Trip reports

Indoor Meeting - A Winter Journey in East Europe

Whooper & Bewick's swans feeding in ploughed field

Friday, 13 April 2012

Mary Braddock returned to talk to the group after previously telling us about California. She visited Bulgaria in January, when it was very cold and they were driving on pack ice. The main purpose of the visit was to see the winter geese. On the first morning the party were up at 5:00am. The birds move on to lakes over night and there was an eerie sound of the geese calling. During the day up to 20,000 mainly white fronted with some red breasted geese feed in the fields. Amongst these flocks it is a challenge to spot the lesser white front.

Along the coast sanderlings can be seen. They run around like clockwork toys and dig deep into the ground. Around the lakes are miles of reed bed where bittern can be found. There are also pygmy cormorants which are shy but common in fresh water.

The next part of the talk was on Estonia, which contains many nature reserves with 11 RAMSAR sites and can contain 50 million birds at any one time. Mute, Bewick's and whooper swans may all be seen. The country contains a great deal of ancient woodland. Nutcrackers breed in spruce but also need pine trees. They are shy and are often heard before they are seen. There are nine species of woodpecker in Estonia of which she saw eight. As in the UK there are lesser and greater spotted woodpecker in the woodland. However, there are also middle spotted and white-backed woodpeckers which have similar but subtly different colouration. The three-toed woodpecker is distinctive as it is grey in colour.

The final country visited was Hungary. It is a generally peaceful place with farming not being mechanised and little fertiliser used. The most memorable bird among many species was the hen harrier due to the sheer numbers. Some could be seen with cob webs hanging from their wings. This was explained by her pictures of the ground covered in cob webs. The fish ponds are an important site with cranes coming in at night. There is an incredible noise as they come into roost, which is very impressive.

Craig Watson thanked Mary for a breath taking and very informative talk with interesting illustrations.