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Azure Tit is quite the wish list species for me. Planned to go to Belarus in 2018, but life happened. Then in 2020, Covid hit and we had to cancel after obtaining the painstaking permits. 2021, rinse & repeat + the protests put out the ethical issues of the visit. And now, we'll probably have to wait some decades...
Lets hope there'll be a twitchable one soon.
We were going to drive from The Netherlands, so you need a visa. Word choice wasn't correct. Flying in gives you 30 days free visa (but also not for the region which holds Naliboki NP, so you'd still need it for our plan). (For 18 people in total, so quite the hazzle with the non-English speaking Belarussian ministry of forestry)
What a shame that I got to this thread a bit late in the day! We currently have two WP rarities in Italy: a Brown Shrike and a Lesser Yellowlegs. Also very nice in this part of the world right now: we had Snowfinch and Rock Thrush yesterday and also nice herps if you are into that sort of thing, I nearly stepped on a huge four-lined snake! And our friends saw a Badger in broad daylight am little later (I think we had this same conversation a couple of years ago... 😉). There was also a Caspian Plover the other day but it hasn't been seen since 🙁. Have a good trip!
Brown shrike would be nice in WP proper, we only have it from gWP in Oman. Lesser Yellowlegs was in Poland a couple years ago
The UK trip is a good one so far, after 26 hours in the country, we have Belted Kingfisher, Black-browed Albatross, Surf Scoter and my wife also needed the Icleand gull. And the scenery near Edinburgh is pretty nice!
At the end of the day, UK was a fine choice. We got the Belted Kingfisher first evening, alone at the viewpoint over the river valley, after roughly one and a half hour wait we heard a suspicious call and after some thrilling search, we found it not far from us in a tree. This was already one of my greatest birding moments, as the scenery was fantastic and the bird just didn't belong there so much! The next morning, we went for the Black-browed Albatross. It was absent from view at the furthest viewpoint, but after a while, someone came to inform everyone that viewing is possible from one viewpoint back. With our new Meopta, this was easy even in difficult light condition. Later, the bird took off and we were able to see it from just 10-20 meters trying to land with all its impressive wingspan glory.
Then we had to decide whether to go for a bit more possible species south-east, or go for a bit fewer species, but north. But I always wanted to explore more of the north, so we did that. First we stopped in Newcastle to get my wife an Iceland Gull (I already got one in Ireland 6 years ago) - at first seemed hopeless, but new intel sent us to Fish Quay a little upriver where it just at one moment flew right in front of us before heading into distance. In the evening, we stopped east of Edinburgh at the southern shore of the beautiful huge Lothian gulf and got a Surf Scoter for our trouble - quite far out, but again with great views through the Meopta - I am so happy we got the scope after all!
For the night, we drove to some reservoirs south of Balerno and did some dusk-walking, producing a Brown Rat with IR and a plenty of Palmate Newts - one on the road, more in a moor pond, a lifer for us in the herp category. In the morning, we hiked a bit up for grouse. Surprisingly, the first we found was a Black Grouse (reportedly rare in the area) but soon we got also Red Grouse calling and showing, a species already proposed by IOC to be split. Finally, we stopped at some lochs near Glasgow for Lesser Scaup and after some impatient search around, we returned to the one loch where it was reported for a second look and quickly found it - must have been hiding on reeds before.
That was really it for lifers, so 4 for me, 5 for my wife and one extra for both after IOC approves the Red Grouse split. The remaining two days, we visited some random nature, while constantly checking RBA for new megas - those did not appear, but especially on Monday the weather was splendid and the hiking in Lake district was quite good - I had no idea England had such rugged mountains! Finally we checked a few coastal sites in Cumbria and with a total of 107 species from the trip we joined the endless queue for security at the Manchester airport. Enterprise managed to find a tiny, supposedly "new", scratch on the bumper of the absolutely pointless Mercedes A to which they "upgraded" us against our will, so this may cost me the 100 pounds of my excess, but yeah, this kind of nonsense is the price to pay for renting cars ... after my frankly tragic experience on the islands with this, I might as well drive from Prague next time, it's not that far anyway...
But I digress, this was a great trip, with thrill of rarity-seeking combined with pleasure of nice, of a bit chilly, spring nature. We'll come again when enough long-staying goodies that we don't have yet show!