Askania Nova & Sivash

Friday, May 11, 2012: We started the day with an early (6am) walk through the arboretum. This area is naturally dry steppe. All of the trees have been imported, and an irrigation system provides water for them. We heard Song Thrush as we gathered, and pretty soon one appeared near the parking lot. A flock of European Greenfinches provided my first lifer of the day. Then we went in search of the Thrush Nightingale, several of which were singing. Pretty soon, we found a couple of them. At some point, we found a European Hare.

The woods was alive with birdsong (including the calls of the Ruddy Shelducks, which nest and roost in woods). We found 15-20 species such as Spotted Flycatcher by the time we went to breakfast. The Hoopoe was especially frustrating as we kept hearing it, but I didn't see any of this potential lifer.

After breakfast, we took a truck tour of the grazed steppe area. But before it, we walked through the zoo area. A singing Common Rosefinch was a surprise, but we were unable to locate it.

They keep herds of many exotic grazing mammals such as American Buffalo and Cape Buffalo in the steppe area. They also have some that are not quite as exotic, such as Przevalski's Horse, and Saiga. The steppe also supports a number of bird species. We found Corn Bunting almost immediately. This was soon followed by a Pied Wheatear.

Other birds seen as we drove through the steppe included Common Raven, Common Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, and Saker Falcon. A pond had three Eurasian Spoonbills, White-winged Tern, and Wood Sandpiper. By the time we were done there, we had to head back to our bus. As we drove back, a Eurasian Hoopoe flew around showing off its flashy wing pattern. Then we got into the bus and headed out.

Some Eurasian Jackdaws were close to the road at one point. We repeatedly saw Red-footed Falcon while in transit. Larks and buntings were also frequently seen.

We were delayed at the border to the Crimea. It had a view of some water and we found Collared Pratincole among the gulls and terns while waiting.

We stopped several places in the Sivash Nature Reserve. Somewhere I picked up Caspian Tern. A stop where we walked a bit, with a pickup along the canal, added Northern Lapwing, Gull-billed Tern, Black-bellied Plover and Glossy Ibis. Our lunch stop had Red-crested Pochard, Squacco Heron, and Little Egret before lunch. We also saw Eurasian Penduline-Tit and an old nest. After lunch we saw another old nest and a new nest with Penduline-Tit included. But before that, further examination of the shore revealed Green Sandpiper and Temminck's Stint. Elsewhere in Sivash, we found Northern Wheatear and Eurasian Stone-Curlew. Finally, I got a poor look at some Pied Avocets.

My day's total was 89 species. I added 29 new species, 21 of them lifers. That brings my trip total to 112, including 62 lifers.

Hotel Lidiya, Feodosia, Crimea, Ukraine