Monday, 3 March 2008

Destinations: Pape - Latvia

A narrow strip of land, about 1km wide, at Pape runs between the eastern shore of Lake Pape (Papes ezers) and the sea and this, together with the fact that the coastline here heads slightly to the south-east, makes it a fine autumn and spring birding site. There is an Ornithological Observatory here, too. The most birds in spring are numerous are usually Red-throated and Black-throated Divers, Long-tailed Duck, Velvet and Common Scoters and Greater Scaup. In autumn many diurnal raptors, pigeons, doves, thrushes, pipits, tits, warblers, finches, buntings and corvids stream this way. October and November nights with easterly winds often produce migrating owls. Bean and Greater White-fronted Geese use the lake and the Nida Marsh to the south as a stop-over. Vagrant passerines have included Pallas's, Dusky and Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers, Isabelline Shrike and Rustic and Little Buntings. Of course, despite all this, nothing is guaranteed. Westerly winds and rain are not unusual here and migration can be suspended. Always check the local weather forecast before visiting, though periods of bad weather offshore can mean good sea-watching. Sooty Shearwater and Leach's Petrel are just two of the rarities that have been seen off Pape. And this is still not the whole story. As the sea, beach, dunes, lagoon, freshwater lakes, reedbeds, bogs, thickets and pinewoods are all in close proximity to each other, there is a good range of breeding bird habitat, too. Lake Pape and its adjacent pastures and meadows have Common and Little Bitterns, Common Pochard, Corncrake, Little and Spotted Crakes, Whimbrel, Tawny Pipit, Penduline Tit and Savi's and Great Reed Warblers. There is a bird-tower at the southern end of the lake. Pape lies on the Baltic coast just north of the Lithuanian border, about 45 km south of Liepaja. From Liepaja take road A11 to Rucava and then turn west towards Pape. Once you see the lighthouse, you are almost there...

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