• chestnut-eared bunting

    The nominate Chestnut-eared Bunting breeds in the eastern regions of Siberia. During our pelagic excursions from Vladivostok, we get ashore some very interesting isles where these gorgeous buntings have many territories in extensive grasslands surrounded by a plethora of wildflowers.

    Machiel Valkenburg © 
  • pelagic cormorant

    Along the Vladivostok coastal lines, we find the glossed greenish violet-bronze Pelagic Cormorant, an absolute stunner. They breed in large numbers on the cliffs with the parents sharing brooding duties. Photographic opportunities are excellent.

    Machiel Valkenburg © 
  • waterbird

    No matter what species of alcid you get views off, they all are astounding. However, some are special, like these Spectacled Guillemots with their bright red feet and conspicuous white spectacles. They breed along the east-Siberian coastline north to Kamchatka. A beautiful regional speciality!

    Machiel Valkenburg © 
  • ancient murrelet

    In the Peter the Great Bay we find a tiny breeding population of Ancient Murrelet. They breed in burrows dug from soft soil or in shallow holes under grass tussocks together with more spectacular Rhinoceros Auklets. During our pelagic days, we have an excellent chance to find both species.

    Machiel Valkenburg © 
  • harlequin duck

    While searching for Tristram’s Bunting or Siberian Grouse, we plan a break in some riparian forests near several inland estuarian sites. Here we find the attractive Harlequin Duck, together with locally common Mandarin Ducks they are a real delight and a photographers dream.

    Machiel Valkenburg © 
  • rare birds

    Black-browed Reed Warblers are a species with a range all-over east Asia. They breed commonly in Ussuriland near ponds with sedges and clumps of willows. A little playback usually does the trick to have these highly territorial birds right up in your face protecting what is theirs.

    Machiel Valkenburg © 

RUSSIA: Birding the Far East!

This new Rubythroat Birding Tours venture beckons the adventurous birder to the Russian Far East. We will visit the oblasts (provinces) of Ussuriland and Amur on the southeast tip of the largest country on earth, amazing Russia! During this journey, we will travel through varied habitats, from vast mixed taiga forests dotted with freshwater lakes, fertile agricultural lands, to mighty Amazon-like rivers and diverse coastline. 

The trip starts in the beautiful city of Vladivostok. Here in this Russian port-city, we will board a chartered vessel for a two-day pelagic cruise in the Peter the Great Gulf, combined with several landings on some interesting islands. We will visit several spectacular seabird colonies that are a real birders' delight. Amongst others, we hope to come across large amounts of Spectacled Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Black-tailed- and Slaty-backed Gulls, Temminck's- and Pelagic Cormorant. Rarer sightings might include Marbled and Ancient Murrelet, Common Guillemot, Harlequin Duck, Swinhoe's Storm Petrel or Streaked Shearwater.

Back on dry land, we head for the higher grounds of the famous Siberian Taiga forests. Here the transition zones with marshes and extensive agricultural lands are exciting. These areas are the breeding zones of Pied Harriers, Brown Shrikes, Oriental Storks and Amur Falcons. In the forests, many hidden jewels like Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Japanese Grosbeak, Elegant Bunting and Siberian Rubythroat, may reveal themselves. Exploring the Bikin River, sometimes called the Russian Amazon, will reveal rare Scaly-sided Mergansers, Mandarin- and Falcated Ducks, and possibly Long-billed Plover and Blakiston´s Fish Owl, the latter being a possible split. This ethereal, and untouched riverine landscape is completed by an array of gorgeous birds.

Further north we will explore more forests and a sizeable lake where we can find breeding Steller´s Eagles. These amazing eagles will be an undoubted highlight, along with the rare and sought-after Black-billed Capercaille. Other birds might include Siberian Thrush, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Arctic Warbler, Two-barred Greenish Warbler and Black-faced Bunting. Here we shall put in some extra effort to find Tristram´s Bunting in its very sharp breeding plumage. Another highlight is the rare and secretive Siberian Grouse that has a reputation for being very approachable once found – selfies may even be an option!!

This new Rubythroat Birding Tours venture beckons the adventurous birder to the Russian Far East. We will visit the oblasts (provinces) of Ussuriland and Amur on the southeast tip of the largest country on earth, amazing Russia! During this journey, we will travel through varied habitats, from vast mixed taiga forests dotted with freshwater lakes, fertile agricultural lands, to mighty Amazon-like rivers and diverse coastline. 

The trip starts in the beautiful city of Vladivostok. Here in this Russian port-city, we will board a chartered vessel for a two-day pelagic cruise in the Peter the Great Gulf, combined with several landings on some interesting islands. We will visit several spectacular seabird colonies that are a real birders' delight. Amongst others, we hope to come across large amounts of Spectacled Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Black-tailed- and Slaty-backed Gulls, Temminck's- and Pelagic Cormorant. Rarer sightings might include Marbled and Ancient Murrelet, Common Guillemot, Harlequin Duck, Swinhoe's Storm Petrel or Streaked Shearwater.

Back on dry land, we head for the higher grounds of the famous Siberian Taiga forests. Here the transition zones with marshes and extensive agricultural lands are exciting. These areas are the breeding zones of Pied Harriers, Brown Shrikes, Oriental Storks and Amur Falcons. In the forests, many hidden jewels like Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Japanese Grosbeak, Elegant Bunting and Siberian Rubythroat, may reveal themselves. Exploring the Bikin River, sometimes called the Russian Amazon, will reveal rare Scaly-sided Mergansers, Mandarin- and Falcated Ducks, and possibly Long-billed Plover and Blakiston´s Fish Owl, the latter being a possible split. This ethereal, and untouched riverine landscape is completed by an array of gorgeous birds.

Further north we will explore more forests and a sizeable lake where we can find breeding Steller´s Eagles. These amazing eagles will be an undoubted highlight, along with the rare and sought-after Black-billed Capercaille. Other birds might include Siberian Thrush, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Arctic Warbler, Two-barred Greenish Warbler and Black-faced Bunting. Here we shall put in some extra effort to find Tristram´s Bunting in its very sharp breeding plumage. Another highlight is the rare and secretive Siberian Grouse that has a reputation for being very approachable once found – selfies may even be an option!!

We are confident that clients will love our new venture into the east of Russia. This region of Russia has been a dream of Machiel's to explore for many years, and he is happy to give many more people the chance to follow their dreams with him!

Highlights

  • Close-up views of the only Russian endemic; the superb Siberian Grouse.
  • Fancy a fascinating boat trip on the Bikin River in search for Mandarin Duck, Scaly-sided Merganser and Long-billed Plover.
  • Satisfying taiga birding with Elegant Bunting, Japanese Grosbeak and Siberian Thrush.
  • Two full-day pelagic along the coast of Vladivostok in the Peter de Great Gulf. Good looks of Pelagic Cormorant, Spectacled Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet and Ancient Murrelet!
  • Unique farmlands, dotted with wildflowers and patrolling Pied Harriers!
  • Search for one of the world’s rarest owls: the Blakiston’s Fish-Owl!
  • Enjoy daily views of typical Siberian birds such as Black-faced Bunting, Siberian Rubythroat and Two-barred Greenish Warbler.
  • Excellent chances on finding all nine species of phylloscopus warblers.
  • Boating Lake Udyl in search of one of the most sought-after eagles of the planet; the enigmatic Steller’s Sea-Eagle.
  • Get a feel for the Russian-way of life, discover the lovely dishes and beverages Russia has to offer.
  • Led by experienced Rubythroat senior-leader Alexander Povarintsev.

Itinerary

  • Flight from your home to Vladivostok, Russia.

  • Arrival in Vladivostok: all-day-long pelagic in the Peter de Great Gulf.

  • Full day pelagic along the coast of Vladivostok, landing at Popov Island.

  • Travel to Khanka Lake; birding en-route with Pied Harrier and Elegant Bunting as main highlights.

  • Full day birdwatching in Khanka Lake with Oriental Stork and Amur Falcon. In the evening we drive to Luchegorsk.

  • Exploring the Bikin River by private boats to find Scaly-sided Merganser, Mandarin Duck and Long-billed Plover.

  • We travel further north to Komsomolsk, this is a mostly travel day with few stops for Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler.

  • Several days we explore the Lake Udyl with breeding Steller's Eagles and handsome Baikal Teals. On day 11, we return to Komsomolsk-na-Amur.

  • Birding in Komsomolsk State Nature Reserve for MEGA targets like Siberian Grouse, Black-billed Capercaille and Tristram’s Bunting. In the evening we depart for Khabarovsk by sleeper train.

  • Khabarovsk marshes where we encounter typical Siberian birds like Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and Lanceolated Warbler. Yellow-breasted Bunting will be the highlight of the day.

  • Departure from Khabarovsk Novy Airport towards home.

What’s Included?

  • Expert English-speaking Rubythroat wildlife/ornithological guide.
  • 12 nights of accommodation, ranging from attractive, comfortable tourist hotels to a few basic hotels off the beaten track.
  • Full board meals in restaurants or picnic lunches in the field, depending on the itinerary. Water distributed by need.
  • We are dining a la carte in the city of Vladivostok and Khabarovsk.
  • All land transfers by comfortable Mercedes Sprinter throughout.
  • All excursions, local guides, permits, entry fees.
  • Visa support & invitation letter (if needed)

What’s excluded?

  • International flight to/from Russia.
  • Personal expenses; laundry, telephone costs etc.
  • Alcoholic drinks.
  • Extra rooming not mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Meals on day 1, starting with breakfast on day 2.
  • Single room accommodations.
  • Travel and health insurance.
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Costs: $3,950 or €3,335, excluding international flights to/from Russia 

Availability: Spaces Available

Group size: minimum 4 and maximum 10   Single supplement:   $400 or €335

Deposit: : $800 or €675   Leader:   Alexander Povarintsev

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MAIN FOCUS:

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PHOTOGRAPHY

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BIRDS

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LANDSCAPES

SPECIES SEEN:

170-220

DIFFICULTY:
 

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EASY

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Extended Tour Program

June 00, Day 01: To Vladivostok.

Clients depart from home towards the largest city in eastern Russia, Vladivostok. Clients need to be in Vladivostok before June 03 – 0400hrs! Please note that it is essential you arrive on time as we board our chartered vessel at 0530hrs on June 03. For those who wish to arrive early, please contact the RBT office and we will gladly help you with extra hotel arrangements.

NIGHT: on aircraft.

guillemot birdgrey-capped woodpecker

June 00-00, Days 02-03: Popov Island & pelagic in Peter the Great Gulf.

After an early morning domestic flight from Moscow to Vladivostok, we will immediately depart the airport for the large harbour of the historic city of Vladivostok. Over the coming two days we will make pelagic trips in the Peter the Great Gulf and conduct several exciting landings on a few key islands in the Gulf. Several large seabird colonies will be an extravaganza and pure heaven for any birder. Amongst others, we hope to come across large amounts of Spectacled Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Black-tailed- and Slaty-backed Gulls, Temminck’s- and Pelagic Cormorant. Rarer sightings might include Marbled and Ancient Murrelet, Common Guillemot, Harlequin Duck, Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel or Streaked Shearwater. Cute Spotted Seals are often found sunbathing on rocks near the islands. As we are in the middle of migration time, we should encounter good waves of passerines. Popov Island offers some excellent birding in the open grasslands that are full of flowers and butterflies. On the scouting trip in 2017 we came across many Chestnut-eared Buntings, (stejnegeri) Japanese Stonechat, Oriental Greenfinch, Grey-backed Thrushes, and, if we are lucky, we may bump into a Latham´s Snipe or Baikal Grasshopper Warbler. The forested parts of the island are full of Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, Pale-legged Leaf Warblers, Eastern Crowned Warblers, Ashy Minivets, Azure-winged Magpies, Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers, and Japanese Tit. We will be greeted upon our return to Vladivostok each evening by swarming flocks of Pacific Swift. Back at our comfortable hotel, we will enjoy a flavorful dinner.

NIGHT: Slavyanskaya Hotel, Vladivostok.

black-faced bunting

eurasian nuthatch

June 00, Day 04: Vladivostok to Khanka Lake.

After breakfast we leave Vladivostok, driving towards the region of Khanka Lake, north of the city. We leave the coastal habitats behind and exchange them for extensive agricultural landscapes and taiga forests as far as the eye can see.  In open areas, large numbers of the striking Pied Harrier will be quartering, as Brown Shrikes hunt from treetop perches. Enigmatic Siberian buntings like Elegant Bunting and Black-faced Bunting are found in some darker regions of the forests. In the evening, we will check out the wetlands of Khanka Lake in the hope of discovering Falcated and wild Mandarin Ducks, the latter being one of the most attractive duck species in the world. 

NIGHT: Hotel Voyage, Spassyk-Dalniy.

June 00, Day 05: Khanka Lake and surroundings.

As usual on this tour, we will have an early rise to go birding in the nearby forests where many gems are on the menu. We will do our best to show you Asian Stubtail, Black-naped Oriole, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Japanese Grosbeak and Azure Tit. Around noon there will be a significant dip in bird activity. We will use this time for an extended lunch and drive back towards the Khanka Lake. In the evening we will explore the lake vicinity once more in the hope of the previously mentioned duck species and hopefully more sightings of Oriental Stork, Amur Falcon, and curious Black-browed Reed Warbler. In the evening we will drive to the village of Luchegorsk where we will lodge for the coming two nights. 

NIGHT: Tourist hotel, Luchegorsk.

Oriental storkyellow throated bunting

June 00, Day 06: Bikin River.

Another early rise to reach a small, traditional Siberian village where we will board our three-person boats for an exploration of the Bikin River, sometimes called the Russian Amazon! It is an absolute delight to be on the river in the early morning with the sun just shining its first rays of light through the trees. This river is the best place for beauties like Scaly-sided Mergansers, Mandarin Duck and Long-billed Plover. The Mandarin Duck is an unmistakable, small duck and a big contender for the most beautiful duck on the planet. Large orange wing sails and whiskers combined with a coppery red, white and green head make it a real treasure to find in the Siberian wilderness. In the adjacent marshes, we hope to come across, amongst others, Far Eastern Curlew and the endangered Oriental Stork. The latter having a small worldwide population of fewer than 2000 individuals. This is also an excellent spot for the elusive Forest Wagtail. Back in the village itself, Daurian Redstart, White-cheeked Starling and Oriental Reed Warbler are omnipresent. In the evening hours, we will bird the marshes around town where Eastern Marsh Harriers are seen along with hopefully more Falcated Ducks. On dusk, we will explore the river edges in the hope of hearing the territorial deep "boo" calls of the Blakiston's Fish-Owl. We return to our hotel in Luchogursk late in the evening.

NIGHT: Tourist hotel, Luchogursk.

June 00, Day 07: Bikin River to Komsomolsk.

Today will be mostly a travel day (700km, 9 hours), but we have some time in the morning to bird around the village, and near some of the marshes we visited the day before. One spot we have staked out will hopefully deliver a very pleasing Gray´s Grasshopper Warbler and lovely Grey-backed Thrush.  In the late evening, we arrive at our tourist hotel in Komsomolsk-na-Amur.

NIGHT: Tourist hotel, Komsomolsk-na-Amur.

June 00-00, Days 08-11: Lake Udyl.

Today we head for Lake Udyl where we will make some round trips of the lake to find the breeding and hopefully some hunting pairs of Steller’s Sea Eagle! These huge, striking raptors with their characteristic bright yellow beaks and white wing patches are our primary target during our stay at the lake. We have a good chance of close views as we travel by boat to several nesting sites staked out. On Lake Udyl we also hope to see the strange Swan Goose and the handsome Baikal Teal. In the nearby forests, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Dusky Warbler, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, Oriental Greenfinch and Grey-bellied Bullfinch are common. On the third day, we head back towards Komsomolsk-na-Amur, where we expect to arrive in the early evening.

NIGHTS: Days 08-10, basic lodge, Lake Udyl.

NIGHT: Day 11, tourist hotel, Komsomolsk-na-Amur.

white-eyeoriental honey-buzzard

June 00, Day 12: Komsomolsk State Nature Reserve & transfer to Khabarovsk.

At this state nature reserve we are after one of the most sought-after grouse in the northern hemisphere; the Siberian Grouse! These small grouse are the only Russian endemic bird. They live in dense spruce forests with heavy understory. We will do our utmost best to find these attractive birds, and if we are fortunate enough to come across an individual, their trusting nature is hard to believe. They are a photographer's dream! In this taiga forest, the endangered Black-billed Capercaille is also a big target. They occur in the same type of habitat as the grouse but are more challenging to locate. Other sightings in the forest may include Siberian Thrush, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Arctic Warbler, Two-barred Greenish Warbler and Black-faced Bunting! Breeding Tristram´s Bunting is another highlight. In the evening we will have a lovely dinner in the city of Komsomolsk-na-Amur before we board an overnight train to Khabarovsk.

NIGHT: Sleeper train to Khabarovsk.

June 00, Day 13: Khabarovsk marshes.

Our train reaches Khabarovsk in the morning, ready for our final day of birding. In the extensive wetlands near Khabarovsk, we have a whole new set of birds to discover. In the open areas, Lanceolated Warbler and Pallas´s Grasshopper Warbler are ubiquitously singing. The gorgeous and rapidly declining Yellow-breasted Bunting might be found nearby while a couple of Long-tailed Rosefinches are usually calling from willow scrub. Thick-billed Warbler would be one of the rare sightings of the day, but certainly possible. In the evening we check into our comfortable tourist hotel in Khabarovsk where we will enjoy a sizeable final dinner with a few shots of Vodka, just like the locals!

NIGHT: Tourist hotel, Khabarovsk.

June 00, Day 14: Khabarovsk to home.

All participants will have a day room until 11am at our tourist hotel in Khabarovsk before transferring to the local airport and subsequent departure home.