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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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Baltoji Voke - background & birds
Written by Jos   

 

Baltoji Voke pools

 

 

From Latvia in the north-east to the Polish border in the far south, the eastern half of Lithuania is a broad swath of extensive forests and lakes. Yet, despite this abundance of water, there exists a paradox in that there is relatively little natural aquatic habitat of any great value to significant numbers of birds - most of the lakes are steep-banked, deep and provide little in the way of opportunities to either feed or breed.

 

The notable exceptions to this, including the internationally-important Nemunas Delta and the lakes of Zuvintas, Dusia and Metelys, are mostly in the south of the country or near the Baltic Sea. At these, the bird fauna is diverse and numerous, with both large numbers of breeding species and even greater numbers of migratory wildfowl. However, even though these sites are of extreme importance, they are also quite few in number, limited in geographical spread and, furthermore, of little use to the numerous waders that migrate across Lithuania, birds which require shallow water and exposed mud.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 08 May 2010 )
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