Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Republic of Belarus - Part Four

I woke early and left our hotel in the town of Pinsk and went out for a walk. I headed to an area of parkland, which was sure to hold some good birds. I got great views of a Syrian  and a Middle Spotted Woodpeckers posing low down on the same tree trunk. I also saw the only Ortolan Bunting of the trip perched on a low branch near to a war memorial. Fieldfares were nesting in the area, which was great to see. A male was in full song and a few small chicks were begging for food. Close by an Icterine Warbler was in full song.

Icterine Warbler
Fieldfare Chick

After checking out of the hotel we started on the journey towards Turov where we hoped to see Azure Tits, but first we visited a lake near to the Ukrainian border. A sign post in the forest reminded us that we were quite close to Chernobyl!

Radiation Warning

We scored with two really good birds at this site: firstly a singing male Barred Warbler, which sang out in the open giving everyone excellent views and we also saw the first of just two Lesser Spotted Eagles for the trip. A few dragonflies were up and about including some Large White-faced Darters.

 Female Large White-faced Darter

We continued our journey towards Turov and on the way we made a planned stop at a spot by a river. Our leader had spotted nesting Oystercatchers there (not so common in Belarus) during his recce in April. Whilst he was proudly trying to show us the Oystercatchers, Chris picked up a Terek Sandpiper. As you can imagine we were all side tracked by this. The pressure was off as far as this species was concerned, as it isn't the easiest one to find. We also saw quite a few Temminck's Stints and many summer-plumaged Ruff. A chap came to check us out and as normal he homed in on me. I had no idea what he was saying, but he was determined to get through to me by repeating himself many times over. He left us with a gift of two cans of beer, so he was happy.

My Friend Makes His Way Towards Us

A late afternoon arrival at the Azure Tit site was a mistake, as they had  already gone to roost, but we did see a Savi's Warbler singing from the top of some reeds and we also saw a European Beaver.

There wasn't much to see on arrival at Turov as it was dark, but early the following morning it was clear why this area is so good. Our hotel was close to the banks of the Pripyat River. This river meandered through some stunning wet meadows, which attracts  many terns and wading birds. 

The Pripyat River at Turov
White-winged Black Tern

We still had some unfinished business with Azure Tit, but we first had a walk to a ringing station to learn about the best sites around Turov. The ringer had just finished ringing some waders, which he showed us.

Male and Female Ruff

While we waited for the mini-bus to pick us up, we spent half an hour scrutinising the birds out on the marsh. Amongst them was a Marsh Sandpiper and also the first Black-necked Grebes of the trip.


Game on, we were on our way back to the Azure Tit site.

Azure Tit Site

We slowly worked our way along the raised bank hoping that we would catch a glimpse of the rare, from a European perspective, Azure Tit. Suddenly Howard spotted a pair on some reeds behind where we expected them to appear. During the next hour these stunning little birds put on a real show for us as they collected food. This completed the full set of European tits for Dawn and I.

Azure Tit

During the afternoon we paid a visit to some fishponds which produced a few new birds including Caspian Gulls, a second-summer Baltic Gull and a showy Marsh Warbler. Most of the others saw a Bluethroat while I messed about with the Caspian Gulls. I couldn't understand why I was the only one excited by the Caspian Gulls?

First-summer Caspian Gull

Our evening was spent at the Laskovichy Marshes. This turned out to be one of the best locations of the trip. The marshes were alive with birds. The highlight was a displaying Marsh Sandpiper, which made a sound like a house alarm as it displayed. Dave did well to notice a Spotted crake at the edge of the reeds, as this was a lifer for some of the group. The site of 150+ white-winged Black Terns together with at least 50 Black terns was also memorable.

Every town had at least one war memorial, and most of them were very different to the war memorials back home. Most had statues of soldiers with machine guns in their hands. The one at Turov was really graphic and made you think. The First and Second Wars were terrible for those involved in the fighting in the areas we visited and many structures left over from the wars were visible.

Part of the large Bronze Plaque Above the War Memorial in Turov

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