Here part two of my trip to the Indigirka Delta, Siberia, Russia. A journey for which I finally had to bear four years of patience. This series continues to the point that we (we were with a small group) arrived at our base camp with the help of a few very fast boats.
Along the way the tundra turns out to be richly covered with willow bushes, sometimes up to two meters high. A little worried, I ask if the Delta is so overgrown everywhere. That turns out not to be the case and the moment we arrive at the camp, the tundra landscape is as we know it. Unusually large and hardly overgrown. There are plenty of willows here, but only in sheltered places. The advantage of this is that a reasonable number of songbirds also use the delta to breed.
However, the main reason that we are here is the occurrence of Ross’s gull and Yellow-billed Diver, breeding. Both species are relatively easy to see worldwide in only a few places. Of the Ross’ gull, the breeding location of only four percent of the total population is known. At least, I hope I have understood this correctly. Also where the birds stay in the winter has only recently been discovered.
Of the original fifteen pairs at our location, only three have not been predated by the Arctic Fox. The drought has ensured that this hunter can go almost anywhere. For us it has the advantage that walking on the tundra is just a little simpler. Although the latter is a relative term. Our first trip to the breeding location of this beautiful seagull was rushed through nerves. Thus, a number of us on arrival were just about total loss. Adrenaline still remains something special, because the sight of Ross’ gulls on the nest gave us renewed energy. And although nest photography may raise the eyebrows for some, it is virtually the only option for this seagull to see the species in breeding plumage. When the young are born they stay on the nest for a maximum of two days and then go out. From that moment on the parents also seem to have disappear without a trace.
Knowing that very few people on this planet have ever seen a breeding Ross’ gull, I try to take the time to really enjoy it. This also applies to the Yellow-billed Diver. Despite the tiredness we also undertake two long trips to these birds. Walking on the tundra is so difficult because there is no flat surface. For each step you take, you must determine where you put your foot.
Due to the drought, the tundra is remarkably empty. At that time it was simply not suitable for large numbers of waders. A phenomenon that the tundra is known for. The songbirds too, were very disappointing when it came to photography. Most of them had young in the meantime and were therefore remarkably shy for high northern breeding birds. It is clear that the local weather conditions determine what you will find.
All in all, this has become a journey not to be forgotten. The fact that only very few people have ever visited the Indigirka Delta makes it an unprecedented privilege. An exceptional journey.
In June 2019, together with a small international group, I made a trip to the Indigirka Delta in north-east Siberia. It was the first time this trip was organized. The original goal, two years earlier, was the Lena Delta. A delta which is located slightly more to the west. Because this journey was canceled at the last minute, an alternative was sought.
The main purpose of both trips was to see and photograph the Ross’ Gull. A species of bird that can only be found worldwide with reasonable certainty at both mentioned locations. And then only in the breeding season. In any case, the breeding ground of only four percent of the entire world population is known. Still an elusive bird species.
The journey began in Yakutsk, the capital of the eponymous republic of Yakutia. This Siberian capital is about a 6.5-hour flight from Moscow and is completely surrounded by unspoilt nature. On the east side is the mighty Lena river. On site we are accompanied by a few local guides, scientists who naturally have their field of work in the field of nature. In the few days we stayed there we mainly visited the surrounding taiga forests. Pure nature and of course with a range of Siberian bird species. Due to the warm spring weather, the breeding season was already well underway. Many birds now had almost or fully grown youngsters. A big contrast with a year that goes ” normal ”. In the delta itself we understood from the professor that this is a 30-year cycle in which these weather conditions occur.
After a few days we left with a fairly dated propeller plane to our final goal, the Indigirka Delta. You arrive in Chokurdakh, an old place that still flourished in the communist era. The population has since shrunk to 2,000 people (was 5,000). It is always difficult to estimate where such places still ‘earn’ their right to exist. It probably costs a considerable amount of government support each year. The preservation of these settlements certainly has to do with ” presence ”.
That living in these locations will not be easy is a statement. A summer of about four months and a long dark period in the winter. In addition, the temperatures of minus 30 or lower do not invite you to take a nice walk.
A amply late (pictorial) report of last year’s (2018) summer trip. Sometimes it just happens, although it is preferable with a website to post something regularly. Unfortunately, there was still a lot of work to be done in our new home and that has been given priority. That way you keep the rest of the family happy and for yourself it also takes a lot of unrest.
The two-week holiday took place in the first half of August. A period that we have spent there before, but thanks to a different way of searching, it still yielded new varieties of caterpillars. If my information is correct, there was among our finds a species that had not been established in Poland before. In the previous news item I already written something about it. There are also a number of very rare species found, where only a few images are available of.
Although the number of people with interest in butterflies / caterpillars is growing in Poland, there are still major gaps in the knowledge of the appearance of many species. Not many observations occur from the Biebrza area and at all, the knowledge about the determination of caterpillars is far from complete. The subject is specialized and certainly not among the most appealing group.
Over the years I have gained some contacts and one of them is an entomologist who works for the university of natural sciences of Warsaw. On his initiative, a database has been created to map the biodiversity of the country. Some of the observations that I, together with my wife Inge and friend Jan Chóinski make in the area, have recently been included in this database. From one thing comes the other and it has resulted in being the first ” Foreigner ” now, having an account so that I can enter the observations myself. Almost automatically accompanied by footage of course. They find it very special that a foreigner shows so much interest in an area in ” their ” country. I also get a lot of help from a Dutch specialist. Finally, the supplied information must be correct. Finally, I regard myself as no more than a lover !!
For many, this will be a strange way to spend a vacation. Our holiday destination in Poland is still the choice of our daughter. You do not hear me complaining about that!! After all, children are a bit guiding when it comes to how and were to spend a holidays.
The next time we visit Poland, there are a number of areas on the program that we have not visited much. I will do my best to publish that report earlier.
Just returned from another two-week holiday in the Biebrza area, north-east Poland. Where else I would say.
The trip was again very successful, especially since the rest of the family also had a great time. Daughter Merel is meanwhile at an age when she is doing her own thing and that means that I, together with my wife, regularly go out on the look for caterpillars.
This time again dozens of hours are spent on this subject and that is paid off in many new varieties, beautiful photo moments and ………. as a big surprise, a new species for Poland. The caterpillar at least, because the butterfly has now been observed about four hundred times in the country. This is the Shining marbled, Pseudostrotia candidula. A species from the group of owls, Noctuidae. A small nuance is that despite the fact that many people are now immersed in these groups, there will probably be a degree of unfamiliarity. And especially the extent to which an inventory is made. Does not take away that a scoop is always fun.
The Papillio machaon is still one of the favorites, despite all the rarities. The location and vegetation this time, provided a great opportunity to play extensively with composition and lighting.
Of the other dozens of images, there is still a lot to be determined, so the complete series will take some time.
After a long ” silence ” there is finally a new series of images and accompanying stories available on this site. It bumps a bit from holiday report to holiday report. Especially after I moved some time ago and all attention went to our new home.
Nevertheless, during this period I have been able to enjoy a short May holiday to my beloved holiday destination in Poland. In the same period a year earlier (early May), again I’ve brought my new toy, an inflatable shelter. That was a good succes and therefore it is logical that I have taken this again. It is a ” different ” perspective so low above the water and gives possibilities that you otherwise can not easily achieve.
This year too, it seemed that the large numbers of birds had visited the area at an earlier stage. At the time of my arrival the area was uncomfortably empty and the water level was also lower than hoped. The weather conditions had been quite favorable in the period before. The certainty I had in the past with regard to large numbers of birds is not there. It would be ideal to plan a longer stay so that I can see with my own eyes whether a shift has taken place. Or perhaps the numbers of birds are really lower than before. However, missing species such as Swift and Spotted Crake suspects that spring started later.
During the times that I went into the water with the floating cabin, it produced two new bird species that I have never been able to photograph properly. A pair of Little Grebe made short use of one of the floating platforms, made by displaying Whiskered Terns. And two days later, I was surprised by the presence of a trio of Black-necked Grebe. A not so general kind here. At first the birds swam away as soon as I approached them, but fortunately it appeared that they were looking for a suitable place to spend the night. By applying enough patience, I finally managed to get close enough for making a portrait. Of course, the attention was also focused on fine group recordings, but this turned out to be a difficult task.
A big mistake this holiday was a Black stork of wich I have great views of. However, the camera had remained at home due to circumstances, and it was proven once again that this is always punished. Speaking of good intentions !!!!
The second gallery this year of the Biebrza National Park in north east Poland. What more can I write about it? The more regular visitors of this site meanwhile know the ins and outs of this marsh area and surroundings.
And like every year, it was again the choice of our daughter to spend the summer vacation in this area. She starts getting older now and so gets a little more choice to go along with nature, or ………to stay in the guesthouse. Usually it’s the last and that gives us (my wife and I) some more time to look for photo subjects together.
Much of the time has been spent on searching for caterpillars. Certainly, now that I have received some help from one of the Dutch specialists , this remains an attractive subject. Meanwhile, our friend Jan Choinski, a local farmer, has also been “infected” with this interest and we have taken him on our trips regularly. We keep each other informed by sending SMS messages, in a simple jargon that has developed over the years. All of this has resulted in about twelve new species, including even one copy of which I have not found yet registered for Poland. Although this is a little restrained because, no hundred percent of all caterpillars one can put a lable on. Often, in this kind of cases, one tries to catch both sexes of a butterflie, and hopefully a pairing will follow and the whole cycle of egg and caterpillar can be monitored closely. Obviously all this is photographically recorded.
It was good to see that the enormous drought of the past two years was over. Although the two well-known peat moor areas were not yet at the desired level, it all was a lot better than previous years. However, we did not find any specimens of the specific species of butterflies and dragons living in this biotope. But it is also possible that we were not present at the optimum time in the season, even though these populations will had a great blow because of the long-term drought.
It was a long time ago that I visited my favorite area, the Biebrza marshes in north east Poland, in early spring. Over the last two years, this area had been faced with a decent drought. Because there had been quite some snow in Eastern Europe during the last winter, I was curious how the situation was now. By Facebook, I had already seen several images that were showing large area’s had been flooded. A prerequisite for large numbers of birds that are bound to water. One where the Biebrza marshes among others got its reputation.
Ones arrived, the water level appeared to be extremely favorable. Unfortunatly, this spring temperatures were lower then normal. Due to a cold wind from northern and eastern directions, many birds had a brake on their migration. From many species we did not record a single specimen. Of many kinds of songbirds we have only heard one or at most a few singles. But it was good to see that there were reasonable numbers of Ruff present. This species previously visited the area with numbers in the tens of thousands, but due to a sudden change in their migrating route, numbers had drastically declined. With the Great White Egret, things are going excellent, although I have spent little time on this species. Finally, time is limited and one has to choose from the many subjects.
About my bird photography, I gained a new experience during this trip. Years ago, I had planned to buy a floating hide, …… my own U-boat !! In order to work as well as possible, I also bought a so-called “dry suit”. A big investment, but when you accidentally enter a ditch, it means that the inside stays dry. And with a good layer of insulation, one can last for quite some time. Despite the fact that the weather conditions did not co-operate, I’m happy with the possibilities that it offers. It just adds a new dimension.
Eventually this stay in the area was again very successful. The sociability this time came from two of my sisters who accompanied me. And despite the fact that they needed some patience because I forgot the time now and then, they also seemed to liked it. The plans for next time have been devised already.