Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A long weekend in Latvia

Just back from a long weekend in Latvia. Not a birding trip as such but bins and camera came along.....just in case ;-)
I managed to slip out of work early on Friday afternoon, as I avoided the stag parties en route to Riga I bumped into fellow Irish birder Killian Mullarney at Stansted as he returned from a week of guiding in Greece. I arrived in Latvia after dark so it was Saturday before I got out.
I was greeted by a fairly grey and miserable morning as I looked out on the garden first thing but the scene was soon brightened up by two fly-over Hawfinches. I was to catch up with later on while I walked the dog to the nearby shop so not a bad start.
That afternoon we opened the BBQ season with a no nonsense grill in the back garden, chicken and pork sashlik.....as good as it gets believe me!
Polina's friends joined us with their kids for the BBQ but the star of the show was the three month old Bernese Mountain Dog pup which I fell in love with (much to our Pug Sashsa's disgust).

Me, the 'pup' and a jealous Pug.

Polina wanted to natter with her friends so I was advised to 'F' off birding!......no second invite needed there. I checked the woods across from the house where a single Wood Warbler was in full song despite the cold and wet day. Up at the Lielupe river it was quiet but four fly-over Common Cranes and a reeling Locustella spp. were welcome (more to follow there).

Weather-wise Sunday was a big improvement, still a chill in the air but the crisp bright sunshine seemed to make all the difference. A Common Redstart pair chased each other along the fence of the house across the street and during a walk around the neighbourhood with the small hound I had four more singing male Common Redstarts........I'm so envious of these being garden birds!!
Up at the Lielupe river I decided to see if the Locustella spp. I had the previous day was still reeling, I hadn't seen the bird but my money was on Savi's Warbler. Sure enough, when I returned to the same spot (pausing briefly when I heard a fly-over Blue-headed Wagtail) the bird was still reeling. A scan of the reedbed revealed the source to indeed be Savi's Warbler. One bird became two, then three and at times four birds in a hormone-fueled "reel-off"! They kept a little distant for photos and the sun was very much from the side and very harsh, but I managed some "artistic" shots in the end.

Savi's Warbler, Lielupe, Dzintari, Jurmula, Latvia
These show much better than G'roppers and were my best views of any Locustellas I have ever had. River Warbler would have been a lifer, so I'll have to return when they arrive and start reeling (I wish). As I said at one stage there were four birds reeling at the one time, I tried to record this on my iphone, not exactly state-of-the-art recording equipment but maybe this gives you the picture.

The sound of the"reel-off"

I called it a day by 8pm, Common Terns, a singing male Whinchat and female Black Redstart finished off the day as I headed home.
Today I'm back in the UK and already missing Polina, the Pug and the great birding in Latvia!

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