Category Archives: Russia

Polar Ural, Russia 18th of June to 2nd of July 2016


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!

To Urals

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…

To Moscow

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.

From Red Square

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.

Train travelling

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

Arctic Warbler

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.

Siberian Accentor

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.

Little BuntingLong-tailed Skua

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.

Little Bunting

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 first camp

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

Citrine Wagtail

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!

Pallas's BuntingPallas's Bunting

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.

Hawk OwlGroup

Lady's Slipper Orchid

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…


Siberian Accentor

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.

Holy mountain

The second camp

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.

Pin-tailed Snipes

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.

Habitat for Pin-tailed Snipe

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!

Pin-tailed SnipePin-tailed Snipe

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.

Mountain lake

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.

Forest birding


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.

Siberian JayThree-toed Woodpecker

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.

To Eletskaya

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.

Packing the tank

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

Full team

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.

Pallas's BuntingPallas's Bunting

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.

Rough-legged Buzzard

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.

Palsa-bog birding

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.

Citrine WagtailRed-necked Phalarope

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.

Heuglin's GullArctic Tern

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.


Mountain climbing

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.


Golden Plover

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.


Polar Ural

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!

Red-throated Pipit

Wood Sanpiper

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.

Long-tailed SkuaLong-tailed SkuaLong-tailed SkuaLong-tailed Skua

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.

Siberian Accentor

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.

Globe-flower meadow

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.

Pin-tailed SnipePin-tailed SnipePin-tailed SnipePin-tailed Snipe

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?

Polar Ural

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.

Buying food

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.

Last words:

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.

HyttysiäThe 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.

SitruunavästäräkkiBird-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:

SuippopyrstökurppaPin-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.

And thanks

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!


Ural, Russia 6th to 24th of June 2015


Ural had long been a dream destination for us. Many birds that are rare in Finland are common there and of course there are also some species that we haven’t got yet. In a couple of last years some groups had managed to visit Urals and they had really did well. In summer 2014 some groups used a local company to arrange almost everything and then one independent group visited also southern steppes and found some very interesting species which made the trip even more interesting. We had planned to make our trip to Urals after a couple of years but our friend Paul French wanted to go sooner and so already in autumn 2014 we contacted the local company and started to plan a trip for summer 2015. Everything was well prepared already in spring 2015 but only disappointment was that the 4th participant had to cancel the plans to join us. We tried to find a new participant but after all decided that it might even be better if there were only 3 of us as then we could fit easily in one car. So after all there were three of us, Hanna and Janne Aalto and Paul French.

To Russia

On the 5th of June we drove from Parikkala to Kirkkonummi. We were there at 7:25 p.m. and after we had eaten well we continued to Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

While we were taking our luggage from my father’s car, I realized that I had forgotten to take any jacket with me. I had planned to wear my gore-tex jacket during the flight as my luggage was already very heavy, but it had been so warm in Parikkala that I had just forgotten to take it with me. It was too late now, but I started to worry that how I could survive in Ural Mountain without a jacket.

Our flight left at 11:55 p.m. and we fell asleep immediately. We woke up when the plane started to land to Ekaterinburg. We landed to Koltsovo airport at 04:20 a.m. which was 1.5 hours earlier than we had thought to land.

After we had found our luggage and after standing in several queues where we had to collect different kind of stamps to our papers, we finally got out from the airport. As we were out much earlier than we had thought, we walked straight to Lainer hotel. Our friend Paul was coming after a couple of hours so we had some time to rest.

It was only a couple of hundreds of meters walk to Lainer but in the reception there was a little bit hassle before we realized that our rooms were booked by Ural Expeditions & Tours Oleg Demyanenko. Finally we got into our room and I sent an SMS to Paul that he comes to wake us up when he is ready.

Airport marshes

I woke up when Paul sent me an SMS that he will come after 10 minutes. At 7:15 a.m. he knocked to our door and it was good to see Paul again! He was tired after a long travelling but ready to go to do some birding anyway!

We walked to the airport and took a taxi that probably wasn’t official one but the driver “Hazi” seemed to be reliable. He didn’t speak almost any words of English but agreed to drive us to the place that we showed from googlemaps and also agreed to get us back after 4 hours. So soon we were driving towards Bolshoy Istok village and Airport marshes that opened behind the village.

Hazi promised to be back at 12 a.m. and of course didn’t take any money yet. Soon we were wearing our wellingtons and walking towards north the marsh.

Airport marshes

The meadow was full of nice birds: Booted Warblers were everywhere and also Blyth’s Reed Warbler was very common. Some couples of Siberian Stonechats were active and soon we heard a singing Siberian Chiffchaff. We followed a path on the western side of the river but after some 45 minutes walking the river turned in front of us and it was impossible to continue towards the bushy area that we wanted to go. Anyway we saw more and more birds like Yellow and Citrine Wagtails, Penduline Tits, Bluethroats, Common Rosefinches and so on. Some Steppe Gulls flew over us and a couple of Black Kites were soaring on the sky, a Corn Crake was calling and Grasshopper and River Warbler singing.

Citrine WagtailSiberian Stonechat

But we had to walk to the place where we had started and there I managed to cross the river along a dam, but it was too dangerous because of the stream and almost broken dam. So Hanna and Paul had to try to find a better way and after all they had to walk to the village where they finally managed to cross the river. But finally we were together on the eastern side of the river and walking towards the bushy area.

Soon we heard a Greenish Warbler singing and then Paul saw the first male Long-tailed Rosefinch but only briefly. It dropped to the bushes too soon for me and Hanna. But after a short wait, it finally flew again and did some kind of display flight over the bushes. And soon after that we found it perched on the top of a bush and finally I could celebrate my WP-tick number 700!

Airport Marshes

We were still pretty far from the bird so we walked a little bit closer. But the terrain changed to most difficult I had ever walked! It also came wetter so after all we stopped close to a reedbed where at least a couple of Paddyfield Warblers were singing. Soon we found the rosefinch again and it landed very close to us to a top of a bush but it was behind some reeds so Hanna and Paul couldn’t get good pictures. And soon it was gone again.

After some waiting we saw a Long-tailed Rosefinch flying pretty far behind us and soon after that two males chasing each others over the bushes – so there were probably 3 different males.

Soon we realized that it was time to start walking back. It was a long way to walk as Hanna and Paul had really had to make a big loop to cross the ditch. We were in the starting place a couple of minutes before the midday and Hazi was already there waiting for us.

Once we were back at hotel we went to sleep right away. At 5 p.m. we had a good dinner at hotel restaurant but as it was raining pretty hard outside, we decided to take it easy for the rest of the evening. Luckily WiFi was working well but then we also found out that the weather wasn’t going to get any better for the next day either. So I spent most of the night watching Champions League final where Barcelona won Juventus 3-1.

Rainy day


On the 7th of June it wasn’t that rainy during the night, so I woke up before 7 a.m. and even though I hadn’t been sleeping too much because of the football match and some noisy work outside in the hotel backyard, I wanted to go birding. So I woke up Hanna and then went to wake up Paul too. He didn’t hear me knocking the door so I opened the door walked in. It really wasn’t easy to wake him up and he got so scared when it finally worked! And I wasn’t ever cruel at all… Anyway Paul, who had been working too much recently, was still too tired to do anything yet and decided to stay in bed. So together with Hanna we did only a couple of hours morning walk near the airport.

We heard several Greenish Warblers, Siberian Chiffchaffs, Bluethroats and a Thrush Nightingale, a Sedge Warbler, a couple of Common Cuckoos, an Icterine Warbler, a River Warbler, a Corn Crake and saw a Long-tailed tit. But then it started to rain again and we hurried back to hotel to sleep more.

At 11:40 a.m. we walked down to the lobby where Paul was already with his luggage. We still ordered borsch-soup with Hanna and luckily got them in a couple of minutes. Soon Oleg Demyanenko from Ural Tours & Expedition arrived and we filled his 4-wheel drive with our luggage and started to drive through 1.5 million inhabitants Ekaterinburg.

We drove to Ural Tours and Exhibitions office where we did all the paper-work, checked all the gear that we were loaning and of course paid everything to Oleg and then visited an ATM and a shop and then Oleg drove us to the railway station. With help of carriers we managed to get our luggage, which included now also tents, mattresses, tables, stools and all the kitchen stuff, to our cabin and somehow managed to pack them all so that there was still room for 4th person that was already there too. Then at 4:10 p.m. our train left towards south and Orsk.

In our cabin

In the beginning of the long train-trip we were talking and wondering how few birds we saw from the window even though the landscape changed from pine forests to really good looking leaf-tree forests. Finally about at 9 p.m. when we were in Cheljabinsk, we started to sleep. Luckily the train was moving very slowly and steady so we slept very well.

Orsk – lifers

On the 8th of June I woke up early and just watched the landscape from the train window. There still weren’t many birds but it really looked like we were going to see lots of steppes. Some Turtle Doves, Hoopoes and a Red-footed Falcon were seen before we finally were at Orsk at 06:37 a.m. Our driver Alexander was already there together with a group of local journalists that wanted to make some stories about “famous foreign ornithologists birding in Orsk”. Luckily these journalists gave us a hand and helped us to carry everything to Alexander’s Niva which had a handy back-box for the luggage.

After visiting a shop we were soon driving to highlands eastern side of Gaynulino. After some driving we found the first good looking spot which we had also some GPS-spots as the British group that had visited this area last summer had seen some White-winged Larks in this place. Journalists wanted to see us in action and they were filming and photographing when I got my scope ready and almost the first bird I found from the northern side of the road was a stunning male Red-headed Bunting perched on the top of a bush! Journalists wanted to do some interviewing too, but I had done enough and left to see the bunting closer. So Hanna and Paul were giving the interviews…

Red-headed BuntingJanne digiscoping

One of the journalists followed me and videoed me watching and digiscoping my new WP-tick. Soon Hanna and Paul were following me and they got some pictures too. Unfortunately very hard wind made this bird move a lot and even though we soon found at least another male and a female too, we couldn’t get very good pictures. So we planned to walk and check a bigger area before coming back to try to find these birds again.

After we had first found a Siberian Roe Deer and a funny looking Corsak Fox, I found a couple of White-winged Larks flying on the sky. But these birds flew almost immediately very far to the other side of the road. The fox was still chasing some Skylarks and then we noticed that there was still one more White-winged Lark following it. We tried to get closer but even the fox was gone, we heard only the wall of many Skylarks singing. We walked around for quite a long time and saw 7 Black-winged Pratincoles, a Booted Warbler that was in a totally wrong biotope, Ortolan Buntings, Siberian Stonechats, Tree Sparrows, Northern Wheatears, Tawny Pipits, Bee-eaters and so on. When we had decided to walk back to see the buntings, we saw Alexander driving towards us – so we decided to continue somewhere else.

Tawny PipitBooted Warbler

Maruna growing steppe

Alexander didn’t speak many words English but he was a funny guy anyway! Unfortunately he was driving like a lunatic and even though we tried to slow him down a little bit, it didn’t help. Anyway next we asked Alexander to find us a good place to make a camp. We started to feel hungry and we really needed to stop and plan what to do the next 5 days as we had already seen 2 most important species in Orsk area!

We drove to southern side of Gaynulino and from the western side of the river we found a perfect place for camping. While we were putting up the tents, Alexander was cooking a lunch. After a really good food we were ready to go to sleep a little bit at 3:30 p.m.

CampDemoiselle Crane

We slept a bit more than an hour and soon we were walking along the river towards south. There were big meadows on the both side of the river and lots of birds: Ortolan Bunting was very common, some Booted Warblers and Bluethroats were singing a Quail calling and we also found a couple of Red-backed Shrikes, Barred Warblers, Marsh Warblers, Cetti’s Warblers, a Honey Buzzard and a Hobby. The wind was still getting stronger but then we found a Demoiselle Crane landing to a meadow far to the other side of the river. Luckily it was flying again soon and flew over us to the field and there was another Demoiselle Crane too – they were nesting there on the field!

The wind died in the late evening so soon we got some insects, but luckily not too many yet. We ate a good dinner and went to sleep before 10 p.m.

Steppe Marmot

Demoiselle Cranes

On the 9th of June I woke up after 4 a.m. and walked a little bit along the river north towards the village and recorded some Barred, Marsh and Cetti’s Warblers. Hanna and Paul woke up at 5:30 a.m. and soon we were walking towards the Demoiselle Cranes again. We had planned to try to hide to the bushes along the river to a place where Demoiselle Crane had been flying over to the other side of the river for a couple of times in the evening, but after an hour waiting the cranes were still just standing and feeding on their nesting place. So we walked along the old field towards the cranes until we thought we were close enough and took some pictures. Unfortunately there was lots of haze in the air, so the pictures weren’t too good. In the same place there was a colony of Steppe Marmots and we of course took some pictures of these funny mammals too. The young marmots were wrestling almost all the time they were visible. But once we got closer they all disappeared into their holes. Luckily one bigger marmot stayed visible.

We had the breakfast at 9 a.m. and soon we had packed our luggage and driving towards a place that Hanna and Paul had chose from the maps. It was much longer way than we had expected to the steppe area so we made one stop on the way on a rocky hill near a mining area on the southern side of Novorudnyy. Paul saw briefly an owl that probably was a Short-eared Owl and then I flushed a Grey Partridge. On a small pool behind the hill we saw a couple of Ruddy Shelducks and an Eastern Imperial Eagle was soaring on the sky.

White-winged Lark

We continued to a sandy steppe that we had thought to be good for a Black Lark which we were dreaming to find. Once we had started to walk, we immediately flushed a couple of White-winged Larks! But again these birds were extremely shy and mobile so we couldn’t get good pictures. We were chasing these larks for some time and found another pair too, but still they were too mobile.

Soon we continued to a lake nearby on the western side of Novonikolaevka and drove around it even though there weren’t any roads at all. We saw a couple of stunning Pallas Gulls, 2 Steppe Gulls, Great Crested Grebes, a Garganey, a Turnstone, a Ringed Plover, 2 Common Snipes and again 2 nice Demoiselle Cranes. This time we managed to get good pictures of the cranes as they weren’t far from our car.

After all we decided to put up the camp along the lake and after some searching we found a good spot. While putting up the tents and cooking our lunch we saw a couple of Red-footed Falcons that had a nest very close to our camp, a Golden Oriole, Siskins, very southern Fieldfares, a Red-breasted Merganser, Black Terns and so on. We also saw a Steppe Polecat briefly. At 5 p.m. it was time for a nap again.

Demoiselle CranePallas Gull

At 7:30 p.m. we were walking towards the western end of the lake and from the bay we found a Common Teal and a Gadwall but the cranes were much further on the fields. We also saw lots of Musk Rats and the common songbirds were singing well even in the evening.

Once we were back in our camp Alexander had prepared a good dinner and while eating Hanna noticed international space-station flying over us. It was very well visible with a scope. In the evening we were listening to the Red-footed Falcons calling from their nest, Demoiselle Cranes calling further, saw a White-winged Black Tern with Black Terns and then noticed a strange call from the lake. It took some time to realize that the callers were the Steppe Marmots that were chasing a Corsak Fox away from their nest on the other side of the lake! Frogs started to get noisy too and a Bittern was booming when we went to sleep pretty late at 11 p.m.

A couple of lakes

On the 10th of June it was raining during the night and also in the morning. I went to walk towards the eastern side of the lake, but heard only a Greenish Warbler, saw 6 Pallas Gulls and so on, but then the rain got worse and I hurried back to the tent. After a short break the rain stopped and soon we were all walking to the same place where I had already been. We saw a Eurasian Wigeon and Hanna saw a couple of Black-winged Pratincoles and while we were already walking back towards the camp, we found a couple of White-backed Woodpeckers. After the breakfast we packed everything and continued to the next place.

Red-footed FalconWhite-backed Woodpecker

Surprisingly we drove the same road that we had come and in the place where we had seen White-winged Larks, we saw a White-backed Woodpecker, a couple of Steppe Buzzards and 2 flying Ruddy Shelducks. While we were driving towards Malokhalilovo, Alexander told we were on his hunting grounds and he asked if we wanted to see minks, foxes or hares. We were interested to visit the hare place as it was a good looking lake anyway. The lake was on the north-eastern side of Malokhalilovo. Surprisingly Alexander made a U-turn to a deep ditch and we got completely stuck! The situation was so absurd that we didn’t hesitate to take any pictures. There was a turning place 50 meters from us. Somehow Alexander got the car up but then the back-box got stuck and car and the box were in a nice V-letter shape on the bottom of the ditch. But Niva is an amazing car and somehow Alexander drove it up and we could continue to the lake.

We didn’t find any hares on the lake but we saw a Great White-fronted Goose, a Goldeneye, a Pochard, a Smew and a Little Ringed Plover.


Janne and PaulOnce we got to Malokhalilovo we started to walk along the river on the village, but soon we realized that we were on the wrong side of the river. On the southern side we found much better looking biotope while walking north-east and also the GPS-points started to get closer. After the heavy rains at night the steppe was extremely muddy, so walking was very difficult. The day was also getting really hot so soon we were sweating a lot. We saw an Eastern Imperial Eagle, Gold Finches, Yellowhammers and heard a Song Thrush, 4 Siberian Lesser Whitethroats and a Grasshopper Warbler and when we were going to turn back towards the village we found a beautiful male Red-headed Bunting! But it flew very far away before we got almost any pictures.

When we had walked back to our car, we decided to drive back to the bunting place and put up the camp somewhere there. And luckily we found a good spot along the river.

When we had got the tents up, the fish-soup was also ready. The rest of the evening we were just sitting on the camp and watching White-backed Woodpeckers and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers flying over and listening Golden Orioles singing and calling. In the late evening a fire kept insects away. Anyway we went to sleep already at 9 p.m. and at night we got some good thunderstorms.

On the 11th of June I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and walked to record the Red-headed Bunting. Unfortunately my wellingtons were too deep in the too well closed back-box, so I had to go to wet grass with my boots and soon my feet were completely wet. On a small pool I recorded frogs and saw a Redhank, but soon I found the Red-headed Bunting and got extremely good recordings as the bird let me to less than 5 meters. But soon it started to rain again and I hurried back to tent.

When the rain stopped I managed to get my wellingtons and soon we all went back to the bunting place and there it was still. Hanna and Paul got some ok pictures but somehow the bird wasn’t that easy to get close anymore. And again it started to rain so we walked back to the camp.

Red-headed Bunting and Yellow Wagtail

After the breakfast we packed everything again and then left towards a place that we had found to be good-looking in googlemaps. Again the roads weren’t as easy as they had looked, and soon we were driving in the middle of the steppe and trying to cross a railroad. Alexander was driving like a crazy again and I must say that I was really scared at times! After many kilometres we had to give up as the railroad wasn’t possible to cross. So we had to drive back to a bigger road which was just good I think.

road on steppeLittle Bustard

When the road got bigger it was again possible to look through the windows again and we saw 2 flying Ruddy Shelducks on the northern side of Gay and a couple of male Little Bustards south and south-east from Novorodnyy, but got only some flight shots of them. Probably the same Eastern Imperial Eagle was again seen close to the mining area again. We stopped on one small lake west from Gay on the way but there were only some gulls and Coots and some Black Kites on a rubbish tip nearby.


Finally we were on the area that we had tried to get south from Kolpakskoye, but it was a disappointment, it was farming land all over. So we decided to skip this place and continued to Kolpakskoye and to Ural River that was nearby. On the way we saw a couple of cute Rufous Susliks. Then on the bridge between Europe (also WP) and Asia we saw an Oystercatcher, a Pallas Gull and also a Levant Sparrowhawk! We walked a little bit in a forest on the WP-side of the border but saw only Bee-eaters and found a nest of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Then we decided to drive cross the river and go to Asia! We wanted to check if the Asia looked better. We were hoping to find much better steppes for larks.

UralRufous Suslik

It really started to look better almost right away and we saw much more Red-footed Falcons and Bee-eaters than on European side of the river. We continued through Novoorsk and south of the city we saw the first Montagu’s Harrier (and the only ring-tail harrier of the trip) and continued until eastern side of Luzhki and Kemak River where we found again a good place to put up the camp. While a Little Tern was wishing and an Oystercatcher was swimming (yep, you read correct), we put up the tents and soon it was time to eat again.

Kumak river

The rest of the evening we took it easy and stayed close the camp. I even went to swim to the river. We saw a couple of Red-headed Buntings flying over us and the first Curlew of the trip – strange, there had been good biotope everywhere. We also saw a Turtle Dove species in flight but it was too brief to identify. Several thunderstorms were around us but luckily none of them came too close. We went to sleep at 10 p.m.

Red-headed Bunting

On the 12th of June we woke up later, just before 7 a.m. when Black-winged Pratincoles were calling while flying over our tent. First we just walked around the camp and saw a Levant Sparrowhawk.

After the omelette-breakfast we packed our car again and started to drive along the road north towards the endless steppe. After about 200 meters driving we found a Red-headed Bunting perched on the top of the bush right next to the track and finally we got some good pictures!

Searching for larks

On the first stop we made, Hanna and Paul saw a Little Bustard and if in European side we had seen 1 White-winged Lark to 100 Skylarks, now about every fifth lark was a white-winged. But still they were extremely difficult to see well and photograph. They either got up to the blue sky and disappeared or then landed hundreds of meters from where they had been flushed. We also saw 4 to 6 Demoiselle Cranes, a young White-tailed Eagle, a flock of Lapwings that had one leucistic bird which really was thought to be something else first, an Eastern Imperial Eagle, a Long-legged Buzzard, a Caspian Tern, a Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-footed Falcons and so on.

When we were once again walking in one good looking area Paul noticed a big lark flying over us. It was flying straight away but then once turned and showed itself – it was completely greyish without any white on the tail or trailing edge of the wing – it must have been a female Black Lark. It landed a couple of kilometres from us and we walked there but never found it again. After all only good thing in this observation was that we were outside the Western Palearctic. We really would have wanted to see the bird better.

White-winged LarkSteppe continues

After seeing about 25 White-winged Larks, we decided to turn back. This steppe would have ended somewhere in China, but as we were in Asia anyway, we weren’t too keen to keep on going… We still stopped along the river to cook lunch and there were plenty of people swimming and having fun as it was Russia day and people had a long weekend holiday.

After we had eaten we decided to drive south-east over the steppes to see one lake nearby. But again it was much longer way than we had thought and Alexander was driving faster than ever! We really lost the road a couple of times and drove through tens of water-pools that were quite deep, but somehow managed to get close to the lake alive. I had once seen a black lark looking bird from the window but I had been too scared to say anything. Finally we stopped near the lake on the western side of Akzharskoye, when there was a first small pool with a flock of White-winged Terns and a Marsh Sandpiper.

AlexanderWhite-winged Black Tern

Even though it was extremely hot and humid, we walked to see the lake which was really good indeed. 6 Great White Egrets, a family of Black-necked Grebes, 2 Red-necked Grebes, a Gadwall, 2 Pochards, Bitterns calling and also flying, a Little Bittern seen in flight very briefly, Savi’s Warbler, Paddyfield and Great Reed Warbler singing. A couple of Citrine Wagtails were also seen and together with Hanna we saw a male Isabelline Wheatear.

But it was soon absolutely too hot to continue and as we had no more ideas what to do, we asked Alexander to drive to Orsk. After some shopping Alexander dropped us to the railway-station and then it was time to say goodbye to Alexander. Then we had 5 hours before our train was leaving.

At 11:48 p.m. our train left towards Ekaterinburg and after we had managed to squeeze our luggage into our cabin, we were soon ready to sleep.

On the 13th of June I woke up just before 10 a.m. and we had still a long way to go. While talking we saw some Black Kites and Steppe Buzzards and then suddenly on the top of a bush in the middle of a small bog there was an Azure Tit! Paul started to celebrate, but then realized that we were on the wrong side of the border again – but anyway Hanna and Paul got a world-tick. Later we still saw a Greater Spotted Eagle briefly but then the rest of the trip went without any observations.

Relaxing in Ekaterinburg

At 2:11 p.m. we were in Ekaterinburg and Oleg was on the station with carriers. Soon we had everything packed into Oleg’s car and driving towards the Hotel Fort that was close to the city.

The reception didn’t speak any English but otherwise the hotel was pretty good. Unfortunately I didn’t know how to get hot water from the shower but it was good to get even cold water wash done.


We loaded all our batteries and just relaxed for a couple of hours. Then we decided to go to eat but there was nothing in English in hotel restaurant, so we decided to walk to a pizzeria that we had seen near the railway-station. Hanna ordered chicken but with Paul we took big pizzas. Once we got them, they were really too big! We had been wondering if the pizzas were eatable at all as there was potato and mayonnaise in all of them – and soon we found out that they hardly were. Anyway we were too hungry so we really tried our best, but it was the first time ever that I had to stop eating after half of the pizza!

We took some of the leftovers with us and walked back to the hotel. There we planned the next couple of days program and then finally went to sleep. And soft beds felt so good after several nights in tent and on very thin mattresses.

Monetnyy marshes

On the 14th of June we woke up a bit too early and at 7 a.m. we were having the breakfast. Then we packed everything again and at 8 a.m. Oleg arrived and we packed his car full again. Soon we were driving towards north-east and Monetnyy. After some shopping in a tiny shop, we tried to find a road or a track that lead east to marshes about 6 kilometers from the main road. We found one good road but it ended to a horse pasture surrounded by big fences. After some trying to get around the fence we gave up and decided to start walking. Oleg stayed by the car and we promised to get back in some hours.

Long-tailed Tit

Common Glider

After all it was clear that we had made a bad decision as the forest came very wet. But after several kilometers walking we just kept on going towards the GPS-points that we had. We heard plenty of Siberian Chiffchaffs and Greenish Warblers and some Green Sandpipers, Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Willow Tits, a Common Crossbill and saw a Jay. After 3 hours walking we decided to take a shortcut and walked to a canal and hoped that it’d be easier to walk along it. But it wasn’t a canal at all but a road! Already in the morning Paul had suggested Oleg to take that road, but Oleg had said it was a canal.

This was the road that British group had used a year before and there was pretty much traffic as several cars, tractors and even a group of motor-cyclist passed us. So soon we were in the right area where the Movetnyy marshes started. But it was already afternoon and very hot, so we didn’t do much birding anymore. We called to Oleg if he could try to find the road and come to pick us up, but after an hour trying he called us back and told that he couldn’t find the way.

So it meant that we had to start walking 6 kilometers towards the main road. Luckily I had the pizza-leftovers with me and we got some energy to start walking again. It was a long and extremely sweaty walk but finally we found the cemetery from where Oleg had called us. But he had been on the wrong side of it and he hadn’t noticed a small track that went to the backside of it and continued then 6 kilometers almost straight to the marshes.

Finally we found Oleg and decided to go shopping and then drive back to marshes to camp. We really didn’t want to give up with this place. So after buying cold drinks, ice-cream and also some real food, we were driving back. In the village we saw an Eastern Hedgehog. The road was in pretty bad shape and it took almost 40 minutes to drive that 6 kilometers but finally we were there and putting up the camp. It wasn’t an ideal place to camp as there wasn’t really clean water at all, but we needed only birds to be satisfied – and also some food, we were really hungry.

In the afternoon we found a stunning Long-tailed Rosefinch very close to our camp but once again it flew away too soon and no recording or pictures were taken. While we were relaxing and sitting in our camp, we heard one very close series of calls of an Oriental Cuckoo!

After the late lunch, we still did a walk nearby and crossed a ditch by a beaver-dam. The road there was in so bad condition that even wellingtons weren’t enough. Luckily the dam was strong enough. We heard some Icterine Warblers, a River Warbler, a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat, a Golden Oriole, some Common Cranes and a couple of Oriental Cuckoos that were now calling very well. Once we were back in the camp a Woodcock was flying around and a couple of Turtle Dove species flew briefly over us but again too briefly to identify them. Finally at 11 p.m. we were ready to sleep.

Oriental Turtle Dove

On the 15th of June it started to rain at 3 a.m. but luckily the rain ended at 4:30 and we were able to go birding. It was a nice morning with a drumming Black Woodpecker, a singing River Warbler and a Lanceolated Warbler just 100 meters from our camp. After a little walk we heard a call of an Oriental Turtle Dove and luckily found the bird perched on the top of a dead tree. Of course it was the first time that I wasn’t carrying my telescope but we could see the bird pretty well with binoculars. We also heard Bullfinches and saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. When we were walking back towards our tent, we heard promising calls of a tit nearby and then saw a pale tit landing to a tree over us. It really looked promising, but right away we realized there was something wrong – the bird had a blue cap and overall the structure was exactly like a Blue Tit – but it had no yellow at all – it was a Pleske’s Tit, a hybrid between Blue and Azure Tit! So Hanna and Paul still didn’t get a WP-tick. Unfortunately the bird was too quick and we got no pictures.

Near the camp I heard flight calls of a Two-barred Crossbill and soon we found a calling Long-tailed Rosefinch on the top of a tree nearby, but again it was too fast and flew away too soon to get pictures or recordings.

Azure Tit

Hanna decided to stay near the camp and wait if the Long-tailed Rosefinch would come back while I and Paul started to walk towards a couple of pools a couple of kilometers north from the camp. The track was in very bad shape after motorcycles and other all-terrain vehicles, and there weren’t many birds on the way but on the pools we found some Tufted Ducks and a couple of Slavonian Grebes. Soon we heard again promising song of a tit in front of us and soon found the bird and this time it was a real Azure Tit! Paul celebrated the WP-tick and then we started to get pictures, videos and recordings as the bird was still singing. Soon I radioed with walkie-talkie to Hanna that we had finally found an Azure Tit, but Hanna was still very far but luckily she had already been walking towards us for some time.

We could watch the tit cleaning itself and singing for more than 5 minutes but all the time it was climbing higher and higher on the trees and once it reached the top, it flew far away along the pool. And of course Hanna arrived only a little bit late. We had promised to Oleg that we would have breakfast at 10 a.m. so Paul decided to start walking back, but with Hanna we had to give some time for the tit. I saw first a Honey Buzzard flying over me and after maybe 5 minutes we heard a promising call and soon Hanna saw an Azure Tit in flight. I played a little bit tape and then the bird landed to a tree pretty far from us, but soon continued and flew straight over us and disappeared. But we were happy as Hanna had got a WP-tick too! When we started to walk back towards the camp, a male Long-tailed Rosefinch flew just in front of us very beautifully!

After 45 minutes later we were in a camp and having breakfast. After that we needed to get some sleep and we agreed that Oleg could go to do some work that he had to do to his office and come back when he is ready. But before we could sleep, we had to kill a hundred mosquitoes in our tent as we had forgotten the zipper 5 centimeters open. But soon the day was warming up too much and it came extremely hot inside the tents! After having a couple of hour’s sauna, some local idiots parked their car just 2 meters from our tent and started to argue about something. Luckily they left soon when I got out and gave them an angry eye and told some English words that everybody understands. But after that I just couldn’t get into the tent anymore.

So we spent the afternoon near the tents as it is not ok to leave anything without a guard in Russia. We just enjoyed a fire that kept mosquitoes and horseflies away a little but until Oleg arrived at 6 p.m. Soon we had packed everything again and were driving along the bad road again.

Searching for new places

We had once again found a good looking spot from the maps north from Kedrovoye and drove towards it. But even though we tried and tried we never found a road towards this place, even though there were supposed to many. We even asked from several locals but nobody could help us. So after all we gave up and decided to drive towards another not that good looking, but ok area pretty near southern side of Lake Shitvskoye. It was again a longer way as the roads were very poor, but finally we were close enough to stop and put up the camp in the middle of the forest. We planned to walk to the area in the morning.

Taiga trees

It was already late and we were extremely hungry but soon raviolis were ready. Mistle Thrushes, a Red-breasted Flycatcher and a couple of Oriental Cuckoos were singing but soon we were listening to them inside the tent. Finally we got to sleep after 11 p.m.

On the 16th of June we slept a little bit too long with Hanna but Paul was still waiting for us near the tent at 5:15. After listening to a Red-breasted Flycatcher and a Brambling we left to walk towards our destination. The track towards the place was horrible, but the forests around were really good-looking. We heard several Oriental Cuckoos while walking and after 15 minutes we were in the place which wasn’t as good as we had hoped as there were no pools but only old abandoned fields. We walked around the area for a couple of hours and found a couple of Long-tailed Rosefinches and finally Hanna managed to get some good pictures! Once again a turtle dove species was seen in flight, we also heard and even saw a couple of Corn Crakes and Booted Warblers and heard quite a few Oriental Cuckoos, but of course the only cuckoo we saw was the only Common Cuckoo of the day.

Long-tailed RosefinchRoad

While we were walking back, I stopped to record one Siberian Lesser Whitethroat and while I was recording an Oriental Cuckoo started to call right behind it. We carefully walked to see it through the trees and managed to find it calling from the top of a tree behind the opening. So finally also Paul could count it as a WP-tick.

I tried to walk along the forest closer to record the cuckoo, but it was too shy and stopped calling when I was still hundreds of meters away. A female Hazel Hen was panicking as I flushed it from the nest, so I gave up and walked back to the road. We still heard a Dunnock and soon we were having porridge in the camp.

After we had packed the car full again, we still decided to go to see the Lake Shitovskoye but it was really difficult to find a way to the shore. So Oleg asked a permit to walk through one fenced garden to see the lake. There were only some Heuglin’s Gulls, 2 Common Sandpipers and a couple of White-tailed Eagles close to their nest but nothing else. We also heard an Olive-backed Pipit singing, which we thought was pretty far south.

After all we started to drive towards Ekaterinburg and we all except Oleg felt asleep on the way. We then spent a couple of hours in Oleg’s office and even visited a sauna that was nearby. At 4:35 our train towards north and Serov finally left.

To north

It was a long train trip to Serov and we didn’t see almost any new birds on the way. But we were all the time again outside the WP anyway. Luckily we managed to sleep a little even though it was very light and hot in the cabin. After 7 hours we finally were in Serov and carried our luggage to the parking place of the station but surprisingly there was nobody picking us up. After 30 minutes waiting I called to Oleg and he promised that there should be someone very soon. And luckily only after some minutes we met Stanislav and a new Oleg who helped us to carry everything to Oleg’s big car and then got a ride to a hotel nearby.

We got very comfortable rooms and because Paul was loading some maps to his phone through WiFi, the internet connection jammed so badly that we weren’t able to do anything, so soon we were sleeping.

To Ural Mountains

On the 17th of June we woke up at 7 a.m. and somehow managed to order breakfast with our 120 rubles tickets. At 8 a.m. Oleg had arrived and we packed his car and after visiting a shop we started to drive towards the village of Pokrovsk Uralskiy near Severouralsk. After an hour or so we arrived to the garden of our driver Leonid, but there was nobody home. Leonid and our cook Galina were still finishing the last shopping. After an hour waiting and a couple of Booted Warblers and Siberian Stonechats and a flock of 7 Nutcrackers, they finally arrived and we started to pack everything into their smaller 4-wheel van. We had more stuff than ever as we had tables and stools that a Polish group had already brought as they had been in Urals just before us. But somehow we managed to squeeze everything including ourselves in and started a slowly drive west towards the mountains.

Siberian Stonechat

Earlier groups had been using a bigger 4-wheel van and the journey had taken 5 hours, but we were so small group that we made it with a smaller car which was quicker. After an hour driving we saw the first mountains and stopped to take some pictures. Some Olive-backed Pipits and Red-flanked Bluetails were singing and we saw a flock of 25 Common Crossbills with 2 Two-barred Crossbills. When we continued the road got worse and we soon saw the first Grey Wagtails. When the mountains came closer we stopped again to take some more pictures, then we heard first Arctic Warblers too.

After a long drive we crossed the border the Europe and Western Palearctic again and finally after 3.5 hours driving we were finally at our Kvarkush camping place. There we met German Felix Timmermann who had been staying in Urals already for a week. It was good to meet this young birder who was working in Helgoland.

NutcrackerUral mountains

While we were putting up the camp we heard an Olive-backed Pipit, a Red-flanked Bluetail, a Brambling, some Greenish and Arctic Warblers, a Hazel Hen and shortly a Three-toed Woodpecker too. We were really in good mood as everything had gone well. Soon Galina had prepared us soup and after the dinner we were ready to go to sleep as we had planned to wake up very early!


On the 18th of June we woke up very early at 00:40 a.m. when a White’s Thrush started to sing! It was a WP-tick for Hanna. And as we had planned to start early, we got out from the tent and found out that Paul and Felix were already having the breakfast.

At 1 a.m. we started to climb up towards the mountain following Felix who already knew the way up. We were climbing along a track that was actually now a river as snow was melting on the mountain and lots of water was coming down. Felix told us how there had been more than a hundred Russians during the Russian-day holidays driving up and down the mountain with their 4-, 6- and 8-wheeldrive vehicles! This rally had made even the Ravens leave the mountain and they had started to come back on the last days.

Sun risesMountain meadows

Finally we had climbed up to the snowy hillside where the “river” started and it was easier to climb up along the snow. When the snow ended there was a bushy area and soon we heard a Bluethroat singing but behind it there was something else singing as beautifully – it was a Siberian Rubythroat! I soon found the bird singing on the top of a bush and I walked closer to take some recordings. We all had seen the species before, so the rest stayed further as they wanted to come to see the bird when it was lighter. It was still so dark that it was impossible to take any pictures anyway. I had soon got some ok recordings so we continued climbing towards the top.

We continued west over the top into where we heard a couple of Booted Warblers in strange biotope again and towards a valley that was in the middle of the tops. While we were walking down towards the river, that still had big layers of snow on the other side of it, we heard a Golden Plover, flushed a Willow Grouse and finally saw a couple of Black-throated Thrushes that we had only heard calling before. Soon we heard also a Lanceolated Warbler and decided to try to get some pictures as the sun had already got up behind the mountain. After some photographing we continued lower down to the bottom of the valley but Felix decided to turn back and go to photograph the Siberian Rubythroat.

Soon we found more Lanceolated Warblers and there were even 3 of them singing close to each others. We also heard a Corn Crake calling and a couple of Blyth’s Reed Warblers were singing. We turned towards south and kept on going towards a forest in distance and soon heard a familiar song – another Siberian Rubythroat! We tried to get some pictures for some time but even though this bird came very close to sing, it stayed behind the vegetation almost all the time. Anyway I got perfect recordings!

Siberian RubythroatMelting snow

Soon the ground became very wet but we kept on going and finding more Lanceolated Warblers and continued towards the forest as we hoped to find a Black-throated Accentor there.

When we finally got into the forest, it started to rain. There were several real thunder-clouds coming towards us so even though birds were still singing pretty actively, we had to start walking back towards the camp.

While we were hurrying we heard some singing Yellow-browed Warblers and soon already our 10th Lanceolated Warbler of the morning. We were almost running through the highest peak which was the last place we wanted to be during the thunderstorm and then we heard a couple of displaying Great Snipes on one meadow.

Wild PionLanceolated Warbler


Finally we started to walk down along the snow again and arrived to the Siberian Rubythroat place. Right then the rain stopped and sun started to shine very warm, but we couldn’t see or hear the rubythroat. Then Paul found a snipe in display-flight on the sky but we couldn’t hear anything. Unfortunately it was just a Common Snipe and probably so wet that there was no sound coming from its tail-feathers. And then we saw more clouds coming towards us and decided to start walking down along the river again.

Finally we were back in the camp and we had really been walking a lot! Galina had soon prepared us the lunch and soon it was time to get some sleep.

In the afternoon we did only a short walk along the road with Hanna but found only one new bluetail, Olive-backed Pipits and some Greenish and Arctic Warblers. In the evening Paul saw briefly a hybrid between Chaffinch and Brambling in front of his tent, but the rest of us only heard it calling as it moved further and further. It was calling like a “Karelian” Chaffinch that we have in South-Eastern Finland – “hrrry, hrrry”, but the call was stronger.

While a Mistle Thrush was beginning to sing, we were ready to go to sleep after 9 p.m. A Greenish Warbler did its best to keep us awake as it was singing right above our tent, but we were too tired to listen.

On the 19th of June I woke up once in the middle of the night to record a White’s Thrush that was singing very close to our tent. I didn’t even go out from the tent but recorded it through the roof while lying down in my sleeping bag – at least mosquitoes couldn’t ruin the recording.

Finally I woke up at 3 a.m. and Felix was already having some cold breakfast and soon heading up to photograph the rubythroat again. I recorded some Olive-backed Pipits and tried to get close to the White’s Thrush and managed to get really good recordings but couldn’t see the bird at all. At 3:30 a.m. Galina had prepared us early breakfast. After 4 a.m. we were already climbing up. Paul had still something to do so he was going to follow us soon.

Chaffinch x Brambling

We had walked less than 100 meters when we found the hybrid finch that Paul had seen on the previous evening. It was feeding along the track and calling both “hvit” and “hrrry” calls. Even though it was still not enough light, Hanna managed to get some kind of pictures before the bird moved further above the rapids. There it started to sing and its song was the same “hrrry” but much stronger. Because of the rapids the recordings were pretty poor.

While we were climbing we heard a couple of Blackcaps and saw a few Black-throated Thrushes. Paul had overtaken us while we had been chasing the finch, so Hanna decided to follow him up until the rubythroat place as they hoped to get finally some pictures. I stayed under the snow-level and took some recording of a Grey Wagtail, Olive-backed Pipits and so on.

Siberian RubythroatSiberian Rubythroat singing

I managed to get some recordings and climbed up to rubythroat place where Hanna and Paul had finally managed to get some good pictures! There had been at least 2 males. So soon we continued up towards northern tops.

After some walking we flushed 3 Great Snipes on one wet meadow and after we had passed them, they started to display. We also saw quite a few Common Redpolls, Greenish Warblers and Olive-backed Pipits and also some Yellow-browed Warblers and Little Buntings, even one pair with a nest.

While walking in a small forest I heard 5 tones of a Pine Grosbeak song but we couldn’t find the bird. Even though the day was getting very hot again, we decided to climb up to the rocky top to get some landscape pictures. After some photographing we were getting back down along the rocky hillside and then I heard a Pine Grosbeak again. This time we found a male singing on the top of a spruce and it was good that Paul saw this nice male bird too – unfortunately it wasn’t very close. Soon the bird flew away and we continued down to the valley.


We continued to walk down along the snowy area and after that I noticed a Golden Eagle flying over us. Unfortunately Hanna was walking a little bit after me, so she missed really nice pictures.

Black-throated ThrushUral mountains

Kvarkush camp

Ural ridge

We were back at the camp at 11 a.m. and after an hour we ate well again. Then we started to pack the camp and after 1 p.m. we started to drive towards Ural ridge that was about an hour backwards towards Severouralsk. There wasn’t much room in our van as Felix was also with us, but luckily we had already eaten a lot, so we managed to get everything in. We stopped once to take some group-photos in the place where was a border-sign between Europe (also WP) and Asia. While driving we saw a couple of White’s Thrushes flushed along the road, nicely one in Europe and one in Asia. Soon we were in our camping place which was a couple of kilometers on the Asian side of the borders.

While a Red-flanked Bluetail, an Olive-backed Pipit and so on were singing on the background, we put up the camp again and soon Galina had prepared something to eat again. Then an Oriental Cuckoo started to call right next to us, but again it stopped too soon to get any recordings. We saw a Sparrowhawk as a trip-tick and then climbed a little bit along the path towards the mountain and heard a couple of Asian Nuthatches. When we were back at the camp we heard a Three-toed Woodpecker drumming but Felix couldn’t find it even though he tried.

At 7 p.m. we ate dinner and after 8 p.m. we were in our sleeping-bags again.

The morning of the 20th of June was extremely cold! I was for once hoping that I’d have taken any jacket with me! Luckily Felix had extra jacket so I could eat the breakfast-porridge without freezing at 3:30 a.m.


After 4 a.m. it was a little bit warmer already and it soon came warm as we started to climb up towards the top of the mountain. After some climbing there was a rocky top in front of us and as we had no idea which was the best way to go, we decided to climb straight towards the top. After some hard climbing we got to the plateau and in the midway of that we knew that we were back in the Western Palearctic again.

RedpollOlive-backed Pipit

Soon we were climbing down towards a big forest area. Greenish, Arctic, Willow and Yellow-browed Warblers were singing and we saw quite a few flocks of Common Crossbills and Redpolls and soon heard the first Dunnock singing. Our project-species here was a Black-throated Accentor that some groups had found in this area in the previous summer. It was the last possible lifer for Hanna and Paul. I had this species already from Finland.

We walked along the forest slowly towards the GPS-points we had and finally at 7 a.m. we were in the right place which was clearly the best looking area. We had heard some more Dunnocks and here we found a couple of them more but we couldn’t find any Black-throated Accentors. We knew that neither the Polish group had found any, but we still needed to try harder.

Oriental Cuckoo

Finally we had to give up and start a long walk back towards the camp as we had ordered the lunch at midday. Luckily we found a track to follow and while we were walking along it, we didn’t need to go up to the rocky area at all. Only better bird we saw on the way back was a female Black Grouse and finally we were at the camp at 11:30 a.m.

The rest of the day we just relaxed. Luckily finally we got some Oriental Cuckoos visible as 2 females were calling actively and a male was following them like a crazy. Hanna and Paul managed to get some pictures and I got some recording even though the birds were very flighty!

Other birds we observed were a family of Nutcrackers and the youngsters were calling almost exactly like a Nightjar, a Great Spotted and Three-toed Woodpecker in flight and of course a bluetail and an Olive-backed Pipit that were singing almost around the clock. After the dinner we were ready to go to sleep at 8 p.m.

On the 21st of June we woke up at 3 a.m. and Galina was already preparing us some breakfast. An Oriental Cuckoo was calling now further so I walked a little bit closer to get some recordings, but it stayed too far to get anything else than some “landscape-recordings”.

The breakfast was ready at 3:30 a.m. and soon we were all walking over the mountain to Europe again. We now used the faster track and soon we were landing towards the forest. Common Crossbills and Siskins were on the move and also other birds were more visible than on the previous morning. Some Nutcrackers were seen and Little Buntings and Yellow-browed Warblers were singing. We also found a couple of Lanceolated Warblers and soon heard the first Dunnock of the morning.

Little BuntingTired birders

After all we walked around the forest for several hours and concentrated mostly to an area where the Black-throated Accentor records were made in the previous summer, but we didn’t find any.

We were absolutely tired when we started to walk back towards the camp. We still saw a couple of Black-throated Thrushes and a Honey Buzzard and finally were at the camp at midday. Galina started to prepare lunch right away and we started to pack our luggage.

After the lunch we packed the rest of the stuff to the van and then it was time to say goodbye to Felix, who was still going to stay in this area for a couple of days. Soon we were on our way towards Severouralsk.

After more than a couple of hours we were in Leonid’s backyard again and Oleg was already there waiting for us. We said goodbyes and thanks to Leonid and Galina and were soon driving towards Serov.

After an hour sleeping in a cool car we were in Serov, where we drove straight to the railway station. Stanislav was there helping us to carry everything to the lobby of the station and now we had all the things that Polish team had brought with us too. We agreed that Stanislav will come back when the train comes and said goodbye to Oleg and then we had 5 hours wait until the train was coming. So we started to delete bad pictures, write trip-reports and so on.

The time was moving surprisingly fast and when the train arrived, Stanislav was there with probably his son and helped us to carry everything into the cabin. There was already the 4th passenger too, but this man was speaking a little bit English and was a very nice guy, so we managed to squeeze everything in pretty easily. Finally at 00:47 a.m. our train left towards Ekaterinburg and soon after we had got our linnets, we were all ready to get some sleep.

At Ekaterinburg again

On the 22nd of June we were in Ekaterinburg at 8:21 a.m. and Julia from Oleg’s office was already there in the station. Oleg was out of the city. With the carriers we managed to get our stuff to the parking place where a big taxi was ready to pick us up. Then we drove to the office where we left all the stuff we had loaned and after we had said goodbye to Julia, the taxi drove us to our hotel Lainer but first we stopped in a shop on the way.

After we had got our room it was already so warm outside and too late to go birding anyway, so we forgot the idea to go to the Airport marshes and took showers and went to soft beds to sleep. Our rooms were too hot too but somehow we managed to sleep. When we woke up, we just took it easy.

During the afternoon and evening we ate twice in the hotel restaurant and about at 8 p.m. we said goodbyes and thanks to Paul who had his flight already early on the next morning.

On the 23rd of June we woke up at 3:30 a.m. with Hanna and after 4 o’clock took a taxi in front of the airport. This time we got a former taxi so we couldn’t order it to come back to pick us up later from Bolshoy Istok where we were dropped. We got a phone-number to the office where we should get a taxi.

Airport Marshes

Soon we were walking towards the Airport marshes and the rubbish tip there. This time it was much quieter than more than 2 weeks earlier. Some Siberian Stonechats, a couple of Grasshopper Warblers, a Lanceolated Warbler, only some Booted Warblers and a few Yellow Wagtails were seen and heard. We walked towards the bushy area and there through the bumpy terrain close to the bushes that the Long-tailed Rosefinch had used on our last visit.

But in more than an hour we didn’t see anything else than some Reed Buntings and a Paddyfield Warbler. Then I walked to the rubbish tip and there I heard a familiar call and soon saw a male Long-tailed Rosefinch perched on a bush. But once again it disappeared too soon and when Hanna arrived, we couldn’t find it anymore.

Paddyfield WarblerBooted Warbler

A couple of Citrine Wagtails were posing well but then we made a mistake and started to walk around the rubbish tip. There was so much glass and other waste that soon we just walked through all the rubbish back to the track.

The day was warming up very quickly and soon I was sweating too much even though we were walking very slowly. At 8 a.m. we had to stop birding as the heat and the humidity were far too high to keep on going! So we walked back to the main road.

We had planned to walk to a shop along the road to call the taxi, but while we were walking along the main road, a car stopped in front of us and a man came out with binoculars – it was Rami Mizrachi, an Israeli birder that had joined the Polish group on their tour and was still around and birding by himself. Rami had also been in Airport marshes but in some other area and he was now driving back to his hotel which was luckily Lainer. So we got a ride and after all found out that Rami was staying in our neighbour room. I had been wondering why there had been someone up very early in the morning when we had woken up.

So soon I was having a late breakfast in our hotel restaurant and then the rest of the day we just relaxed. In the evening we ate very well in the restaurant and then packed our luggage. At 10 p.m. we were ready to sleep.

Towards home

On the 24th of June we woke up in the normal time at 3 a.m. and at 3:40 we were walking with our luggage to the airport. Next hour or so we were queuing, showing our passport, getting different kind of stamps, queuing again, showing passport, getting stamps and so on, until we finally got to our gate. An hour later at 5:50 a.m. our Finnair plane left towards Helsinki-Vantaa.

The flight was over soon as we were sleeping most of the time and at 6:55 we landed to Helsinki-Vantaa. My father was there already waiting for us and after we had found our luggage we were soon driving away from the airport. As we had no more clean clothes, we decided to start driving towards Parikkala right away. So we dropped my father to Tikkurila railway-station and started a long drive to home. In Lappeenranta we stopped in Askola pools but soon we were driving again. After all we were at home very tired but happy – we had once again had a great journey!

Last words

Altogether we had seen 188 bird-species and for me and Paul 4 of them were WP-ticks while Hanna got 8 new ticks. Some of the species we saw only in Asia. Surprisingly we had no problems at all during our trip even though I really had expected some, it was Russia anyway. The schedule had worked perfectly! The biggest thanks go to Oleg Demyanenko and Julia to Ural Expeditions & Tours and of course to our old friend Paul French who was dealing with Oleg and planning everything! Big thanks also to everyone else who helped us: Alexander, Oleg, Stanislav, Leonid and Galina! It was really nice to meet Felix too and do some birding together.