Guided by Nick Athanas. This was a set-departure tour.
This was Tropical Birding’s inaugural tour to Belarus, and probably the first of many. While this Eastern European nation is has become well-known in the European birding scene in recent years, it is still mostly unknown to North American birders. I don’t often get the chance to guide trips in this part of the world, so when the opportunity arose I was happy to take it. I have to admit, I didn’t quite know what to expect, and the media often paints a rather negative picture of this former Soviet republic. I needn’t have worried, as Belarus proved to be a quiet, clean, orderly place with beautiful forest and timeless pastoral scenes, yet had decent infrastructure, nice hotels, friendly people, and interesting food. But what about the birds, you ask? Belarus may not sport a large bird list, but most of them are not well known by visitors from North America, and a high proportion of them were lifers for our group (including me I have to admit!). The Azure Tit shown above was the favorite trip bird for most of the group, but a few other highlights included a vociferous Tawny Owl, immaculate Smew, displaying Great Snipe and Eurasian Woodcock, a confiding Eurasian Nightjar, and all ten of the possible woodpeckers.