During our trip between 20th of April and 12th of July (84 days) we crossed 7 European countries (PL, BY, LV, RU, UA, SK, CZ). In search for birds and doing atlas mapping, we drove a staggering 15’000 km by car, 25 km by bike and walked 300 km on foot.
Our bird species list reached a total of 232 species. During 45 timed visits and during the reminder of our time afield we collected a total of over 20’000 data sets for the European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2) using the NaturaList App.
Field days were long and tough and nights were all too short but bright …
We met lots of friendly and helpful people and enjoyed unforgettable and wonderful moments.
Besides nice landscapes with a natural setting (which we hoped for), we also found huge, intensely farmed monoculture plots on good soils and planted forests or fallow surfaces on less productive soils. Many settlements still hold extensively farmed plots between the buildings and in the surroundings and thus still quite a diverse avifauna. Some of the river valleys were very impressive, since these rivers still get a lot of space and roam free. Also the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains held some wonderful landscapes with nice forests. It seems that in Western Russia poisonous neophytes like Heracleum sosnowskyi and Lupinus polyphyllus are ever expanding their range and probably cause lots of problems.
Despite widespread intensive farming on huge plots, farmland birds like White Stork, Montagu’s Harrier, Corncrake, Lapwing, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Yellow Wagtail, Redbacked Shrike, Icterine Warbler, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Linnet and Corn Bunting (only regionally) were still present in good numbers in many places. Skylark however seems to suffer in areas of intensive farming. In forests Wood Warbler were still widespread and reached high densities. Woodcock and Woodlark were also present in good numbers. Raptors were quite rare with Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier being the most common ones. Kestrel, Hen Harrier and Black Kite were rare, whereas Honey Buzzard was probably just not showing. We only found a few Curlews, a single Little Owl and Lesser Shrike and no Roller and Ortolan Bunting at all! Butterfly populations were similarly and as severely reduced as in Switzerland, but at night there were still plenty of insects forcing us to clean the car windshield often.
Overall, it was an interesting, eye-opening but tough trip or … quite a ripsnorter!
Martin Spiess & Chantal Guggenbühl, 26.10.2017