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Belarus, six trips.
Into the lands of Azure Tits. Belarus 2006, a cross-border jaunt PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jos   


2.00 a.m., the Belarussian border and the hunt is on. Three days earlier, as a diplomatic meltdown saw the E.U. closing its doors to Lukashenko and his top aides, things were not looking too hopeful for my quest. But here, in the darkness on the Lithuanian-Belarussian border, a lone Black Redstart’s song rang out, standing testimony to the two hours I stood in the chill … declarations filled, custom checks, visa control and paperwork, then a final wave on and I was through, into Belarus and the land of Azure Tits!

Flirting with the Western Palaearctic, Azure Tits are gems of almost mythical standing, occasional mid-winter vagrants in far away Finland, otherwise a bird very much at home across the Siberian taiga. Belarus though, a secret treasure trove of excellent birding potential, supports the gem too – a population of some hundred or so pairs scattered through the remote forests and marshes of the Pripyet Valley, a fabulous area not very far from the Ukrainian border. On top of the Azure Tits, the valley is one of the most important wetlands in the whole of Europe …the of list breeding species reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of most desirable birds! All this lying just 450 km from my front door – quickly a plan started taking shape, the idea to see Azure Tit by the end of 2006. I hoped to wrap it up in one trip, but thought it prudent to bargain for three to maximise chances of finding this elusive special – an early trip to make best of conditions before the leaves closed the canopies of the extensive forests, a June trip to enjoy the birding in this valley at its best, and a later trip if the two previous had failed in their mission!

Last Updated ( Monday, 04 May 2009 )
The Enchantment Continues. Belarus 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jos   

Azure TitFollowing on from the successes on the year before, the lure of Belarus remained strong ...those enigmatic Azure Tits enough to pull me over the border yet again. For 2007, the goal was to photograph them, either on an early April trip before the leaves would be out or in early June, a time I hoped to also find Bisons in the extensive forests that border the Polish border. Trip one proved absolutely fantastic, Azure Tits seen within minutes of arriving, White-backed Woodpeckers equally easy to find and plenty of other birds to keep me happy.

Photograph ...not the standard view, but the jewel in the crown of Belarussian birding.

And then there was the second trip, a few days in early June that was just staggering - no less than six Great Grey Owls and a pair of breeding Azure Tits, could it get any better?!


Last Updated ( Sunday, 03 May 2009 )
Azure Fix, Belarus 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jos   

Azure TitIt was time for my annual fix, a voyage into the depths of the legendary Pripyat Valley to seek out the enigmatic Azure Tit and other birds of allure that reside in this secret treasure trove. With visa arranged and car packed, I was ready for adventure and the inevitable queues that I would meet at the border. What I wasn't ready for, however, was the tree that came crashing down burying me and the car! Fortunately, swerving at the last moment, I ended up beneath the canopy rather than trunk and soon extracted myself! With an additional dent or two to my car, off I trundled for a weekend of eastern promise, birds galore in settings that rival nothing in Europe.

Azure Tit, Terek Sandpiper, Greater Spotted Eagle, Syrian Woodpecker, a list of mouthwatering species...

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 31 March 2009 )
The Final Fling. Belarus 2009. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jos   

Azure Tit


The legendary Pripyat Valley, an amazing place that has captivated year after year, luring me across the border in search of its hidden gems and birding delights. What started out as a quest to see Azure Tits in 2006 turned out to be pure enchantment straddling four years and numerous trips, the Azure Tits never losing their appeal, the mouth-watering extras added pleasure. However, this trip is likely to be my last visit to Belarus for the foreseeable future - so the idea was to end it how it all began, another quest to find Azure Tits, hopefully sealing the trip with some photographs.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 June 2009 )