Latvia   has   a   very   rich   nature   and   interesting   birds   are   found   everywhere.   My own   garden   list   is   a   proof   thereof.   Two   areas   stands   out   however,   Kolka   Cape in   the   north-western   part   of   the   country   and   the   Lubans   area   in   the   south- eastern   part.   While   Kolka   Cape   can   rightly   be   regarded   as   a   spring   equivalent to Falsterbo, the Lubans area is unique with no counterpart in Europe . Lubans    Wetland    Complex    with   a   total   area   of   51,032   ha   was   established   as   a nature   reserve   in   2009   by   merging   together   12   protected   territories.   Besides Lake   Lubans   (8,240   ha),   this   reserve   is   a   mixture   of   small   lakes,   fish-pond complexes,   rivers,   canals,   grassland,   pastures,   farmland,   marshes,   bogs,   shrub and forest (broad-leaved, coniferous and mixed). It   is   a   bird   area   of   large   international   importance.   No   less   than   188   species breed   here,   51   of   them   included   in   the   Latvian   Red   Data   Book.   The   number   of breeding   pairs   for   a   selection   of   species   gives   an   idea   of   what   one   can   find here:    Hazel    Grouse    (50-240),    Willow    Grouse    (?),    Black    Grouse    (55-150), Capercaillie    (16-48),    Black-necked    Grebe    (20-30),    Bittern    (10-30),    Little Bittern   (2-5),   Black   Stork   (5-12),   Honey-Buzzard   (4-13),   White-tailed   Eagle (5),    Short-toed    Eagle    (0-1),    Marsh    Harrier    (9-38),    Hen    Harrier    (0-1), Montagu’s   Harrier   (0-2),   Lesser   Spotted   Eagle   (13-29),   Greater   Spotted   Eagle (0-2),   Golden   Eagle   (1),   Osprey   (6-10),   Spotted   Crake   (1-10),   Little   Crake   (2- 10),   Corn   Crake   (300-500),   Crane   (21-60),   Golden   Plover   (18-28),   Ruff   (0-10), Great    Snipe    (110-150),    Whimbrel    (10-20),    Marsh    Sandpiper    (8-10),    Wood Sandpiper   (22-40),   Little   Gull   (10-2,000),   Whiskered   Tern   (0-5),   Black   Tern (50-2,000),   White-winged   Tern   (10-200),   Eagle   Owl   (1),   Pygmy   Owl   (1-5),   Ural Owl   (18-27),   Short-eared   Owl   (0-2),   Tengmalm’s   Owl   (2-6),   Nightjar   (21-135), Kingfisher   (3-15),   Grey-headed   Woodpecker   (8-30),   Black   Woodpecker   (13- 37),   Middle   Spotted   Woodpecker   (21-54),   White-backed   Woodpecker   (11-30), Three-toed   Woodpecker   (6-13),   Citrine   Wagtail   (?),   Bluethroat   (0-5),   River Warbler   (?),   Blyth’s   Reed   Warbler   (?),   Booted   Warbler   (recorded   for   the first   time   in   2012),   Barred   Warbler   (1-5),   Red-breasted   Flycatcher   (58-180) and Red-backed Shrike (48-150).
The   melting   snow   regularly   results   in   a   large   spring   flooding.   Then,   the   area attracts   large   numbers   of   waterfowl.   Count   data   from   Lake   Lubans   for   some selected   species   give   an   indication   of   what   the   area   houses   at   this   time   of the   year:   Mute   Swan   (253),   Whooper   Swan   (2,433),   Bewick’s   Swan   (940), Tundra   Bean   Goose   (7,500),   White-fronted   Goose   (13,000),   Wigeon   (8,560), Teal   (1,866),   Mallard   (2,542),   Pintail   (3,527),   Pochard   (810),   Tufted   Duck (1,006), Goldeneye (137) and Smew (364).
This   nature   reserve   is   also   rich   in   red-listed   species   of   higher   plants   and invertebrates.   It   is   also   the   home   for   a   large   number   of   mammals,   including Wolf, Lynx, Brown Bear and Otter. The   spring   comes   late   at   this   inland   site.   For   instance,   the   number   of   staging geese   at   Lake   Lubans   still   exceeds   20,000   in   early   May.   The   optimal   time   for bird-watching in this area is very likely the third and fourth week of May. Lubans   Wetland   Complex   is   not   the   only   bird   area   of   importance   in   this   area. Three    other    Important    Bird    Areas    are    situated    closer    to    Madona    than Lubans:   Teici   and   Pelecare   bogs   (26,263   ha),   Kuja   (10,834   ha)   and   Aiviekste flood-plain    (1,156    ha).    Also    Gaizinkalns,    the    highest    point    in    Latvia    (312 metres above sea-level), is situated close to Madona.
Lubans 23-31 May 2015 We   explore   the   Lubans   Wetland   Complex   as   well   as   areas   situated   closer   to our   base   camp   in   a   relaxed   way,   giving   each   site   sufficient   time   for   the   birds to   turn   up   and   those   in   the   group   having   a   camera   to   document   what   we   find. The    following    itinerary    is    preliminary,    and    it    might    be    changed    due    to arrival/departure   times,   weather   conditions,   wishes   among   the   participants and last-minute information. 23   May .   Arrival   day.   Time   not   needed   for   our   190-km-drive   to   our   base   camp will be used for birding, en-route or around Madona. 24-29    May .   The   exact   programme   for   these   days   will   depend   on   the   actual weather   conditions.   Each   day   will   be   devoted   to   the   most   promising   sites.   At least   one   day   we   will   go   out   after   our   evening   meal,   trying   to   find   some   night- active species. 30   May .   Besides   birding   this   day   will   be   used   for   our   return   drive   to   Riga.   If the   Rollers   have   returned   from   their   winter   quarters,   we   might   look   for them at Garkalne. 31 May . Departure day. We   will   have   our   base   camp   in   Madona   where   the   first   choice   is   Smeceres krogs   and   the   second   Hotel   Madona.   The   choice   of   accommodation   for   the last night will be done based on the participants’ departure times. The   (airport-to-airport)   price   of    900   EUR    for   a   nine-day   tour   includes   costs for   car,   fuel,   driver/guide,   single   room   accommodation,   breakfast   (at   the accommodation),    coffee/tea    break,    picnic    lunch,    evening    meal    (at    the accommodation),   check-list   and   after-tour   report.   The   tour   is   planned   for five participants.