It was already late spring and we had no real holiday plans with Hanna. Luckily I found out that my old friend Pierre-André Crochet was searching participants for their trip to Russia, Polar Ural. Immediately I sent a message to “PAC” and also to Eric Didner who was also going and after a week, we knew we were in! On the previous summer we had been in South and Central Ural on a trip that we had planned with Oleg Demyanenko from Ural Expeditions & Tours and he was our contact again. We had then also been planning a trip to Polar Ural but we had discussed that it would probably be after some years. Now it was going to happen much sooner!
It was going to be quite a journey! We soon found out that we we going to use train to get there to Northern Urals and with Hanna we decided to go all the way to Moskow by train! The plan was to meet the rest of the group, PAC (WP-3), Paul Dufour and Ernest “Ernie” Davis (WP-1) in Moscow, then continue by train to Inta, do a 5 days trip towards Urals and then continue by train to Eletskaya. In Eletskaya we’d meet Oleg and Eric (who would take part only to the second half of the trip) and travel with a tank to Polar Ural and stay a couple of days there before a long train-trip back to Moscow. It would mean 11 days in the field and with Hanna we would travel almost 116 hours in train!
Our target birds were easy to say. We all needed Pallas’s Reed Bunting and Pin-tailed Snipe. Only PAC had seen a Siberian Accentor before and Hanna needed also Black-throated Accentor. Paul who hadn’t been travelling in North, of course needed many other species too… But as we were going to a pioneering trip, we also wanted to get familiar with all other bird-life and also other animals and even some plants. And of course we wanted to find something surprising like a Pallas’s Rosefinch or Pechora Pipits…
On the 17th of June I could take it easy while Hanna was still packing. I had already packed on the previous days. Finally after 4 p.m. we drove to the railway station where I dropped Hanna and our luggage, drove back home and then walked back to the railway station.
At 4:37 left our train to Kouvola and about 2 hours later we were there. We went to eat with Hanna’s sister Elissa and after that at 8:20 p.m. our Tolstoi train to Moscow arrived. After passport and ticket checking, we climbed to the train to different carriages. We had booked our tickets too late to get a cabin together. I had got a 1st class ticket and I was traveling together with an older Russian man. Hanna was in 2nd class with a Russian family.
The train left in time and after an hour we arrived to Lappeenranta Vainikkala border crossing place. Border guardians came to ask some questions and I also managed to get a stamp to a paper where I had listed all our more expensive equipment, so I could proof I had got everything with me already when I came to Russia to avoid difficulties once we were coming back. It took an hour before we crossed the border and at 10:22 we stopped in Russian border crossing place in Buslovskaya. But the train continued almost immediately and then passports, immigration papers and tolls and so on were checked on the moving train. At 10:55 we were in Vyborg and once the train was finally moving again at 11:43, I prepared my bed and started to sleep.
On the 18th of June I woke up after 8 a.m. when my room-mate had been outside the cabin for some time already. The view outside looked very Russian with green, bushy and flowery meadows, lots of forest, old wooden houses and some big Soviet-style apartment buildings. Some common bird-species were seen as a trip-tick, before my breakfast omelet was brought. The last 45 minutes of the trip I was just watching outside the window while the train slowly approached Moscow.
Finally right after 9 a.m., 15 minutes early, we were in Moscow Lenigradskiy (Ленинградский) station. We decided to walk with our luggage 1.3 kilometers to hotel Ars where we had booked a room. The room was pretty good but we got a little bit worried as the older woman in reception didn’t speak any English.
After a refreshing shower and little bit resting, we tried to ask the reception to give us the registration papers that are always filled in Russia. But with a help of some woman on the phone of receptionist, we understood that there was some problems in connections and they couldn’t do the registration. And we really needed to do that as we had promised to send copies of them and also copies of our passports to Oleg to his office in Ekaterinburg. The copies were needed to get us permissions to get to protected National Park in Inta. We managed to call to Oleg who was in field with a group somewhere around Ekaterinburg and we agreed to contact him later again as the connection was very bad. So we decided to go for a walk outside.
We walked 3.5 kilometers to Red Square where we took lots of photographs of churches and other buildings like mausoleum of Lenin and Kreml. Moscow was full of road and building works and on the way back we did some shopping before we got back to our hotel. After some relaxing, we got a message from Oleg that we should change to another hotel as we really needed to do the registration and this hotel just couldn’t do it!
We managed to pay only for the day to Ars and I also cancelled the bookings of our other participants. Then we walked with luggage to hotel Mandarin that situated about 1.3 kilometers from Ars. While walking I sent and an SMS to the rest of our group that were just arriving by plain to Moscow and told them to come to Mandarin instead of Ars. In Mandarin the reception was speaking English and soon we had arranged everything. Soon also PAC, Paul and Ernie arrived and it was great to see old friends and also Paul who we hadn’t met before. Soon we got into our rooms, rested a little bit and after less than an hour we met in the hotel’s restaurant, ate well and planned the future.
It was a thunderstorm outside and the roads were flooding. We still visited a shop nearby before went into our room where I had to watch a couple of matched of Eurocup football as the next 2 weeks matches I would miss completely.
On the 19th of June we woke up at 8 a.m. and at 8:30 we were enjoying a good breakfast. PAC, Paul and Ernie had been walking for whole morning and they had visited a park nearby. My map showed that the park was pretty far and that was exactly what Ernie had also thought. Anyway they had got plenty of trip-ticks and even some goodies like Black Redstart, Greenish Warbler and Icterine Warbler. At 11 a.m. we took a taxi to Jaroslavskaja (Ярославская) railway station.
We found the right train soon and it was going to be be our home for next 41 hours! Once our passports and tickets were checked, we got to a same cabin with one young local man while PAC, Paul and Ernie went to the next cabin together.
The train left at 12:50 p.m. and after a couple of short stops the first longer stop was finally in Jaroslav at 5:40 p.m. We had then found the schedule from the corridor and found out that the train was always making longer stops in the bigger cities where we could go out to do some shopping.
There was nothing much to do in the train, so we were discussing, reading, watching the view through window and of course trying to get trip-ticks. Red-backed Shrikes seemed to be very common.
At 7:17 was the next longer stop but there weren’t any shops, just old ladies selling pastries, vegetables, strawberries and so on. The journey continued and we got some more trip-ticks like Green Sandpiper, Black Woodpecker, Honey Buzzard and so on. Finally it was time to try to sleep…
On the 20th of June I woke up at 7. While we were approaching Kotlas, we started to see more birds: Hen Harrier, Greenshank and so on and on the sandy beaches of Kotlas River, we saw Lapwings, Black-tailed Godwit and some of us saw also Little Ringed Plovers. We were supposed to be in Kotlas soon after 9 a.m. but once we stopped, we realized we were on the previous stop and 50 minutes late from the schedule. So on the first stop in Kotlas we weren’t allowed to get out at all even though the train stayed there for some time. But then on the second station we were amazingly on time and got out for 40 minutes to buy some breakfast. After the stop we realized the journey was on the halfway..
About at midday I was helping Ernie to charge his phone when I accidentally noticed a message on his phone screen “Urgent Polar Ural”. It was an email from Oleg’s office and it told they still hadn’t got copies of our registration papers of passports! We had left Kotlas some time ago which was the last bigger city and our phones just stopped working. PAC had a Russian SIM-card on his phone and he managed to contact Oleg for a couple of seconds and tell him that there was nothing we could do anymore; they needed to get the copies from Mandarin from where we had sent them 1.5 days earlier.
We tried to take pictures of our passports and registration papers and send them via different ways but we had no connection. After all trying we knew it was already too late to get the permits so we felt disappointed. It was late when we finally got a message from Oleg that they still hadn’t got the copies so we needed to do all the paper-works next morning in Inta, which meant that we would lose some time. After one 20 minutes stop we started to sleep about at 8 p.m.
On the 21st of June we woke up at 5 a.m. and finally we were at Inta at 5:46 a.m. On the railway station we met Natasha and also her companion Sergei. Sergei took our passports and all other papers and left to solve the permits to the National Park and we carried our luggage inside the railway station and found out that we had to just wait there. Our driver had been stuck to some flooding river on the previous evening and Natasha had booked us an another driver who was available only almost 5 hours later. So after all we had plenty of time to get the permits too.
We had been sitting enough so after a breakfast in cafeteria, we asked if Natasha could stay with our luggage and went to a walk outside the station. The railway station situated more than 10 kilometers from the city of Inta, so it was possible to find some birds around.
We walked about an hour and found some Little Buntings, Arctic Warblers, Common Redpolls, a flock of 7 Waxwings, a few Bullfinches, 2 Common Rosefinches and so on. Once we got back to the station Natasha had to leave to sort our foods for the next 5 days, so we promised to stay with our luggage with Hanna, while the rest went back to birding.
Finally at 10:45 a.m. everyone was there. Natasha arrived first and then Sergei came with good news; he had managed to get the permits and soon arrived also our driver with a huge van! While a Bluethroat was singing on the background, we packed our car and our driver Volodja started to drive towards Ural Mountains!
We had thought that there would have been only a driver for us in Inta area, but now we had a driver, Natasha as a guide and translator and Sergei helping with everything else. Natasha and Sergei also were going to cook for us, so we were extremely happy with this situation. We were now able to concentrate only for birding!
Towards Ural Mountains
We we driving along a track that left south-east from Inta. We passed some coal mines and gas factories and reached the forests soon. There we started to make stops. We were sitting on the back where we had a button that told driver if we wanted to get out. On the first stop we heard some Arctic Warblers, a Siberian Chiffchaff and also saw briefly one Olive-backed Pipit that was singing only very shortly.
The second stop was made in more open area in bushy riverside. It looked perfect for a Pallas’s Reed Bunting. So PAC left immediately to walk along the river but while the rest of us were still preparing ourselves for going to the bushes, Hanna heard an accentor singing. And soon I heard it too. It was pretty weak and clear song and clearly different from a Dunnock song. But it sang only once or twice in same bush and then stopped and was quiet until it sang again somewhere else. It took a long time to find the singer but finally Paul found it and it was a Siberian Accentor! Paul shouted and we started running towards him but luckily I understood to check one bird that was perched on the top of one tree – and there it was! Hanna managed to get a couple of pictures before the bird dropped down before Ernie could see it. And then it got quiet again. It took a long time before it sang again and finally Hanna managed to help Ernie to find the bird too. The song was so weak that it was difficult for Ernie to hear it and find the bird. But finally he saw it well too! Soon the bird moved in front of me and Paul and right then PAC also arrived from the bushes, but the bird disappeared too soon. Anyway all of us, who needed the species, had seen it! Paul also got another lifer as we found a couple of Pine Grosbeaks from the bushes.
On the third stop we found Little Buntings, a Siberian Chiffchaff, some Black-throated Thrushes and heard a couple of Cuckoos. The fourth stop was made to collect some wood but we also heard a Dunnock there. Then we climbed to the mountains where were no more trees, just bushes, small willows and birches. While driving on the mountain we saw Arctic Terns, a Long-tailed Skua, a Willow Grouse, Hen Harriers, a Merlin and Short-eared Owls. After some driving PAC checked that we were as close as possible to a GPS-point that he had and we decided to stop and make a camp. Volodja drove a little bit backwards to get water while we left immediately birding. The GPS-point we had was from Antero Lindholm, who had been here 10 years ago with some other Finnisdh birders and he had found the only Pallas’s Reed Bunting of their trip there.
The time of the day, late afternoon, was far from optimal, but we walked over the hill and down to the valley where we found very promising bushy areas. We walked quite a lot in the bushes and found some singing and calling Yellow-browed Warblers, 2 accentors that we never saw, but they sounded similar than the Siberian Accentor that we had heard earlier and we also saw a couple of Whimbrels and Bluethroats and Little Buntings were singing. Finally we were in the point of the GPS, but the place really didn’t look good. I remembered that Antero had written that the bird had been with some Reed Buntings but this place was in the hillside where were almost no bushes at all.
The weather was hot and there was no wind at all, which meant that there were AMAZING number of mosquitoes! Finally we walked back to the camp and ate borsch-soup with Smetana and mosquitoes. While we were waiting for the soup to cool a little bit there were tens of mosquitoes drown to the soup to give some extra protein. Putting up the tents was quite an experience in that amount of insects, but finally we were ready to go to sleep at 9 p.m.
Pallas’s Reed Bunting
On the 22nd of June we woke up at 3:30 a.m. and after some tea and bread we were walking towards the river. We had found out that Antero’s bunting had after all been along the river, so we walked straight there along the road. When we reached the good looking bushy area we agreed that me, Hanna and Ernie would take another side while PAC and Paul would take the other side. There were some Citrine Wagtail couples singing and calling and soon I saw a reed bunting but too briefly. We tried to relocate it but only Hanna saw it briefly again but she thought it was only a Common Reed Bunting. Then Paul shouted that PAC had found a Pallas’s Reed Bunting! We rushed through the bushes towards PAC and got there in same time with Paul. PAC had seen the bird only briefly after it had been singing once after PAC’s tape. PAC played the tape again but nothing happened. Then after second or third try Ernie saw the bird on the top of a bush but only briefly. Then we waited for some time before PAC played the tape again and suddenly the bird flew to the bushes just in front of us! Amazing Pallas’s Reed Bunting showed very well but was a little bit too active to get any good pictures as it was still pretty dark. But the main thing was that everyone of us got a lifer!
We continued to check the bushes along the river and found more Citrine Wagtails, a couple of Willow Grouses, a Sedge Warbler, a Common Rosefinch, a couple of Bullfinches and I managed to flush a Great Snipe. Of course I hoped it would have been a Pin-tailed Snipe but I saw it too well… While we were walking back to the camp, we heard Golden Plovers calling and over the distant mountain tops we saw a couple of Rough-legged Buzzards. At 8:30 a.m. we were on the camp and had breakfast that Natasha and Sergei had prepared.
At 10 a.m. we packed everything again and continued moving towards the higher mountains. As the weather was perfect, we decided to go to the furthest point that we had planned to visit because of at least now it was possible to cross the big Kozhym River. We could always turn back if the weather would go too bad, but in bad weather we might stuck on this side and never get over.
Before the river crossing Volodja stopped again and more wood was collected. We of course spread to different directions. Paul and Hanna were photographing Lady’s Slipper Orchids that were found next to the road, while Ernie followed some butterfly along the road. The butterfly managed to escape but then Ernie started to follow a Greenshank that was alarm calling very actively. And it wasn’t alarming without a reason – there was a Hawk Owl on the top of one dead tree! It was a good tick for all of us and Paul got one more lifer again. On the same opening we found also a Great Grey Shrike that seemed to have big white patches on its wings, but it disappeared too soon. Maybe it was a homeyri? And once we were moving again we saw another shrike through the windows.
Crossing the Kozhym River was an amazing experience! There was more than 1 meter deep but our van went over it very smoothly. And Volodja was a really good driver! After some more driving on the mountain forest, we stopped along the river to prepare lunch. There was a tunnel where water was disappearing under the mountain. Most of us were swimming on the cold and very rapid river. No wonder the water was cold as there was snow on the tops of the mountains…
While we were eating, we heard a familiar song again and found a Siberian Accentor singing on the top of spruce on the other side of the river. We managed to get a couple of pictures of the bird, but it was quite far and disappeared soon. We also saw a Hobby, a Merlin and a Dipper there.
After the lunch we continued a long way crossed many dry river bottoms as many bridges had collapsed and we had to just go up and down over the rivers. Finally we climbed up to the mountain and continued higher and higher along a valley passing a beautiful sacred mountain. Finally we ended up to a quartz mine village where was a tiny hotel for the workers. The place really wasn’t what we had expected it to be when we had been watching it from Googlemaps. Anyway we agreed with PAC and Paul that we would stop for an hour, so our driver could rest a little bit and the rest could have tea with the owner of the hotel. But the place looked too rocky for Pin-tailed Snipes that was our last target now. The place was also too restricted because of the deep mountains and too big river that wasn’t possible to cross by feet.
Anyway we walked a little bit and checked the nearest lakes, but in heat of the midday we saw only some Citrine Wagtails. Hanna was collecting crystal-pieces from the road that was white from them.
In this place we had the only arguments of the trip. One of us couldn’t understand why we had got there at all if we weren’t going to stay there. The rest of us tried to tell that it had been very difficult to plan the trip with Googlemaps as there had never been any western birders in most of the places. And we also didn’t have almost any clue what was the biotope for some of the species we were searching. But now we had a feeling that this wasn’t the biotope for Pin-tailed Snipe. We hadn’t got too many mornings left in Inta area to loose, so this wasn’t the place to camp now.
Anyway we had seen much better biotope on the way to the mining village and soon we were driving about 4 kilometers back until old train carriage that was on the side of the road. There was a perfect looking huge meadow under the mountainsides. It really looked perfect for Pin-tailed Snipe as far as we knew… It was already late when we prepared some dinner, but finally we were all full and happy and waiting keen for the next night as we planned to go birding soon! And that’s why we went to sleep already at 7 p.m.
We woke up at 10:45 p.m. and after some tea and bread, we were ready to go snipe-hunting. We had no idea what was the best time to find Pin-tailed Snipes, so we had to try everything and now we had planned to do birding whole night. Soon we were walking along the riverside towards huge meadows.
The 23rd of June. At midnight PAC and Paul had already disappeared to the horizon as they were walking much faster than the rest of us. At least we Finnish “podiceps” were much slower. Hanna was once again carrying two cameras, binoculars and a huge back-bag that slowed us down even more. After some time PAC and Paul found a Pallas’s Reed Bunting. We got information with walkie-talkies that I had taken with us and given another one for them. Soon we had walked there and this bunting was singing very actively! So we got very good recordings, once we understood to leave the recorder to the ground, spray lots of repellent to it and walk far enough from it with mosquitoes. Some pictures were of course taken too, but it was still pretty dark.
We were enjoying this well showing Pallas’s Reed Bunting for some time and then continued walking. I saw briefly a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat and soon we started to search a place where it could be possible to cross the river and start walking back towards the camp on the other side of the river. After some searching we managed to find a place where crossing was possible with wellingtons.
After some walking we found a meadow with globeflowers and the beautiful sacred mountain was well visible behind the meadow. Once again a flock of Common Redpolls was flying over us when I heard some different calls behind the Redpolls. And then the sound got faster and faster and ended to an amazing chatter – a Pin-tailed Snipe! I found immediately 2 birds flying over me and Hanna managed to see and hear the birds too but they continued very quickly far and disappeared against the mountains. Luckily they came back soon with a third bird and also Ernie saw them now. They were flying a big circle and calling all the time, but the calls were very weak. Time to time they dived towards the ground and when they were close enough we heard an amazing sound they made with their tale-feathers!
We called to PAC and Paul with walkie-talkie but they were far. It took a couple of repeats before they understood what we had found. After 15 minutes they arrived but the snipes had been lost already 10 minutes earlier. Or not completely lost as one of the birds had landed to the ground not far from us. But before we started to walk towards it, 2 birds were over us again flying towards the mountains again. After some waiting these 2 birds were displaying over the meadow and flying against the sacred mountain and time to time they came right over us. So we tried to get some pictures and recordings too! We were all extremely happy as our last project-species had been found. And we could happily agree that we had made a right decision in the previous evening.
PAC and Paul had been walking quite far on the mountain-side and they had managed to find a couple of Ptarmigans, one more Pallas’s Reed Bunting and a flock of Two-barred Crossbills. Anyway soon we were all walking back towards our camp which was still quite far.
The morning was getting very warm and my GoreTex trousers started to feel too hot. On the way we heard some Yellow-browed Warblers, one Greenish Warbler and finally saw a couple of Siberian Stonechats too. We had though that Siberian Stonechat would’ve been much more common. Once we got to the camp, we went straight to sleep.
After a couple of hours sleeping, we woke up at 8:30 a.m. when porridge was ready. Then we packed everything again, relaxed a little but as we were in no hurry anymore and then moved on again. After some driving, we stopped at 11 a.m. to a forest where we started to climb to one mountain that Natasha and Sergei had wanted to climb. As we had no birding-plans for the rest of the day, we were soon all climbing up to the mountain.
We were very tired after walking whole night in soft meadows, but anyway we climbed higher and higher. Most of us had nothing to carry, but Hanna was still carrying a lot. So after all everyone else, even PAC who had been extremely exhausted, were coming back from the top before we finally reached it with Hanna.
On the top there was a nice lake and the view to the mountains was very beautiful. But there was also very cold wind, so after some photographing, we also started to walk back down.
The way down was fast and part of the hillside we were walking on the snow. Natasha and Sergei showed us a distant Narodnaya Mountain that was 1499 meters high and the highest peak of Urals. On the walk we saw almost no birds at all but finally on the forest I found a Pin-tail Snipe flying over us. And once again it was over a globeflower meadow near the hillside.
Soon we stopped on the same swimming place where we ate again. The same Siberian Accentor was seen and heard and also a Goosander and a Goldeneye were added to our trip-list. The weather was extremely hot and there were amazing numbers of mosquitoes, horseflies and other biting insects that made us feel a little bit uncomfortable.
Finally we continued to another place along the river along a very bad ”track”. Actually it was more like a river bottom, but Volodja was driving well again. There we put up the camp again to a beautiful place with river and high and steep rocky walls. I managed to sleep a little bit before the dinner and we were offered even some grayling fish that Volodja had caught. Unfortunately it was offered raw. After the dinner we were walking around the camp and enjoying the beautiful views before we went to sleep at 9 p.m.
The 24th of June – Midsummer day. Last year had also been in Russia and Urals on Midsummer day. Then we were in Ural ridge and searching for the same species, Black-throated Accentor, as today.
We woke up at 1:50 a.m. and it was raining a little bit but the wind was strong. Anyway after quick tea and cookies, we started to walk up to the forest along the track. It was crazy to see how bad the track that we had been driving was. Paul was walking fast again and PAC still had something to do in a camp when we started walking. Very soon we found a couple of Pine Grosbeaks but they disappeared too soon. When PAC caught us, we still heard the male singing but it was too windy to get any recordings.
After some more walking Hanna saw a family of Siberian Jays crossing the road and luckily birds stayed next to the road. In same time we heard a Three-toed Woodpecker calling and then PAC decided to go and try to catch Paul – these both species were lifers for Paul. Soon Hanna said that she heard nestlings of Three-toed Woodpecker and disappeared to the forest. And soon she told us that she had found the nest. Soon PAC and Paul arrived and luckily also the Siberian Jays were still around. So Paul got 2 good lifers and he had been lucky to see some Two-barred Crossbills too. We photographed and recorded the family of woodpeckers before continued walking. And soon Hanna heard a distant Red-flanked Bluetail that PAC and Paul left to see this young male bird and so Paul got one more lifer. Soon we heard a couple of bluetails more but they were a bit too distant, so we didn’t try to see them. But once we walked back to the road, we saw one female collecting food along the road.
We continued a little bit more and saw a couple of Siberian Jay families and heard one more Red-flanked Bluetail, but then it started to look like it was going to rain soon. Paul hadn’t got enough clothes so he decided to start walking back along the road and soon Ernie made the same decision. But the rest of us, we decided to walk back towards the camp along the forest. It was a bad decision, as it started to rain almost immediately and this was the first time we were all wearing walking boots and they were soon completely wet! Anyway we managed to find to the camp and there we went straight into the sleeping bags to get warm and soon we were asleep. So it was only after a couple of hours sleeping, when we heard that Paul had seen a Lynx when he had arrived back to the camp! First he had heard harsh cat-like calling and then found the Lynx on the rock on the other side of the river!
After a good breakfast we packed everything again and while visiting a bush I saw one more female Red-flanked Bluetail right behind our tent. Unfortunately the weather was still very bad so once we started driving our car windows were completely misty. And the beginning was very bumpy so soon I started to feel bad. Luckily soon the track got a little bit better but still I was almost throwing up. But anyway we kept on going as the weather was so bad that we didn’t want to stop.
After we had crossed the Kohzym River we climbed to the mountain again and there we finally made the first stop. After the stop I went to sit in front, where I started to feel much better. In rainy weather we saw plenty of Black-throated Thrushes along the road, but only other better bird was a Grey Wagtail.
Finally we were back in Inta at 4 p.m. and headed straight to our hotel. It would have been impossible to find this hotel without locals helping. In reception that looked like any office, all our papers were checked and new ones were written and many stamps were given again. Finally we got into our rooms that were surprisingly comfortable. Shower was on the fifth floor while we were on the fourth, but we weren’t in hurry and sooner or later everyone got into shower. Then we put all wet clothes to dry and started to charge all batteries.
At 6:30 p.m. we met Natasha and Sergei and went to eat to a local restaurant. After the dinner we still went to visit Natasha’s and Sergei’s home where we watched a video of their trip with some Italians some years earlier. But at 10 p.m. we had to walk back to our hotel as we had an early wake up again.
On the 25th of June we woke up at 5:45 and soon we had packed everything again, even though some of the clothes, especially walking boots, were still wet. At 6:30 a.m. Natasha and Sergei arrived with a couple of their friends and they drove us to the railway station. We had breakfast in cafeteria again and at 7:30 our train arrived. We said goodbye to Natasha and Sergei, carried our luggage to our cabins and after 15 minutes the train left towards Eletskaya.
I managed to sleep a little bit while Hanna was making woolen stockings that was her train-project. Surprisingly we got even some food on the train and after all short, only 5 hours trip was going fast. The train was better than the ones we had been before and we also managed to see some birds through the windows; some Heuglin’s Gulls, Short-eared Owls and Wood Sandpipers. We also saw one snipe, Common or Pin-tailed.
At 1 p.m. we were at Eletskaya and soon found our old friend Oleg Demyanenko that was going to participate to this second part of our trip to. It is probable that there will be many groups after us, so it was good for him to see what we are doing here. We also met our driver Sergei and his friend and soon we were driving to an apartment where we met also Eric Didner and Yulia Kharakhasheva, Oleg’s assistant, who had also came to join the trip. Oleg, Yulia and Eric had been flying from Moskow to Salekhardi that was on Asian side of Urals. They had then taken a ferry across Ob River and from Labytnangi they had taken a train to Eletskaya and they had arrived a couple of hours before us.
We enjoyed some tea, candies and even cream-cake as there had been birthday-parties on the previous day. It was interesting to spend some time in local home while Oleg and Sergei were making the last food shopping.
We also walked a little bit outside but the landscape wasn’t nice at all, old abandoned factory-buildings, and there were not many birds around. Most of the time we were wondering the tank that we were going to use for the next 4 days! We had told we’d use a tank, but we had never understood that it really was a TANK! We had paid quite a lot (230€ per person) to get this vehicle so maybe we should have believed, it really was one…
Finally our food was also packed inside the tank and we climbed to the top of it where were 2 long seats for us. And so the journey towards Polar Urals began!
Towards Polar Ural
We did the first stop soon after the village when we reached the first good looking bushy area along the river. PAC played a little bit tape for Pallas’s Reed Bunting and immediately one bird was found! This bird was showing pretty well so Eric got an amazing start for the trip!
I must say that after a hard days in Inta area at least some of us might have been ready to take a train back to Moscow already from Inta, but now when we had a tank under us, Eric was full of energy to find some lifers and we were approaching Polar Ural, we were all full of energy again.
When we kept on going, we saw some Short-eared Owls, Rough-legged Buzzards, a Common Snipe but on the second stop along the river, we saw only a Red-breasted Merganser. Then it started to rain very hard and we decided to try to find a place to camp as soon as possible. We passed a small old abandoned factory and climbed to a hill where we found a good spot on the slope along a stream.
Luckily the rain stopped and we soon got our camp up. Then we had dinner which took time and after all we got to sleep after 10 p.m.
On the 26th of June we woke up at 2:45 a.m. and soon after 3 o’clock we were walking towards the palsa-bog nearby. Along the ditch we flushed a Common Snipe and once we got to the pool, we found immediately a Pallas’s Reed Bunting. A male bird was moving a lot and really making himself look big with all feathers raised especially from the neck. So it wasn’t a surprise that we found also a female that was hiding well but a couple of pictures were taken of it too. Too soon the birds flew together over one hill and we never found them again.
On the pool we saw a couple of Teals and a Black-throated Diver, a Tundra Bean Goose flew over us and we also saw a distant Bar-tailed Godwit. Others had already kept on walking when we started to walk back towards the camp with Hanna.
At camp we only left some clothes off and continued to the other side of the railway. A couple of Rough-legged Buzzards were breeding on the top of one of the pylons but we continued to check the bushes. On the river I saw a Red-breasted Merganser and a Smew and from the bushes we found Eric and Paul that had been listening to one or two accentors, but they hadn’t seen any yet. We tried to help Eric to get one more lifer and I played some calls of Siberian Accentor from my phone. Then I saw a bird right over us and it was a Pin-tailed Snipe! So Eric got a surprise lifer! The snipe disappeared too soon, but soon we heard an accentor again and found it – a Siberian Accentor – another lifer for Eric in a couple of minutes! He had also got all three target species now! And he had got them much too easy as Ernie said…
After all we had 3 Siberian Accentors and we also heard a Siberian Chiffchaff and a Common Rosefinch. When we had walked back to the camp we saw an adult White-tailed Eagle soaring on the sky over the mountains. Then it was time to pack everything again and continue towards the next palsa-bogs with the tank.
We drove to check 4 different bogs and on the first one we saw a flying Whooper Swan, a Red-necked Phalarope, some Citrine Wagtails, a Yellow Wagtail and some Heuglin’s Gulls that we managed to photograph. The wind was too hard to get recordings.
On the second bog we found a couple of Slavonian Grebes, a couple of female Pintails with small youngsters and a Merlin. On the third stop we saw only a couple of Citrine Wagtails, a Short-eared Owl and a Hen Harrier. When we were approaching the fourth bog, our driver tried to take a shortcut through some bushes, but we made him to stop and luckily we soon found a better way to get near the bog. We didn’t want to destroy any good habitat, but there were no any tracks in this area, so it was best to drive along the low vegetation as it was everywhere and all the birds seemed to be anywhere else than there. Actually old tracks of other tanks seemed to be very good breeding places for many birds like pipits and waders.
This last bog looked very good but we only heard a Temminck Stint and on the palsa-wall there was a tiny colony of Sand Martins. A couple of Heuglin’s Gulls were also seen but nothing else.
We started to feel very tired so we continued to the top of the highland from where we saw a group of khanty-people moving towards the mountains with big pack of Reindeers. They were moving higher because of mosquitoes.
Finally we decided to camp in a khanty-people old camping place where they had just left. There was a dog left behind probably because of it seemed to be absolutely exhausted. It was just resting and hardly noticed us at all. We were sure they would come back to get the dog soon.
While a Lapland Bunting was singing in flight and a Red-throated Pipit was collecting food for its nestlings, we put up the camp and soon the food was ready too. Another dog came to see us too from somewhere and they really seemed to suffer from the mosquitoes. Finally we went to sleep at 7 p.m.
Walking on palsa-bogs
On the 27th of June we woke up again at 2:45 a.m. and soon we were walking towards the closest palsa-bog. Right away we flushed a couple of Common Snipes and found a Common Reed Bunting and Citrine Wagtails singing. Soon others had somehow passed us and were walking in fort of us. It was a little bit boring to walk after other birders but pools, bogs and too dense bushes kept us on a narrow area.
We walked on the area for 4 hours and saw a distant Pin-tailed Snipe against the mountains, a flock of 8 Tundra Bean Goose plus one couple, a Whooper Swan, a Long-tailed Duck that landed calling to one pool, a Wigeon that was with 3 Tufted Ducks, again a distant adult White-tailed Eagle, a sub-adult Heuglin’s Gull, a Short-eared Owl and a couple of Hen Harriers. PAC and Paul were again walking much more and they managed to get Shoveler and Common Ringed Plover as a trip-tick.
After the breakfast omelet we had already packed and continued towards Polar Ural. We were driving pretty long before anything happened, but then PAC jumped down from the roof of the tank almost before we had managed to stop it. If we wanted to stop, we had to bang the roof so loud that Sergei heard us and sometimes it was difficult as the tank was very noisy. But now PAC had seen a family a Tundra Bean Geese crossing the road and somehow he managed to catch one of the young birds. It was a cute little fella but the reason it had been caught, was that PAC took some DNA-samples of it. And soon it was released back to its family.
Then we drove again quite long before we crossed one river and decided to camp right there on the crossing place. There was nice mountain-forest not too far and we wanted to do next morning birding around there. There were ridiculous numbers of horseflies but soon we were having a bath in rapid, cold and only some 30 centimeters deep river. Hanna found a couple of Golden Eagles soaring on the top of the mountain with 2 Rough-legged Buzzards so there was a short pause in bathing.
After a bread-lunch we took short naps. Once I woke up everyone else was already birding. I just climbed to the roof of the tank to scan the area and immediately found at least 6 Pin-tailed Snipes flying against the mountain. I walked after them to get some recordings but they stopped the active displaying once the sun was not shining against the mountain anymore. Others had got some good pictures already and we discussed that at least in this place the active display had been about from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
On the 28th of June we woke up at 2:50 a.m. and I had already heard Tundra Bean Geese and Pin-tailed Snipes while still sleeping. After a slowly start we managed to start walking before 4 a.m. and with Hanna we decided to climb up to the mountain. Yulia had been walking there on the previous evening and she had seen Ptarmigans that we still needed to our Russia-list. It is a different subspecies and we have always tried to see new subspecies, not because they might be species one day, but to see if they are any different. Ernie was following us in the beginning but then decided to follow the forest-line as there were some interesting birds like a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers and a flock of Two-barred Crossbills.
We climbed to the ridge and then to second, third and fourth one before we finally saw the top of this small mountain. On this flat area we saw that PAC was already on the other side of it and we decided to go to see if he had found anything. There was almost no birds on the higher area of this rocky mountain and PAC was also watching only a very distant khanty-village on the other side of the big plateau that was opening on the other side of the mountain.
We decided to climb the last uphill to the top of the mountain and PAC started to walk around the plateau. Soon he told with walkie-talkie, that I had just remembered to give to him, that he had found a Dotterel. Anyway we climbed up first, took some pictures and only then went to see if we could find the bird. Surprisingly the Dotterel was flushed already from 100 meters and only I managed to see it briefly. A few Golden Plovers were also there but nothing else was found, so soon we had to start heading back towards the camp as we had promised to be on breakfast at 8 a.m.
We were 15 minutes late but of course it didn’t matter. Others had of course seen Ptarmigans much lower than where we had been and Paul had managed to see Pin-tailed Snipe on the top of a tree and he had got really good pictures too! Finally it was time to pack everything again but it took a little bit longer than usually as the tent that Ernie and Eric had borrowed from Oleg had completely lost the door-zipper. Luckily we managed to fix it, as it would have been hard to sleep the door open with all the insects…
The journey continued and now when we were getting closer to Polar Ural there were better tank-tracks to follow. While driving on the highland the tank flushed one pipit that looked strange to some of us. Its way of flight and short-looking tail had looked like a Pechora Pipit and so we tried to find the bird but without luck. With Hanna we had seen the bird pretty well too and I couldn’t tell it from a wet Meadow Pipit. PAC and Paul were anyway walking and searching it further than the rest of us and once again they managed to see a trip-tick, a Ruff.
Soon we were walking on another similar wet highland but found nothing interesting. Once we continued a Ptarmigan was running in front of the tank and finally we also got a Russia-tick. Next we stopped to check a couple of bigger lakes and on first one there were lots of ducks. We saw at least 20 Pintails, 2 Wigeons, 2 Long-tailed Ducks and 3 Common Scoters. We also managed to get really good pictures of a Lapland Bunting.
Pretty soon we started to go downhill along a rocky, curvy and very bumpy track and surprisingly soon we were on Polar Ural railway-station. It had just started to rain so it was good to know we weren’t going to get too wet. But Polar Ural railway-station wasn’t exactly what we had expected, or actually the station was, but there was almost nothing else! There were some other buildings and cabins for the workers and the closest building/buildings had just been dismantled and flatted down, so the yard was like a rubbish tip. And that was where we were supposed to camp! Our tank was leaving soon back to Eletskaya so we had to camp somewhere near the station to get our luggage to the train a couple of days later.
Luckily Oleg and Sergei managed to get us a permit to camp on the backyard, where were tiny patches of grass for the tents. They also got us a permit to spend time inside the waiting hall which was good if it was going to be very rainy, and there was a possibility to charge batteries too. But even better, they managed to get us a kitchen from one of the cabins and we could also carry our big bags there to the hall of the cabin. With Hanna we had all the time had all our stuff in our tent, but the rest had smaller tents, so it was really good!
It really looked like it was going to rain heavily, so we did a record of putting up the tents and after a quick bread-dinner we went inside the tents to sleep and then it was already raining hard. There was a diesel-train banging all the time on the station but anyway we slept well.
Birding on the edge – once again
On the 29th of June the alarm of my phone woke me up before at 3 a.m. again but I shut it down and waited for my watch to alarm a little bit later. Well it never did, but luckily I woke up anyway and it seemed that everyone else had also had a difficult morning as other tents were also just opening at 3:10. The weather had changed and was perfect now. We decided to go to follow the border of Western Palearctic (Europe) and Asia and also PAC came to climb along the ridge towards the mountain. While PAC was staying all the time in Europe, we were ticking birds from Asia too. There were Long-tailed Skuas, Golden Plovers, a Rough-legged Buzzard, Red-throated Pipits and Lapland Buntings seen on both sides of the border while a Velvet Scoter and a flock of Pintails were seen swimming on a lake in WP.
The border was going along the ridge and it was not easy to follow as we needed to check which direction the small streams were going. After all we turned to follow the mountain-side to Europe and walked quite a lot without new birds. We found some more Red-throated Pipits, Lapland Buntings, Long-tailed Skuas, Golden Plovers and then an Arctic Redpoll that was flying over us a couple of times. While we were walking back towards the camp between the two lakes, we still saw a Common Scoter.
We were at the camp at 8:30 a.m. and until 10 o’clock we had enjoyed breakfast and it was good to go to sleep inside the tent. We were sleeping until 3 p.m. and then I decided to go to have a bath in a pond between the lakes. After that we went to see the border-sign that was along the railway and there we noticed that Long-tailed Skuas and Common Gulls were panicking because of something and found a Peregrine flying low in front of them towards the mountain on Asian side of the border.
After the dinner Oleg had managed to arrange us a possibility to have sauna! I had already enjoyed bathing in ice-cold pool, so I skipped sauna and went to sleep. Anyway I couldn’t sleep before Hanna came back from sauna at 21:30.
Last birding day
The 30th of June was our last day in the field, so we had planned to spend it well. So we woke up at 00:30 a.m. but unfortunately it was raining. So we set the alarms 30 minutes later and repeated this a couple of times, before the weather finally looked like it was getting better at 2:30 a.m. Ernie and Eric had already left towards the mountain-side forest where others had seen quite a few birds on the previous morning.
We walked straight to the same place where we had got the Arctic Redpoll and surprisingly PAC found it again but it disappeared too soon before we or Paul, who needed it as a lifer could see it. We searched it for some time but then with Hanna we decided to keep on walking. Later PAC and Paul luckily found the bird.
We continued straight to the bushy forest and found right away several Pin-tailed Snipes displaying over the bushes and meadows. Also a Common Snipe was heard but we rushed inside the bushes to get some cover from the wind and started photographing and recording. But most of the birds disappeared and the rest moved further so I had to satisfy Yellow-browed Warbler recordings.
We continued further following the upper forest-line and soon the snipes were displaying right over us. I went in the middle of the flowery meadow and finally managed to get perfect recordings! While recording I heard a very strange call and saw a pipit-like bird calling on the top of a bush but straight against the sun. I had never heard the buzzing call it had and once the bird disappeared I called to the others by walkie-talkie that I had got a possible Pechora Pipit.
When we all were there, the pipit-like bird was gone but we all enjoyed the spectacular Pin-tailed Snipe show! We all got pictures but then suddenly all the birds landed and most of them landed to the meadow where we were standing. But then there was a Siberian Accentor that was showing well and it let us to take some pictures! Only then we listened to some Pechora Pipit tape that PAC had with him, and I must say that I had heard something completely different. The description of Pechora’s calls in Collin’s Guide are all completely wrong. I do have heard the species by myself too, but I expected I might have heard an alarm call or something. Maybe it had been only a strange calling Citrine Wagtail? Alarm calls of Red-throated Pipits had also been something we had never heard before but this one had been much more buzzing and insect-like.
After we had got enough recordings of Pin-tailed Snipes, we still tried to record flush-calls, but all birds we flushed stayed quiet. After that we walked for some time in the bushy forest but found nothing else new expect one more Siberian Accentor that sang only once.
Then on the way back we tried to find a Pallas’s Bunting that Yulia had photographed somewhere between the lakes on her evening walk. She had been on the top of the closest high mountain. I was playing Pallas’s Reed Bunting song from my phone and suddenly we saw a male flying over us and landing to short bushes not far from us. But we never found the bird again! Anyway we had once again seen all the target-species in one day and now found out that it was possible to find all the target-species very close to Polar Ural station too. So the future groups will have lots of decisions to make: Should they go to Inta or Polar Ural, or both?
At 7:35 a.m. we were back at the camp and surprisingly soon everyone else was there too. Breakfast was made from everything we still had left and then we packed everything as well as we could. Luckily the morning had been warm and sunny so everything was dry. Our last bird-observation was a Black-throated Diver that was flying from Asia to Europe while we were already waiting for our train.
A long way back to Moscow
Finally at 10:25 our train arrived and it was time to say goodbye to Oleg and Yulia. They were leaving some hours later and their returning trip back to Ekaterinburg was going to be even longer than ours back to Parikkala! We managed to carry luggage to our cabins very quickly as the train stopped only for a couple of minutes. We were together with PAC and Paul while Ernie and Eric had a huge and very drunk Russian in their cabin. Luckily this man was friendly but he kept on talking Russia all the time and of course Ernie and Eric didn’t understand a word. Some his friend were also in the same carriage and one of them was speaking very good English, so we could all relax as he told us to tell him if there were any problems with this drunken guy or with anything else. He also told us that it was extremely rare to see tourists in this Ural-train, and almost everyone else in the carriage kept on asking him, who we were and what he was talking with us.
We were going to spend 42 hours and 25 minutes in the train so soon we were sitting down or lying on the beds. Of course some of us kept on watching through the windows and it was nice to see places where we had been going on last days with a tank. And then suddenly there was a Gyr Falcon perched on one of the pylons! I managed to see the bird well but unfortunately Paul was sleeping so deep that it took a couple of seconds too much before he saw the bird. He just didn’t see it well enough to get a lifer.
It didn’t take long before we stopped in Eletskaya and there we still met a familiar face as Sergei, our tank-driver, was there to collect wellingtons that Eric had borrowed. Soon we were moving again and we all fell asleep and woke up when the train stopped at Inta. We ate again in familiar cafeteria. Once the train continued again some were reading, some sleeping, Hanna was making the stockings and PAC was already listening to his recordings of the trip with his laptop.
Only better bird we saw from the train was a Siberian Stonechat and then the next longer stop was in Pechora. The day was very hot and unfortunately the air-conditioning wasn’t working at all in the train so it was absolutely like in sauna! But once we had crossed Pechora River, we all started to try to sleep.
On the 1st of July I woke up completely sweaty at 5 a.m. when we were on a station of some bigger town. I visited outside to cool down a little bit and soon continued sleeping. Finally we all woke up about at 8 a.m. and then just tried to spend time. Some trip-ticks were seen like a Sparrowhawk, a Black Kite, an Oystercatcher on Kotlas River and the first tits of the trip since Moscow, a Great Tit family.
There was nothing more to tell about the day, it was extremely hot and sweaty and after all we tried to sleep again at 10 p.m.
On the 2nd of July I woke up after 3 a.m. and soon the conductor woke up everyone else too. At 4:46 a.m. we were finally at Moscow and once we got out, it was time to say goodbye to everyone! PAC, Paul, Eric and Ernie took a taxi to the airport and we took one to Mandarin hotel. We had booked a room for a day as our train to Finland was in the evening.
Soon we were in Mandarin and we got the room cheaper as the receptionist told us to book it from internet. Then it was great to have a shower and go to sleep to a soft bed!
Finally we woke up before at 10 a.m. and took a taxi to Tretjakov Gallery. There we were watching paintings for 1.5 hours and then walked to Red Square again. We also visited Gum shopping center, which was of course too expensive for us – everything shiny was real gold…
Then we took a taxi back to the hotel and we made a mistake as we took the taxi in front of Gum. The driver told that he was more expensive than normal taxis, but it was 10 times more expensive! I was sure that we were robbed, but I was too tired to start arguing.
After some more resting, we visited the shop nearby, ate well in hotel restaurant and at 6 p.m. we took a taxi to Leningradskiy railway station.
We still had to wait for an hour before we got into the train and now we had the first class cabin for us. After all the paper-work the train left at 7:53 p.m. and pretty soon we got a dinner. Soon after that we were ready to sleep.
On the 3rd of July we were woken up at 3:30 a.m. just before we arrived at Vyborg. Next 3 hours were spent in border-crossings and finally at 7:39 a.m. we were in Kouvola. There we were waiting for our last train for an hour which seemed shorter as there was an old train from 1940th century being prepared to leave to Heinola. It was funny to watch the steam-train driving around the station. Finally it left just before our train arrived and left towards Parikkala.
The last almost 2 hours of our trip went fast. Finally we had been almost 116 hours in trains and were in Parikkala railway station. Then we just carried our luggage to home.
The whole trip to Sub-polar and Polar Ural was a success. We had no bigger problems, only some with hotel and also with getting permit to Inta National Park, but luckily they were solved easily, thanks to our good guides.
Travelling by train was surprisingly pleasant and trains were always in time. There was enough room to our huge luggage and to spend time and to sleep. As far as the air condition and toilets were working, everything was fine. It’s good to remember that almost no-one speaks English in Russia, only our guides.
The landscape in Inta area was pretty much like in Kuusamo area in Finland. Polar Ural was like northern Lapland. Of course mountains are twice higher. Walking was often very hard; it was soft and wet in bogs and meadows and walking in very rocky terrain is always hard. So after 11 days on field we were all totally exhausted! Rubber-boots were used most of the time, but in rocky terrain we had water-proof walking boots.
The weather can be almost anything in this north in June. It can be 30 degrees or then snowing. This year the spring had come early and most of the flowers were about 2 weeks earlier than on our previous trip to Middle and Southern Urals one year earlier. This of course affects to activity of many bird-species, but also to amount of mosquitoes. On our trip we had amazing numbers of mosquitoes but also horse-flies and other biting insects. But as many travelling birders who had been in Finnish Lapland know, you just need to wear enough clothes and mosquito-hat to survive. So gloves that are thick enough are must in worst areas. Some of us thought that mosquito-hat does make seeing and hearing birds more difficult and were using only repellents most of the time. In EU-countries repellents are not as effective as they used to be, so they were using Russian version. After all they got so bad skin-problems, that mosquito-hats were uses again. My way was to use mosquito-hat all the time and Finnish repellent on my hands. I needed to put repellent to my hands a couple of times per day, so it worked fine. And of course we used long trousers and shirts all the time. I also added some repellent to my hat time to time and also to my shoulders when I was sweating and insects started to get through my shirt. Even in our trip we had to take antihistamine and cortisone pills (against adder bites) to the worst allergic reactions we got from mosquitoes.
Bird-life in Inta and Polar Ural were pretty much like in Lapland, but of course there are differences, after all we are some 2000 km east. Arctic Warbler and Little Bunting are one of the most common birds. In forests there are also Siberian Chiffchaffs, Yellow-browed Warblers, Red-flanked Bluetails and occasionally also Olive-backed Pipits. In Inta area Black-throated Thrushes were quite common. In best forest there were also Siberian Jays and Three-toed Woodpeckers. I am sure there are also some owls and grouses to find, but in this time they are extremely difficult. Some common birds were: Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Bluethroat, Bullfinch, Brambling, Common Redpoll and so on. Citrine Wagtail was common in wet areas, Yellow Wagtail was rarer. Some flocks of Waxwings and Two-barred Crossbills were also seen. Siberian Stonechats were seen only in some places. We had thought it to be much more common.
In Polar Ural most of the forest birds were of course missing, but there were also Red-throated Pipits and Lapland Bunting. The most common gull was a Common Gull, but Heuglin’s Gulls were found on palsa-bogs. On lakes and pools there were Arctic Terns and on tundra there were Long-tailed Skuas. Waders and ducks were much less than we expected. Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Rough-legged Buzzard, Merlin and Kestrel were the most common raptors. Many times we had a feeling that there would be more birds in similar place in Finnish Lapland, but then this area is so much more further from the wintering grounds of many species!
Altogether we saw 141 species during the trip. 34 species were seen only in Moscow or from the train.
The must species:
Pin-tailed Snipes seemed to be in active display only quite short times in early morning and in the evening. We saw single birds, pairs, threes and also flocks of 6 and 7 birds. To find this species you need to find flowering meadows that are close to mountains. Usually there were also mountainside forests and rivers. The best places were globeflower meadows. The calls and display song can’t be heard very far, but the display flight is diagnostic from distance. Birds are flying a big circle, gliding time to time like Woodcocks and then diving almost to the ground when they make the strangest calls of their display.
Siberian Accentor was quite common but not easy to see! They were singing always only a couple of times and then got quiet, until they sand from a different place. They didn’t react to playing their song either. So patience and luck were needed to see the bird. Anyway sometimes they were singing on the top of the highest tree and easy to find and see. The biotope for Siberian Accentor was a “bad forest” or any bushy area, and for us they were often found close to the river, but some were quite high on the mountain-forests.
Pallas’s Reed Bunting was probably the rarest and also most difficult to find. Some birds were found on riverside bushes where were also Common Reed Buntings. But some were found in tundra, in very low willows and quite high altitude. The song was also pretty hard to notice as there were many Little Buntings, Citrine Wagtails and some Common Reed Buntings singing too. Luckily this species seemed to come easily to its song, so playing the tape makes it easier to find.
Thanks to all the group we had: PAC, Eric, Paul, Ernie and Oleg and Yulia from Ural Expeditions & Tours and other guides Sergei and Natasha and drivers Sergei and Volodja plus other people who made our trip excellent!