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Part Two: Western Sahara, plus coast revisited.
Written by Jos   

Moussier's Redstart, femaleRarely visited and little known, this arid portion of the world does not feature on the itinerary of many birders. The reasons are not difficult to understand - as well as the simmering military conflict and the almost total lack of birding information, there is also the issue of distances ...they are vast, everywhere is very far from everywhere else!  

For the adventurous birder though, the attraction is clear -  Dakhla in particular, and the southern deserts in general, offer the possibility of birds more typical of the Afrotropics. Royal Tern is near guaranteed and Black-crowned Finchlark have been recorded, reasons enough to see me travelling the 1400 km south to the Tropic of Cancer, about as far south as you can go without actually entering Mauritania.
 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 May 2007 )
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February 2007. A mega bevy of peckers!
Written by Jos   

Male at the feederPlunging temperatures, snow and bucketloads of birds at the feeders, all the classic ingredients of a fantastic winter month in Lithuania. Temperatures hit minus 20 early in the month and a chilling minus 32 later on - a surefire way to get bird numbers up! A mid-month census across the four feeding sites suggested almost 1250 birds present, but for sheer wow, little could beat the stunning male White-backed Woodpecker present throughout. Alongside this star, some of the month's other highlights included Grey-headed Woodpeckers increasing to four, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers doing likewise and the northern Long-tailed Tits reaching nine. Black Woodpeckers and a Goshawk also put in appearances and, no less impressive, Tree Sparrows finally decided the feeders in the new garden were worthy places to dine, even dragging in a House Sparrow on one occasion. Away from the feeders, I did very little birding elsewhere in the country - most of it is frozen and birdless - but I couldn't go without a short mention of the Steller's Eiders in Palanga, Smews in Klaipeda and White-tailed Eagles in Kaunas, all the result of a short trip westward.

 

Last Updated ( Sunday, 22 February 2009 )
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Into the lands of Azure Tits. Belarus 2006, a cross-border jaunt
Written by Jos   

 Pripyat

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 )
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