Last year we completed a spring trip to Lithuania mainly for warblers (savis, river and blyths etc) middle spotted/three toed woodpeckers and breeding lesser spotted eagle. This year a trip was planned to coincide with lesser spotted eagle migration southwards through the fantastic flat, expansive countryside of Lithuania. In addition to the eagles we were to visit sites where we could see many other species both local and migrant.
We left Vilnius at 5.30am to travel to Uzulenis Forest. On the way we spotted small numbers of white stork in the fields (the 20th August is the traditional date for Lithuanians to say 'goodbye' to their storks and when the main body of storks migrate). Cranes were seen throughout the trip to the forest which took 2 hours.
At Uzulenis we stopped at areas where forestry had been felled near large tracts of mature forestry. These areas had mixed oak woodland also with dead trees where woodpeckers could be viewed well as there is still a lot of leaves on the trees at the moment. Here we had six species of woodpecker including white backed, middle spotted and grey headed. Large mixed tit flocks were evident throughout the forestry. Late Golden Oriole was also seen briefly as were both adult and juvenile cuckoo - late records. Also of interest at this location was a merlin hunting starling - not a common sight in central Lithuania my guide assured me - he was very excited.
From here we traveled to Lenas Lake where we had immature lesser spotted eagle in the woodland down to 20 metres - fantastic views. From Lenas we traveled for another 30 minutes to Gruzos Forest where we saw an eagle up very high so we stopped the car on the road and scoped it. It was a lesser spotted but it was calling and we could hear behind us in the trees another answering back. After a few minutes there were two juveniles in the air with two adults and we had some great views of these birds in front of us gliding over the endless field complexes with ease and moving out of view very quickly. At this location we also had a single black stork soaring around.
Near Labunava forest we had three corn buntings which was very nice - not a bird you see a lot of at all. Very confiding birds.
We then traveled to Pavieniskiu, Biestrakiu forest between Kaunas and Kaisiadoris. On the way we saw a large flock of white storks (100+) migrating on the thermals. A truly beautiful sight in the early afternoon heat.
Biestrakiu forest is a stronghold for nutcracker and we had no problem locating many individuals getting some classic views of birds precariously perched on tree tops calling. We had white backed and grey headed woodpecker here also. From here we went to Kaisiadoris where we had a juvenile honey buzzard feeding in a field. Along the road we managed to get extremely close to a foraging lesser spotted eagle which was watching rats in the cut barley from a tree alongside the road. We got so close we could see that the bird was ringed - a photo was taken and duly sent to the ringing centre at Ventas Reges by our guide Juozas Miskinis.
Throughout our day trip we must have seen at least 10 lesser spotted eagles, both resident and migrant birds from further north. We had low numbers of species but what we saw was very nice; I personally would prefer the spring trip as you get to see much more diversity and numbers of birds.
Lesser spotted eagle
White tailed sea eagle
White backed woodpecker
Greater spotted woodpecker
Lesser spotted woodpecker
Grey headed woodpecker
Middle spotted woodpecker
Red backed shrike
Various other passerines throughout the trip on migration but low numbers of species seen overall