Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Tallinn, St Petersburg, Bolton and the Isle of Man

As you can see I am well travelled this month!! Our trip to Tallinn and St Petersburg was an amazing experience on all levels – birding, football, transport, architecture, history, food etc. We flew to  Tallinn and it is an excellent base to explore Estonia and well worth a visit at any time of the year. Mid June is particularly good as there is virtually no night at all. We had four nights en route to Russia and two more on the way back. I squeezed in a couple of hours birding at the reserve closest to the city – Paljasaare and this gave some good birds, but the parks were also interesting as the default thrush is fieldfare and they gave excellent close up views.  We also visited the Estonian open air folk museum and saw more spotted flycatchers in two hours than I have seen in the UK in ten years.  The highlights for urban birding in Tallinn were white wagtail, goosander, fieldfare, and tree sparrow.

Looking for food from tourists
Ran across the path in front of me

Female goosander in the local park

Default thrush - they were everywhere!
 A day trip to Helsinki added a wheatear along the waterfront in a distinctly  urban environment, but the most surprising thing about Helsinki was that the default gull was common gull; they seemed to be everywhere – even in the pedestrian areas hoovering up food. Common and Arctic terns breed on the terminal roof in Tallinn  but little tern eluded me.

These kite birds and nets were supposed to stop gulls coming in and stealing food from the market......

..... they failed

Scavenging common gulls....

....with one obligatory herring gull

Common gull
Paljasaare had a good variety of species and provided a life first common rosefinch, plus water rail, green sandpiper, sedge warbler, whitethroat, and a male red-backed shrike. The variety of birds is helped by the variety of habitat. The common rosefinch was singing from a telephone wire and was easy to see from the tower thoughtfully built by the Soviet Navy and now a very useful birding point. Apparently it is excellent in winter as well, if a trifle cold with limited daylight.

Salt water bay
Woody scrub
Soviet era tower, now a bird hide
View from the tower
 The folk park added spotted flycatcher, pied flycatcher, great spotted woodpecker, black redstart and wood warbler.  All in all some nice birds and the memory of sitting outside in a cafe watching swifts screaming overhead will stay with me.

St Petersburg proved more bird free and I was less inclined to use binoculars as the place was full of security due to the World Cup.  We took a Metro and a bus to the summer palace at Peterhof and this gave us more fieldfares, white wagtail and spotted flycatchers, plus good views of red squirrels. If you want birds visit Tallinn, if you want history and museums St Petersburg has more. 

We're on the path it is beside the railing

No worries at all
White wagtail
Church of the spilled blood

St Petersburg stadium ready to party

Peterhof palace and fountains
 You have to have a few touristy ones to prove we were actually there!

A quick turn around and we were off to Bolton. We visited Etherow Country Park but we were well into July and birds were hard to see. We did get the Egyptian goose and an awful lot of mandarin duck which breed freely there. Elton Reservoir was a nice walk as usual but very quiet birdwise. 

Mandarin drake in eclipse plumage
Mandarin duck
Egyptian goose
And again

We stopped off in the Isle of Man on the way home for four nights. I have never been there but I would go back as there are some nice birds to be had and lots of stunning scenery. What impressed me was the way in which we left crowds of people, found a nice walk and had it all to ourselves within five minutes of the car park/town centre. There are four good seabird colonies – fulmar, kittiwake, guillemot, razorbill, shag, cormorant, stonechat, meadow and rock pipit were all seen.  It is an excellent place to see chough – even ten minutes drive from Douglas. Peel is excellent for black guillemot and there are terns at Point of Ayre. We looked long and hard for little tern but apparently they did not have a good year. Four days provided 47 species without going birding so to speak, but chough was the highlight.
Herring gull colony at Port Erin

Point of Ayre had breeding ringed plover and oystercatcher

Calf of Man, chough country and no tourists!!

Marine Drive, five minutes from Douglas, chough on the road and no people!

Maughold cliff path, ten minutes from Ramsey and it was empty.

Cliffs behind Peel, did have a few walkers.

140: Spotted flycatcher
141: White wagtail
142: Water rail
143: Black redstart
144: Sedge warbler
145: Wood warbler
146: Pied flycatcher
147: Red-backed shrike
148: Common rosefinch
149: Manx shearwater
150: Mandarin duck
151: Egyprian goose

Bangor West
68: Manx shearwater

Belfast WOW

89: Pochard

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