Black Sea Estuaries

Thursday, May 10, 2012: We had a relaxed start today, leaving the hotel at 8am. We drove east out of Odessa, passing the Potemkin stairs made famous by Eisenstein's film, The Battleship Potemkin. Just outside of Odessa, I added Rook to my life list. Continuing east, we reached the Tyligul estuary on the Black Sea. This was our first birding stop.

The estuary was quite birdy. Some familiar birds such as Great Egret (a possible split), Common Tern, Barn Swallow (European birds have black throats), Eurasian Coot, and Bank Swallow were there. I got a poor look at a Common Redshank. A Great Reed-Warbler was seen perched up through a scope. Slender-billed Gull and Mediterranean Gull provided good binocular views, as did Great Crested Grebe and Common Shelduck. We continued to find more species, including Ruff, Eared Grebe (known in Europe as Black-necked Grebe), Mute Swan (native!), Eurasian Curlew, Eurasian Oystercatcher, and the black-headed type of Western Yellow Wagtail (feldegg). We also found some Common Pochards. A Paddyfield Warbler was singing from the top of a nearby reedbed. It dropped down before much of the group saw it, but Paul called it back out when they caught up with us. Sky Larks were also displaying over the reeds. We could have spent the whole day here, and were not surprised to find that Paul takes birders here for day trips.

Back on the road, we found a couple of White Storks. A gas stop added Lesser Gray Shrike. Other roadside flybys included Eurasian Kestrel and Red-footed Falcon. I noticed some Black-winged Stilts as we passed a small pond.

We crossed the Bug River, and headed on over the Dnieper. On the other side, we stopped at Gola Pristan for lunch, birding, and a boat ride in some of the side branches of the Dnieper. Some Eurasian Tree Sparrows were near Gola Pristan. After getting into the boat, my first species was Gray Heron. I got a poor view of a Eurasian Wryneck on a snag. A Common Cuckoo was somewhat more cooperative, and eventually gave a decent view. As we continued through the channel, we heard a Ring-necked Pheasant calling. More importantly, we also found Bearded Reedling. It was a quick look, but I saw the bird well.

We continued out into a waterlily-filled “lake”. Here we found a number of water birds and marsh birds including Whiskered Tern, Osprey, Black Tern, Western Marsh-Harrier, Pygmy Cormorant (a local specialty), Mallard, Ferruginous Duck, Garganey, and Black-headed Gull. We continued through the Dnieper water maze, getting better looks at some of the birds, and adding Black-crowned Night-Heron. We then returned to Gola Perstan by a different route.

At Gola Pristan, a Red-backed Shrike and Black Redstart were contending over the same patch. By then it was time to head out. A couple of European Rollers were on the wire. As we got closer to Askania Nova, some Gray Partridges crossed the road and European Turtle-Doves appeared on the wire. We also found a Red Fox on the way.

The Steppe

At Askania Nova, native steppe has been preserved since the late 19th century. They also have an arboretum. On our way in, we found Ruddy Shelduck and Calandra Lark. Common House-Martins were milling above the buildings. Before dinner, I found a Common Chaffinch.

After dinner, we went out for some night birding. Two scops-owls were calling as I left the building. After a long struggle, we finally got one of the many Eurasian Scops-Owls to show itself. Before we saw any of the owls, we were briefly joined by a Northern White-breasted Hedgehog traveling along the edge of the path. We also noticed some Long-eared Owls calling. By the time we saw the scops-owl, it was time to head back to our rooms and get some sleep before tomorrow's early birding.

I saw 64 species today. Of these, 53 were new, including 30 lifers. That brings my trip total to 83, including 41 lifers.

Hotel Kanna, Askania Nova, Ukraine