Travel to Heathrow
Monday May 7th & Tuesday, May 8, 2012: The trip began in the evening with an 8:35pm British Airways flight to London. It landed on schedule at London Heathrow 10am on the 8th. I didn't get a lot of sleep on the plane.
Once I cleared immigration and customs, I headed for my nearby hotel. By now it was about 11:30. Although I was early, I was pleased to find that they had a room ready. My first identified bird was a Eurasian Collared-Dove heard calling right outside my room (I would later see several in the same area). Then a Eurasian Blackbird flew up to the grass outside. My plan had been to immediately start catching up on sleep, but I decided to go for a short walk near the hotel to look for more birds.
The House Sparrows, feral Rock Pigeons, and European Starlings were not a surprise, but a singing Eurasian Wren promised more. A small bird that flew into a tree at one end of the hotel was my first lifer of the trip, a European Goldfinch.
Nothing more was added as I walked the other side of the hotel, but when I returned to the goldfinch spot, I noticed a large dark bird on a chimney, a Carrion Crow (a bird we won't see in the Ukraine). Pretty soon, it was replaced by one, then a second Eurasian Magpie. Then I returned to my room and got some sleep.
I went for another walk afterwards. I didn't get far before a European Robin popped up in a bare tree. Further walking only added to the list of birds that got away, although I did see some I had previously seen. As I neared the hotel, I found a Common Woodpigeon (the white on the wing alerted me it was not a Rock Pigeon). A minute later I noticed a hawk in the sky, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk.
After posting the first version of this, I went for one more walk before dinner. This time I added White Wagtail.
Tomorrow starts with an early flight, and they recommend I should be at the airport at 4am, so I'm going to bed early.
My bird total for the day was 13 species, including 2 lifers, two more than I expected to have today.
Holiday Inn London Heathrow, Hayes, England
Travel to Odessa
Wednesday, May 9, 2012: I had arranged for an early cab to take me to the airport. I got there, and soon found several of our group waiting for the Austrian Airlines counter to open. Once we had dropped off the luggage and obtained boarding passes, we checked the monitors and found the gate was not open yet. Most of the shops weren't open either, but we found a coffee shop that was about to open. Once open, they even had Diet Coke.
Eventually we started the long trek to the gate at the far end of the terminal. It wasn't open when we started, but should have been by the time we got there. It wasn't. After a few minutes, someone showed up to chase us all out of the waiting area, and checked boarding passes before allowing us back in. The flight left about on time, as we arrived in Vienna as scheduled.
The flight to Odessa left a bit late. I noticed a Eurasian Magpie from the plane as we taxied to the main runway, so I now have an Austrian list. We ended up coming in to Odessa over 1/2 hour late. Passport control was rather slow. By the time I got through, my bag was waiting. However, the line at customs was still lengthy. Paul was waiting for us as we exited customs, with his driver, Ruslan. Once we were all gathered, Ruslan drove us to the hotel. We had a chance to admire some of the Odessian architecture on the way (Odessa was founded at the order of Catherine the Great, and much of the architecture seems to date from them)>
After a short break at the hotel, we headed out to the Odessa National University Botanic Gardens where the birding started in earnest. We had only taken a few steps before finding a Collared Flycatcher. Two bird down low turned out to be Great Tit and Common Redstart. Hooded Crows were common as we searched for a singing golden-oriole. At first we got only glimpses, but eventually we got good looks at both male and female Eurasian Golden-Orioles. A Eurasian Jay moved about in the trees. Sorting through the high-level birds we found Spotted Flycatcher, Common Chiffchaff, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Eurasian Blue-Tit, Willow Warbler, and Eurasian Blackcap.
Someone noticed a Syrian Woodpecker as we headed down the path toward the Black Sea overlook. I and a few others got good scope views of the woodpecker. The Black Sea had Great Cormorants (perhaps 30 total), and a few Caspian Gulls andSandwich Terns (which I consider separate from the American version).
Then it was off to dinner at a local restaurant. We noticed Common Swifts overhead as we walked through a public square. A band was playing and many people were out. We leisurely made our way through the square to our restaurant. At the restaurant, we had a chance to try a variety of Ukrainian foods. After dinner, we returned through the square to the bus, then back to the hotel.
I saw 22 species today. Of them, 17 were new for the trip, including 10 lifers. My trip total is now 30 species, including 12 lifers.
Hotel Oktyabrskaya, Odessa, Ukraine