Yalta Forest

Tuesday, May 15, 2012: We started the day birding downslope from Nikita Botanical Garden. Although I had heard a Firecrest earlier, none were to be seen. We eventually arrived at the coast, where we found gulls, shags, Harbor Porpoises and Bottlenose Dolphins, loons, and, in the distance, some Yelkouan Shearwaters.

The bus met us at the bottom, and took us back to the hotel for breakfast (spaghetti and sausage). Then we headed off. When we stopped for gas, we found that one person had forgotten to turn in his key. We returned to the hotel. However, the group was dropped off before then in order to do some birding while the driver returned the key. This time we quickly found a Common Firecrest. Its crown is quite impressive, especially when it turns the top of its head in your direction.

The next stop was the Lividia Palace, the old summer home of the tsars and site of the 1945 Yalta Conference. We didn't add any birds here and didn't have time for the palace tour, but we walked around the grounds a bit. Most of us also suffered from the cypress pollen. One man selling souveniers told us that the only real cure was to go to Ai-Petri, a mountain overlooking Yalta, and we did.

Up on top, we found a Tree Pipit. In fact, one had a territory that included our lunch spot. After lunch, we tracked down one of the singing Wood Warblers. I missed the Mistle Thrush on the roadside, but a couple of them flew across a meadow while we were searching for it.

A prominence such as Ai-Petri should attract hawks, and it did. We saw the “Caucasian” Buzzard, usually treated as a subspecies (menetriesi) of Common Buzzard, and a Cinereous Vulture circled overhead with a Griffon Vulture.

We drove through the high plateau, and started slowly descending through the forest, stopping various times. At some point we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker downslope. After another switchback, we found the woodpecker. Then someone noticed a Tawny Owl sitting quietly right in front of us.

A stop for a heard Hawfinch did not yield the Hawfinch, but we did find a couple of the local race of Coal Tits. A little later, Paul stopped us for a heard Gray Wagtail at a stream. We searched up and down the stream for a while before finally locating one of them.

Our last birding stop was at Sokolonye, where Griffon Vultures nest on the cliffs. We also found Peregrine Falcons there. Then it was on to Bakchyserai. It was almost dinner time, so we took a quick look at the Khan's Palace, left over from the days when the Tatars ruled the Crimea. Then we ate at a central aisan style restaurant (sitting on mats). After dinner, we drove to our hotel. It was dark when we arrived, and we heard a Little Owl when we assembled to do the list for the day.

I saw 43 species today, 10 of them new, including 9 lifers. That brings my trip total to 166, including 99 lifers.

Hotel Alimova Balka, Bakchyserai, Crimea, Ukraine