EARLY SPRING TOUR
Birdwatching tour in Lithuania, early Spring
Seabirds, Owls, Woodpeckers and Grouses
Birding along the Baltic Sea, inland lakes, fishponds, marshes and forests
April, 8 days
Birds: 100 – 120 species
Lithuania is situated in northeast Europe. It is a compact low-lying county with extensive forests, lakes, fishponds and a relatively short coastline adjoining the Baltic Sea. Our main interest is the Baltic Sea coast with its varied birdlife and wildfowl including a regular flock of Steller’s Eiders. The migration of wildfowl along the Baltic is impressive with huge flocks of migrant geese and swans. Inland, the extensive pine forests on the border with Belarus offer us lekking Black Grouse and Common Capercaillie. In addition to this, we have an excellent chance of observing most of Europe’s woodpeckers and, hopefully, Eurasian Pygmy and Tengmalm’s Owls.
Days 1-2: Arriving to Vilnius, the historic and lively capital of Lithuania, where we have an overnight stay. This morning we travel north to an area of fishponds near Raseinai. En route we may encounter Common and Rough-legged Buzzards and parties of corvids including Common Raven. Reedbeds and agricultural land border the fishponds. We should observe our first flocks of White-fronted Geese as well as hunting Western Marsh and Hen Harriers. In the afternoon, we head to Palanga, an important tourist area situated on the Baltic Sea, for a two-night stay.
Day 3: After breakfast, a visit to the pier is planned for close views of wildfowl including Steller’s Eider and Long-tailed Ducks. Offshore we should locate Red-throated and Black-throated Divers, Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes, Bewick’s Swans and Red-breasted Mergansers. We explore the coastline and adjacent pinewoods for the commoner woodpeckers, finches and parties of Eurasian Siskins. A sheltered freshwater lake often produces unusual birds for the region in Black-necked Grebe and Velvet Scoter.
Day 4: We travel south to Klaipeda, the entry point for the unique Curonian Spit. This narrow finger of land is dominated by high sand dunes dotted with pines. Inland the water is brackish whilst the Baltic Sea borders the north side. Our first stop is at a Great Cormorant colony with the added attraction of resident Black Woodpeckers. Other woodland species present are Eurasian Nuthatch and Willow Tit. A section of the Baltic may harbour Velvet and Common Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks. The brackish inland-side regularly attracts flocks of Common Goldeneye, Goosander and Smew. Passerines are few but may include Common and Parrot Crossbills, Woodlark and Snow Bunting. Later in the day, we travel to Ventes Ragas for a two-night stay.
Day 5: The headland at Ventes Ragas is a major migration watch-point and ringing station bordering the Nemunas River and Curonian Lagoon. Reedbeds have booming Eurasian Bitterns whilst the first migrants include Common Shelduck, Common Crane and Whooper Swans. Woodland in the vicinity has the impressive White-tailed Eagle, Red Kite, Tawny Owl, Hawfinch and Yellowhammer. Nearby marshes regularly hold impressive numbers of the commoner wildfowl, White-fronted, Bean and Barnacle Geese and parties of Goosander. Hedgerows lure pairs of Northern Shrikes and, with luck, roosting Long-eared Owls.
Day 6: We travel back into the hinterland of Lithuania, following the Nemunas River system. Our first stop is at Meteliu, a complex of lakes and forest. The latter habitat is good for Black Stork and Middle-spotted Woodpecker. Larger lakes may have early migrants in Garganey and Ferruginous Duck. Marcinkonys is close by, a traditional Lithuanian village set amongst extensive pinewoods near the border with Belarus.
Day 7: A dawn start to observe a lek of Black Grouse in a closed area of Dzukija nature reserve. With assistance from the local ranger, we may locate Hazel Grouse, Grey-headed and Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers and Crested Tit. Rarer species present in this vast tract of pine forest include Three-toed Woodpecker, Eurasian Pygmy and Tengmalm’s Owls.
Day 8: Return to Dzukija for displaying Common Capercaillie. The area also hosts small numbers of Eurasian Nutcrackers, although they can be elusive at times. Before returning to Vilnius, a visit is planned to fishponds at Baltoji Voke. Although best in autumn, the ponds offer us more views of swans, ducks and geese.
Departure from Vilnius.