Belarus Trip Report - Spring Birdwatching 2008,

14/05/08 to 25/05/08.

Tour Party

Hans Wulfsberg (Denmark)

Rob Skinner (UK)

Pavel Simeonov (Branta-Tours)

Dima Shamovich (based Krasny Bor)

May 14
Direct flight from Gatwick to Minsk with Belavia Airline to meet with Pavel, our knowledgeable tour-leader & Hans who were then joined by Natasha, interpreter from Pripyatski National Park & Sergey, our driver for the first part of our trip. Our long journey south from Minsk to Doroshevichy was frequently punctuated with birding breaks whenever anything of interest was seen. Marsh, Hen & Montagu's Harriers were early on the scene & these were soon followed by Curlew, Common Buzzard & White Stork. By the time we reached our destination at dusk, 30 species had been logged including our first Thrush Nightingale.
The timber lodge @ Doroshevichy was very comfortable and the food appetising & plentiful. The long day & a vodka or more ensured that everybody slept soundly.

May 15
Up at the crack of dawn to explore the area around the hotel which is situated on the north bank of the Prypiat River. The early mist soon cleared to leave a warm & bright morning.
Beautiful landscape & birds galore. An early lunch was taken whilst birding.
Wryneck, Kingfisher, Common & Terek Sandpipers were the earliest birds followed closely by Gadwall, Garganey & Goldeneye. As the visibility improved, the far side of the river came into view as did Whiskered , Common & White-winged Terns and a stunning White-tailed Eagle. Meanwhile, Golden Orioles, Thrush Nightingales, Hoopoes & Cuckoos were leading a very lively dawn chorus. In all, 46 species were seen or heard prior to breakfast.
After an excellent meal, we boarded a small motorboat to spend the morning exploring the river & its surrounding flood plain. Whinchat, Scarlet Rosefinch , Black Tern & Hobby were all seen well as were Honey Buzzards & both Middle-spotted & White-backed Woodpeckers.
The star turn of the morning was unquestionably an Azure Tit. Small but what a bird! As a complete contrast, a Great Spotted Eagle soon followed in addition to Red-backed Shrike & both Spotted & Pied Flycatchers.
Lunch @ the lodge after which we kept one eye wide open for mammals and were rewarded with Wild Boar, Red & Roe Deer & Hare. Finally, the four-footed beast of the day was seen spied... beaver. The surrounding area was littered with felled trees & clouds of mosquitoes but nothing could prevent Hans & Sergey from braving the munching millions to get close views of the beaver.

Raven, Tree Sparrow, Wood Warbler & two more Woodpeckers were added to the tally....Black & Great-spotted.
Day total 82. Cumulative 91

2nd night @ Doroshevichy Lodge.

May 16
Another glorious dawn. Pre-breakfast walk around the lodge yielded Marsh Sandpiper plus Marsh &Willow Warblers.
Bags packed & on the road but at a leisurely pace towards Turov. Frequent stops in farming country with many raptor sightings including Lesser Spotted & White-tailed Eagles, Black Kite, Marsh & Montagu's Harriers.
A detour to a heavily reeded area bounded by willows yielded Bluethroat, Willow Tit, Penduline Tit & Yellowhammer.
Picnic lunch overlooking Turov meadows watching Ruff, Redshank, Black-necked Grebe, Great Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, & Marsh Terns galore. A tour around the meadows produced a pair of Azure Tits, Black Stork & a brazen River Warbler in full song.
Towards dusk, we took a small boat into the heart of the meadows & were able to see Temmincks Stint & displaying Great Snipes.
After dark arrival @ Chlupinskaja Buda for 2 nights.
Day total 83. Cumulative 99

May 17
Pre-breakfast walk around lodge. Weather bright & dry. No breeze. Black Redstart, Swift, Garden Warbler, Black Stork & Corncrakes(heard) were the highlights.
After another substantial breakfast, we were off to the woods in search of owls. Great Grey Owl was seen well & many other woodland species including Collared, Spotted & Pied Flycatchers, Hawfinch, Middle-spotted Woodpecker & Wood Warbler.
En route we were again to view the flood plain where we saw the usual Gull & Tern species plus a good variety of common thrushes, corvides, waders & warblers. Back to Chlupinskaja Buda, unusually, before dusk but not before adding Serin & Long-eared Owl to our tally.
Day total 75 Cumulative 120

May 18
Pre breakfast walk in the now customary fine weather...
2 Elk... 3 Corncrake... Black Stork... Barred Warbler... Turtle Dove... Middle-spotted Woodpecker... Red-footed Falcon (one male)... Golden Oriole... Hoopoe... Long-tailed Tit (White Headed race) & full supporting cast.
Left our lodge after breakfast & spent the majority of the day around the Turov meadows. A last opportunity to see Azure Tit proved irresistible.
Icterine Warbler & Grey Partridge were firsts & White-tailed Eagle, Sedge Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Bluethroat, Terek Sandpiper & numerous wildfowl delivered encores.
As the day wore on, the cloud increased & we slowly made our way to the north of Minsk where we bid farewell to Sergey who had served us well.
Greeted By Dima who was to be our guide for the remainder of our stay in Belarus.

Arrived at Domzheritzy hotel in Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve around dusk for a single night stay. Quick view on Pine Martin crossing our route before diner.

Weather well & truly overcast.
Rooms large with good facilities. Generous supply of good quality food. Large hotel probably 90% empty.
Day total 70. Cumulative 130

May 19
Pre breakfast walk in Berezinsky forest in overcast conditions and light rain produced Hazel Grouse together with Black, White-backed & Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Treecreeper, Woodlark & Raven.
After breakfast, we were introduced to our first Bog & to Yuri, a guide on the Reserve. No amount of bog-trotting enabled us to find our main target but we succeeded with Wood Sandpiper, Whimbrel & Greenshank.
Further exploration of the Reserve away from the bog enabled us to see Grey-headed Woodpecker, Black-throated Diver, Osprey & Scarlet Rosefinch & to hear a Bittern booming.
By late afternoon, we were again on the road & heading north. En route we encountered a Lesser Spotted Eagle & our first Short-toed Eagle in addition to many corvids & thrushes. A ten minute stop by a roadside lake enabled us to hear Savi's Warbler & Great Reed Warbler
Arrived @ Klyasticy lodge after dark to a warm welcome & a hot meal. After the usual vodka accompaniment we again slept soundly, if briefly.
Day total: 70 Cumulative: 147

May 20
Astonishingly, at 3.30am our party was seated around the dining table whilst eating a hot breakfast! Such is the lure of the Capercaillie.
Krasny Bor is full of bogs, lakes & forests & during the day we experienced each of these habitats & saw a good variety of birds including some firsts for the trip:- 3-toed Woodpecker, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Nightjar, Golden Plover, Common Gull, Black Grouse, Goldcrest & Crested Tit.
To replenish the batteries after our early start, we had a 3 hour break @ midday. When we resurfaced, the morning showers had gone & been replaced by sunshine.
Once more into the woods & we were rewarded with Nutcracker, Crossbill, Woodcock & Ural Owl.
2nd night @ Klyasticy lodge.
Day total: 57 Cumulative: 158

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