RUSSIA: An expedition for Ross’s Gull & more
Our venture to the northeastern part of Siberia is an expedition of extremes; everything in this part of the world is extreme! Our visit to this enigmatic destination will take some effort, but our stay in the delta is a worthwhile adventure. In this region of extremes, it makes sense that the key birds here are extraordinary. We will head north to photograph the illustrious Ross's Gull at a stable breeding colony on the Indigirka River Delta where it meets the East Siberian Sea. On and around the many small lakes, we will find the beautiful Spectacled, King, and Steller's Eiders. The supporting cast of birds is also impressive, with massive Yellow-billed Loons, and even the occasional Siberian Crane near our campsite. All-in-all this tour is the experience of a lifetime.
We begin our tour in the conveniently located city of Yakutia, the capital of the Republic of Sakha. This region of Siberia is one of the least inhabited parts of the world. Less than a million people live in Sakha while it has a landmass twelve times that of the UK, or twice the size of Alaska. The Republic of Sakha is an expansive and untamed place where Siberian Brown Bears, Polar Bears, Wolves, and Wolverines all roam freely in this wilderness. Yakuts, the indigenous people of Siberia, with their rich cultural traditions and unique language, have coexisted with the big animals here for thousands of years.
The birding around Yakutsk, situated on the Lena River, is excellent with signature Siberian birds commonly seen during our outings. The avid birder will be pleasantly surprised by the species possible in the famous Russian Taiga. We may find the rare Yellow-breasted Bunting, lovely Japanese Stonechat, cute Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, and charming Lanceolated Warblers buzzing away. Within the forest realm, we have more than a good chance of finding the noisy Arctic Warbler, and the common Olive-backed Pipit is ever-present. In addition, spectacular Taiga Flycatchers will be foraging from low perches, and we should find three species of bunting – Pine-, Black-faced- and Yellow-browed. Finally, gorgeous Red-flanked Bluetail and Siberian Rubythroat, two classic Taiga birds, may also reveal themselves. Reviews from our past clients consistently remark on the obliging nature of this regions avifauna!
From Yakutsk we will board a domestic flight, taking us north to our primary destination for this expedition, the magnificent polygonal tundra of the famous Indigirka River Delta. This is one of Siberia’s, and arguably the world’s, great rivers. Flying in, we soar low over the tundra which appears to be broken into millions of irregular rectangles, some filled with water and others not, a spectacular view! In the small town of Chokurdah, our exploration starts immediately with Common Redpoll, Temminck's Stint, and Dusky Thrush at the town square. We will leave from here later in the day by small boats that motor us through the zig-zag delta to our cosy private camp at an inflow of the mighty Indigirka. Here the true spectacle begins! Next to the species previously mentioned, we are in for even more attractions like the gorgeous Baikal Teal, Long-tailed Duck, Black-throated Loon, Pacific Loon, Red-necked Stint, Pacific Golden Plover, Ruff, Long-billed Dowitcher, Pectoral Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked- and Red Phalarope, three species of Skua (Pomarine-, Long-tailed- and Arctic-), Bluethroat, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Siberian Accentor, Pallas' Bunting and Lapland Longspurs, all in exquisite breeding plumage!
Photography at night is best. It never turns dark here at this time of year, so the evening light provides a perfect subtle tone for photographing the immaculate Ross’s Gull. We will be situated close to a breeding colony of approximately 40 pairs. This is an experience that few will ever enjoy and as such, is one to savour! Our week-long visit will provide you with more than enough time to capture your dream image at a comfortable pace. Another high-profile target here is the beautiful Yellow-billed Loon. Our team will set up a hide at a respectable distance to nesting site allowing the loons to acclimate and act naturally in their territory. On all days we will have time to photograph birds in close vicinity to our camp.
Rubythroat Birding Tours pioneered this unique departure several years ago. We have developed the ultimate experience for photography in northern Siberia. Please join us on this unrivalled tour where dreams become reality!
- Our tour is unique, be part of a small group of lucky few who have gone north to the Indigirka Delta.
- Get up close and personal with a large colony of breeding Ross’s Gulls!
- Travel in company of arctic experts to one of the largest uninhabited, remote and least traveled places on earth.
- Photograph from an RBT hide the magical Yellow-billed Loon.
- Enjoy a large selection of breeding arctic species like King Eiders, Red-necked Stint and Siberian Accentors.
- Daily views of one of the rarest cranes of the planet: Siberian Crane.
- Relish a couple of days birding along the mighty Lena River in Central Siberia for Yellow-breasted Bunting, Naumann’s Thrush and Siberian Rubythroat’s.
- Experience the thrill of flying into Chokurdah and be amazed about the gorgeous patterns of the arctic tundra.
- Small group tour – maximum 6 participants.
- Led by experienced Rubythroat senior leader Alexander Povarintsev.
Flight from your home to Yakutsk, Russia.
Arrival in Yakutsk. At 18h00 attend the welcome meeting in our hotel.
Domestic flight Yakutsk to Chokurdah. Registration in Chokurdah and explore the vicinity of the town, Siberian Accentor and Dusky Thrush.
Travel into the Indigirka delta; exploring the endless tundra for eight days to photograph arctic species like Ross’s Gull, Yellow-billed Loon and Siberian Crane.
Full day birdwatching and photographing around the town of Chokurdah; common birds here are more Dusky Thrush, East-Siberian Wagtail and Glaucus Gull.
Return flight back to Yakutsk.
Three full days of birding around the city of Yakutsk. We explore the taiga, marshes and floodplains of the Lena Delta. On the last day we enjoy a grand final dinner!
Departure from Platon Oyunsky Yakutsk International Airport towards home.
- Expert English-speaking Rubythroat wildlife guide.
- 15 nights of accommodation, ranging from attractive comfortable tourist hotels to private tented camp in the arctic tundra.
- 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 Yakutsk.
- All land transfers by comfortable Mercedes Sprinter around Yakutsk, and motorboat excursions in the delta.
- All excursions, local guides, permits, entry fees.
- Domestic return flight Yakutsk – Chokurdah - Yakutsk.
- Visa support & invitation letter (if needed)
- International flight to/from Russia, Yakutsk.
- Personal expenses; laundry, telephone costs etc.
- Alcoholic drinks.
- Extra rooming not mentioned in the itinerary.
- Meals on day 1, starting with dinner on day 2.
- Single room accommodations.
- Travel and health insurance.
Costs: $5,800 or €4,950, excluding international flights to/from Russia
Availability: 2 places available for 2021 • Fully booked for 2022 • Spaces for 2023
Group size: minimum 4 and maximum 6 Single supplement: $200 or €170 (only available in Yakutsk)
Deposit: : $2,000 or €1,710 Leader: Alexander Povarintsev
Extended Tour Program
June 17-18, Days 1-2: Arrival in Yakutsk.
Clients depart from home, heading towards the most significant city on the Lena River, Yakutsk. The town is located just 450 km south of the Arctic Circle. Clients need to be in Yakutsk before June 18 – 1800h! A welcome meeting is scheduled for this time, followed by dinner. For those wishing to arrive earlier, please contact the RBT office, and we will gladly assist with additional hotel bookings.
NIGHT: on aircraft.
June 19, Day 3: Yakutsk to Chokurdah.
Depending on the available flight schedule, we will depart from our hotel at noon for the Yakutsk Domestic Airport for our flight aboard a small aircraft to the far north. Chokurdah is located 1300 km northeast of Yakutsk, on the shores of the Indigirka River, close to the East Siberian Sea. Here we will be far from civilization! This little town is disconnected from the outside world by road for most of the year. It is only in the winter, when the tundra freezes over, that the village becomes accessible by ‘road’. After some paperwork, we will head for our accommodations for our first night in this northern outpost. Within walking distance of our hotel, we will be able to find some lovely birds like Dusky Thrush (very common), Siberian Accentor, Pallas's Bunting, and Vega Herring Gull.
NIGHT: Basic hotel/apartment, Chokurdah.
June 20-27, Days 4-11: Birding Indigirka River for Ross's Gull & Siberian Crane.
For the next seven days, we will explore the Indigirka River Delta from our private camp near a self-built ornithological station. Our forays into the surrounding area will be on foot and by boat. Numerous exquisite species call this tundra home, and we will be on the hunt for some of the best examples. The remoteness of this location and lack of hunting here has a noticeably positive effect on the birds. Most of the birds here are not used to being around humans; meaning many are easily approachable. Of course, our primary reason for visiting these untouched lands are the nearby breeding colonies of Ross's Gull – within walking distance of our tented camp! This gorgeous little gull only breeds in isolated regions of northern Greenland and, here, in arctic Russia. We will spend much time studying and photographing these magnificent creatures. Another top bird found here is the critically endangered Siberian Crane – the rarest member of the crane family. These elegant snow-white birds are veritably common around our tented camp to have been a daily fixture on previous trips to the region.
On and around the many small lakes, we will find many beautiful species, including a trio of eiders – Spectacled, King, and Steller's. All three species are very desirable and occur only in remote parts of the arctic. Here we can also come across Baikal Teal, Long-tailed Duck, White-winged Scoter, and Sandhill Cranes, all commonly found in the vicinity. This area is attractive for no less than four species of diver; Red-throated, Arctic, Pacific, and the enormous Yellow-billed Diver. The latter is a crucial target for many. Our team has constructed a small hide near the lake where this enigmatic species breeds. Massive amounts of waders breed in the arctic, using the never-ending summer days to raise their young. In full summer plumage, we may find the fantastic Pacific Golden Plover, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Ruff, and Long-billed Dowitchers. The skies here are full of predators looking for an easy meal – Arctic Jaeger, Pomarine Skua, and Long-tailed Jaeger are all notable. The birdlife here is amazingly plentiful, other commonly observed species include Red-throated Pipit, Little Bunting, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, and Lapland Longspur. On the last day, we motor back to the tiny city of Chokurdah, by boat, where more Dusky Thrush will undoubtedly be waiting.
NIGHTS: Basic tented camp.
June 29, Day 12: Birding Chokurdah.
Today our schedule involves a tour of the region surrounding the village with new additions likely. Some of the species here that we may have not already encountered include Wood Sandpiper, East-Siberian Wagtail race 'ocularis,' Glaucus Gull, Redpoll, and Bean Goose. We will spend one last evening at Chokurdah's only hotel!
NIGHT: Basic hotel/apartment, Chokurdah.
June 30, Day 13: Flight to Yakutsk
This morning we will board our flight back to civilization after an extraordinary experience in the Russian tundra. In the evening we can enjoy a feast in one of the many excellent restaurants in Yakutsk. This feast will go together, for those who are interested, with a shot of good Russian Vodka! A fitting toast to our arctic adventure.
NIGHT: Comfortable tourist hotel, Yakutsk.
July 1-3, Days 14-16: Forest birding around Yakutsk & visit to the Lena River.
Our final days of birding around Yakutsk will be at one of the ornithological stations in the forest west of the city. On our way, we can stop at various lakes where White-winged Terns will prove plentiful. Eurasian Hobbies will be hunting for dragonflies while Black-eared Kites patrol the roads for roadkill. In the forest, we will search for 'brevirostris' Great Spotted Woodpecker, while the songs of Pine- and Black-faced Buntings echo in the background. The rarest catch of the day could be the critically endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting. This brightly-coloured, attractive bunting has a peculiar call which proves the best way of finding it. They are usually found atop small willow bushes.
We will continue exploring the area around Yakutsk with an excursion to the taiga forests along the Lena River. In this gorgeous transitional habitat, new birds will quickly appear, with gems such as Siberian Rubythroat, Brown Shrike, and Oriental Cuckoo all breeding here. We will do our best to show you the lovely Rustic Bunting, Red-flanked Bluetail, and hopefully the appealing Yellow-browed Bunting. Above the forest, vast swirling flocks Pacific Swifts often disguise the odd Eastern Buzzard. In marshes near the Lena river, Lanceolated and Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers are common and will be heard singing their respective songs. Perched alongside the road, we may find attractive Japanese Stonechat or the 'stejnegeri' race of Common Stonechat, while Naumann's Thrushes forage nearby in the grassy meadows.
In the evening, we return to our hotel to get ready for the flight back home. Naturally, we will enjoy a wonderful dinner in the evening to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
NIGHT: Comfortable tourist hotel, Yakutsk.
July 04, Day 17: Yakutsk to home.
Everyone will have a day room until 11 am in our tourist hotel in Yakutsk prior to the airport transfer.
**The tour schedule depends strictly on internal flights, which may change from the itinerary listed. If we must alter the itinerary, all of the unique regions still being visited.**