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A Report from

Birdwatching Trip to Eastern Poland 01/05/02- 11/05/02,

Roos Deman and Guido Desmarets


On his excellent informative website , Jerzy Dyczkowski presents and recommends Eastern Poland in such a way that a birder cannot resist. We can only testify: Jerzy does not exaggerate. The varied biotope of the last remaining primeval forest in Europe at Bialowieza, the vast Siemianówka reservoir and the marshes of the Biebrza River guarantees indeed a large variety of rare birds in large quantities.

A birder must do the trip to this “birding-Mecca” at least once in his life.

We made the trip from May 1- May 11 2002. We had sunny weather with temperatures between 25-30 °C. Only the strong wind in the afternoon at Bialowieza was somewhat annoying. Important to mention is that the sun rises one hour earlier and settles one hour later compared to Belgium.

To give you an impression of what you might expect:  Many  birds of prey, waders, ducks, 9 species of Woodpeckers, 4 species of Flycatchers and many Warblers can be seen. We had once in a lifetime observations of a pair of Wrynecks, displaying Great snipes, Aquatic warblers and weaving Penduline tit. Spotted Eagle and Little spotted eagle could be seen at very short a distance. We never before had such nice views of White-tailed eagle. The Slavonian grebe, in all its beauty, and the remarkable visit to the “Ortolane-boulevard” are unforgettable. We saw 150 species of birds.

Practical information concerning maps, travelling and accommodation is given at the end of this report. The villages and places indicated in the report are mostly very small and can only be found on detailed maps, you can buy in many places. We try to be as specific as possible concerning the places we have been. From other reports (e.g. Ignaas Robbe 2001), we learned to appreciate precise information to find birds.

Please, respect this unique, but fragile piece of nature. When visiting the area, read and apply the “birding ethics” on the website of Jerzy Dyczkowski.

Trip Report

Tuesday April 30

We left Lauwe/Menen in Belgium at 17.00 and slept in the car in Herford (Germany)

Wednesday May 1

Mainly due tot the fact that it was a free weekend in Poland, we had a very smooth drive through Poland and we slept in the car at the river Bzura, 80 km West of Warschau.

During the trip we saw many species amongst which: Common swift (Apus apus), Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygargus), Common buzzard (Buteo buteo), Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Black kite (Milvus migrans), a flock of 20 Common cranes (Grus grus), many White storks (Ciconia ciconia), Carrion Crow (Corvus corone), Hooded crow (Corvus corone cornix), Eurasian jackdaw (Corvus monedula), Thrush nightingale (Luscinia Luscinia), Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), Song thrush (Turdus philomelos), Mistle trush (Turdus viscivorus), sky lark (Alauda arvensis), White throat (Sylvia communis), European Serin (Serinus serinus), Reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus).

We also saw 30 roes, a fox, a run over wild boar and dito badger.

Thursday May 2

After 1700 km driving, in the afternoon we arrived at Hajnówka, situated at the entrance of the Bialowieza forest. The PTOP reserve Górnianski Lacki can be found southwest of Hajnówka, on the road to Siemiatysze. PTOP is a Polish society for bird protection.

We observed White stork (Ciconia ciconia), Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), Marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago), Wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola), Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Stock pigeon (Columba oenas), White wagtail (Motacilla alba), Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus),  Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus).

At Bialowieza, we bought detailed maps at the south entrance of the Palacowy Park. This park has 400 years old oak trees and it produced a very impressive list of birds for us.

At the ponds, 3 Great reed warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) gave a concert. A Redwing (Turdus iliacus) sang its fa-mi-re-do song on a little island and it was marvellously well imitated by one of the 4 Thrush nightingales (Luscinia Luscinia) residing around the pond. In the marshes west of the park displaying Common Snipes (Gallinago gallinago) were all around.

Each morning of the 4 days we stayed at Bialowieza, we made an early morning walk in the park and its surrounding west and south (Podolany I area). Each time, we observed the Little spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina). A couple resides at Bialowieza village. You cannot miss it there. We had excellent views while it exposing itself “on a branch” at 20 meters distance or while gracefully circulating in the air. When the eagle sits, its is “milk chocolate-brown” collared, but once in the air, its yellow-brown coverts together with the clear white patches on the upper wing give it a surprisingly pale impression from above. When gliding, the typical position of the primaries drooping from the carpal joints was clearly seen.

We had stunning views and accompanying sounds of Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Greyheaded woodpecker (Picus canus), Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor), Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Collared flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis), Pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata). Somewhat later in May it is possible to see in the park 4 species of flycatchers within 1 hour. We also saw Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Fitis (Phylloscopus trochilus), Golden crest (Regulus regulus), Redwing (Turdus iliacus), Threecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) especially along the old railroad, a pair of silent Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris), Linnet (Carduelis cannabina), Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis),  Siskin (Carduelis spinus), European Serin (Serinus serinus).

To this list we added, what we call, the  “Polish  standard” list of birds which we would see and hear every day in large numbers: White stork (Ciconia ciconia), Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), Thrush Nightingale (Luscinia luscinia), Sky lark (Alauda arvensis), House Martin (Delichon urbica), Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), Black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Wood warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), Jay (Garrulus glandarius), Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), Chaffinch(Fringilla coelebs), Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), Reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) en the Eurasian Jackdaw, (Corvus monedula) with much greyer neck than the ones we know in Belgium.

After 2 days also the Golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus) announced clearly it had arrived. From that time on we would also see and hear this magnificent bird daily. How about an exotic view of a Golden oriole and a Little spotted eagle together in the same tree seen through the telescope lens? A Mecca for birdwatchers indeed.

A particular observation was the dark form of a Booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) with its “landing lights” close to its neck. However, thé most exciting moment for us was a long view of a pair of Wrynecks (Jynx torquilla) in front of the small entrance of their nest. In the park there were 5 singing posts of Wryneck.

Do not pass the park and its surroundings too quickly. It is a Mecca for birders in its own.

Friday May 3.

The Bialowieza area consists of a protected primeval forest, only accessible with a guide, and of woods, which are free to access. Part of these woods are also already reserves, but still freely accessible. This area used to be thé hunting area of the Tsar. It is divided in numbered squares with sides of 1.66 km. When explaining the places we have been, we refer to the numbers of these squares. Those can only be seen on detailed maps.

We took the famous “Zebra Zubra” path west of Bialowieza. It means  “bison ribs” en refers to the branches and planks it is made of.  It starts in block 451 b after 1km on the road to the Pogorzelce village. At the entrance we saw a Tree pipit (Anthus trivialis).

Wood warblers (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) and Collared flycatchers were all around. A Pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) was heard. We walked 3 km along the path, hoping to see White backed or tree toed woodpeckers. We saw a woodpecker in a flash en we heard several times drumming, but we could not see them. According to Jerzy Dyczkowki blocks 582 en 583 are good places to see White backed woodpecker.

We have the experience that the forest does not give up its secrets easily. We are favourites of more open places like the Palacowy-park, where mosquitoes also are less aggressive.

After lunch in a local restaurant we went to the Lesna River at block 574. We took the Bialowieza-Hojnówka road, turned south in block 419 towards Czerlonka. The straight sandy road was followed until the crossing formed by blocks 576d-577c en 604b-605a, then west on the Olemburska droga-path till block 574. 

There was a lot of wind and not much of a singing.

In the Berzowe reserve we saw a Honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus). At the charming bridge over the Lesna we had stunning views of a hunting Marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), we heard and saw 3 Savi’s warblers (Locustella luscinioides) on top of the reed. Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) were hunted by a Sparrow hawk (Accipiter nisus).

We hired a guide to help us find Pygmy and Tengmalm’s owl. The guide is a PH.D student studying the flycatchers in the strict reserve. At 19 hrs we took the Sinicka Droga-path by bicycle. This path crosses blocks 473, 496, 522. The day before the Pygmy owl was seen there in 574 a. The wind prevented us to find the rare bird. We had to stop our efforts.

Tip: do not forget insect repellent entering the forest. You really need it.

Saturday May 4

At the south entrance of the Palacowy Park we reserved a guided tour in the strict reserve. It was a 3 hour walk from 11-13hrs. The walk learned us a lot about the primeval forest. We had expected a mess of dead trees, a pile of branches and lots of disorder. None of that: a forest in its natural balance is nicer than a managed forest. Although 9 species of woodpeckers live in the forest, we heard drumming only once. The inevitable collared flycatchers, chaffinches and wood warblers were present all the time. We did not hear any Red-breasted flycatcher. We do advise to make that guided tour in de strict reserve if you have time.

In the afternoon, at Kosy Most, a little bridge crossing the Narewka River at blocks 129 en 130, we saw plenty of traces of beaver activity.  Besides our “standard” list, we added a female Northern Weathear (Oenanthe oenanthe), a Green sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) and a Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis) to our list.

On the way back, between Narewka en Pogozelce we heard a plaintive sound. It was the typical territorial call of the Middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus medius), sitting on a branch high up in a tree.

Sunday May 5

Because of the good comments we had heard, we reserved the whole day for a visit to the Siemianówka reservoir, north of Bialowieza. The reservoir is an artificial lake and is considered as one of the best birding places in Poland.

The road between Narewka en Siemianówka via Lesna is very bad. The “hell of the North” as parts of the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race are called, is “peanuts”, compared to this  “road”. Via Siemieniakówszczyzna, you have passed this place even before you can pronounce it; we arrived at the viewing tower, which covers the southwest part of the reservoir.

Great white egret (Egretta alba), Grey heron (Ardea cinerea), Cranes (Grus grus), a very successful Hobby (Falco subbuteo), 3 pairs of displaying Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus), 109 females of Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) with 1 happy (?) male in between, Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), Whitethroat (Sylvia communis). Besides Common tern (Sterna hirundo), the 3 species marsh terns White-winged- (Chlidonias leucopterus), Black- (Chlidonias niger) and Whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybridus) are present in large numbers. Further on, many water birds such as  Mute swan (Cygnus olor), Garganey (Anas querquedula), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Northern shoveler (Anas clypeata), Herring gull (Larus argentatus), Common gull (Larus canus) and Black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus). A lonely Corn bunting (Miliaria Calandra), a species we expected to see more in this area was sitting on a wire.

North of the lake we took the small road to Bachury and followed the borders of the lake. We stopped at a bridge over a small canal. On the left,  you have a large colony of black-headed gulls, at the right side (west) a small trail leads to the lake. We saw Marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), and the four previously mentioned species of terns. Lesser whitethroat, (Sylvia curruca), Jay (Garrulus glandarius), Ruff (Philomachus pugnax). A yellow wagtail took our attention. The crown was completely black, it did not have the small white line under the ear coverts like the thunbergi subspecies uses to have. We had plenty of time to compare the pictures of the Svensson book with the unafraid bird sitting on its post. It was clearly the Feldegg subspecies (Motacilla flava Feldegg). During the rest of our Poland trip we carefully looked at all the yellow wagtails we saw. We have seen a few kilos of them, but none of them had a black head, neither did we see any thunbergii species as was reported in other birding trip reports.

1 km further on the road behind the bend at the left side there is a large pool. We saw breading Crane (Grus grus), Common Coot (Fulica atra), Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), 6 Black-necked grebes (Podiceps nigricollis), Little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) , many Garganey’s (Anas querquedula), 2 common Teals (Anas crecca), Gadwalls (Anas strepera), Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Common Pochards (Aythya ferina), Tufted ducks (Aythya fuligula), Northern Pintails (Anas acuta), Redshanks (Tringa totanus), Great reed warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus). Suddenly, we saw a dark eagle flying with low hanging fingertips and with only somewhat white at the base of the tail-feathers. This eagle was significantly darker and without the pronounced white patches the Little spotted eagle has: a Spotted eagle (Aquila clanga)!  Both birds of prey differ clearly in colour. Compared to the milk chocolate collared Little spotted eagle, the Spotted eagle is rather “fondant chocolate”collared.

At Cisówka, we saw a hovering Great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor). Although we have seen already many Great grey shrikes in the past, it was the first time we observed this persistent hovering, as if it was a kestrel.

Via a water pumping station, the stony road leads to the dam with the railway. Although not indicated on the maps, one can easily drive along the railway. Back at the bridge at the south side of the lake one can easily turn back.

The dam, one of the most visited birding places in Poland stood up to its expectations. We had excellent views of an adult and a juvenile White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula), Wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola), Ruff (Philomachus pugnax). At the other side of the dam, the harsh wind prevented us to install the telescope but we noted the same species we had seen in the morning from the south side. At the end of the dam we added Sand martin (Riparia riparia) to our list.

On the way back we observed a second Great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor) chasing a Buzzard. All yellow wagtails were carefully observed, because the Citrine wagtail used to breed in this area, unfortunately. A Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) circulated above the forest. A third Great grey shrike asked for closer examination. We clearly observed an isolated white patch on the wing, no white line above the black eye-patch, a tiny black forehead just above the bill, but not as thick as that of a Little grey shrike, and a grey belly, with no pink at all, made us assign this bird as the subspecies aucheri of the Southern grey shrike (Lanius meridionalis aucheri). But, is this possible at Siemianówka?

Monday May 6

We reserved the whole day to travel quietly the 120 km from Bialowieza to Goniadz, northwest of Bialystok. We visited a few villages and orthodox churches. At Dojlidy, the fishing ponds could contain Slavonian grebe, which we never had seen in summer. At the graveyard turn north-east, 500m further at the distribution point for electricity, turn right on the black path which leads between the first two ponds. You can walk around the pond. The Slavonian grebe (podiceps auritus) was there indeed, Wow, what a bird! What to think of the single shot through the telescope of Slavonian grebe, 2 black necked grebes, little gulls and black headed gull. Little grebe (Tachybaptus rufficollis), Red-necked grebe (Podiceps grisegena) and Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) completed the list of 5 species of grebes in one hour. Once more, 4 species of terns and many other species we saw previously were seen together with 2 naked Homo sapiens polenski.

We did not see the whooper swan, which has been breeding there.

We always have difficulties combining birding and visiting cities. Although we planned much more time in Bialystok, we left it very quickly. At Tyckocin, we crossed the Narew River and headed for Zajki, where we enjoyed the beautiful sight of the Narew meanders. During this trip we noted a Curlew (Numenius arquata). Between Zajkj and Laskowiec there is a colony of whiskered terns.

The Tsar road, between Laskowiec and Goniadz brought us to Goniadz. After checking-in at hotel Zbyszko we visited the viewing tower across the bridge over the Biebrza River. Besides a wonderful view over the river and its marshes, there are plenty of birds to see. Kilo’s of White stork (Ciconia ciconia),  30 Cranes (Grus grus) passing , several Garganey’s (Anas querquedula), displaying Common snipes (Gallinago gallinago),  many Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax), displaying Redshanks (Tringa totanus),  displaying Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa),  a Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) catching a frog, our first ever sound of Corn Crake (Crex crex),  Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), Sedge warblers (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), Savi’s warblers (Locustella luscinioides), Reed warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) en kilo’s). Dutch birders had seen the Penduline tit between the bridge and the tower, but we did not see it.

We had an excellent dinner at the Bartek hotel in a remarkable interior.

Tuesday May 7

The Czerwone Bagno Reserve or “red marsh”, is the wildest part of the Biebrza where peat forming still goes on. We planned to do a marked trail around the forest lodge of Lesniczowka Grzedy. You get there via route 65 to Grajewo, then the 61 to Grajród and near Tama, just before the lake turn right in the direction of Kuligi.

Before turning to Kuligi, a quick look at the Jezioro Rajgrodzkie Lake produced 3 pairs of Goosander (Mergus merganser), Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), a Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), and many Great crested grebes (Podiceps cristatus), Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) and Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus).

In the forest to Kuligi we saw a Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) and a deeply red collared Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula). The Kuligi Bridge can be a very good place to see Spotted-, Little spotted-, Golden and white-tailed See-eagle as well as many Harriers. We did not see any of them. But we do not forget the soft sound of 15 White storks circulating at 15 meters above our heads with the “crex-crex” sound of the Corn crake (crex crex) at 3 meters disctance. However, even at that short a distance, we could not see it.

A Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) welcomed us at the parking of the forest lodge L. Grzedy.

The green marked trail of 9 km gave us an excellent idea of what the red marshes are. Apart from the standard list, we did not see many birds but the rotting body of a dear, 4 swallow-tailed butterflies, the uncountable aggressive mosquitoes in the forest, and the magnificent view of a Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) back at the parking are worth mentioning.

We picnicked at the tower near Osowiec at the west side of the road 65.  At the bridge over the Rudzki Canal there is a parking. You can reach the tower by a small wooden bridge besides the railway.  There is very large colony of black-headed gulls. We heard Thrush Nightingale (Luscinia Luscinia), we saw 6 Spotted redshanks (Tringa erythropus) and different terns. Apparently, it is a good spot to see Little spotted eagle and Black stork, but we did not see them.

After reassuring a new address to stay the night, we headed south towards Barwik to the famous Great snipe lek, 15 km south of Goniadz. From the parking it is a 15-minute walk to the viewing platform. It is forbidden to drive on the sand trail. At 2.4 km from de parking there’s a second tower but this has been built mainly for observation of elk. The sun went under at 19.50. French birders had seen one Great snipe displaying from 19.00 till 19.30. They could locate the bird. It all happens within in a circle of about 2-meter diameter. Once you have the telescope on the spot, you can’t miss it, although the snipes are masters in hiding themselves behind tussocks of grass. We had very good views of the “early bird” and later on, at dusk Great snipes (Gallinago media) become less shy and 6 other birds joined in the arena. At that time one can only silhouettes of displaying birds.

The, singing, bubbling and tossing of the Great snipe was only part of an overall evening concert provided for by Thrush nightingale (Luscinia luscinia), Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica), Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) and roaring elk. Do not forget to protect yourselves against the mosquitoes, otherwise you could end up like me having a very locally positioned itching variation of measles on the unprotected parts of your body. 

Wednesday May 8

We take the trail called Honczarowska groda, leading to the PTOP Wodnicka reserve, one of the last kingdoms of the aquatic warbler. From the parking, 2.2 km south of Gugny, it takes a walk of 3.3 km or, at “birders pace” about 1 hour, to reach the beautiful tower.

The walk in itself is also interesting with many Sedge warblers (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), Savi’s warblers (Locustella luscinioides), Garden warblers (Sylvia borin), White throat  (Sylvia communis), Lesser white throat (Sylvia curruca), Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), Marsh tit (Parus palustris). A Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) imitated stunningly blackbird, garden warbler and marsh tit.

We also saw an elk-mother with her calve. Everywhere there are traces of activity of beavers. Thé place to be is a vast flat wet area with sedge. The aquatic warblers make frequently use of the small posts that are driven in the ground.

Aquatic warblers sing mostly in the evening and although it was 10 a.m. we saw and heard the typical song of 2 males Aquatic warblers (Acrocephalus paludicola). 

Tip: because the aquatic warblers prefer to song in the evening and because of the good chances to see Short-eared owl in the area, you could plan to visit Wodnicka in the evening.

After lunch in Osowiec Twierdza we hired a canoe on the Biebrza. We recommend doing that if you find the time. The frog-perspective, which luckily did not turn into a fish-perspective, provides a total different view of the Biebrza and its marshes. We had very nice views of different warblers, different waders, swans, and Harriers.

At 18u we were at the second tower near Osowiec-Twierdza. This tower can be found at the northeast side of the road 65 Bialystok-Grajewo. Either you park the car on the parking near the bridge over the Rudzky Canal, mentioned earlier, and you take the wooden path southeast of the road or you can take the road to Osowiec and after 1 km the tower at your right side. This tower, together with the first one is part of a larger walking trail, that forms a triangle with Osowiec Twierdza : the Bierbrzanski Park Narodowy. There are nice views over the Biebrza River and besides the 2 towers there are also several viewing platform. At the tower we had again observations of different terns, gulls, Harries, warblers etc. but at 15 meters from the tower a male Penduline tit (Remiz pendulinus) was weaving its nest, displaying a happy cry each time it succeeded in putting a little piece in place. 

Thursday May 9

The last day was reserved to explore the South oft he Biebranski park via Laskowiec to Wizna and from there up north to Buzny and Brostowo. Jerzy Dyczkowski considers those last 2 places at the high West bank of the Biebrza as the best places to watch the Briebrza birds.

On the Tsar road we stopped at the tower near Krynicka Biel at 2 km South of the parking of Grobla Honczarowska. We heard the nasal barking of the Little Crake (Porzana parva) whereby the  “quek” is repeated ever faster but at the end becomes less loud, like a falling ping-pong ball. We had a nice view of a Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) and two elks.

On the road to Wizna at Kurpiki, a dark brown eagle sits on a post some 50meter from the road. With the telescope we see again it is the “fondant collared” Spotted eagle (Aquila clanga). The colour difference with the little spotted eagle, especially during the flight, is large.

One km beyond the bridge over the Narew River, you will find the road to Burzyn (“Burzyn 9 km”) This was indicated in the report of Ignaas Robben as a good spot to see Ortolan bunting. And indeed, along the road to Burzyn we never before had such nice views and hearings  of more than 20 Ortolan buntings (Emberiza hortulana). This is the one and only  “Ortolan-boulevard”. What makes that there is such a concentration on one spot? We also observed Red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio), 2 pairs of Grey Partridges (Perdix perdix) and different Harries.

As from Sambory on, the asphalt road changes to a terrible “Paris-Roubaix” situation. However, do not stop. Keep going as it is rewarding. After the sign “Burzyn” you can park your car and walk the path to the tower at the riverside. You have a marvellous view over the Biebrza River. I guess that the front cover of the book “Portrait of a living marsh” is taken from here.

5 km further on the “road”, turn right to Brzostowo. Take the 2de dirt road left to the last farm. This dirt road competes with the above one for the title of “worst road in Europe”. You’ll find the tower behind the last farm. You will have to ask the key to the owner. It is possible he asks a small fee.

The view is splendid, overlooking the Bagno Lawki and the Bagno Podlaskie, which are the marshes of Laskowiec, Gugny and Barwik but seen from the other side of the river.

At this place you will understand why the Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) is selected as logo for the Biebrzanski Park. We saw hundreds of them, besides many other waders, birds of prey, ducks etc.

A short visit to the towers of Krynicka Biel and of Gugny produced 3 elks, but no new species of birds.

Friday May 10.

We leave Chojnowo for a 1700 km trip home. At Laskowiec we add Wood lark (Lullula arborea) and a Hoopoe (Upupa epops) to our list. At Wizna we turn left, direction Bronowo to follow the Narew River to Lomza. Outside Wizna we see Red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio), a male Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), and displaying Montagu’s harriers (Circus pygargus). In the villages Niwkowo en Krzewo we stopped at the river and saw 2 Little Tern (Sterna albifrons), we heard a Hoopoe (Upupa epops), and saw 3 types of swallows, warblers, Hooded crow.  We did not see or heard any Rosefinch, Marsh-, Icterine-, River- or Grashopper warblers, as was reported by Ignaas Robben.

A Crested lark ( Galerida cristata), a dead Black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) and a Red kite (Milvus milvus) made our list complete.

Eastern-Poland indeed is a birding-Mecca, a birder has to visit at least once in his life. We think that end of May is the best period as Rosefinch, Barred-, Icterine-, River- Marsh- and Grashopper warbler, Quail and Nightjar are arrived by that time. Although searching for them at the right spots, we did not see or hear those species.

Roos en Guido, May 15 2002

Practical Information

Sources used in preparation of this trip:


At Bialowieza detailed maps of the Puszsza Bialowieska 1:50.000 and the Siemianówka reservoir can be bought at the entrance of the Palacowy Park and in hotels.

Biebrza region: 2 tourist maps replace the “old” maps with indications of birds one can find in the area. Those maps indicate the viewing towers and which road you are allowed to drive. The maps can be bought in hotel Zbyszko, but also in the park office at Osowiec Twierdza

In the Biebrza region you need tickets to access the park. It costs 3 Zl/dag/person. You can pay in advance for as many days as you need.

The tickets for the south part are not valid for the middle part of the park i.e.Czerwone Bagno. The latter you can buy at the forest lodge L.Grzedy.

Driving in Poland

From the Polish border on the main road crossing Poland (E30) is mainly a 2-lane road. It is used as if it were a highway and quite dangerous. We experienced the difference between a holiday (May 1) and a working day (May 10).  A 100% concentration is needed to cross Poland. We were relieved to be able to drive normally again on the highway in Germany.

In the Bialowieza and Biebrza areas, the roads are small or they are sandy or stony roads. The speed automatically is low.

Bicycles are maybe the best vehicle for the trails and dirt road. Bicycles can be rented locally.


During the trip Belgium-Poland and back, we slept in the car. However there is plenty of opportunity to find place to stay overnight.

Bialowieza: The Bialowieza area has a good website with very easy system for reservation of hotel or bed & breakfast. (, or

We reserved already in February, as we knew that May 1 and 2 were holidays in Poland.

We stayed at Cosy Cottage in “the apartment”, see address on the website. It is a very nice place with 2 bedrooms and bathroom, space for 4-6 persons at 140 Zlotys or ca 38€/night. In Cosy Cottage, there are other rooms with or without bathroom on the same address.

Biebrza vallei. We had reserved a room in hotel Zbyszko at Goniadz via Internet The rooms were “depressing” and a singing drunken Pole at night made us leave earlier than expected. We found an excellent address in a little village Chojnowo, 2 km east of Gugny in the Centre of the park. Mr Zslisław Dabrowki is the burgomaster of the village. The address to contact him is Mr. Z. Dabrowski, Chojnowo nr 34, Tel. 0048 86 2195755

E-mail: (do not forget to state the name of Mr. Dabrowski)

Compared to the depressing rooms at hotel Zbyszko this was heaven on earth. A renewed typical house with kitchen, refrigerator, nice bathroom, 2 bedrooms with place for 4-6 people and garden at the price of 25Zlotys or ca. 6,5€ /night/person, without breakfast (Compare: hotel Zbyszko 110 Zlotys/night for 2 persons). The Spotted flycatcher, the pair of Golden oriole, breeding Lesser whitethroat, Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Black redstart and of course breeding White stork in the garden are included in the price. For those who are interested we attached a reservation form, which can be used to make reservation easier.

We received the above address via Mr. Kowalski who also rents rooms at Gugny 2, also near Trczianne (tel. 0048 60 3947038). Mr. Kowalski speaks English and is ornithologist, specialised in birds of prey. Although we did not see the rooms, we are convinced that he also holds a high standard for its rooms and we recommend his place too. He has place for 10-12 people at the price of 10€/night/persons inclusive breakfast. Dinner can be served at his house. Gugny is situated in the heart of the Southern basin of the Biebrzanski Park. There is a viewing tower at 1 km.


Lunch or dinner: How they do it, we don’t know but in Poland one can order lunch/dinner at any time. Most of the menus are also written in English or German.

There are not many restaurants in the Biebrza area. We had excellent diner in an excellent environment in hotel Bartek at Goniadz. At the bridge of Wizna and at Osowiec Twierdza, there are small road restaurants.

Everywhere, there are shops (sklep) where you can buy food and drinks.

If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Roos Deman en Guido Desmarets

Boldriesstraat 58, 8930 Lauwe, Belgium, 056 402026, May 15, 2002

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