PRIPYATSKY NATIONAL PARK, BELARUS

Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, an unobtrusive resident of the pine forest bogs of Belarus

WE SPENT SEVERAL DAYS IN THE WONDERFUL PRIPYATSKY NATIONAL PARK of southeast Belarus, a couple of days longer than most groups. Although we experienced some heavy thunderstorms at times, we still had enough time to see its most desired residents, including the enigmatic Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, in a flooded pine bog. I love the background of these photos, lacking any green needles or other distracting foliage. Other highlights included: a female goshawk sitting on its nest, watching us with its deep orange beady eye; all five 'spotted' woodpeckers including finding active nests of Middle and Lesser Spotted; a pair of Eurasian Pygmy Owls and a delightful river cruise up the Pripyat that produced another seven Terek Sandpipers and three White-tailed Eagles. The flora here had many indicators of ancient forest including familiar ones to UK botanists like Toothwort and Herb Paris. It was also interesting to think that the entombed reactor at Chernobyl was only around 60 miles downstream, I never imagined I would be so close to it in my lifetime back at the time of the nuclear disaster in April 1986. Belarus suffered more than any other country, receiving the majority of the fallout from the reactor fire owing to an unseasonal southerly wind and rain. It is estimated that around 2.2 million people in Belarus live in contaminated areas and although the 30km 'zone of alienation' around the reactor itself is now open to tourists, it will remain uninhabitable for around 20,000 years.

Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Pripyatsky National Park

Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Pripyatsky National Park in torchlight at 32000 ISO!

White-tailed Eagle, Pripyat River

Toothwort, Pripyatsky National Park