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Some Birding in Lithuania and Ukraine, May 17th - June 3rd 2013 (1 Viewer)


Bah humbug
Cheers guys ...

I guess it indeed was the bonus jackpot. It wasn't all downhill from here onwards ... but certainly a (the?) major highlight ... top of my mammal list now at any rate :t:

Day 2 Lithuania - some fishponds and etc ... second part

A smart melodic little ditty, emanating from beside the ditch – a Blyth’s Reed Warbler! This wasn’t a bird on my list, because I hadn’t realised they occurred here – I thought the nearest regular birds were to be found in the extreme south east of Finland. Very happy to be wrong, as this was another lifer, a bonus bird! I even managed to see the bird (or half of it, again) as it poured its little heart out. This was good enough – not for me the rigours of painstakingly rigorous feather analysis I’m afraid. The bird was singing, I could hear the song, and I could see it at the same time (you have to be a little careful as more than one bird can occur in the same bush and you can end up ticking the wrong one – we’d enjoyed fleeting views of a Whitethroat clambering around in the Marsh Warbler bush earlier). Very nice too. A scarce breeder, if not a rarity, and the first my hosts had caught up with here, so nice for them too. Topping off the avian delights at this cracking little spot, another Thrush Nightingale showing well, a booming Bittern, 15 or so noisy Greylag Geese (and seeming a bit wilder than ones I’m used to), with another pair of Citrine Wagtails to boot.

The others had returned to the car as I attempted to phonebin (as in 'digiscope', but with mobile phone and binoculars) the Citrine Wagtails (4 of them together now) perched on a series of spindly dead trees on the edge of the reedbed, when I noticed it was getting a little greyer. The first drops of rain were falling as I approached the car, and with seconds, a deluge was beginning to engulf us. Realising if we didn’t move off the muddy and only partially vegetated track we could become stuck if the earlier one was anything to go by, we tried reversing back the way we had come. However, with almost zero visibility out the rear windscreen, this proved impossible at the first sharp bend (a tumble into the adjoining fishpond seemed rather too likely), so forwards again and into the unknown it was, which fortunately, and with much slipping and sliding, we managed to reach one of the main trackways. Phew! It was now not just raining, but hailing heavily. The sky was black and a new worry formed as the size of the hailstones gradually increased. The noise was deafening*. Hailstones the size of large marbles were now hurtling out of the leaden sky. We sat tight and hoped the windscreen would hold, which somehow it did. As it eased off, we were able to inspect the damage. Somehow or another, this turned out to be zero. Glass and Steel had repelled the onslaught of Ice (with reasonable velocity) just like that. Perhaps we had been worried needlessly, although it is known that large hailstones can cause serious damage - and this was the most serious hailstorm any of us had ever directly experienced.

We did however feel a little concerned for the delicate skin-and-feathered things we’d been watching ten minutes earlier – how had they fared? – especially the terns and waders (no-one cares about gulls)** which hadn’t been able to hide from the ferocity of the weather? We didn’t go back to check.

Carrying on our way like the heartless birders we were (in any case, there was nothing we could have done if an incident had occurred), and it wasn’t long before the village adjacent to the fishponds was reached. The roads here were bone-dry.

One last stop at the roadside, a little fortuitously, as L was receiving a call on the mobile, and a solitary Black Stork flew low over the horizon, signalling the end of the fishponds.

The day however, was not quite over yet (the fishponds were also still there, presumably, just like the butterfly in the forest and the cat in the box). There was still one good bird yet to come, because M and L had been involved in putting up nest boxes for a rare and enigmatic breeding species which had been in slow decline in the region. Whether this decline had been arrested it was perhaps too soon to say, but a start had been made. At the first of the three sites we checked we saw one – perched on the telephone wires near a small sawmill (preferred hunting perch and preferred location too) – an ever-so smart Roller. With only 8 or so (known) pairs in Lithuania the previous year, another good bird – a good bird even if they had been more common. We left it in peace, hopefully to bring another brood into being for the year, and headed back for the ranch.

(* In actuality the noise wasn’t deafening. Our hearing was a bit impaired, perhaps, but we weren’t deafened. Nor was the sky actually black – it just was a quite dark grey. Manner of speech, I think you’re allowed to do it. If I’d said the hailstones were the size of basketballs, well, that would have been a bit more innacurate as they patently weren’t. You’re allowed to lie about colours and noises, but not sizes. Plus I wouldn’t be writing this if they had been the size of basketballs ...)

(** Exceptions exist, apparently. It really does take all sorts ...)
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Bah humbug
Some pics.



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Bah humbug
And some more ...

(Not my work, although that should be fairly obvious ( ;) ), Laimonas took these - other Lithuanian (and further afield?) at BirdPix Lt)


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Bah humbug
Day 3 Lithuania – Northern Forests (Birzu Giria)

Seeing as the local forest where Milda had seen the WB Woodpecker the previous day was practically on our doorstop and en route north, we decided to make this our first stop of the day.

A nice male Redstart singing resplendently from the trees just outside M & L’s apartment was already a nice start to the day (and the only good sighting in the whole trip, perhaps a little surprisingly). Fieldfares blasting up from the ground too of course, and a colony of dapper Tree Sparrows too.

But it wasn’t long before we were yet again piling out of the birdingmobile, this time, however, we had barely started birding the site before a woodpecker silhouetted on a tree trunk was spotted. It remained a silhouette – or did it? … It was rather large, and actually still black when it wasn’t against the light. Excellent! We watched the male make 2 visits to the nest hole in quick succession, its bright red crown and pale yellow eye vividly offsetting its stark angular beauty as I enjoyed my first proper views of the beast – flight views as a kid in France and later in Finland not quite the same. Black Woodpecker!

Other birds in the area included Garden Warbler, cracking views of a little Wood Warbler in the shady conifers, smart male Pied Flycatchers, and a couple of Bullfinches coming down to the pool to drink. But alas, no White-backed Woodpeckers.

However onward we must head again – we had a good 2 hour drive to complete before we reached our next (and the main) destination. WBW’s would have to wait. The road north was a good, fast one. Unfortunately too fast – every time I had spotted an interesting looking raptor from the rear seat, called it and the driver had reacted and thought about slowing down, it was already some way behind (we probably could have tried scoping, but again we didn't think of this in time either). Marsh Harriers were common, quartering the ground, but two birds sat in a field looked a bit wrong and rather more aqualine. But they may just have been MH’s. Another on a hummock looked decidedly good , with a golden-maned head just like in The Collins and almost retrospectively tickable – but only if we did actually see another. And not really at 75mph, although I did spot and tick a pair of Honey Buzzards circling over a distant wood. Eventually I swapped over to the front seat, whereupon we didn't see another interesting bird. Apart from a Common Buzzard ...

We also made the first of several obligatory ice-cream stop. Multiple stops for multiple ice-creams in fact.

We should quite possibly have stayed longer at the woodpecker site, eaten more ice-creams, or at least updated on our progress, because we arrived a full twenty minutes before the guy we were meant to be meeting, Armandus, at the small village he lived in near the edge of the forest.

After a while figuratively twiddling our thumbs, he suddenly materialised, and off we went. Soon the tarmac road was left behind for a dusty, stony rough surface as a wall of forest slowly came closer. Conversation had now switched to Lithuanian as the guys caught up, but I wasn’t left out as we soon made our first stop shortly before actually hitting the wall – ‘We might get Lesser Spotted Eagles around here’ I was told. And we did. Scanning the skies a distant, droopy-winged raptor was soon in our sights. It was rather distant, but at least I could pick up most of the features as it banked and turned. Relief!

As it circled it went into a long low glide back the way we had just come, so a quick decision was made and myself and L leapt into the car, and leaving the other two in a pall of dust we didn’t see it again*. On our return we found the others watching a closer pair showing well. At least I now had proper views! Lifer number 4. Other raptors here included Montagu’s Harrier and the only Sparrowhawk of the trip. (*edit: The dust had barely settled when the Monty's went over - we did try for a pall id, but it probably wasn't)

And so we entered the forest, and started birding. The forest, extending beyond our remit and into the neighbouring country of Latvia, was reasonably wild, undisturbed and extensive. It was, however, crisscrossed by a regular network of well-maintained trackways on a regular grid. We now explored these trackways, slowly, by car. Stopping now and then at a likely looking spot, birding all the while. This involved a couple of Red-breasted Flycatchers singing lustfully from (unfortunately) deep within the conifer ranks adjoining the trackway, a couple of Tree Pipits and (finally!), a Common Rosefinch, and quite a rosy one, but of the hoped for woodpeckers or Ural Owls (the only owl we had a realistic chance of bumping into in the daytime at roost), there was not a sign. Every clearing seemed devoid of instantly recognisable and interesting silhouettes. Early on however, we did enjoy another closer Lesser Spotted Eagle sailing above our heads as it went about its business, wing patches and all.

And then the heavens opened, just as we were about to embark on a longer 3km walk Armandus had planned for us through some of the better habitat. So we retired to a handy lakeside cabin for lunch – Pilchards and Sardines this time, to the accompaniment of Great Reed Warbler song.

The rain having cleared and we set out again – and the wildlife had come out too, it seemed. A Woodcock appeared on the ground, then another, crossing a side-track as we again attempted to start off on the 3km walk, like a dumpy elderly gentleman and his consort, then a bit of an excitement as a mammal appeared out of the mist – a hare. Not just any hare however, this one was an M and S Hare – a Mountain (Style) Hare – considering we were nowhere near any mountains, indeed any really open ground, this seemed a bit incongruous, however it’s just a name, and the heathery grassy understory was obviously good enough for it. We enjoyed looking at its legs (because they were white, not any weird kind of harey leg fetish), and its daintier head and ears as it nervously fed on the thin grasses growing at the side of the track. Although it was a nice little animal, I suspect I was not alone in harbouring a secret desire for a Lynx to silently materialise next to it or come bursting out of the forest and snatch it up. This didn’t happen, perhaps unsurprisingly. A had only seen Lynx half a dozen times in years of working and living near the forest, so we would have been rather jammy to see one on our sole afternoon (although we did have good previous form for jammy sightings, it was not to be). We did however find plenty of wolf poo down one track, with some tracks even in the sandy surface.
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Bah humbug
Thankyou for the nice comments ... !! Think I've given myself a task and a half here - should probably crack on with it again, still only half way through day 3. Possibly already one of the longest trip reports out there, already ... ?

(Edit: The girlfriend just pointed out that people were probably just being sarcastic ... ;) )
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Bah humbug
Day 3 Continued ...

The birding (and later, mammaling) continued to improve when the guys ahead suddenly stopped at a burst of song emanating from the tree-tops.

Greenish Warbler! Regular but uncommon in this part of the world, and although not on my target list, almost should have been – having only had very brief views of one in Helsinki a few years back as my sole previous sighting. I’m not really a twitcher, and haven’t ever really done the east coast of the UK in autumn, and anyway, there’s something nice about catching up with a bird in its natural habitat instead of a lost waif or stray. He says – there’s also something nice about seeing lost waifs and strays out of their natural habitat on a coastal autumn foray …

Anyway, very nice it was too, once we’d actually picked it out in the waving Aspen fronds (or was it a Birch?) at the intersection of two trackways. Leaving it, we hadn’t gone a hundred yards before we encountered another, first by its contact call, then also bursting out into song. Smart with its wee wing bar and long supercilium. I even saw a Chiffchaff at this point (they’d been eluding me!), to add to the Lesser Whitethroat surreptitiously feeding in the trackside scrub earlier on the warbler front.

Not long before we were again approaching the car, and we stopped as a curious high-pitched whistling sound could be heard. Or so it was alleged. I did hear it, but it was almost subliminally not there, a mere echo of a phrase once heard. Maybe my hearing is starting to go, in addition to the grey cells. ‘Hazelhen’ came the verdict. We didn’t make any effort to track it down off to the side of the track – with hindsight I should have done so, just went with the flow, probably just a trash bird for everyone else, and after a comedy few minutes where it would call whilst we were talking, and then not when we were straining to hear it;

‘There’ they all said.

I heard nothing. We all waited. Conversation started up again (*)

‘There’ I said.

No-one else heard it. We all waited. Conversation started …

'There it is' someone cried. No-one else heard anything. Convers ...

and so on, ad infinitum, almost,

we carried on regardless, leaving it to whistle happily to itself, or perhaps a select group of lady Hazelhens. (We carried on regardless, literally, I would’ve gladly given it my regards, and indeed loved to have sat down and regarded it well if I’d thought properly to do so at the time …) This was not a bad record, but barely having heard it, let alone see it, one of the few minor disappointments of the trip. Next time perhaps …

We could see the car (we'd seen it earlier, so it wasn't a tick), but still the woods had more to offer us – I caught a glimpse of a dark shape crashing through the trees as a Roe Deer startled away, and a Red Squirrel bounding down a sturdy trunk to feed on the ground was nice, and another trip tick.

As we were leaving the forest, at greater pace now, except when we had to take a detour as a medium sized tree had fallen across the track between the time we’d entered the forest and the time we were now at, there was one last brief offering to be given up by the solemn ranks. Every side track was still being scrutinised out of the side windows in the vain hope that a lynx or even just a wolf would be silently padding forth (we could hope), and just before we came to the point of no more tracks to scrutinise, something did indeed materialise in my field of vision – a brown raggedy lithe thing with rounded ears bounded across the track as we passed perhaps 20 yards away at speed.

Mink’ cried Armandus, who was sitting on the same side of the car as me, and saw it too.

I was a bit confused, as I hadn’t thought it was a mink, plus the habitat wasn’t great (although there was plenty of wet ditch around - the first RB Fly (**) earlier in the day had been rather unattainable partly due to a wet ditch/waterway too wide to leap) – it turns out it was just a minor language faux pas as we had been discussing yesterday’s mink earlier, and Armandus had meant to exclaim ‘Marten’. I was glad that this was the case, and even forgave A for not having English as his first language, because that was what I had thought, and it was a lifer. Not a Beech Marten, or a Stone Marten (if it wasn’t the first it definitely wasn’t the second because apparently they’re the same thing ***), but a Pine Marten, something I’d never seen before, not even fleetingly. Which now I had. Fleetingly, but I’d still seen it.

All in all, lack of Woodpeckers and Owls notwithstanding (or notwithsitting – we’d spent a fair bit of time scanning from the car too), it wasn’t a bad day and experience, with another couple of lifers (bird and mammal), and yet more ice-creams to come. We also had the drive home and whatever that would bring.

Upon finishing our ice-creams and dropping A off (referred to as M, L and A mostly from now on, got to do something to reduce the word count. Or letter count at any rate … although explaining this has probably used up more characters than I would have saved. Also of course A was now to be no longer with us) we then to be continued soon hopefully.

(* Conversation when birding?! Heaven forfend! Four birders (ie a crowd), all a bit knackered and thus becoming more dude-like by the minute. We should really all have been on stealth birding mode. More jaded than jedi ... ?)

(** RB Fly = Red-breasted Flycatcher. Although, thinking about it, are you allowed to shorten bird names in this vulgar, common and disrespectful manner when referring to birds in their native habitat? Or is it just a term reserved for autumnal birding by twitchers and hardcore birders at iconic coastal sites, grotty reservoirs or the pub?)

(*** Steve Martin would have been extremely unlikely to have bounded across the track, but not beyond the realms of probability. Perhaps in a parallel universe. Fortunately we were able to eliminate him early on as the ears were all wrong)
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Bah humbug
Day 3 ... finalised.

The journey passed by without major incident, although we were meant to be picking up one of M and L's children, we'll call him child 2 for now, from the grandparents. It would have probably been more of an incident if we'd forgotten him altogether, but they are reasonably good parents, they say (apart from the occasional/regular abandonment of their kids in order to carry out regular nefarious birding stuff) and so we pulled off into a side patch of long grass to pick up said 10 year old child (the other one is older and manages to fend for itself).

The highlight was the fact that the house was a log cabin, built by themselves, and now basically their home rather than the holiday retreat it perhaps started out as. Milda's folks were as pleased as punch to be temporarily entertaining, and out came the snacks and alcohol. This was good, in a way, as it's always nice to enjoy hospitality and show your appreciation for the customs of others. Even when the snacks are pigs ears, and the drink is Lemon Absolut.

I had my suspicion about the snack, but actually it was not bad at all, even when I knew what it was. The home-made Vodka-type drink, complete with pips was also not bad - a bit like Lemon squash of course, but with slightly more kick. Fortunately I wasn't driving.

We got back at gone ten, did a bit of domestic stuff, and went to bed.

Some pics -


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Bah humbug
And a few more ...

1) A typical woodpecker-less clearing.

2) Typical Three-toed Woodpecker damaged tree.

3) Misty Mountain Hare. It would be nice to say 'spot the lynx', or that it's all soft-focus because of the lynx effect, but it isn't and there wasn't.

4) Greenish Warbler in tree sp. You can even see the wing bar if you squint and use your imagination.

5) Remains of the last birder to visit these woods ...



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Bah humbug
Day 3 ... a bit more

(It might have actually been the first bit of Day 4, but I never looked at the time ...)

We got back at gone ten, did a bit of domestic stuff, and went to bed.

The domestic stuff included setting up a camp bed for the aforementioned child in the living room as there was no spare room for me, and I had his room. He was happy as it was camping out in the living room. I was happy because I had a bed, and didn't have to tidy my stuff up.

I was just drifting off to sleep when I was startled awake by an apparition at the door.

It screamed.

In a startled, rather than a long-drawn-out-piercing kind of way, but still a scream causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up and my heart beat to momentarily quicken as a wave of endocrinal panic swept through me. I realised it was the child (it did have a name, I think it may have been Simon? Perhaps). We were both a bit shocked, he probably on the way back from the bathroom and going back to his bed to find someone was in there already, and me, well because you don’t expect someone to shriek in the middle of the night. No lights were on …

Realising what must have happened, I spoke gently, and as reassuringly as I could ‘Do you want to go and see your mummy?’

Thinking about it, after, I expect that would have been a good thing to say to a 5 year old to avert a crisis. Most ten year olds (in the UK at least) are already stealing cars and the like at that age, but it seemed a natural thing to say to a startled child at the time. Of course, it was only later the next day I realised that I was speaking English. Which he patently wasn’t. He probably didn’t understood a single word! Doh! Nevertheless, he quietly and calmly shook his head and trotted out the door. Panic over.

It was all a bit surreal and quite amusing in hindsight, as the door closed and he went back to the bed he should have returned to if not on automatic pilot. No-else stirred. The night re-asserted itself.
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Bah humbug
Day 4 Staying local-ish birding

Despite unwarranted interruptions to sleep patterns, the birding intensity was maintained as Milda had managed to get the day off work and a day's birding was planned (if not, it wouldn't have been a problem - I'd have gone off on my own, but it was more convenient not to have to navigate myself around and nicer). Liamonus was not so lucky. Luck at this point didn’t have much to do with it for me - I was already there.

First stop, somewhat unsurprisingly was the local forest. The idea of an early, crack of dawn start had been mooted, but unfortunately abandoned. It had been fairly intense so far. This time, and after we’d successfully arrived (M hadn’t been paying as much attention to the route when L had been driving, but we got there smoothly enough after being copiously instructed the evening before), we started birding in keen anticipation of birds to come (perhaps a little too keenly … the potential Firecrest would’ve been a good bird if it hadn’t actually been a Coal Tit.)

No Woodpecker action either, so Milda went for a wander, and I stayed put. Not too long after she had gone I was pleased to see a large raptor cruising at low level through the trees – Lesser Spotted Eagle! Shortly followed by a second. Very nice – they were that much closer than the previous days birds, and indulged in a little bit of soaring and wagging key bits at me – those white flashes on the upper wing particularly brilliant in the early morning sun.

Having seen these birds, I decided to have my own wander, and try and track down a woodpecker or two.

This didn’t happen, although I found a nice area of Woodpecker damage, and in some deeper woodland, an outcry of squawking which could well have been of important woodpecker species interaction at the nest hole … or maybe just a White-backed tussling over a particularly desirable and juicy grub with a Three-toed, whilst a Grey-headed looked on. Probably not though. The trees were just too dense and high in this particular spot to have a hope of seeing what was going on. I came across some really smart bog as well – carefully threading across the clumps of sedge in the springy sphagnum I went as far as I could alongside some cracking birch habitat with no birds in. Tracking back, I was able to follow the route I had taken almost back to the original clearing whereupon I couldn’t quite make up my mind how to re-negotiate a particularly boggy bit, so to be sensible I decided to cut around. Unfortunately, the bit I wanted to get around proved bigger/boggier and denser than I would have liked, so eventually I decided to use the tracks present to go ‘the long way around’. I didn’t actually get lost, but the ‘long way around’ proved to be just that. With very little bird action on the way, although Wild Boar damage to the soft ground was very evident at one point. Eventually I reached the next door clearing to ours – to be treated to a large brown thing arising from the cleared ground in front of me. Best yet views of our friend the Lesser Spotted Eagle. Definitely a More Spotted Eagle now. All that worry of not connecting …

It flew up and perched smartly in the boughs of one of the large trees on the edge of the clearing. I probably shouldn’t say ‘very nice’, but it was. Worth the walk, anyway. Heading back to the trackway, and espied Milda on her mobile. She’d probably been there quite a little while at least - couple of days maybe, or half an hour at least. Fortunately she hadn’t quite reached the ‘call the emergency forces’ stage yet, although I had been gone quite a while. She had been trying to call me, but something must have been up with the international calling component of our mobiles. In addition to the LSE’s (which had circled over her head, and a better high than any drug (he says, not having really taken any drugs ever, although I did have a cup of coffee once … foul tasting stuff it was too. Pfffghh!)*), she’d also had a pair of Honey Buzzards, but fortunately, no woodpeckers either.

And so on we continued …

(* 'Pfffghh' - I think this equates to the sound of distasteful liquid being forcibly ejected through the teeth of a person who shouldn't have imbibed it in the first place. 'Bleurgh' is a word that can be used to express extreme distaste and and a kind of gagging (and indeed, just general disgust). Something like 'Pffgghharbleugh' probably would be a better word to describe my reaction to the evil stuff that is coffee ...)

Jon Turner

Well-known member
would be a better word to describe my reaction to the evil stuff that is coffee ...)

And this coming from a man who admitted to eating a Big Mac? Now that's cause for a Bleurghhhh:-O

Anyway enjoying the read Dan, in Falmouth next week too....


Bah humbug
... each to their own ;)

Falmouth reasonably quiet at the moment, although one of the midsummer megas turning up here would be nice ...

I'm still sulking about the Wolf. Good show though, you lucky person!

Since recalled you had a wolf thread, luck has a lot to do with it, sorry ;) The track the wolf poo photo was on had quite a lot of scatterings - quite possibly the meeting of different territories. There was also a (shooting?) hide with good outlook on stilts overlooking the track which thought at the time would have made an excellent stake-out, unfortunately we had to get back.


Bah humbug
Day 4 ... continued a bit more

… back south again, to some more fishponds, or at least we hoped to.

It was now getting on to mid morning, and the lakeside we reached wasn’t absolutely dripping with birds. It was quite dripping though, and certainly a lot better than my local reservoir back home in Cornwall usually is.

First stop was through a bit of broken fencing to a fishing platform amongst the reeds. The hoped for Great White Egrets were not to be seen, and this was northern Europe rather than the med, so herons and relative exotics were a bit limited, but we did enjoy such nice birds as Gadwall and Garganey, Mute and Whooper Swans, Sedge and Reed Warblers, with the highlight undoubtably being a single White-winged Tern in with a handful of Black Terns. We moved around the corner to another platform over the water, although this one was at the end of a rickety boardwalk which would have done any north African country proud. Any excessive movement on the spindly stilts, or a rotten plank (actually calling them planks is probably an injustice served on what we would call a plank in the UK), and an unceremonious dunking three feet below seemed to be in order. Fortunately we didn’t order it this time. Wigeon and a intermittently reeling Savi’s Warbler from this slightly different angle the highlights, with a closer view of the impressive Black-headed Gull colony. We tried looking for Med Gull (one had bred in the past apparently), but no such luck (and only good as a trip tick - not a problem back home).

I decided to walk to the next bit whilst Milda drove. It had of course rained recently, heavily, but I managed to get through without dampening my feet, enjoying a nice Marsh Warbler briefly showing, and a vocal Golden Oriole, not showing. Next to the car, and in an area of some small sandy pits as I approached, a bright yellow wagtail flicked its long tail at me – a nice Citrine Wagtail. And its mate. Always very nice. Apparently they had bred here last year – an increasing, expanding bird in the area, but still very local and good to see. Parking the car, we now explored on foot. Lush overgrown wet meadows with some open water in the middle, we actually connected with some waders, although not of the rarity magnitude we had been hoping for. Perhaps two Redshank, Lapwings, another Little Ringed Plover and a solitary Wood Sandpiper. Unfortunately, just a sandpiper on its own and not a Solitary Sandpiper. That would have been nice … It was crouched down and even though we were far off and in the car, it still didn’t like us and flew off. Just what do Lithuanians do to all their waders to make them so elusive I wonder? The hordes of migrating waders I had hoped for had almost come to naught.

Oh well.


Bah humbug
Day 4 ... More warbling on

Our final point of call in this area was the actual fishponds themselves. This was the bit referred to above ‘as at least we hoped to visit'. Apparently a new manager of the ponds didn’t really like birders much ('hated them?'), and expected a present from visiting birders to be let in. Like a bottle of wine, or money. This kind of behaviour is anathema to most birders (hardcore birders and twitchers especially of course). Proper birders climb under the fence, sneak a peek, and melt off into the background before the security/warden has even realised what is going on ...

But we decided to give it a go the official way, at least at first. I had to wait in the car whilst Milda went in and pleaded for us to be allowed in. I didn't hear raised voices, gunshots or screams, and after a few minutes she returned. She wasn’t actually swearing on her return to the car (actually … maybe she was) ... but we were allowed in!

So enter the dragon’s den we did. Unfortunately there didn’t seem to be any birds. Or dragons, apart from a few with four wings hunting midges and the like. The waterbirds had all been at the other place. This spot had enjoyed a good track record in the past, but it was almost devoid of avian watery birds. No rarities. Not a single wader even! Even when we climbed an even more dangerous structure than the previous rickety boardwalk to look down on one of the sedgier wetland scrapes*. No waders at all. John Cleese would've been in his element ... 'This is an ex-birding site' ... 'The birds have all departed' ...or something like that if he'd been there. Or been a birder. And if we'd even been in earshot.

Apart from trying our hand at shorebirds (ok waders, any chance of an actual yank was rather low in the extreme), we had hoped to hit the far end of this site for an elusive denizen of the bushes. It was either very elusive, or it wasn’t there. Hard to prove they weren’t there, as it was the middle of the day, but barring a miracle, we were unlikely to connect anyway – Barred Warblers are known notorious skulkers. Listening to the song in preparation on the mobile phone was not much help – it was almost indistinguishable from Whitethroat in the example we had. We sat on the wrong side of the embankment (for looking at what it contained, which actually wasn't that much) and looked at the scrubby bushes bordering the edge of the fishponds. Despite our best efforts all we could come up with was a River Warbler and a couple of actual Whitethroats. To be honest though, this was actually ok … River Warbler?! A fine singing bird, and showing very nicely (Liamonus was surprised at the photos – apparently he’s not seen one that well. Perhaps he’s just always been looking the wrong way?). Walking to the far corner along the embankment, another River Warbler could be heard (but not seen), and some more nice warbler action was enjoyed/not enjoyed. The not enjoyed came first – we could hear an Icterine Warbler singing from the trees, but could we see it? No. We couldn't. This was a new addition to my list of birds I wanted to see. I had an idea I'd seen one on migration somewhere in Europe a couple of years back, but can’t place exactly where at the moment, which is almost as good as still needing it. Especially if I don't find any notes on it to jog my failing memory. Regardless, it’s original addition to my life list many, many years ago at Portland on the say-so of another birder had increasingly become more and more dubious over the years. Two had been reported at Southwell whilst I was staying at the obs. We saw 2 brown and white-ish birds. They probably weren’t Icterines. I don’t know what they were. Probably Reed Warblers or leucistic Night Herons or something.(**)

The enjoyed bit was some cracking views of a Marsh Warbler thinking it was hidden away deep in a bush, when in fact it wasn't really hidden at all. Nice!

We tried again the bushes for a Barred Warbler, but it was just not to be.

(*This was a metal watertower which had been converted into a hide at some time in the distant past. Some neat welding and cutting had taken place, but the wooden steps and roof were of some considerable concern - two of the steps had already fallen off due to rotting, the rest soon to go. Perhaps a little foolhardily we went up anyway.)

(** But definitely not Basset Hounds)


Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Congratulations on the Pine Marten - I'm guessing you also eliminated Dean Martin on song.

My mum once had an experience like yours with child 2.

A mate of mine stayed over after having had a drink too many. Having been awoken by the demands of his bladder shortly after dawn he went to he bathroom and got back into bed. Unfortunately it was my mother's - she'd got up to let the cat out and on returning was horrified to discover an alcohol-reeking stranger in the space she'd left barely a minute earlier - next to my Dad, who thankfully remained oblivious throughout.

I was dragged from my sleep and despatched to resolve the situation. When I woke my mate up he and told where he was he leaped out in panic, panicked again when he realised he was stark naked, and scampered back to the spare room, clutching his wedding tackle in the pathetic hope of retaining some slight shred of dignity.

Thankfully my parents saw the funny side and thoroughly enjoyed his cringing apologies a few hours later!



Well-known member
Well... Nice report and so detailed, sometimes even too detailed, I would say ;) You could have omited some parts, eg. about my good driving skills. What's wrong with my driving?! We didn't have any accidents, so everything is ok ;)

...we'll call him child 2 ... said 10 year old child ...

You are right, his name is Simas and he is 8 years old :)

Lush overgrown wet meadows with some open water in the middle, we actually connected with some waders, although not of the rarity magnitude we had been hoping for.

I didn't want to tell you, but.... some few days after your departure two very nice waders were photographed at the same spot and here is a picture of one:

Sorry about it, but it would be a good reason for you to come back :)

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