Sunday, 12 October 2014

West and east of Riga

My day started early on Saturday when I boarded a coach in Liverpool for a 10.30 am flight from Manchester. The flight was over 2 hours and we were packed in like sardines, with little leg room. It was an uncomfortable journey, but I did my best to make the time pass quickly, by reading, sudoku and sleeping.

Arriving in Riga, I located the bus stop and bought my bus ticket. I am amazed that a 40 minute journey was as cheap as 60 cents, a mere 50p. Another bus journey found me at my hotel, but no time for bird watching. All I managed to see were house and tree sparrows and hooded crows.
My breakfast at the hotel was good, but only started at 8.00 am so I did not have a great deal of time to digest my food, because my train was at 9.20 from Riga Central station, which included a bus journey. My destination was Kemeri National Park, taking about 1 hour. A mere 4 euros for a return trip, the downside being the train stopped frequently and was packed. The weather was warm and a moderate breeze. It is doubtful that anyone will ever get away with paying the correct fare on the trains in Latvia because the ticket inspectors are there checking your ticket within seconds of the journey starting. They checked and stamped my ticket three times for one journey.

I found my way from Kemeri railway station to the National park, via the Information centre. Along the way I came across a flock of fieldfare, jays, nuthatches, blue and great tits, robin and chaffinch. My first destination was Lake Sloka, a huge inland lake, but I managed to lose my way in the forest, assuming I took a wrong turn somewhere. In the breeze it wasn’t easy to hear the bird calls, but did see a number of crested, willow, marsh tits. When I did locate the lake  I had to walk past a guard dog, who would not let me pass without letting anyone who was within a radius of 100 metres that I was about. I saw large numbers of diving ducks, including pochard, tufted, goldeneye and scaup. Also mallards, gadwall and widgeon. There were a number of coots and mute swans, with some great white egrets in the distance, also the odd great crested grebe.
Finding my way back I spotted a great spotted woodpecker, the first I had seen or heard. I saw a viper that luckily kept its distance from me. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t see larger numbers of birds, but seeing the weather forecast for the next day I thought I would try Kemeri again. I was glad I did, because I saw quite a few different species, but I did try a different route to get to Lake Sloka, although I couldn’t avoid barking Buster. On the “spring route” I saw a black woodpecker and was pleased to take a photo. It was moving about but luckily stayed long enough for me to get a snap. I saw a number of great spotted woodpeckers, and a lesser spotted woodpecker. A flock of long tailed tits joining other tits. I frequently saw and heard marsh and willow tits, noticing the willow tits have paler cheeks that those in UK. The long tailed tits having white heads. I found my way to the tower hide at the lake, and saw a black woodpecker in flight. On the lake I saw much of what I saw the day before, but there seemed to be more of them. Among the many mute swans was a whooper.
Black woodpecker
I made my way back to the railway station and came across some black redstarts by an old derelict factory, also the odd white wagtail. Somewhere on the way back I took a wrong turn again and only made the train with a minute to spare. Giving me just another minute to find my train ticket for snarling Svetlana.

My last day in Riga took me to Sigulda, in the opposite direction to Kemeri. My flight wasn’t until 10.50 pm so I had the full day. I was grateful the hotel allowed me to leave my luggage there until the evening to save carrying it around. Sigulda is a pleasant tourist town about 53 km east of Riga. Snarling Svetlana’s twin sister was on board and checked my ticket immediately. I arrived in Sigulda just before midday which gave me about four hours. In the region is Gauja national park, with the river Gauja running through. The scenery is spectacular. I made my way down 430 steps to the bottom of the valley. I saw a short toed treecreeper, along with nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers. A few ravens were flying above and a number of jays. Here I noticed the colour of the leaves, a reminder autumn was upon us.
Gauja river
I saw about 50 species, not as much as previous trips, but still enjoyable and Kemeri National Park will be well worth exploring in the spring. I was without my telescope on this trip and would probably have seen more on Lake Sloka.

I made it back to Riga International Airport, and after a long wait at the terminal and for my coach at Manchester. I arrived home at 2 am, thinking about where I would be going next.....



laura bimson said...

Gauja national park looks fab, thanks for sharing Rob

RSPB Liverpool Local Group. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no' 207076, Scotland no. SC037654 said...

Well done Rob you are our eastern European correspondant.Chris

Keefy said...

Excellent read Rob,lots of info/fotos and funny stuff too