Southern and Northern Lithuania are highly attractive areas for many iconic birds of the boreal region. Dzūkija National Park covers a vast area with a predomination of Western Taiga forests, numerous lakes, natural meadows and various types of bogs including Čepkeliai Strict Nature Reserve and Žuvintas Biosphere Reserve. This is an ideal environment for Capercailie and other grouse, along with some woodpecker and owl species. The next destination is Birzai forest; also well known among birders as the paradise of owls and woodpeckers. Both sites are also rich with mammal fauna. Thus, early spring is one of the best seasons to visit Dzūkija National Park, Žuvintas Biosphere Reserve Birzai Forest and their surroundings, to meet and experience wild Lithuanian nature at its best.
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Présente le mardi (11h - 18h), le jeudi (9h à 12h), le vendredi (10h à 18h) et le samedi (9h à 12h)
Period: 14th till 20th April 2020
Duration: 7 days / 6 nights
Group size: 7-14 persons
Price: 1500 Eur per person
DAY 1: VILNIUS – DZŪKIJA NATIONAL PARK
From Vilnius airport we will go to visit the medieval Old Town of Vilnius. A professional city guide will take us around the most interesting corners of the Old Town of Vilnius (duration 1,5 hours).
Having had a short look at the history of Vilnius and Lithuania we will transfer by road to the Dzūkija National Park, one of the most beautiful protected areas in Lithuania. On the way we will have a stop at the Paluknys meadows, a perfect site in Lithuania to observe migrating bird aggregations. Here, in early spring birders may find geese, ducks, waders, Whooper Swans, Rough-legged Buzzards, Northern Harriers, and if luck accompanies - Black Grouse.
In the evening we will arrive to the hotel for 4 overnight stays (Dzūkijos Perlas or Nakcižibis, 100 km away from Vilnius), where dinner will be offered to us.
DAY 2: DZŪKIJA NATIONAL PARK – CAPERCAILLIE DAY
We will set out early - 5:30 a.m. departure from the hotel. We will take packed meal, hot coffee and tea with us to have picnic breakfast later when birding.
The target bird of the day is Capercaillie. At dawn we will go to their leks to admire posturing males and modestly watching females. We will stay in the pine forests the entire morning to observe courtship behaviour of Capercaillies and female birds picking up gravel on small roads. Before lunch we will visit Zervynos, an ethnographic village of Dzūkija. The village of small wood houses surrounded by gloomy forests is intersected by a torrent of the Ūla river. The village seems to be an oasis for both people and birds: here European Green and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Tit, Common Kingfisher and others may be observed. We will go to the village of Kapiniškiai where traditional national cuisine lunch will be served.
After lunch we will hike in the meadows and small hills of the village of Kapiniškiai seeking to observe Great Grey Shrike, Hawfinch, Eurasian Bullfinch. Before the dark we will visit the biggest nature reserve in Lithuania – the Čepkeliai mire. Following the nature trail we will listen to Common Cranes having returned to the breeding site, look over the vast of the mire from the observation tower.
Dinner at the hotel (Dzūkijos Perlas or Nakcižibis).
DAY 3: DZŪKIJA NATIONAL PARK – BLACK GROUSE DAY
As the day before, we will start early - at 5:30 a.m., taking packed breakfast with us.
This morning our main focus will be lekking of Black Grouse. The former military polygon near the Belarus border is liked by Black Grouse. Here each spring one of the biggest lekking of Black Grouse in Lithuania takes place. In favourable years around 20 male Black Grouse gather in the lekking place filling the entire space with their bubbling in an early morning blaze. We will observe the spectacle from a specially erected tower enjoying our morning coffee and breakfast with plenty of time at our disposal to watch the unique scenes. At daylight we will go to Musteika, an ethnographic village, distinguished for its heritage of traditional wood architecture of Dzūkija people and the surrounding nature. Following narrow streets and paths of Musteika we will look for Green Sandpipe, Common Redshank, Hawfinch, Black Woodpecker, and if luck accompanies us - White-backed Woodpecker.
We will return to the hotel for lunch, followed by a couple of hours to rest before the evening program. Several hours before sunset we will go to the wood again and visit the former fish ponds of Grybaulia. The fishery activities have been ceased here, however, it is an excellent site for birding.
After our short hike we will have a stop at a small cottage in the wood where a local hostess will serve a typical dinner of Dzūkija.
At dusk we will hurry back into the wood – at that time Eurasian Pygmy Owls become active: hoots hint their presence here. After dark we will continue our search of two more owl species: Boreal Owl and Tawny Owl.
We will return to the hotel late in the evening.
DAY 4: ŽUVINTAS BIOSPHERE RESERVE – WADERS AND WATERFOWL
After breakfast we will set out for the entire day.
We will focus on migrating waterfowl and waders. The Žuvintas Biosphere Reserve is the oldest protected area in Lithuania designated in 1937 to preserve lake Žuvintas and surrounding wetland areas. Later the Reserve expanded and currently includes lakes Žuvintas, Žaltytis and Amalvas, two large raised bogs and the Bukta forest. In the morning we will go to the Bukta forest to look for woodpeckers and take efforts to find Hazel Grouse.
Around lunch time we will come to the Visitor Centre at lake Žuvintas and have a picnic; in the lake we will observe flocking waterfowl among which the following species may be seen: Smew, Common Merganser, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, geese.
Having finished birding at Lake Žuvintas we will go to the polder of lake Amalvas – meadows flooded with snowmelt water in Spring. Besides ducks, various species of geese gather here: Greater White-fronted Goose, Taiga Bean Goose, Tundra Bean Goose, Greylag Goose, Barnacle Goose. In wet meadows the first migrating birds wade: Ruff, Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Jack Snipe; Northern and Western Marsh Harrier, Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Buzzard hunt here.
We will return to the Dzūkija National Park and have dinner in a traditional restaurant located in Merkinė, the historic capital of Dzūkija.
We will look for owls, in case we failed the evening before.
We will return to the hotel for the overnight stay.
DAY 5: DZŪKIJA NATIONAL PARK – BIRŽAI
Breakfast at the hotel.
After breakfast we will walk in the meadows adjacent to the confluence of the Nemunas and Merkys rivers. The flooded meadows are surrounded by the wood producing an excellent site for birding in an open landscape and listening to sounds of forest birds. Having finished the morning hike we will return to the hotel to pick up our baggage and will leave for Northern Lithuania – the town of Biržai.
On our way we will watch migrating birds, observe larger flocks and stop for lunch. We will be accommodated in the Tyla hotel for 2 nights.
In late afternoon we will have a walk in the Biržai Manor Park, look for Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Eurasian Nuthatch there. We will enjoy overviewing lake Širvėna, one of the best rest stops for migrating waterfowl in Northern Lithuania. After dinner in a cosy cafe we will go to the Biržai forest to hear Eurasian Pygmy Owl at sunset, after dark – hopefully Ural Owl.
In the evening - return to the hotel.
DAY 6: BIRŽAI FOREST – URAL OWL AND WOODPECKER DAY
We will have picnic meals (breakfast and lunch) in the forest. At 6:00 a.m. – departure from the hotel for the day stay in the Biržai forest, a well known site among birders of Lithuania and other countries to observe Owls and Woodpeckers. The forest extending 30 km along the Latvian border distinguishes itself as a site of highest density of Ural Owls in Lithuania. Over 20 pairs of this species live here. Woodpeckers including 9 species are found in the forest. Our target of this birding day is to find and enjoy Ural Owl, White-backed and Eurasian Three-toed, Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers. In the forest, going on foot or by vehicle we will look for Hazel Grouse – its whistles may be often heard here. Besides, we will look for Spotted Nutcracker, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Common Crane and other forest birds. The forest is abundant with animals: few families of wolves live here, as well as lynxes, badgers, foxes, European red deers, moose, deers, wild boars, thus the day may bring numerous surprises to us.
The farewell dinner will be prepared in the Biržai Castle restaurant. In the evening - return to the hotel.
DAY 7: BIRŽAI – RIGA (OR VILNIUS)
After breakfast at the hotel we will walk around in the nearby area and have the last glimpse to enjoy migrating birds. Then we will check out and transfer to the airport.