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Polar Urals

15–23 June 2019

Another innovative new tour to the far outreaches of the Western Palearctic to look for Pin-tailed Snipe, Pechora Pipit, Siberian Accentor, Pallas’s Bunting and other species including Rough-legged Hawk (Buzzard) and Long-tailed Jaeger all in stunning scenery. Some camping involved as we travel by plane, train and automobile!

Day 1 We will start this adventure with the 13.25 flight to Moscow allowing participants time to travel from other parts of the country. We will then spend the night in an airport hotel as the daily flight to Salekhard departs before any flights arrive from London.

Day 2 After breakfast, we will take the late morning internal flight from Moscow to the industrial town of Salekhard on the east bank of the mighty River Ob. The town straddles the Arctic Circle but is in the Eastern Palearctic! We will then take a bus to the river (one of the major rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean) and catch a ferry to the west bank town of Labytnangi but again, still in the Eastern Palearctic, where we will spend the night in a hotel.

Day 3 This morning we will catch the train to Moscow, a trip that takes around two days! Fortunately however, we will only be on it for between 4–5 hours enjoying the spectacle of the gradual climb up into the Ural Mountains until, at the very top, we reach the Polyarnyy or Polar Railway Station, around 400 metres inside the Western Palearctic and north of the Arctic Circle. Around the station are a ramshackle collection of old buildings and rusted equipment but, more importantly, the station has electricity, a waiting room and best of all, a sauna! We need to get off the train very quickly and depending whether it is dry or raining, get our luggage into our tents a few hundred metres away in the Tundra or, put it in the waiting room until it stops raining! At this time of the year the weather can be highly variable and rain can be expected on 50% of days but it is the best time for birding during the short summer. Our go-anywhere ‘troop carrier’ will be waiting for us at the station and, if the weather is good, we will make an immediate start in our search for three of the Western Palearctics most difficult species: Pintail Snipe, Siberian Accentor, Pechora Pipit and Pallas’s Bunting.

Days 4–6 These three days will be spent exploring the Tundra, forests, marshes and bogs of this rarely-visited area. If we are unsuccessful in finding any of the speciality birds then we have the option of travelling in out ‘troop carrier’ further afield and even moving camp. Other birds we have a good chance of seeing during these days include Arctic Loon, Tundra Bean-goose, Common and Velvet Scoters, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Northern Pintail, Eurasian Wigeon, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, Rock and Willow Ptarmigans, Common Snipe, European Golden-plover, Eurasian Dotterel, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint, Long-tailed Jaeger, Mew Gull, Red-throated Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Yellow-browed Warbler, Lapland Longspur, Hoary Redpoll and White-winged Crossbill amongst others.

Day 7 This is our last morning in the Ural Mountains and we will spend it enjoying our last few hours with some special birds before boarding our train back to Labytnangi where we will once again take transport to the Ob River, a ferry across the river, transport to Salekhard and check into a hotel for the night where we can enjoy comfortable beds and warm showers!

Day 8 We don’t have to get up early this morning as the flight back to Moscow is quite late in the afternoon so we can spend some time around birding around the town. Although we are of course, back in the Eastern Palearctic, we can still enjoy birding until lunch time when we will make our way back to the airport, arriving in Moscow only one hour and ten minutes after we left Salekhard because of the two-hour time difference. We will then spend the night at an airport hotel again as the only flight of the day from Salekhard arrives in Moscow after check-in time for our London flight.

Day 9 After an early breakfast, we will take the 10.00 flight from Moscow arriving back in London around midday giving every everyone ample time to catch connecting buses and flights home at the end of the tour.

General Information The pace of the tour is mainly moderate but long hours will be spent in the field, with early mornings and late evenings in 24-hour daylight. The weather can be highly variable at this time of year and we can expect anything from mild and sunny conditions to cold with heavy rain. Clothing and footwear suitable for walking and adverse weather should be brought. The tented accommodation in camp is very basic. Walking can be quite strenuous although we will not be at high altitude, usually remaining below 1000 metres. Visas are required.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 8; maximum group size: 16 with 2 leaders.

Pallas's Bunting

Pallas's Bunting

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