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Owls & Woodpeckers
6th - 13th
Slovakia is among the longest established bird watching destinations in Central Europe, however in recent times few tours have visited this beautiful country. The extensive Carpathian Mountains offer a fascinating range of forest birds, while further east we will visit areas of steppe as well as little known wetlands. Of the birding highlights it is perhaps best known for its woodpeckers, owls and raptors. All ten species of European woodpeckers have populations over 1000 pairs. Amongst the owls Pygmy, Tengmalm´s, Ural and Eagle Owl all breed in good numbers. Raptors include an ever increasing population of Imperial Eagle, while Lesser Spotted and White-tailed Eagles are also frequently observed. Other highlight may include Black and Hazel Grouse, Nutcracker, Corncrake, Barred and River Warblers, Lesser Grey Shrike, Common Rosefinch and Citrine Wagtail.
The tour begins with a direct flight to Poprad, where we meet with our local guide. We then drive to the Orava region, characterised by large open areas of grassland and well preserved forests. Time permitting we shall visit a productive wetland along the way, where we may encounter a selection of wildfowl, terns, gulls and waders.
Today we start early and visit the peat bogs in the very north of the area where leking Black Grouse will be our target. Later we will take a tour to the Orava reservoir where a newly-established population of Citrine Wagtail occurs. Other highlights may include Black Stork, Corncrake, Fieldfare and Common Rosefinch, while the whole area has a high density of breeding Lesser Spotted Eagle. There is also an ever-growing population of Ural Owl, which willingly use the nest boxes provided.
Days 3 - 4
We will spend the next two days in the Liptov region, visiting the Velka Fatra and Chocske Mountains in search of the its abundant birdlife and in particular its owls and woodpeckers, which are well represented in both areas. Nine species of woodpecker breed here, with Black, Three-toed, White-backed and Grey-headed perhaps the most sought-after. Amongst the owls the diurnal Pygmy Owl is also fairly common and we will hopefully be fortunate enough to see one of these diminutive owls perched on the top of a tall spruce tree. Eagle and Tengmalm's Owls are also to be found here and we will check the many nest boxes hung out for the latter. As we walk through the mixed beech and spruce forest we may hear the sudden whirr of wings, signalling the presence of the elusive Hazel Grouse, whilst overhead Golden Eagle, Honey Buzzard and Goshawk are all possible. Nutcracker will also be high on our list of target species and once found often afford good views, while more typical mountain forest passerines include Firecrest, Crested Tit, Ring Ouzel, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Siskin, Wood Warbler and Crossbill.
Today we shall leave the mountains and travel east, towards the lowlands and the northernmost extension of the Great Hungarian Plain. Our journey will take us through the High and Low Tatras where we will stop to look at the spectacular Spissky Castle. On leaving the High Carpathians the landscape gradually opens out and we will start to see open country birds more often, such as Red-backed Shrike and Golden Oriole.
Later in the day we check-in to our lakeside hotel, where mornings will be alive with the sound of bird song. Typical inhabitants of the local woods are Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Nightingale and Hawfinch, while the lake attracts many water birds to keep us busy on pre-breakfast walks.
Time permitting we will explore the Senné ponds for the first time. Senné is an important stop for many migrating and breeding birds and although not as large as the nearby Hortobágy in Hungary, viewing birds here can often be a great deal easier due to the much smaller size of the ponds. Part of the area is a reserve, where a large observation tower provides excellent viewing of this outstanding wetland, where Bittern, Red-necked Grebe and all marsh terns often show at surprisingly close range. Among other regular breeders we hope to see Ferruginous Duck, White-tailed Eagle, Spoonbill, Bearded and Penduline Tits as well as several herons and egrets. Other regular visitors may include Mediterranean Gull, Common Crane and Pygmy Cormorant. A variety of waders reside temporarily, finding a last resting place before they cross the mountain ranges to the north. These should include Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff, while close scrutiny may reward us with an unexpected vagrant hidden amongst them.
During these two days, as well as visiting the Senné Ponds, we will also search for nesting raptors with the help of local experts who can usually find Eastern Imperial Eagle on the nest, while others in the area may include Short-toed Eagle and Red-footed Falcon. We will also visit a large park in the town of Michalovce where the lightly wooded area should yield such sought after species as Collared Flycatcher, Icterine Warbler and Wryneck, while we will also hope to complete our list of woodpeckers with Syrian and Middle Spotted, both of which can be found here.
One day we will explore the very southeast corner of Slovakia, an area dominated by the Latorica River, a pristine habitat that is flooded every spring and where White-tailed Eagle now breeds. Birdlife here is abundant, with Golden Oriole, Barred, Grasshopper and River Warbler, Hawfinch and Penduline Tit all widespread. We will also visit a quarry where it is possible to watch breeding Eagle Owl at the nest below us. Bee-eaters are common breeders in the area and one such colony is a favourite spot for watching Sousliks, as well as singing Tawny Pipits and Hoopoe feeding on the pasture. We will not forget to keep our eyes on the roadside wires whilst driving, as Lesser Grey Shrikes and Roller are both possible. We may round the day off with a visit to a small lake where the water almost touches the backyards of village houses, yet its birdlife is surprisingly diverse. Breeding Whiskered Terns, Red-necked Grebes and Little Bitterns are often accompanied by Montagu’s Harrier, Syrian Woodpecker, Marsh and Great Reed Warblers.
After breakfast we must sadly head back to the airport. This final journey will allow us a last look at the shrikes that adorn the roadside wires and the White Storks nesting precariously on the village telegraph poles. Arriving at the airport we will bid farewell to Central Europe and check-in for a flight back to the UK.
|Single room supplement
All Flights, All ground transport once in Slovakia, Accommodation, All Meals, Drinking water, All excursions listed in the itinerary and Guiding services throughout.
Additional drinks, Insurance and Items of a personal nature.
Maximum of 10, plus leaders.
Dave Read or Ian Cowgill, plus local guides.
The tour will be run at a relaxed pace, with a few (optional) early mornings and no late finishes. There will be a modest amount of walking each day, over mostly easy terrain, although some of the walks may involve a gentle incline and therefore require a little extra effort. In the north the climate at this time can be unpredictable, especially in mountainous areas, the average high temperature is 20°C, cooler evenings are expected with frosty mornings possible, and some rain is likely. In the south temperatures are usually a few degrees higher and more stable. Accommodation is in good quality hotels, all with private facilities. There are no special health requirements and visas are not required.
Report - 2016
Gallery - 2016
Many of the flights and the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL certificate go to www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate
Eurasian Pygmy Owl
Lesser Spotted Eagle
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