The Last Yellow-Breasted Buntings
Russia, mid-Volga Region
3-7 June 2019 (5 days)
Our tour takes place in Nizhny Novgorod region (400 km to the east of Moscow).
It is a unique location: there are spruce and fir forests in the north and meadow steppes in the south.
The great Russian river Volga runs in the middle of the region from west to east.
Our target species is yellow-breasted bunting.
The number of this bird in the world has decreased by more than 80% and the species is critically endangered.
In the floodplain of the Volga and its major confluents the population of yellow-breasted bunting is stable.
We will visit a place where we can hear up to 3-4 yellow-breasted bunting males at a single viewpoint!
And of course we will see them! Besides we will go to the floodplain to see great snipe’s courtship
and watch Terek sandpiper by the river.
We will also look for azure tit in riverine bushes near small rivers,
watch great grey owl in coniferous forests on the outskirts of bogs and Ural owl in broad-leaved forests.
In the forests we will also be able to meet woodpeckers: black, gray-headed, white-backed and three-toed ones.
Among the vast reed beds we will find paddyfield warbler and Savi's warbler.
In old fields we will meet booted warbler, Montagu's harrier hunting. In “vole” years
(heavy increase of vole population) it is possible to meet here pallid harrier.
Arrival to Nizhny Novgorod via Moscow (see direct flights operated by Aeroflot). The group leader meets you at Strigino International Airport. Group transfer to 4*hotel “Ildorf” (about 1 hour by car). If we have time, we will make a small trip to the lakes Svetlye to listen to and take pictures of scops owl. There are 7-8 pairs of the owls breeding around the lakes. The distance between the males courting is just 250 m!
In the morning we are heading to the Varekhovskoye bog, which is about 10,000 years old where dwarf birch trees grow to observe great grey owls – there are several couples nesting around the bog, the males hunt for water voles and shrews in the evening while the females guard nests. Two pairs of these owls live in the nests of buzzard, and two others live on the platforms that we have specially built for them. Common species for pine forests here are crested tit and black woodpecker. On the fringe of the bog we will look for three-toed woodpecker. After we are walking along the floodplain of the forest river Lukh to look for white-backed woodpecker and maybe will meet honey buzzard. After lunch we are having a 1.5-hour car transfer to the vicinities of Nizhny Novgorod. There, in small woodlands among agricultural fields, we are observing Ural owls. There are about 70 nest boxes for this type of owl, and more than 10 are constantly used by owls. Here we can see gray-headed woodpecker, greenish warbler, red-breasted flycatcher and wryneck. On the overgrown fields we are observing booted warbler and foraging Montagu's harrier, pallid harrier can be met here occasionally. After we are driving to check in to the hotel “Extremeland”, located near the Volga river valley. On the way, we can drive to the breeding area of tawny owl.
Early in the morning we are going to the floodplain of the small river Shava to observe a magnificent azure tit nesting here in hollows of willows and our nest boxes. Among the vast reed beds we will find paddyfield warbler and Savi's warbler. Here we are also watching citrine wagtail, Blyth's reed warbler and bluethroat. On small steppe slopes with feather grass we can observe ortolan buntings. After we are having a long journey (the road takes about 3.5 hours) to the north of the region in the floodplain of the Vetluga river - the left confluent of the Volga. Here we are checking in to the hotel “Gray Horse”, having lunch and going to the floodplain of the Vetluga, where we can see yellow-breasted buntings singing in thin wild rose bushes among water meadows. Two pairs of yellow-breasted bunting are used to nest here regularly. We are observing them and here we are waiting for an exciting great snipe’s courtship that starts at dusk. Then we will return to the hotel.
In the morning we are going to the top place by the river Vetluga to observe yellow-breasted bunting, where they live with high density! The road takes about 2 hours. In a limited area, we have registered about 30 pairs of these beautiful birds. Their tunes are heard from all sides. We can see them at their best and enjoy the singing! Here, on the bank of the river, we are watching unremarkable Terek sandpipers and oystercatchers. After lunch we are returning to Nizhny Novgorod. The road takes about 5 hours. On the way, we can make stops to observe curlew and black-tailed godwit that live in the meadows near the highway. We are staying at a hotel in the centre of Nizhny Novgorod. In the evening we can go for a walk.
Breakfast at the hotel and transfer to Strigino International Airport – flying home via Moscow.
Tour price:1095€ per person / single supplement 130€
Air price(air tickets are purchased by tour participants themselves, please contact us so that we could help you to choose the appopriate flights): 350€
Tour price includes: guiding and transportation starting from Strigino International Airport,
accommodation in double rooms with baths and all meals throughout the tour.
Tour price excludes: air tickets, insurance, visa,
alcoholic drinks and other personal expenses.
The tour does not require special physical training, we will not go far than 1 km
from the stops of our transport. We will drive in all-wheel drive cars.
Russia is a very big country and even without leaving the limits of one region, we will have rather
long trips between places with birds. The weather at this time is very changeable:
from very warm to cold and rainy.
Meals will be served at local restaurants and picnics. Accommodation in 2-bed comfortable rooms.
Visas are required to visit our country.
Group size limit:10 people
Please notice: Unfortunately we cannot guarantee all species of birds mentioned in the programme,
but our expert guide does his utmost to ensure sightings. We may also deviate slightly
from the tour programme due to rains or changes in the location of certain species of birds.
We care about the safety of yellow-breasted buntings, owls and other rare species of birds,
so please turn off the GPS in phones and cameras before starting our tour. By taking part in this tour,
you agree that you will not pass on information about bird breeding sites to other people.
Optional additional tour on 20-23 May 2019 (4 days), with the same conditions,
only without yellow-breasted bunting, since they fly here will not have flied here yet.
It is also possible to customize the tour in order to watch exclusively yellow-breasted bunting,
the offer is valid for tours till the end of June.
Group leader: Aleksey Levashkin
Ornithologist, a member of the Russian Birds Conservation Union, the Russian Raptor Research and Conservation Network and the Red Book Commission of the Nizhny Novgorod region, an expert in attracting birds to nest boxes, organized about 30 birdwatching tours. Author and co-author of more than 50 articles in scientific and popular science print media.