Breakfasted @ a sensible hour & then embarked on a long drive to search for Great Grey Owl. Unfortunately, a Pine Marten had arrived before us & predated the contents of the nest. En route, there was no shortage of the now regular species & in addition, we saw Lesser Whitethroat, Sparrowhawk & Pintail.
As the day wore on, the early showers slowly cleared to leave a fine, still evening. Dima embarked on a whistle-stop tour of some local hot spots for mammals & we had excellent views of a grazing party of Wild Boar & several Elk.
At dusk & into the forest where Dima and Pavel used their skills to attempt to attract the resident owls. Perseverance paid off after the best part of an hour & for 15 minutes we were entertained to an amazing interaction between man & Pygmy Owl. What an experience!
3rd night @ Klyasticy lodge.
Day total: 46 Cumulative: 161

Took another opportunity to view 3-toed Woodpecker @ its nest & also had good views of Short-toed Eagle & Honey Buzzard.
An hour was spent around Yailata, an excellent archaeological reserve We then visited Dima's house (Log cabin construction common throughout Belarus) @ nearby Sosny Bor where we took a stroll with his wolves, as you do!
Three lakes in quick succession. At Lake Stradno we saw Whooper Swan & Teal, @ L. Buzjanka Gadwall & Common Crane in flight & @ L. Lisno Black Grouse.
A visit to Bolshoi Moh, the largest of the pine bogs, failed to produce the anticipated Golden Eagle but Great Grey Shrike & Goshawk were ample compensation.
A late evening search for Tengmalm's Owl was ruined by the poor weather.
4th night @ Klyasticy lodge.
Day total 67 Cumulative 165

Another excellent breakfast before making our way to Osveya Lake, the second largest in Belarus & with a fresh breeze blowing, looking more like the sea. The weather prevented us from traversing the lake but we managed an exhilarating boat trip through the Black-headed gull colony on the edge. Wildfowl included small numbers of Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Pochard & Tufted Duck.
At Novy Dvor, a Grasshopper Warbler put on a fine show with a Concrake in support. Three more lakes were briefly visited where we encountered Bittern, Savi's Warbler Gargeny & White-tailed Eagle in particular.
The weather for the journey south to Berezinsky Reserve was overcast & showery & then it got worse. However, we still managed to make several stops on the journey & were able to see/hear Savi's, Sedge & Great Reed Warblers together with Reed Bunting, Cuckoo, White Stork , Hooded Crow & Raven.
Overnight @ Domzhericy hotel in Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve.
Day total 60 Cumulative 168

May 24
Pre breakfast trip to local lake in heavy rain produced close view of White-backed Woodpecker.
Post breakfast trip to Berezinsky forest in heavy rain.
Despite the conditions, we managed to see a nice variety of birds; thanks to the endeavours of Pavel, Dima & Yuri. Pick of the bunch were Great Grey Owl, Pied Flycatcher, Black Woodpecker & Wood Warbler.
For the record, two bears were seen by our intrepid guides & an outcrop of Lady's Slipper Orchid by all.
An afternoon visit to the forest in even worse weather yielded nothing new.
Overnight @ Domzhericy hotel in Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve.
Day total 34 Cumulative 168

May 25
With flight departure times spread throughout the day, an early start was needed. An hour of birdwatching in the vicinity of Minsk Airport produced the first Blyth's Reed Warbler.
Day total 18, Cumulative 168
Return Flight to London.

General Comments:
Accommodation throughout was varied but always acceptable. Inevitably, a rural village will offer a different style of lodging from a major tourist area. In this instance, the level of hospitality & standard of food provided by Svetlana @ Klyasticy rural lodging easily compensated for the intermittent supply of hot water.

Never a problem. The range, quality, quantity & presentation at every meal was most acceptable.

Once away from Minsk, obtaining local currency can be a problem. Not that there is much need for the local currency.
Apart from a handful of uniformed officials @ Minsk Airport, the population were universally friendly.

Species List
The list represents what I saw/heard during my stay in Belarus. Others on the tour will have a slightly different list but as we were a small group, most sightings were witnessed by us all.
The weather during the last few days of the trip was very poor & put some hoped for species beyond reach but overall, I was extremely happy with the range of birds that we were able to see and the quality of services offered by Branta-Tours.

Rob Skinner, UK



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