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Russia – Western Palearctic Bird specialities NEW!



Birdwatching holiday: birds and other natural history.


Yekaterinburg – Monetnyy – Verkhnemakarovo


A great selection of eastern European bird species.


Temperate summer.


Road travel by 4x4 vehicles, comfortable hotel, all rooms with private facilities.

We are delighted to offer this exploratory short tour to the Yekaterinburg area of south-east European Russia, home to some highly range-restricted Western Palearctic specialities that are rare or difficult to find in other parts of the region, as well as a good range of other exciting species. Led by Vitaly Polyakov and Dominic Mitchell, founder ofBirdwatch magazine and author ofBirds of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East: an Annotated Checklist, this is a unique opportunity to sample this under-explored corner of the WP.

Yekaterinburg is a large, modern city on the banks of the Iset River at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Its hinterland is home to a fascinating mix of birds from both continents, and during our time here we will explore wetlands, forests and other habitats in search of the specialities that are starting to put this area on the international birding map.

One of the most sought-after birds around Yekaterinburg is Long-tailed Rosefinch, an Asian species at the westernmost edge of its range in this area. This is currently perhaps the only known accessible location in the Western Palearctic for this highly prized and attractive passerine. The damp scrub and woodland edge that this species favours is also home to Azure Tit, another much-wanted WP speciality whose breeding range does not extend far west in the region. Among other key target species is Oriental Cuckoo, which occurs in suitable habitat alongside the much more familiar Common Cuckoo, while Oriental Turtle Dove also breeds in the area.

The marshes, scrub and forests host an exciting diversity of warblers, among which Lanceolated Warbler is the star prize. This species arrives very late on its breeding grounds and is sometimes difficult to locate in the first half of June, but with luck this species should be back on territory by the time of our visit. Other notable warblers include River, Blyth’s Reed, Booted, Icterine, Greenish and Siberian Chiffchaff.


One of our most difficult target species is likely to be Yellow-breasted Bunting, now in rapid decline and no longer present in the vast majority of its former Western Palearctic range. Just 20 years ago this still extended as far west as the Baltic coast of Finland, but the species has retreated eastwards as numbers have fallen, partly through widespread trapping in Asia. Birds are still occasionally found in the vicinity of Yekaterinburg, though sometimes just outside the WP boundary. We have absolutely no guarantees but will be constantly on the lookout for this increasingly rare songbird.

There could be the potential to make exciting discoveries in this region, with Siberian Rubythroat – a species usually found no farther west than the Ural Ridge – apparently reported once by visiting birders. The forests and scrub here are extensive and in many places inaccessible, and there is still much to be learned about the breeding avifauna of the area – could other species such as White’s Thrush and Black-throated Thrush also occur? While we can’t expect any of these eastern species, we should always be alert to the possibility of out-of-range finds.

Otherwise, there is an excellent supporting cast of exciting species in the area and we’ll expect to see some of the following during our short visit: Black Grouse, Garganey, Montagu’s Harrier, Spotted Crake, Corn Crake, Caspian Gull, Great Grey Owl, Long-eared Owl, White-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Red-backed Shrike, Siberian Stonechat, Bluethroat, Thrush Nightingale, Citrine Wagtail, Brambling, Common Rosefinch and Hawfinch.

Day 1: Depart London Heathrow at 1325 to Moscow with an evening connection to Yekaterinburg (arrival 0150). Vitaly will be waiting to meet the group on arrival and transfer us to a hotel close to the airport.

Days 2-4:  Three full days birding near Yekaterinburg. Group evening log call every night.

Day 5: A very early start to depart Yekaterinburg at 0515 for Moscow, with an onward connection to London Heathrow (arrival 0930).


Species seen in 2018

1 Garganey -- (5)
14 Mallard -- (3),(5)
6 Eurasian Teal -- (5),(6),(8)
2 Tufted Duck -- (18)
35 Great Crested Grebe -- (8),(18)
2 Grey Heron -- (18),(26)
3 Western Marsh Harrier -- (3),(19)
4 Hen Harrier -- (3),(19)
15 Black Kite -- (3),(8),(10),(12),(13),(16),(18),(19),(23),(27)
4 Common Buzzard
2 Northern Lapwing
2 Common Snipe
2 Common Sandpiper
1 Wood Sandpiper
189 Black-headed Gull
3 Common Gull (heinei)
4 Lesser Black-backed Gull
84 Lesser Black-backed Gull (Steppe)
12 Common Tern
26 Feral Pigeon
1 Common Woodpigeon
1 Rufous Turtle Dove
6 Common Cuckoo
1 Oriental Cuckoo
1 Eurasian Pygmy-Owl
1 Great Grey Owl
3 Short-eared Owl
51 Common Swift
5 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
5 Great Spotted Woodpecker
2 Common Kestrel
2 Eurasian Hobby
1 Peregrine Falcon
3 Red-backed Shrike
2 Eurasian Golden Oriole
31 Common Magpie
1 Spotted Nutcracker
3 Eurasian Jackdaw
1 Rook
19 Hooded Crow
5 Common Raven
1 Eurasian Skylark
24 Sand Martin
14 Barn Swallow
7 Common House Martin
3 Coal Tit
10 Willow Tit
1 Eurasian Blue Tit
4 Azure Tit
11 Great Tit
12 Willow Warbler
33 Common Chiffchaff (Siberian)
1 Yellow-browed Warbler
20 Greenish Warbler
10 Booted Warbler
3 Paddyfield Warbler
15 Blyth's Reed Warbler
1 Great Reed Warbler
2 Lanceolated Warbler
1 River Warbler
3 Common Grasshopper Warbler
7 Eurasian Blackcap
12 Garden Warbler
15 Common Whitethroat
1 Spotted Flycatcher
4 European Robin
2 Thrush Nightingale
10 Bluethroat
1 Siberian Rubythroat
1 Red-flanked Bluetail
1 European Pied Flycatcher
5 Common Redstart
1 Whinchat
27 Siberian Stonechat
1 Eurasian Blackbird
17 Fieldfare
14 Redwing
13 Song Thrush

1 Starling 

2 Western Yellow Wagtail (lutea/flavissima)
7 Western Yellow Wagtail (flava/beema)
4 Citrine Wagtail
2 Grey Wagtail
16 White Wagtail (alba)
13 Tree Pipit
4 Olive-backed Pipit
1 Yellowhammer
4 Common Reed Bunting
73 Common Chaffinch
10 Brambling
7 Common Rosefinch
2 Long-tailed Rosefinch
5 Eurasian Bullfinch
2 European Greenfinch
2 Common Linnet
11 Common Crossbill
5 European Goldfinch
30 Eurasian Siskin
10 House Sparrow
12 Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.

Dates: 13th–17th June 2019

Leaders: Vitaly Polyakov and Dominic Mitchell

£TBC    per person based on sharing a twin room (deduct £600 if arranging own flights)

£TBC    per person – single supplement

Group size: 6 plus leaders.

Price includes: Return economy class flights including pre-paid taxes, all ground transport, accommodation in rooms with private facilities, meals, visa invitations, bird checklist and services of leaders in Russia.

Price excludes: Travel insurance, drinks, visas (from £119 for UK passport holders) and other items of a personal nature.

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