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


Well-known member
Roller nest boxes sound perfect for Tengmalms for me! Do you get also Golden eyes breeding in these?

Never have found them.
We have plenty of Starlings, occasionally Redstarts, Tits, few Hoopoes and sometimes wild bees or wasps.

This nest box was 'lucky' as it has bigger hall about 7-8 cm. Our newest nest boxes have a hall of 6 cm diameter (as additional protection from Martins).


Well-known member
6cm is too small for goldeneyes and tengmalms. If you want more owls choose boxes with bigger hole. 8,5 cm would be perfect for Tengmalms and 11 to goldeneye.


Well-known member
Thanks for the report, Dan.

I'm thinking of taking a short trip to Vilnius around 7-10 October. Would there be any good birding to be done in the area?

(I can start a new thread under the Lithuania section of the countries forum if you prefer me not asking here; it just seemed that people's attention was more likely to be focused here)


Bah humbug
Thanks for the report, Dan.

I'm thinking of taking a short trip to Vilnius around 7-10 October. Would there be any good birding to be done in the area?

(I can start a new thread under the Lithuania section of the countries forum if you prefer me not asking here; it just seemed that people's attention was more likely to be focused here)

I think you would actually be better posting a new thread in that subforum. I don't mind personally, but it might get a bit confusing when I actually move on to the Ukraine bit, not everyone who knows about Lithuania might be reading this thread, and it would be much more useful for others in the future.

(For now I would say have you checked out Cloudbirder and Fatbirder websites?)

Cheers, Dan

ps ... and the bonus is you would still get a free advert for any new thread from here now anyway ;)
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Bah humbug
Day 6

Wednesday 22nd May. Lviving it up ...

Lviv Central Train station in western Ukraine at about 4am. Just a little too early. Or a lot too early. At least there were no queues at the ticket office and I was able to exchange my printed form* for my actual train ticket. At this time of day an expansive clean marble space, calm and peaceful. Didn't actually analyse the feng shui, but it felt just about right. After waiting around a while, realised light had actually arrived outside, and asking a policeman and the occupant of the information booth for directions, made my way outside the building. At least I had my bearings this time, even though there was a slight discrepancy between what I took to be a half hour walk (3km on the map) and what I was told by the policeman would assuredly be a 2 hour walk into town.

Leaving the station I soon passed the first shoe shop of the day (I would encounter many more before the day was out). Stopping in a small park on the right hand side of the long wide and almost deserted road leading down and down into the heart of the city, I noticed the fifth bird of the day (after Feral pigeon, Swift, House Martin, and that ubiquitous park dweller, the Fieldfare) – a smart singing male Collared Flycatcher. Typical!

The sun was still yet to rise, but local women were already working industriously at sweeping the pathways at this early hour. What seemed to be pre cold war playground furniture caught my attention – exuberantly fashioned and brightly coloured babushkas, dancing bears and clowns fashioned into slides, swings and climbing frames. But grotesquely so, contorting in a slightly unnatural fashion, all peeling and flaking and sadly sliding into neglect. Scary, with oversized eyes, accentuated features and rouged cheeks, looming in the grey morning light. The potential nuclei of nightmares.

Moving on, not actually that fazed, fortunately, and continuing into town, past swathes of shoe shops (a first sign of a hopeful economy?)* and I reached Vysoky Zamok park (asking for directions along the way of course). It took about an hour's actual walking, so a nice compromise between the two earlier estimates. Had a brief nap on a convenient bench actually on the long curving wall built alongside the cobbled road sweeping around the hill at the entrance to the park - old age catching up on me. A somehow familiar, clear song emanating from the trees nearby was a … Collared Flycatcher. Rejuvenated, and now 2 hours since I’d initially set off into the pre-dawn stillness I entered the park proper.

More Collared Flycatchers, Nuthatches in good numbers, and a few other common woodland birds. Joggers were increasing (in numbers, not size), other weird people doing their fitness stuff, purposefully making strange shapes with their limbs (appendages) and the occasional dog and walker. The best bird was an odd Great Spotted Woodpecker which landed at the base of a nearby tree. What an odd back it had .. which meant that it wasn’t a great spot. Red crown and confirmation that it was indeed a Middle-spotted Woodpecker, and my best ever views of this European species. Paler vent and lightly speckled frontal underparts helped fill the id picture as it briefly worked a succession of tree bases adjoining the pathway for insect life, including a nice green lacewing, life truncated all too suddenly.

I stopped for another breather, in the calm and the coolness here high above the wakening city, the evocative shufflings and shuntings of the far-away goods yard and distant muffled sounds far below somehow sitting easily in the aural landscape of easy-listening birdsong. The world was at peace. Or at least I was.

Mounting a series of metal steps elevated above the sloping hillside, and I reached the summit of what was actually a rather unimposing tower on the top. It probably had history though. Maybe it was hard to appreciate it fully, partially clothed in vegetation as it was. Views of the area from the very top were expansive, which was obviously part of the appeal, if obscured in parts by the trees. The landscape was dotted with apartment blocks and the like and on the whole the Lvivian landscape was altogether rather uninspiring. A bit Lowry gone-wrong. Had to take a group photo of a large group of Ukrainian schoolchildren and their teachers (what were they doing up there at 7am?), and then as they left and the first few tourists*** of the day arrived, back down it was again for me to.
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Bah humbug
Day 6 continued ...

I now headed back towards town and towards Lychakiv Cemetery. Described in the Rough Guide as ‘a hugely impressive and remarkable vista of gothic cemeterial opulence‘ or something like that, it was certainly impressive in parts. My reasons for visiting were merely that cemeteries can often be good for birds, especially when mature and overgrown as I believed this to be. And I did enjoy a good variety of woodland species as I slowly traversed the myriad pathways snaking through the impressive tombs, mausoleums and headstones. Wood Warblers, more flycatchers, Golden Orioles calling, a Treecreeper (it was going to be a Eurasian this far east) etc etc.

Stopped for lunch near an unfinished mausoleum – seeing the half-finished modern construction techniques in play was not quite so impressive. A thin concrete shell awaiting the more expensive looking cast concrete or stonework of the façade and I could have felt sincerely cheated, except that there were plenty of massive decaying stone structures and crumbling angels elsewhere whose age and authenticity were less questionably 21st century. Having wandered as many hours as I thought fit, and nearing the exit, I heard a rolling lazy cry – somewhat akin to a Green Woodpecker. Of course Green Woodpeckers didn’t occur here. Which meant only one thing ... I listened to the call on my mobile (pre-recorded, downloaded from the David Roche bird song cd collection I had purchased in another life), and yes indeed, a dead ringer for Grey-headed Woodpecker. Or live ringer, even, as the call rang out beautiful and hauntingly further down the be-mausoleumed and tree covered slopes.

Unfortunately I was unable to find the culprit in the lofty trees, or wherever it had gotten to. Which was a bit of a shame, as it would have been a lifer (needing more than just a mere call as confirmation for such a worthy cause as my WP list).

Instead I had another brief nap, under a large tree this time, waking with a start briefly as some locals passed by. Carrying on my way, it struck me that this was the first time I‘d ever actually been to sleep in a cemetery ...

It might have seemed a slightly odd place to see Grey-headed Woodpeckers (just to re-iterate - I didn't) but I guess there must have been good numbers of ants feeding on the random cadavers and dead corpses lying around, so plenty of food. Not that I tried too hard, but didn't see any of them either …

Back through town, which was now thronged, and sometimes a real battle to get through. Took a more direct route, past several of the landmarks and attractions marked out in the guide book - probably a great place to visit in itself for an all-in holiday or short break - and made my way back to the west of the city for my evening train.

Or so I was hoping. The place was thronged with policeman and women of various uniform persuasions. In fact the non-uniformity was interesting in itself. I'm guessing a major conference or award ceremony of the law and order strata of the district was about to unfold in some not-so-secret location in the vicinity (as opposed to a major crime or important doughnut heist taking place). The one policeman I politely asked for directions to the train station peremptorily waved his arm down the road. I took the road. I later realised I probably shouldn't have, as it wasn't the road I wanted to be on. It led elsewhere.

Adding to my woes in worrying over how much I was diverging away from the station was the sudden thought occurring to me that I should have left my rucksack at the railway station left luggage facility for the day, instead of lugging it around with me all day. Doh! (And as for thinking about whether I should've taken a bus instead of all this walking ...)

There were no shoe shops at this end of town (really rather surprisingly), but I was able to stock up on provisions for the journey ahead. Perhaps slightly too many to add to my already burdensome pack, but that's what shopping when you're feeling hungry is all about. More food. Buying the food and working out what was what was an entertaining exercise in itself however, as the little English spoken by the staff wasn't quite enough. Having paid and about to exit, I was greeted by the manageress, who it turned out spoke almost perfect English.(**** )

I eventually found my way to the railway station, utilising a bit of Pythagorean logic (something to do with a triangle, walking alongside some sidings and trying to eat/drink a bottle of fermented milk - obviously a cultural thing. I gave up in the end*****). The latter part of the journey involved walking alongside the unfenced railway line - the average British Rail Health and Safety Manager would have had a fit in fifty shades of purple, as random persons crossed the 18 or more lines leading into the station at will. I merely stopped and washed my feet on a handy grassy bit with some horrible tasting mineral water I'd accidently purchased back at the supermarket.

This was with a fine view of the sweeping station roof I was aiming for. Arriving in plenty of time and finding somewhere to plug my phone in to recharge it, and it was just a matter of waiting for my time to arrive. And being glad I had already sorted my ticket as the queues at each booth didn't look fun.

Next stop Donetsk, and another phase of the trip. But I still had the journey to do ...

* (Part of being organised beforehand - ticket bought in the UK on the internet).

**(Don't know exactly where a societies predilection for higher heels and ever more revealing apparel comes in on the rise-and-fall timeline of economic growth of standard civilizations as we know them - but history does tell us that the Romans, Mayans and Essex were all doomed once more people start working in the shoe selling business than were actually involved in basic food production.)

***(I wasn't a tourist of course. Just happened to be passing through… merely a birder, hoping for some viz mig or something)

****(...'what was what was'. I'm sure this was grammatically correct when I wrote it. It may even still be.)

*****( ... too much of that on a regular basis and the pot would indeed be in use ...)
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Bah humbug
Thanks for posting Dan, keep right on to the end of the road please.

Road? I thought it was a tunnel?!

(Will get there in the end ;) )

Super report thanks for sharing.
Would love to visit my late fathers native country one day.

Thanks Mick, you certainly should. Think there's plenty more than I experienced in the few days I was there. I'm sure you'd get a lot out if it.


Bah humbug
Some rubbish photos just to keep things ticking along ...

1. Early morning in Lviv
2. A few moments earlier a Middle Spotted Woodie had been working the bases of these trees ...
3. A view from the top. Actually, quite a lot of greenery ...
4. A minor mausoleum in Lychakiv Cemetery.

I completely failed to take any bird or shoe shop photos on this day unfortunately. I thought I had taken one of the metal steps leading to the top of Vysoky Zamok, but seems I didn't ...


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Bah humbug
In my searches for information about Ukraine and Birding therein, one of the few websites I came across was this one - http://www.birdwatching.com.ua/watching-programs/ .

It's not really that relevant to this thread, except in that I realised that there must be some birding opportunities about and it helped things fit into place when making my travel arrangements, as Lviv was one of the few 'hub' cities that public transport from Poland would be going to. So I arranged to break my journeying there for a day. Elsewhere on the web, I managed to locate one of the nature reserves mentioned as being maybe 20 miles to the west of the city. Ural Owl probably occurs there, or maybe just everywhere around? ;) (Seen in Finland a few years back, so not a target for this trip). I decided not to risk going there by public transport or hitching and explore some city parks instead (If I hadn't had deadlines ahead it might have been a different matter).
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Bah humbug
Day 6 still continuing, and Part One of a Rather Boring Train Journey (or perhaps a bit interesting, if you happen to like reading about other people's train journeys) ...

It was nice to be ready and waiting for the train in plenty of time, in rather stark contrast to the stresses of train catching in the UK at the onset of the trip, seemingly half a lifetime previously. I made my way to the correct platform, and found the train already there and waiting for me. It was an interesting journey ...

It was now late afternoon (got my timings slightly skew-whiff in the last posting) , and I had an approximate journey of 24 hours to make (carry out/endure/finish/enjoy) to reach Donetsk the next day, some 700 or so miles to the east (it was decidedly the slow train to where it was going, with an average speed of c. 30 miles an hour or so). The train itself was pretty much not as I had expected – it was of course a sleeper train, and I guess I was expecting it be something old and wooden and in which Poirot* would have been suitably at home in or on, or else rather more up-to-date and modern. It was of course somewhere in between – this particular travelling device turned out to be a bit more akin to a cheap American diner than I would have expected, with cheap looking dark red plastic vinyl seating, and plenty of hefty aluminium-ish fittings. No carpets. All very practical, utilitarian and a bit garish. But then I was of course in third class. This also meant open plan (with concomitant privacy, or lack of, issues). I may have mentioned the price before, but I’ll repeat it again, as if I’ve forgotten myself, it’s highly likely anyone else reading will have too. Anyway – the 24 hour journey cost 108 Uah, or about £8, which I felt was quite good value. A lot cheaper than flying, or getting a limo. I had read that it was actually safer to be in third class than second, simply because it was so open plan. You could choose your seat too when booking, but no bottom bunks were available – they tend to go earlier as older and more decrepit people take them, and it’s meant to be safer on your possessions as you can put them in the locker which is under your seat. The carriage is divided up, so 2 seats on side of the aisle, 4 on the other, with the seats later doubling up as the bottom bunks. I’m sure it’s pretty standard stuff …

Anyway … there I was on the train, when in came my new travelling companion for the journey. I could equally have said that in bounded a young chap like a giant oversized puppy. Or, even, in bounded a giant young puppy. He was pretty pleased to be sitting in the seat opposite me, to the extent that as soon as he saw I was another cool youngish person**, and even before he’d reached his seat, he’d turned back halfway down the corridor and two minutes later returned with two cans of lager from his luggage. And well, when he spoke to me and I replied in English … his virtual tail was whirring like an automaton and his ears were doing backflips.***

This was a bit of a shame, as I was all psyched up for birding every last remaining daylight hour from the train, and I’m not actually that far gone in the grumpy old soul stakes that I can manage to not try and be polite when my birding is interrupted and a human being speaks to me. I guess I was at a slight disadvantage because I wasn't actually doing any birding yet to be interrupted from - we hadn’t actually left the station yet, and I could hardly sit with my bins pressed up to the window glass and hence avoid all eye contact. I mean, that would have been well weird ...

So, the next hour or two passed in an ‘interesting’ enough manner ... He spoke limited English, and so very quickly into the journey out came his laptop and we started conversing via google translate or whatever its east European equivalent was (this was totally his idea. I had indeed tried staring fixedly out of the window at the countryside we were passing through, but I had accepted his beer, and hence had a social obligation I then had to fulfill. Drat and double drat. The Evils of Drink ...).

He’d write something moderately interesting, or not, the program would translate it, I’d think of a reply, write it down, toggle the language thing back, slide the laptop around on the table, he’d read it, pause pensively, reply back, I'd do the same and on and on for quite a little while (I'm sure the time and onerous nature of the task would have flown and dissipated if he'd been young and attractive female ... but in that case they probably wouldn't have been conversing with me in the first place). Half the time it was already going of on a slight tangent as the translation program slightly mangled the meanings. Although he was Ukrainian, of course he was fluent in Russian (dare I say it, a quite similar language), but his spelling wasn’t quite so hot in the nearly same language. Oh the perils of the modern age! He even tried asking me if I was on facebook – I quickly quashed that one with respect to having a new penpal by telling him I wasn’t on facebook. This wasn’t quite true – I did join facebook, some years back, however it got to the point where I had reached the point of having 5 friends and realised this was starting to become too many, so I stopped using it. I think I probably offended a few people by not replying to their ‘friendship ‘requests. At least I didn’t get ‘poked’, at least to my knowledge. I’m probably still on it – unless someone’s written me a virtual obituary yet ... (Wonder if my Farmville crops have turned into secondary scrubland yet?)

It turned out that he was married with a kid in a town somewhere down the line (literally) – a couple of hundred miles from his workplace. His work involved laying wooden flooring, and he had himself even seen a wolf in the Carpathian mountains when he was a kid, so he told me when I showed him the pic on my camera. I’m not saying this devalued my earlier sighting, as of course everyone knows wolves are just exceedingly common in the Carpathian Mountains …

*(I’m not actually a big Poorot fan – the gf is however a general fan of that genre, so often catch glimpses of the slightly rotund moustachied one on the shiny box as I go about my own evening pursuits)

**(… ‘another cool youngish person’. Good looking as well of course. Calm under pressure. Intelligent, modest … did I mention cool yet?)

***(The novelty of being English abroad is sometimes a bit of a pain, although shouldn’t complain really. In some ex-soviet bloc (USSR) nations the English (or British I guess) are much admired and liked apparently. Which is a bit odd, given the whole east-west history thing, and that the americans are not particularly well liked at all ...)
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