5–12 June 2018
This tour to the easternmost boundary of the Western Palearctic targets a number of species recorded only as extremely rare vagrants in Europe. Amongst stunning scenery, we will be looking for Swinhoe’s Snipe, Oriental Turtle-dove, Oriental Cuckoo, Olive-backed Pipit, Black-throated Accentor, Siberian Rubythroat, Black-throated and White's Thrushes, Booted and Lanceolated Warblers, Azure Tit and Long-tailed Rosefinch.
Day 1 Overnight flight from London, via Moscow, to Yekaterinberg.
Day 2 We will arrive in Yekaterinberg early in the morning and after leaving our luggage in a local hotel, have breakfast. We will then visit several local sites (all within the boundaries of the Western Palearctic) where we will start our search for some of the rarest species including Oriental Turtle-dove, Siberian Stonechat, Blyth’s Reed-warbler, Booted and Lanceolated Warblers, Azure Tit, Yellow-breasted Bunting and Long-tailed Rosefinch, in a variety of habitats ranging from inundated riverine forest to bushy pasture. Other birds possible include Caspian Gull, Corn Crake, European Golden Oriole, Citrine Wagtail, Thrush Nightingale, Common Grasshopper-warbler and Eurasian River Warbler. At the end of the day, we will return to our hotel for the night.
Days 3–6 On day three, after an early breakfast, we will drive north for six hours to Severouralsk on a good road. We then turn west into the Ural Mountains on a dirt track for a seven-hour drive to our camp where we will spend the next four nights. The campsite is at an altitude of around 500 metres, which seems quite low but, in reality, the Ural Mountains are little more than hills, with the highest point in our area being just 1112 metres. Our camp is situated in the forest dominated by birch, larch and Siberian Pine, whilst higher up we will venture into true mountain tundra. Daylight hours will be long at this time of year as we are at the same latitude as Scotland and each day we will search different locations. Eurasian Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Common and Oriental Cuckoos, Olive-backed Pipit, Spotted Nutcracker, Redwing, Fieldfare, White's Thrush, Red-flanked Bluetail, Arctic and Greenish Warblers, Grey-headed Chickadee (Siberian Tit), Rustic Bunting, Pine Grosbeak, Brambling and Parrot and Two-barred Crossbills can all be found in the lower forests whilst Green Sandpipers display over the marshes and Eurasian Woodcocks rode over our camp. In the tundra zone, Great Snipe lek in the marshes and Black-throated Thrushes, Arctic, Willow (acredula) and Yellow-browed Warblers and Little Buntings sing from the birches whilst Bluethroats and Siberian Rubythroats can be found in the dwarf Willows. Black-throated Accentor is the most difficult of the speciality birds found here and we will devote a great deal of time looking for them at several sites although Dunnocks are much commoner! Although difficult to see, both Rock and Willow Ptarmigan and Eurasian Dotterel occur in the tundra whilst other birds possible in the area include Greater Spotted Eagle and European Honey-buzzard. On our 2010 tour, breeding Swinhoe’s Snipes were recorded and we hope to find them again this year.
Day 7 Sadly, following some early-morning birding, we will have to pack up at camp and head back to Yekaterinberg, birding en route of course, arriving in the late evening. We will check into a comfortable hotel and enjoy hot showers in our en-suite facilities.
Day 8 Depending on our flight departure time, we may be able to revisit some of the sites from day two before catching our flight from Yekaterinberg, via Moscow, to London.
General Information The weather can be highly variable at this time of year and we can expect anything from hot and sunny conditions to heavy rain. The tented accommodation in camp is very basic. Walking can be quite strenuous although we will not be at high altitude, usually remaining below 1,000 metres. Visas are required.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 7; maximum group size: 14 with 2 leaders.