Monday, 29 March 2010

Accommodations: Altmoisa Guesthouse - Estonia

The Altmoisa Guesthouse lies near the hamlet of Tuuru, 19km south of Haapsalu in Laanemaa country, western Estonia. It is a great base from which to explore the Baltic Coast and in particular the bird-rich Matsalu Bay. The best time to visit is from spring to autumn. Trumpeting cranes and gaggling geese can often be heard from your room and if you are lucky Elk can be spotted in the marshes and woods nearby. Though in a remote setting the guesthouse is modern with spacious rooms and internet access. The cuisine, a blend of local produce with an international twist, is also excellent.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Wildlife: Black Woodpecker

Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius is one the the biggest woodpeckers in the world. An impressive woodland dweller with a huge bill with which it hacks into tree trunks, logs and stumps to search for ants and beetles. It is an Old World species found in deciduous, conifer and mixed forests from Europe through Asia to Japan. It does not occur in the British Isles but is locally common in central and eastern Europe. This photo taken in the Danube Delta, Romania by Dan Petrescu.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Guidebooks: Mammals of Southern, Central and East Africa

This useful pocket guide is packed with good photos of all the mammals you will want to see in the region as well as a few that you will probably not have heard of. Besides a photo, each species included (152 in total) has a map of its range and an informative text which includes names of some of the reserves where it occurs. It is a compact, easy to use book with a simple key to each family. It is also good value for money. Published by Struik in South Africa.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Wildlife: Wolverine

The Wolverine Gulo gulo is a mustelid, a large relative of polecats and badgers. It is a much maligned animal, a powerful carnivore but mostly a scavenger and of little danger to humans. It is endangered across much of its Arctic range. Unknown but probably reasonable numbers survive in Canada and Russia but in Europe it has declined badly with today small numbers in Finland, Sweden and Norway. It is a mysterious animal that is only usually seen by those who join a tour specifically arranged to search it out. Photo by Kari Kemppainen.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Destinations: Poda - Bulgaria

Poda is a protected coastal wetland that lies by Lake Mandra on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria. It is just south of the city of Borgas. It is a bird reserve run by an NGO, the BSPB (Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds) and has a visitor centre with friendly staff and a roof that serves as a great platform from which to scope the open water and reedbeds. Poda is worth a visit at anytime though spring and autumn are arguably best. Spring birds (some breeding here) include Pygmy Cormorants, many herons and egrets, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, terns, gulls, various waders, Penduline and Bearded Tits and "reedy" warblers. Though they do not breed there are usually White and Dalmatian Pelicans around, too. As it lies on the Black Sea migration fly-way White Storks and Lesser Spotted Eagles go over in large numbers in autumn (September best). It is cold here in winter but the pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, White-tailed Eagle and goose flocks, including sometimes a few Red-breasted Geese, are usually around.