Sunday, 2 July 2017

Latvia 2017 - Day One

I spent the first two days of this year's trip to Latvia with Karlis Millars with the sole intent of finally seeing Booted Warbler and River Warbler. I also gave Karlis a list of other species that if available I would be keen to see (Corncrake, Pygmy Owl, Ural Owl, Three-toed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker and Great Snipe).
Polina and I arrived late Sunday evening and I met with Karlis on Monday morning at Dzintari train station in Jurmala.
First stop was to check sites near Riga for singing River Warbler but very breezy conditions meant we failed to turn up any singing birds at all three locations we checked.
Then we headed eastwards for Booted Warbler but once again windy conditions thwarted our efforts. So far the best we had all day was a smart male thunbergi Yellow Wagtail.
We checked one final spot where thankfully it was a little more sheltered and we managed to find a singing male Booted Warbler.

Lurking in the bushes - Booted Warbler
It's easy enough not to notice their song (especially in windy conditions). Their name in Latvian translates to English as 'Silent Warbler'.
However, as always, patience and perserverance won out and this bird came out and posed briefly for a photo.

Booted Warbler, Latvia - 19th June 2017

Booted Warbler, Latvia - 19th June 2017
So target number one was safely secured!
While we watched it a very smart male Montagu's Harrier did a fly-past. Monty's is not a Harrier spp. I've seen too often so I was very pleased to receive this extra bonus bird.

Male Montagu's Harrier, Latvia  - 19th June

By now it was heading for 7pm. We grabbed a quick dinner (two courses and a beer for 11 euro each!) and headed for the forests where we had a rendevous arranged with Gaidis Grandans to search for Pygmy Owl and Ural Owl. We were successful with Pygmy Owl but not with Ural.

Pygmy Owl, Latvia - 19th June 2017
Every so often in the forest there would be an area of clear-fell, maybe about two acres in size, consisting of pine tree stumps, young birches and long grasses. In several of these areas we had singing Tree Pipit, Blyth's Reed Warbler and thankfully River Warbler (although views were not as good as I hoped for).

Clear-fell area

It stayed bright well into the evening thereby enabling us to keep on birding. Even after 10pm Cuckoos were still active and once darkness fell we were joined by the sight and sound of Woodcocks and Nightjars.  

Moose and calf - taken after 10pm hence at ISO20,000!
Atmospheric and all as it was I was still glad to have Karlis with me. A desk-jockey like me wouldn't last one night alone in the Latvian forest! This fallen birch tree which blocked the forest track was quickly dispatched by Karlis's handy axe!

Karlis welds the axe
We reached our guest house sometime after midnight and rounded off a long day with a few cold beers on the porch before bedtime.

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