Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Birding the Lithuanian Coast 13th - 15th May

We drove north out of Poland, stopping overnight on 13th May at a great camp site by a lake on the outskirts of Kaunas. Local birds included Icterine Warbler, Wryneck and Fieldfare all fairly standard now for parkland habitat. Not many birds on the lake but 2 pairs of Goldeneye were an indication that we were getting further north.
The following morning we drove to Vente which is a short spit of land projecting south in to the Curonian Lagoon towards the isolated Russian state of Kaliningrad and sheltered from the Baltic  by the Curonian Spit, a narrow strip of land which extends about 50km in Lithuania before entering Kaliningrad.
Vente has a bird observatory and the largest Heligoland trap I have ever seen. Approximately 100,000 birds are trapped here annually for migration studies and there are some historical records of ringing recoveries in a very smart museum which I have reproduced below.
Heligoland Trap - the supports look like stands for football stadium lights!

Letter from British Birds regarding a Starling shot in Cornwall in 1932 which had been rung at Vente!
The most striking feature of the area when we arrived was not the birds but the huge numbers of midge type flies which filled the air, fortunately they did not bite but at times it was impossible to breathe without inhaling several. Pam was not impressed, but we stuck with it and saw some interesting birds. 
Around the campsite we had Thrush Nightingales, Icterine and Barred Warbler and several Red-backed Shrike and at least half a dozen Cuckoo.
Barred Warbler - with bars, unlike the Autumn juvs I am familiar with in the UK

Cuckoo's could be heard calling all around Vente
We arrived in poor weather and there were hundreds of Ruff with smaller numbers of Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank moving north on the shoreline.
After birding locally first thing the following morning we drove a few kilometres up the coast to Kintai, where miraculously the flies disappeared, and explored a series of large lakes where we saw at least 13 White-tailed Eagles, 4 Wheatear were the first of the trip and a pair of Montagu's Harrier crossed the road over the car.
White-tailed Eagle immature taking flight
Montagu's Harrier - male
Fortunately the male circled giving me time to grab the camera and jump from the car.
A little further north at Dreverna we found habitat that looked ideal for Aquatic Warbler but all I could see were Sedge. A Honey Buzzard circled over a wood which is my first definite sighting of the Spring although a distance bird in Poland was probably a Honey.
It was raining and very windy the following morning and a short walk added Shelduck to our list and several Black Terns   crossing the spit. The area is a lot like Spurn and I'm sure in the right weather there could be hundreds of grounded migrants.
Before leaving Lithuania we called in at Palanga to have a look at the pier which is witness to a massive movement of ducks, geese and divers in March/April but apart from a handful of Common Scoter the sea was quiet. 
Common and Herring Gulls (argentatus here) were feeding along the pier which had fishermen every few feet catching what looked like some sort of Stone Fish.
Palanga Pier, with viewing seats and fishermen concentrated at the end

The object of the fishermen's attention - there must have been 50+ caught whilst I was there.
Leaving Palanga we continued north in to Latvia.

1 comment:

  1. The fish is an Atlantic Wolf-fish. It's found around the UK, especially off the NE coast and Scotland, and is sold as Scotch Halibut in chip shops. It can grow up to about 1.5 metres in length, and has lots of big canine-like teeth, so stay out of the water.