By Central Russia we mean the heartland around Moscow consisting of 18 federal areas; the 'Oblasts' of Bryansk, Belgorod, Vladmir, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Kaluga, Kostroma, Kursk, Lipetsk, Moscow, Novogorod, Orel, Ryazan, Smolensk, Tambov, Tver, Tula, Yaroslavyl and the City of Moscow (The city of Moscow is not Oblast, but unlike capital cities of other oblasts it is absolutely independent from the Oblast government).
The total area of this part of Russia is 650,700 square kilometers; the population is 36,951,800 people, of whom 29,100,900 live in cities. Over 40 % of the population lives in the City of Moscow and the Moscow region (oblast). This is the most developed area of Russia. Occupying only 3.8% of Russia it is home for 25.4% of population of the country. It is on the leading edge in both social and economical development among remaining 6 Federal Districts of Russia.
This Federal District has a moderate continental climate and covers several natural zones from North to South - coniferous woods, dense woods, forest-steppe and steppe. Areas covered with woods ranges from 60% in the North to 5% in the South. The main terrain type is plain with hills of various sizes and heights. However, there are swamps in the north and da eveloped network of rivers, lakes and ponds make it rather diverse in habitat and appearance.
The variety of birds in the region largely overlaps with the general avifauna of Europe, but it is more diverse than individual European countries. Birding is not developed in this region, in line with Russia in general, either as an individual hobby or as an industry. That is why, for travelling birders it is advisable to find a local person who may assist you in finding your way around, and getting to the birds.
There are numerous good birding spots around the City of Moscow and in the whole district. Most of them are territories of national parks or nature reserves. However, because of long distances, it is difficult to see a lot in a short period of time. The best season for birding is Spring-Summer (from early May to mid June), further on, in the summer nesting period birding is less rewarding, but it takes off again in the period of autumn migration (September-October) which creates a fascinating opportunity to observe considerable number of bird species in one day.
Birding Smolensk If you need to visit Smolensk on business there are several interesting areas to bird.
Smolensk Lake (about a mile to the south of the city is a large lake approx 1Km x 2Km. There is a large power station situated on the northern shore. To the south of the lake is a large reed bed, and an adjacent, smaller, more vegitated lake).
Lakes near Przhevalskoye About 50 miles north of Smolensk there are some lakes which are a popular day trip destination for the residents of Smolensk. There is a bus service, and it is possible to stay at several homes by the small town of Przhevalskoye (named after the famous Russian naturalist explorer. The small museum dedicated to him is well worth a visit ).
The tiny village of Veyeno, which is about 30 Km east of Smolensk just south of the main Smolensk - Moscow motorway.
Highlights include: Bittern, White Stork, olden Eagle, Lesser=spotted Eagle, Montague's Harrier, Honey Buzzard, Goshawk, Hazel Grouse, Quail, Whiskered Tern, Black Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Citrine Wagtail, Penduline Tit, Nutcracker, Golden Oriole, Common Rosefinch, Savi's Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Icternine & Booted Warbler etc.
Bryansky Les Reserve
This site has exceptional broad-leaved forests. You will meet old large oak and lime-trees in a floodplain of woodlands. Here are one of the biggest breeding groups of Middle-spotted Woodpeckers, and also White and Black Storks, Cranes and Honey-buzzard. Booted Eagle can also be found in the region. More than 200 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve. The best time here is May, when spring water has already begun to recede, and river valley forests and meadows become possible to walk in.
Ugra National Park
The northern part of Ugra National Park consists of a large mixed forest with the big swamps inside it. Breeding colonies of Common Gulls and Common Terns are situated in the wetland. Some other unusual species such as Common Heron, White Stork, Widgeon, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Crane, Common Redshank, Black Tern and White-winged Black Tern, have been recorded where. Another interesting spot is Zalidovskie meadows, which lie along the right bank of Ugra-river. This floodplain of wetlands are bird rich with a nice collection of waterfowl and waterside birds. These include Black-throated Diver, Bittern, Little Bittern, Common Heron, Shoveler, Common Pochard, Golden-eye, Hen-harrier, Marsh Harrier, Common Partridge, Moorhen and Golden Plover.
Zhuravlinaya Roina Reserve
This reserve is the only place in European Russia where thousands of Cranes concentrate for the Autumn migration. It is a really convenient site to observe them foraging and resting up, especially in August. Moreover, not far from here is situated another interesting plot – Dubnenskie bogs, which is also a part of reserve territory. All bog types can be found here in an unbroken wetland. The rare bird inhabitants, as far as alder forests along Dubna-river are coincerned, ware represented by breeding populations of Cranes, Willow Grouses, Curlews, Black-tailed Godwits, Capercailyes, and Black Grouse. The great number of passerines, such as Warblers, Nightingales, Pipits, and Buntings live here.
A Field Guide to Birds of Russia and Adjacent Territories
V. Flint, R. Boehme, Y. Kostin, A. Kuznetsov Paperback - 440 pages (December 1983) Princeton University Press
ISBN: 0691024308Buy this book from NHBS.com
Atlas - Birds of Moscow City and the Moscow Region
by Kalyakin MV & OV Voltzit - May 2006, Pensoft Publishers, more than 900 colour photos, 2 distributional maps and a seasonal dynamic graph for each of the 273 species, comments and notes, references, indexes. In English and Russian (bilingual). Hardback, 372 pp. EURO 58.00
ISBN: 9546422622Buy this book from NHBS.com
Where to Watch Birds in Europe & Russia
Nigel Wheatly Paperback - 416 pages (28 April, 2000) Christopher Helm
ISBN: 0713648708Buy this book from NHBS.com
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2006 [06 June] - Paul Mollatt - Suzdal
Suzdal is located to the north-west of Moscow and makes an excellent side trip from Moscow, both for the family birder and his/her family. It is reachable in about 3 to 4 hours by bus and train from Moscow and is of great historical interest. It is also protected from development, which means that the town and its surroundings offer a lot of good habitat for birds…
State Darwin Museum of Natural History - Moscow
The museum has an extensive bird collection.