Steppe Birding

Sunday, May 13, 2012: Once again, the swifts were screaming by when I woke up. We again headed east into the Kerch peninsula, seeing many of the same birds as yesterday. We made an unexpected stop for a Black Kite, a species I had previously seen in Australia. Then we continued on to the steppe near Bagerove.

We were only off the main road a little before a Crested Lark appeared on the roadside. There were more at a location that also had Isabelline Wheatear. We found a Common Whitethroat in some bushes by the side of the road. Then we continued on, driving on dirt tracks through the steppe in search of better looks at Demoiselle Cranes and Great Bustards. We found both, especially the bustards. Raptors were numerous, mainly Red-footed Falcon with smaller numbers of Eurasian Kestrel and Western Marsh-Harrier. Then a Short-toed Snake-Eagle appeared overhead. We found a pair of Siberian Stonechats, subspecies variegatus shortly before lunch. This form is sometimes distinguished as Caspian or Caucasian Stonechat. Some scanning from the ridge above our lunch spot revealed a more bustards and cranes. A Common Quail also called a couple of times.

After lunch, we drove across the open steppe up along the ridge above the lunch spot and found a Long-eared Owl on its nest. There appeared to be at least one chick in the nest. We also flushed a Ring-necked Pheasant while looking at the owl. We continued on the ridge. We were still savoring the owl encounter when a Little Bustard put its head up near the vehicle. It didn't stay long enough for photos, but burst away into flight. A couple of Great Bustards then made a close flyby. After that, the drive back to the main road was rather uneventful.

We checked some areas in the Sivash Reserver near Arabatski, but the ponds that often have shorebirds were dry. We returned to the Batalnoye pond we birded yesterday. A good number of Paddyfield Warblers popped up from the marsh, and we saw many of the same birds as yesterday. A Common Muskrat glided through the water below one singing Paddyfield. The main newcomer was a Sanderling. By then, it was time to head back to the hotel and dinner.

I saw 77 species today, with 8 new species, including 5 lifers. That brings my trip total to 145, including 84 lifers.

Hotel Lidiya, Feodosia, Crimea, Ukraine