Kolka Cape ( Kolkasrags in Latvian, Domesnaes in Swedish, Domesnaes Kap in German) can rightly be regarded as a spring equivalent to Falsterbo. During a good migration day in April/May, hundreds of thousands of birds may pass in a few hours ducks, divers, raptors, cranes, waders, gulls, terns, skuas, pigeons and passerines. Often, one does not know in which direction to look, because there are birds passing everywhere; overhead, over the water and along the shore. As this part of Latvia was a restricted area, also for Latvians, during the years of occupation, this hot-spot is still poorly known among bird-watchers.
The area between Riga and Kolka offers such famous birding sites as the two national parks Kemeri and Slitere, the three lakes Babite, Kanieris and Engure, as well as several coastal sites for staging ducks, divers, waders, gulls, terns and passerines. A detour to Jelgava and a visit to Svetes floodplain is always rewarding at this time of the year.
No less than 19 duck species are regularly seen migrating at Kolka Cape, and maybe Steller’s Eider should be included as the 20 th and King Eider as the 21 st . Long-tailed Duck and Common Scoter are the most numerous ones, with up to 50,000 and 10,000 birds per hour, respectively. Red-throated and Black-throated Divers pass already in late April, but in larger numbers in May. Gulls and terns are irregular in their occurrence, but several species, for instance the Little Gull, are seen in hundreds. Cranes pass every day, Black and White Stork only occasionally. Several raptor species have been recorded, such as Greater Spotted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, White- tailed Eagle, Osprey, Black Kite, Rough-legged Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon Hobby, Merlin and Siberian Goshawk, but usually in low numbers. Among migrating passerines Chaffinch and Siskin are the two most numerous species, sometimes the flocks pass as on a string of pearls, often with the Waxwing as a good third. Brambling, Goldfinch, Linnet, Twite, Redpoll, Hawfinch, Bullfinch, all three crossbill species, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Ring Ouzel and Grey-headed Wagtail are other species that regularly pass overhead, sometimes landing in the pines before flying out over the water. Occasionally, Serin, Red-rumped Swallow, Red-throated Pipit and Citrine Wagtail pass overhead. Other species, such as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Coal Tit and Golden Oriole, made migration attempts, resting in the trees next to the shore. Besides all the migrants, there are always large numbers of staging birds at the Cape, both in the water, on the shore and in the pine forest.
Among species found in other parts of north-western Kurzeme were Yellow- billed Diver, Great Northern Diver, Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Black Stork, King Eider, Corn Crake, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Red Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Heuglin’s Gull, Wryneck, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Citrine Wagtail, Bluethroat, Savi’s Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Willow Tit, White-headed Long-tailed Tit, Nutcracker, Russian Jackdaw and Ortolan Bunting. Visits to Lake Engure added Green Woodpecker, Bittern, Great Egret, Little Crake, Red-necked Grebe, Little Gull, White-winged Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Red- throated Flycatcher, Penduline Tit and Bearded Tit. At Svetes flood-plain we have found flocks of more than 5,000 Russian White-fronted Geese, large flocks of Spotted Redshanks and Wood Sandpipers, Marsh Sandpipers, more than 150 White-winged Terns, White-tailed Eagles, Lesser Spotted Eagles, and so on. A high biodiversity ensures you a surprisingly long list of bird species during a tour to Kolka/Kurzeme in late April/early May. And there are good chances of finding a species new to Latvia. The total number of bird taxa recorded during earlier tours amounts to 287.