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A Report from

Western Poland, July 19-27,

Dirk Raes

Dirk Raes, Belgium; 

Leaving (for the agency Ro-Travel) Antwerpen on July 19th, as a guide for a Wielewaal-excursion (dept. Klein Brabant), I knew that there were some problems with the river Odra in the West and South-West Poland. An extremely high water level, the highest since 300 years ago, caused a total disruption of life. Some 60 victims were already counted. What will this trip bring us ?

Already during the trip through Germany some White Storks, Red Kites and Common Buzzard were seen.

Instead of crossing the border at Kostrzyn (closed due the high water-level of the Odra), we chose Kolbaskolo (near Szczecin). Driving along trucks waiting to cross the border (30h.), we crossed in about 1h. Already during that evening, along the road to Gorzow Wlkp., it was clear that something was going on with the population of White Storks and Cranes. Several birds were spotted along the road and also from the bus.

On Sunday 20th we visited the Drawienski National Park under an umbrella. Beautiful landscape!

After 2 pm. the rain stopped, and the first birds were visible: the Osprey made a nest (unsuccessful breeding) and the first two White-Tailed Eagles were flying along. Black Woodpecker, Goldeneye and Goosander were some nice extras.

Monday 21st became a day not to be forgotten. Slonsk Nature Reserve was completely under water, and we visited the meadows close to Klopotowo (in the river-bed of Warta). In a few minutes we spotted some 250 Cranes (so much is rare during this period), 5 WT Eagles, 2 Lesser Spotted Eagles, some 25 Black Terns, about 30 White Storks and 7 Black Storks, a Black and a Red Kite. From the inhabitants we received the sad news that White Storks had arrived on the normal date during the spring. But it was so cold that they left again and came back later: to late for breeding. So several nests in the area were not even occupied. This resulted in a lot of White and Black Storks just 'hanging' around. Probably the same happened to the Cranes.

Some other 55 bird species were noticed in this area. During the flood it was forbidden to serve alcohol in public places. Bad luck for us after such a great day.

The next day (22nd) the area of the river Pliszka and Lagow was visited. In the first place you can find a quite large habitat of 'quaking-peat-moor'. Here several Large Checkered Skippers (Heteropterus morpheus) were seen. An obligatory visit to the holiday-center of the village of Lagow is very relaxing.

On Wednesday 24 we started going southwards. The visit to the Niotoperek bat-reserve is advisable for everyone who visits West-Poland. Apart from some interesting information concerning bats, a lot of Polish-German war-history can been seen: taking a walk underground is a must. During the picnic a WT Eagle and some Honey Buzzards passed by.

By the evening we arrived at Milicz. To visit this superb area needs some 'giving-in' on comfort. There is only one camp ground (with chalets), but a very good restaurant in the center. Also vegetarian food is available.

The next two days we visited, with permission of the Nature Department and the private Fish-pond Direction, most of the area. Bird country in July: an old female WT Eagle at about 50m. distance, Raven, Marsh Harriers all over, regular Black Stork, Bittern, Ferruginous Duck, Red and Black Kite, Hobby, and the so-called 'observation of the millennium' a White-tailed Eagle hunting a Night Heron and this up in the sky for about 5 minutes.

Also here the same 'White Stork story'. We also met the people from the 'White Stork satellite marking' program, who very nicely explained to us their work. See also the White Stork homepage of Mr. Donath.

Despite the advice of certain western governments to not visit Poland and certain cities here (floods, diseases, etc...), we went for a cultural visit of the wonderful old city of Wroclaw on 26/07. Apart from the center, pay a visit to the university and the Aula Leopoldina. In the city you saw -- of course -- the damage done by the flood. Still, no drinking water was available, but it was delivered by container-trucks. The last night we stayed in Boleslawiec, a little wonderful city with a beautiful market.

Hotels, tourist agencies, guides asked desperately to come to visit their country. Most of the tours have been canceled. Just inform yourself (you can have some info from me) concerning the situation and go to Poland. The people need -- even more now -- our money.

The tour I guided was nine days, of which 2 days bus (going and coming), 1 day visiting Wroclaw and 1 transit day + Niotoperek, which means only 5 effective birding days. It resulted in 122 species, and this for the month of July, not so bad I think.

If you like to receive some more information about this trip -- or other future trips -- to Poland (and other countries), just e-mail me Dirk Raes


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