The last leg of our long trip that started with Alexandrine Parakeet in a park in Amsterdam in March is a trip to the Ural Mountains.
It’s a wild mostly inhabited area with large spruce forests. The mountains themselves are not especially high, more like the mountains at home, the Swedish Fjällen.
We went by night train from Yekaterineburg to Serov, and then by bus to Severouralsk where we were picked up by Victor the driver/camp master and Galina, camp cook from heaven. We packed all the gear into their UAZ and drove to the first camp site, just below Kvarkush plateau. White’s Thrush and Red-flanked Bluetails singing whenever we made a stop. We spent in total 5 nights at the first camp site. Around the camp, one of the most common bird was Arctic Warbler, singing everywhere.
Day two we hiked up to the plateau, good birding along the path as well as up there. Weather was bad though, rainy and cold. We found a nest of Little Buntings along the path.
Up on the Plateau we spread out and searched for Grouse. Soon we found a few Willow Grouses.
The Siberian Rubythroats were singing from the bushes, their throats shining inside the grey foliage.
Great Snipe was displaying in the rain, and with playback we got to see one very well.
The bad weather forced us to go back. In general here, the weather was usually good or even very good early in the mornings, with heavy rain in the afternoons.
In the late afternoon we birded the lower areas around the camp. Black-throated Thrush was reasonably common.
Next day we drove with the UAZ to an area with an open marsh and wet forest. The habitat was ideal for Rustic Bunting and we split up into two teams searching. Nutcrackers were abundant in that area, flying around in loose groups making ruckus.
Eventually we hear the Rustic Bunting singing, and we’re able to get to the bird.
The next day we made yet another hike up onto the plateau. This time going further up. Singing Bluetails on the way up.
This was a bird very high up on my want-to-see list. Almost twenty years ago me and hacker/math/computer friends of mine started our first Internet company and we named the company Bluetail. Now I finally got to see the bird.
Once above the tree line, we stumble onto a family of Weasels.
And just shortly after that, a large Brown Bear stands on its hind legs looking at us, it takes off running and three cubs follow. Stunning.
We go higher, aiming for an area that from a distance looked good for Dotterel. We never found any Dotterels, however we found both a singing Lapland Bunting and Rock Ptarmigans. The Bunting is very rare in the area.
Next camp site was close to the Ridge. Here Bluetails were singing constantly around the camp. The price bird on the ridge is the Black-throated Accentor. First day was just rain, we walked halfway up to the ridge anyway and found a nest of White’s Thrush.
Next day, we hiked up towards the ridge and soon hear singing Yellow-browed Warblers. This is a species we thought would be common in the area as a whole but it was only here, just below the ridge it was common.
We started to search the forest which is known to hold the Accentors, and fairly quick, we hear a bird singing. It responds to playback and we get exceptional views.
This is a very good WP bird, and to be able to see and hear it singing at the breeding site is a privilege.
With Black-throated Accentor in the bag, we were now almost done in the Urals, only Siberian Tit remaining. The forest around our camp, and also along the path up to the ridge looked like ideal habitat for Siberian Tit. Next day we split up from the camp and started to search for the Tit. We haven’t even begun the actual search when Raul calls out, he found a pair just 50 meters away from our camp.
Cleanup in the Urals. We thought that maybe we had allocated too much time for our Russia trip, we hadn’t. It takes time to find these species. Also, quite a lot of time in Russia was lost due to rain and bad weather.
Night train back to Yekaterinenburg. Arrived early in the morning and this time, a friend of Sasha had located a nest of Azure Tit. It felt really good to be able to finally get the Azure Tit which we had searched so hard for. Cred to Ural Expeditions here, they knew we craved this bird, and found a nest in Yekaterinenburg for us.
This is last birding day in Russia, and we attempted a long shot. We went back to the place where we earlier had a few hybrids Yellowhammer/Pine bunting. No Pine Buntings, but quite a few Oriental Turtle Doves close to Monetny.
The Russia trip has been a success, we have found everything we wanted to find and more. Spent the last night in the city drinking copious amounts of vodka in bars and playing chess with Russians.