We’re in Russia, and we love it. This country rocks. Putin may do strange things, but what we see, this sure looks good. We have a setup here with a full-package deal from Ural Expeditions. This is sort of required to do a proper Ural tour, expensive but good. In the Yekaterinburg area we have a van, a driver Igor and our guide, Sasja.
First day of birding we went straight to a famous site close to the airport, packed breakfast and dawn. The first Booted Warbler sung as we opened the car doors.
These marshes held a plethora of new WP birds for us, and just in a few hours we ticked off Grasshopper Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, Long-Tailed Rosefinch and a fast over flying Oriental Turle Dove.
Other nice species at the Airport marshes:
After a wonderful breakfast in the lingering morning, we went to another spot close by which held a number of breeding Great Snipes.
Nice little wetland with breeding Godwits and Red-shanks
Keep at it, we went to another local site called, Monetny which is an amazing site, with a dirt road passing thorough prime marsh habitat. First thing, we came into the habitat and we heard River Warbler calling, next we hear Greenish Warbler and then Lanceolated. Dream birds.
Oriental Cuckoo called from far away and we found the first of hopefully many Olive-backed Pipits. The site is famous for Azur Tit, we didn’t find any though.
At the end of the day, we had picked up 11 new WP ticks. We remember when we had the pelagic in April in Kuwait, we had 10 new ticks that day and Paul Chapman said, this was probably the last day you had 10 new ticks. Haha, he was wrong.
Day two, started out early in a park close to the city, Lake Shartash where Sasja had seen the Azur Tits just two weeks ago. No tits there. Tried a few other spots, and finally went to a spot an hour north of the city. This was the place where Sasja had seen Yellow-breasted Bunting two weeks ago, a known nesting site. Fairly long walk through woods and moor, and we arrived at the spot. Entirely different habitat to what we believed was the right habitat for the enigmatic bunting. The spot was a classical Swedish/Russian taiga marsh with small Pines and Cloudberries. We split up, and after half an hour Mårten calls on the Walkie and says – WE HAVE THE BIRD. Raul and I run there but when we arrive, the bunting is gone. We walk back and forth, searching, no Bunting. Eventually the bird responds to playback and flies over, Raul and I see a Bunting, but that’s all. Sigh. One hour later, after thorough search we connect with a male. Poor pics, but better video. What a bird.
Day three, rain. We’re sleeping in a wonderful camp full of well behaving children on some sort of Russian wilderness course. We eat with the kids and it’s just great – apart from the rain which pretty much rules out birding. Nevertheless we ignore that and walk along a swampy area for a couple of hours searching for Rustic Bunting. None there. Back to camp and drink coffee and read. Eventually, bored out of our sculls we go out again for a walk. Mårten and Erik gets to see a Capercaille!! The infamous Difference List is finally empty, it hasn’t been empty since January 1 when Mårten saw a Moustached Warbler and Erik and I did not.
Day 4 in Lower Urals, this is Azur Tit day. We’re on a quest. Started out really early in Monetny, walking slowly playbacking the darned Tit. Apart from not finding the Azur Tit during the entire day, we had some fantastic birding this day, with sightings of Oriental cuckoo and much more. Best, and a bit unexpected were in total three Siberian Ruby-throats.
What a stunner. Pretty wasted after a long walk through the marshes we come back to the van, the driver, Igor, sees us and waves – come come. A Great Grey Owl has parked just by the van.
Another good bird on this second visit to Monetny was White-backed Woodpecker, quite a few individuals were seen and heard.
We gave up on Monetny and tried a few other sites nearby for the Azur Tit. Tricky bird, the current theory is that due to the late spring, they had failed nestings and are now sulking in the woods.
On a field, on the way back, we heard Yellowhammer/Pine bunting song and stopped to investigate. A few Yellowhammers, but also a number of clear hybrids. Interesting to see such a clear mix of two species.
Tomorrow it’s going to rain, and we’re having Azur Tit panic.