European country, often described as like stepping back in time 50 years. With all of the special bird species found in neighbouring Poland and more besides, Belarus is the last great frontier of European birding.
During our explorations we will visit three main areas in the south of the country. From the capital, Minsk we will travel south to our base for the next five nights near the Pripyatsky National Park. On the extensive and virtually pristine flood plain of the Pripyat river we will have the privilege of visiting a Great Snipe lek. We will also search for delightful Azure Tits in stands of riparian willows and explore marshes for Terek Sandpipers at their most westerly breeding site. Black Storks and Citrine Wagtails are also present here in small numbers whilst the wetlands hold Wood Sandpiper, groups of northbound Ruffs in their outrageous breeding plumage and Whiskered, Black and White-winged Terns. In nearby woodland and marshland we will look out for White-tailed, Greater Spotted and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Eurasian Wryneck, White-backed, Black, Middle Spotted, Grey-headed and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers, Collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers, Thrush Nightingale, Eurasian Penduline Tit and Eurasian Golden Oriole.
We will also visit the Beloe Fishponds, a breeding site of Smew and Ferruginous Duck, where we may also see Great Crested and Eared (or Black-necked) Grebes, Great Cormorant, Great Bittern, Great Egret, Black Stork, Whooper Swan, Common Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Great Reed Warbler.
Our next destination is the Sporovsky Biological Reserve. The vast fen mires here are the largest remaining in Europe and host the majority of the world's breeding Aquatic Warblers. As well as this particularly sought-after species, we will also search for birds such as Common Crane, Citrine Wagtail, and especially the splendid Great Grey Owl, which regularly breeds nearby. Our local guide will usually know of some nests of other interesting birds, such as Hazel Grouse and Long-eared and Tawny Owls.
From here we will travel west to the primeval forest of Belowezhskaya Pushcha, which is the eastern section of forest known as Bialowieza on the Polish side of the frontier, Europe’s finest remaining tract of lowland forest and is home to one of the only remaining populations of European Bison left in the wild (the species once occurred widely across the forest zone of Europe and possibly Asia, but began to vanish not long after the end of the last Ice Age as human pressures intensified, now surviving only in the Caucasus and in Poland/Belarus). Once a hunting preserve of Grand Lithuanian Dukes, Polish kings and later the Russian Tsars, the forest has suffered badly during wars, but in spite of this large tracts survived. As well as the bison, there are some very exciting birds, including Black Stork, Hazel Grouse, Eurasian Pygmy and Tengmalm’s Owls, and Red-breasted and Collared Flycatchers.
The Northern Belarus pre-tour extension offers the chance of adding some very desirable forest birds, which are either not possible or more difficult to find in the south of the country, including Ural and Tengmalm’s (or Boreal) Owls, Hazel and Black Grouse, and Western Capercaillie, as well as Spotted Nutcracker and Golden Eagle. In addition, Eurasian Pygmy Owl and Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker are a little easier to see in the north of the country, on our local guide’s doorstep. Other species possible here include White-tailed Eagle, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Western Osprey, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwit.
We will have the privilege of staying deep in the heart of the Krasny Bor Reserve in a traditional-style wooden guesthouse with birds all around us, a family of wild European Beavers in a nearby pond and a pack of captive/tamed Grey Wolves, which our local guide uses for filming in wild environments.
Birdquest has operated tours to Belarus since 2014.
Accommodation & Road Transport: Hotels and food in Belarus have improved in recent years and are of good standard at all locations. Road transport is usually by small coach and roads are generally good (and mostly with only light traffic).
Walking: The walking effort is easy almost throughout.
Climate: Depending on the variable spring weather, it can be cool in the mornings and then hot and sunny during the day, but there can also be fairly cold, wet and overcast periods.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.
These are provisional prices
Tour Price: £1900, €2380, $2660 Minsk/Minsk. Northern Belarus Extension: £680, €850, $950.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £202, €252, $283. Extension: £76, €95, $106.
There are only a limited number of rooms at Krasny Bor, where we stay three nights during the extension. It is possible that not all those requesting singles will be able to have them. Any unexpected sharing will result in an appropriate refund.
Deposit: £300, €360, $390.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
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