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A Report from

North East Poland, 5 - 6 May 2007,


Gruff Dodd, 30 Landmark Place, Cardiff, Cymru/Wales;

Introduction and strategy

Having been gradually working my way through the list of European species, by the beginning of May 2007 I was down to my last 5 species.  4 of these (Great Snipe, Hazelhen, Pygmy Owl and Lesser Spotted Eagle) were available in NE Poland, so I decided to make a long weekend trip here to see if I could see some or all of these.

The trip proved to be reasonably successful, with Pygmy Owl and Lesser Spotted Eagle finally being seen.  However, I was very disappointed that Great Snipe once again seems to be rather elusive in Poland this year, and a visit to the traditional site at Barwik failed completely.  Even more frustratingly, a couple of Hazelhen were heard at Białowieza, but just wouldn’t show.

In addition, I saw a very decent supporting cast of species, with highlights including several Aquatic Warblers, Montagu’s Harriers, Common Crane, Wryneck, Black Woodpecker, Savi’s Warbler and Collared Flycatcher.


I am very grateful to my guide, Tomek Kulakowski, for his hard work in helping me many excellent birds, and also to his friend Przamek who took me to a Pygmy Owl nest in Białowieza and did his best to help us see Hazelhen nearby.


I flew to Warsaw with Wizz Air from London Luton, which was pretty cheap at UKP 75.  Flight times were as follows:


Depart Luton  05.05.07  08:00,  arrive Warsaw  05.05.07  11:20


Depart Warsaw  07.05.07  17:00,  arrive Luton  07.05.07  18:30

I secured the services of bird guide Tomek Kulakowski for 5 and 6 May.  He charged me the total sum of EUR 320 which covered the 2 days guiding, transport and food throughout, and accommodation for the evening of 5 May, which I felt was good value.  Tomek can be contacted by e-mail on, web site –

We spent the night of 5 May in a beautiful converted farmhouse called Rajski Staw in the village of Zajki, at the southern end of Biebrza marsh.  The proprietor speaks excellent English.  Contact details: e-mail –, website –, phone +48 85 7384518

The night of 6 May was spent in the Novotel Warszawa Centrum in the middle of Warsaw, followed by a day of general sightseeing the next day – this was a superb hotel, at a very reasonable cost of UKP 44 for the night.


Sites visited were as follows:


Arrive Warsaw, meet Tomek, drive to Wizna Marshes, just south of Biebrza marsh.  Drive to Zajki to book in and lunch, then late afternoon / evening birding Biebrza marshes


Early morning drive to Białowieza.  Morning and early afternoon birding Wysokie Bagno reserve.  Late afternoon drive back to Warsaw

Details of these sites are given in the Daily Account section. 

Daily account

Saturday 5 May 2007

Arrived at Warsaw Etiuda airport mid-morning, to be met by Tomek.  Drove up to the Wizna Marshes, birding the stretch of road between the villages of Grady-Woniecko and Maliszewo-Łynki.  Early birds seen included WRYNECK and several COMMON BUZZARDS before after an hour or so we finally found a soaring LESSER SPOTTED EAGLE, the first of my Polish target birds.

From here we drove the short distance to Zajki, where we checked into our rooms and enjoyed an excellent lunch and views of the resident nesting WHITE STORK, before heading out into the Biebrza Marshes.  First stop was north of the village of Laskowiec, where we found RED-BACKED SHRIKE, LESSER WHITETHROAT and a WHOOPER SWAN on nest.

From there we drove up to the famous “Causeway” Boardwalk Trail, seeing a SAVI’S WARBLER singing right out in the open at the parking area.  By now it was about 6 o’clock, and as we walked out onto the boardwalk, several AQUATIC WARBLERS started singing, eventually climbing to the top of sedge stems and giving superb views.  Also saw our first MONTAGU’S HARRIER in this area.

Next stop was an observation tower near Dobarz, where a THRUSH NIGHTINGALE was singing loudly but wouldn’t show.  Not much of interest from the tower, other than another MONTAGU’S HARRIER and a few BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, so we headed for the Great Snipe lek near Barwik.

After a couple of barren years, 3 of these birds had been seen on this famous traditional lek shortly before my visit, so I was very hopeful of seeing this, my main target bird for the trip, but sadly we had no luck at all – no Great Snipe seen or even heard.  We had to make do with listening to CORNCRAKES and COMMON SNIPE calling, and a pair of COMMON CRANES flying overhead.  A EURASIAN WOODCOCK flushed off the road on the drive back to Zajki.

Sunday 6 May 2007

Woke up with a bit of a thick head after a vodka drinking session with our host the previous night, so wasn’t desperately looking forward to the drive to Białowieza this morning, but a BLACK WOODPECKER which flew across the road as we left Zajki woke me up a bit.

Arriving at Białowieza village, we called for Tomek’s friend Przamek, a birder who lives in the village, and who apparently knew of a nest site for Pygmy Owl, another of my target species.  We drove from his house to the Wysokie Bagno reserve to the south east of the village, and walked off into the wood, seeing HAWFINCH along the way.  Przamek soon found the nest tree, and sure enough it wasn’t long before one of the breeding PYGMY OWLS flew in and landed in the tree over our head, giving excellent views – another bird I’d been looking for over several years.

We quickly moved on and rejoined the main track through the reserve, arriving at an area known to be good for Hazelhen.  We hit the tape and soon had a bird call back to us, but it was some distance away, and wouldn’t come any closer.  We eventually gave up on this bird, and continued down the trail, finding several MARSH TITS and a single CRESTED TIT.  Returning up the path, we tried the tape again, and this time a Hazelhen called from much closer to us, very near the path. 

Tomek and I crept slowly into the woods, while Przamek stayed on the path playing the tape in the hope of provoking the bird into moving.  Unfortunately, while we were looking the other way, another Hazelhen flew right across the path in front of Przamek, and into the scrub behind us, but we didn’t get a look at it – very frustrating.

Another hour or so along this path failed to produce any further sightings, so we eventually gave up and moved on.  A brief visit to the Hotel Iwa area produced some FIELDFARES, while some time around Pogorzelce produced several COLLARED FLYCATCHERS, but a White-backed Woodpecker calling further along couldn’t be found.

Time to pack in the birding and head back to Warsaw, having seen 2 of my 4 target birds – Great Snipe and Hazelhen would have to wait for another trip.

Species List

The letter 'h' denotes that the bird was heard but not seen.

1.     Hazel Grouse  (Bonasa bonasia)  h Białowieza 5.5

2.     Whooper Swan  (Cygnus cygnus)  Biebrza 5.5

3.     Mallard  (Anas platyrhynchos) 

4.     Eurasian Wryneck  (Jynx torquilla)  Wizna Marshes 5.5

5.     White-backed Woodpecker  (Dendrocopos leucotos)  h Białowieza 6.5

6.     Great Spotted Woodpecker  (Dendrocopos major)  Białowieza 6.5

7.     Black Woodpecker  (Dryocopus martius)  Zajki 6.5

8.     Common Cuckoo  (Cuculus canorus)  Biebrza 5.5

9.     Eurasian Pygmy-Owl  (Glaucidium passerinum)  Białowieza 6.5

10. Common Wood-Pigeon  (Columba palumbus)  Białowieza 6.5

11. Eurasian Collared-Dove  (Streptopelia decaocto) 

12. Common Crane  (Grus grus)  Biebrza 5.5

13. Corn Crake  (Crex crex)  h Biebrza 5.5

14. Eurasian Woodcock  (Scolopax rusticola)  Biebrza 5.5

15. Common Snipe  (Gallinago gallinago)  Biebrza 5.5

16. Black-tailed Godwit  (Limosa limosa)  Biebrza 5.5

17. Green Sandpiper  (Tringa ochropus)  h Biebrza 5.5

18. Ruff  (Philomachus pugnax)  Zajki 5.5

19. Northern Lapwing  (Vanellus vanellus)  Biebrza 5.5

20. Montagu's Harrier  (Circus pygargus)  Biebrza 5.5

21. Common Buzzard  (Buteo buteo)  Wizna Marshes 5.5

22. Lesser Spotted Eagle  (Aquila pomarina)  Wizna Marshes 5.5

23. Grey Heron  (Ardea cinerea) 

24. Eurasian Bittern  (Botaurus stellaris)  h Biebrza 5.5

25. White Stork  (Ciconia ciconia)  Zajki 5.5

26. Red-backed Shrike  (Lanius collurio)  Biebrza 5.5

27. Eurasian Jay  (Garrulus glandarius)  Białowieza 6.5

28. Eurasian Golden-Oriole  (Oriolus oriolus)  h Wizna Marshes 5.5

29. Eurasian Blackbird  (Turdus merula) 

30. Fieldfare  (Turdus pilaris)  Białowieza 6.5

31. Collared Flycatcher  (Ficedula albicollis)  Białowieza 6.5

32. Thrush Nightingale  (Luscinia luscinia)  h Biebrza 5.5

33. Common Starling  (Sturnus vulgaris) 

34. (Wood) Nuthatch  (Sitta europaea)  Bialowieza 6.5

35. Eurasian Tree-Creeper  (Certhia familiaris)  Bialowieza 6.5

36. Northern Wren  (Troglodytes troglodytes) 

37. Marsh Tit  (Parus palustris)  Białowieza 6.5

38. Crested Tit  (Parus cristatus)  Białowieza 6.5

39. Blue Tit  (Parus caeruleus)  Białowieza 6.5

40. Eurasian Swallow  (Hirundo rustica)  Białowieza 6.5

41. Northern House-Martin  (Delichon urbica)  Białowieza 6.5

42. Common Grasshopper-Warbler  (Locustella naevia)  h Białowieza 6.5

43. Savi's Warbler  (Locustella luscinioides)  Biebrza 5.5

44. Aquatic Warbler  (Acrocephalus paludicola)  Biebrza 5.5

45. Sedge Warbler  (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)  h Biebrza 5.5

46. Great Reed-Warbler  (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)  h Biebrza 5.5

47. Common Chiffchaff  (Phylloscopus collybita)  Białowieza 6.5

48. Wood Warbler  (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)  h Białowieza 6.5

49. Blackcap  (Sylvia atricapilla)  Białowieza 6.5

50. Common Whitethroat  (Sylvia communis) 

51. Lesser Whitethroat  (Sylvia curruca)  Biebrza 5.5

52. Eurasian Skylark  (Alauda arvensis)  Białowieza 6.5

53. House Sparrow  (Passer domesticus) 

54. Meadow Pipit  (Anthus pratensis)  Białowieza 6.5

55. Dunnock (Hedge Accentor)  (Prunella modularis) 

56. Chaffinch  (Fringilla coelebs) 

57. European Greenfinch  (Carduelis chloris) 

58. Eurasian Siskin  (Carduelis spinus)  h Białowieza 6.5

59. Red Crossbill  (Loxia curvirostra)  h Białowieza 6.5

60. Hawfinch  (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)  Białowieza 6.5

61. Yellowhammer  (Emberiza citronella)  Białowieza 6.5


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