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Russia – Western Palearctic Bird specialities NEW!

AT A GLANCE

FOCUS

Birdwatching holiday: birds and other natural history.

WHERE

Yekaterinburg – Monetnyy – Verkhnemakarovo

SAMPLE WILDLIFE

A great selection of eastern European bird species.

CLIMATE

Temperate summer.

ACCOMMODATION

Road travel by 4x4 vehicles, comfortable hotel, all rooms with private facilities.

We are delighted to offer this exclusive short tour to the Yekaterinburg area of south-east European Russia, home to some highly range-restricted Western Palearctic specialities that are rare or difficult to find in other parts of the region, as well as a good range of other exciting species. Led by Vitaly Polyakov and Dominic Mitchell, founder ofBirdwatch magazine and author ofBirds of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East: an Annotated Checklist, this is a unique opportunity to sample this under-explored corner of the WP.

Yekaterinburg is a large, modern city on the banks of the Iset River at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Its hinterland is home to a fascinating mix of birds from both continents, and during our time here we will explore wetlands, forests and other habitats in search of the specialities that are starting to put this area on the international birding map.

One of the most sought-after birds around Yekaterinburg is Long-tailed Rosefinch, an Asian species at the westernmost edge of its range in this area. This is currently the best-known accessible location in the Western Palearctic for this highly prized and attractive passerine. The damp scrub and woodland edge that this species favours is also home to Azure Tit, another much-wanted WP speciality whose breeding range does not extend far west in the region; last year we watched this delightful species at the nest. Among other key target is Oriental Cuckoo, which occurs in suitable habitat alongside the much more familiar Common Cuckoo, while Oriental Turtle Dove also breeds in the area.

The marshes, scrub and forests host an exciting diversity of warblers, among which Lanceolated Warbler is the star prize. This species arrives very late on its breeding grounds and is sometimes difficult to locate in the first half of June, but with luck this species should be back on territory by the time of our visit. Other notable warblers include River, Blyth’s Reed, Paddyfield, Booted, Icterine, Greenish and Siberian Chiffchaff.

Last year’s pioneering first group were very fortunate to watch a singing male Siberian Rubythroat on territory. The forests and scrub here are extensive and in many places inaccessible, and there is still much to be learned about the breeding avifauna of the area – could other species such as White’s Thrush and Black-throated Thrush also occur? While we can’t expect any of these eastern species, we should always be alert to the possibility of out-of-range finds.

One of the most difficult targets is Yellow-breasted Bunting, now in rapid decline and no longer present in the vast majority of its former Western Palearctic range. Just 20 years ago this still extended as far west as the Baltic coast of Finland, but the species has retreated eastwards as numbers have fallen, partly through widespread trapping in Asia. Birds are still occasionally found in the vicinity of Yekaterinburg, though sometimes just outside the WP boundary. We have absolutely no guarantees but will be constantly on the lookout for this increasingly rare songbird.

Otherwise, there is an excellent supporting cast of exciting species in the area and we’ll expect to see some of the following during our short visit: Black Grouse, Garganey, Montagu’s Harrier, Spotted Crake, Corn Crake, Caspian Gull, Great Grey Owl, Long-eared Owl, White-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Red-backed Shrike, Siberian Stonechat, Bluethroat, Thrush Nightingale, Citrine Wagtail, Brambling, Common Rosefinch and Hawfinch.

Day 1: Depart London Heathrow at 1325 to Moscow with an evening connection to Yekaterinburg (arrival 0150). Vitaly will be waiting to meet the group on arrival and transfer us to a hotel close to the airport.

Days 2-4:  Three full days birding near Yekaterinburg. Group evening log call every night.

Day 5: Our final morning’s birding before returning to the airport and depart Yekaterinburg at 1400 for Moscow, with an onward connection to London Heathrow (arrival 2125).

Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.

Species seen in 2018

Garganey
Hen Harrier
Black Kite
Wood Sandpiper
‘Russian’ Common Gull (L c heinei)
Steppe Gull (L f barabensis)
Oriental Turtle Dove
Common Cuckoo
Oriental Cuckoo
Eurasian Pygmy-Owl
Great Grey Owl
Short-eared Owl
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Peregrine Falcon
Red-backed Shrike
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Common Magpie
Spotted Nutcracker
Willow Tit
Azure Tit
Siberian Chiffchaff (P c tristis)
Yellow-browed Warbler
Greenish Warbler
Booted Warbler
Paddyfield Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Lanceolated Warbler
River Warbler
Common Grasshopper Warbler
Thrush Nightingale
Bluethroat
Siberian Rubythroat
Red-flanked Bluetail
Siberian Stonechat
Citrine Wagtail
Olive-backed Pipit
Brambling
Common Rosefinch
Long-tailed Rosefinch
Common Crossbill

Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.

Dates: TBC June 2020

Leaders: Vitaly Polyakov and Dominic Mitchell

£1949   per person based on sharing a twin room (deduct £500 if arranging own flights)

£159     per person – single supplement

Group size: 6 plus leaders.

Price includes: Return economy class flights including pre-paid taxes, all ground transport, accommodation in rooms with private facilities, breakfast and lunches, visa invitations, bird checklist and services of WildWings leader in Russia with local guides.

Price excludes: Travel insurance, drinks, dinners, visas (from £119 for UK passport holders) and other items of a personal nature.


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