Thursday, 24 February 2011

Lithuania, or "How to be Cold"

Have you ever been to Lithuania? I'd heard of it, I admit, via a crazy Glaswegian guy called Franko who I met in France many years ago. He was of Lithuanian extraction, and drank like a fish, though that might have been due to the Glasgow element. I can't remember much of what he said about Lithuania, but he said that even compared to Glasgow it was pretty cold. Impossible, I didn't believe him. Having now been, I'm inclined to agree.

May I firstly say what an irritating airline Ryanair is. Thank You. We flew to Kaunas, about an hour west of Vilnius, and started birding immediately. First stop a frozen forest, where a Crested Tit showed well, but that was about it in an hours worth of birding. We began to wonder if we had made a mistake. A Middle-spotted Woodpecker raised our spirits, as did a fine Beaver dam, a new sight for me.

We needed to meet one Mr Jos Stratford in Vilnius later in the evening, so started heading that way. A brief stop at Kaunas Hydroelectric was amazing - the only open water for probably miles and miles around had a stunning concentration of waterfowl - in the short stretch that we scoped were at least 800 Goldeneye, several hundred Mallard and Mute Swan, flocks of Goosander, and a Lithuanian rarity - Canada Goose!

We met up with Jos exactly as planned - he had a small bear on his head to cope with the extreme temperatures - I wondered if my crappy little fleecy beanie was going to cut it. A brief pizza, an even briefer kip, and then we drove through the night to Estonia. I think I woke up at the border, but basically Latvia didn't get a look in. As we approached our destination, the port of Virtsu on the Gulf of Riga, the car temperature guage read -26c. It doesn't even bear thinking about...

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