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A Report from

Eastern Poland, May 9th - 16th 2007,

Alec Cheney

This was a wonderful week of Bird watching and experiencing the special magic of the Biebrza Marshes & Bialowieska Forest.

We started at Warsaw Airport and even before we got off the plane my wife Irene saw a female Montagu`s Harrier flying low over the airfield. On the way to the forest we stopped at a flood meadow on the river Bug. Here we saw a number of Yellow Wagtails (some with blue heads) also there were Wood sandpiper, little ringed Plover, Swallows, House martins, Swifts, Sand martins, Little Terns and, a Hobby passed overhead.

On route we saw White Storks, common Crane, Buzzard, Marsh harrier.  Green woodpecker, Hoopoe, and Cuckoo. After arriving at our accommodation near the forest we took a short walk and saw lesser spotted Eagle, Collared flycatcher, Wryneck, Hawfinch, amongst many other birds.

The next morning we started a short walk into a nearby park at 5.45 am and were rewarded for the early start by an amazing number of what were for us rare birds. I saw 9 Wrynecks, in the trees & on the ground. The trees were alive with Flycatchers (of which the collared was the most numerous), Serin, White headed Wagtails, Hawfinch, Thrush Nightingales and nearby water was ringing to the loud cries of the Great reed Warbler singing on top of the reeds. At one time I had on the ground in the same binocular view, Hawfinch, Wryneck, Serin, and White wagtail. I also a brief view of an Icterine Warbler (which was a new bird for me)


9/10 Wrynecks before breakfast including a few at short distance on the ground . At least 10 Great Snipe were enjoyed with the lekking males putting on an excellent performance / excellent views of Bluethroat & Aquatic warbler (both new to us and target birds for the trip / A grey wolf in the road in front of our coach (our Polish guide had never seen this before) / Views of all 10 of the European Woodpeckers (excellent views of Black, Middle spotted and lesser spotted at nest sites & wonderful views of a short-toed Woodpecker on a tree near the black Woodpecker nest-site / Lake Siemianowka  Alive with hundreds of Marsh terns ( white-winged, wiskered  & Black ) gave stunning close views and our first views of white-tailed Eagle.

When we arrived at the Marshes we were treated to a 2 Hr trip on the water in punts (two people + Punter per boat ) this was a wonderful way to experience the marshes with Terns  flying overhead and small flocks of wood sandpipers at the side of the river plus harriers ,storks and a cuckoo calling from a riverside bush.

The food and accommodation was first class and once we got used to the new timetable (early to bed & early to rise ) the trip went very smoothly. The tour leader and Polish bird-guide were excellent

Species Checklist

Little Grebe - seen at the fish ponds
Gt crested Grebe – seen at several sites
Red necked Grebe – excellent views of breeding birds
Gt Cormorant – seen on a couple of occasions
Grey Heron – common overall
Gt White Egret – up to 15 birds seen on one occasion
Gt Bittern – many heard in the reedbeds at the fish ponds
Black Stork – one very close flyover
White Stork – common overall, one village had a special viewing platform overlooking about 20 nests
Mute Swan – common
Whooper Swan – pair seen at the fishponds with 7 cygnets
Greylag Goose - common
Wigeon - common
Gadwall - common
Teal – few seen
Mallard – very common
Pintail – a few seen at the fishponds
Garganey – pairs seen at two sites
Shoveler - common
Pochard - common
Tufted Duck -  several seen at the fish ponds
Goldeneye -  a few seen at the fish ponds
Osprey -   one good view of a flying bird
Honey Buzzard – good view of flying bird including wing clapping
Red Kite -  one seen overhead at the fish ponds
White-tailed Eagle – goods views of flying birds at the Lake and better views later in the week at another site
Montagu`s Harrier – common mainly males. Polish guide explained that many of the females had not yet arrived back from their winter sites
Marsh Harrier – not as common as the Montagu`s but again mainly males
Buzzard - common
Lesser Spotted Eagle – Excellent views overall ,  often flying low overhead
Spotted Eagle – distant view of flying birds but good scope views showing wing colour
Kestrel – several seen
Hobby – one seen flying on the first day
Pheasant - common
Common Crane – seen on most days 350+ on ground at one site
Corncrake – heard on many occasions – one brief but clear view on our second day
Coot - common
Lapwing - common
Little ringed Plover – several seen near the river on the first day
Black-tailed Godwit – Breeding display flights
Redshank – several seen
Greenshank – One seen at Ruff lek site
Wood Sandpiper – commonest wader seen on most days in small parties making their way to Northern breeding sites
Woodcock – Seen flying on way to Great Snipe lek area
Great Snipe – Excellent views of  9 displaying males estimated 30 birds males+females overall on the lek site
Snipe – Seen on drumming flights over the marshes
Temminck`s Stint – one seen near the Ruff lek
Ruff – Several males in full Ruff displaying to Reeves
Common Gull – Several seen
Yellow-legged Gull – One seen
Caspian Gull – several seen
Black-headed Gull – common breeding on fish ponds
Whiskered Tern – One of the holiday highlights was the number of breeding marsh terns most memorably seen from small boat on the marshes
White-winged Black Tern -  See above
Black Tern – See above
Common Tern – common breeding on the fish ponds
Little Tern – seen nr river Bug on the first day
Woodpigeon - common
Turtle Dove – seen from the coach on two occasions
Collared Dove - common
Cuckoo – Heard every day and frequently seen. Some excellent views of perched birds
Pygmy Owl – brief but clear views of this Hawfinch sized bird in the Forest with a Special Forest Ranger.
Swift – seen better later in the week,
Kingfisher – one brief view of a bird flying up the river
Bee Eater – Up to 16 birds seen at a Sand quarry ,only just arrived the Polish guide had not seen them the previous week.
Hoopoe – seen from the coach on a few occasions
Wryneck – Holiday highlight many seen in the Bialowieza Park & Forest
Lesser spotted Woodpecker – Two seen at nest site
Middle spotted woodpecker – Seen at nest site
Syrian Woodpecker – Seen in a park nr the centre of Warsaw on the last day. Two pairs breed in this Park.
White backed Woodpecker – Brief views of flying bird
Great Spotted Woodpecker – common in all woodland areas
Three toed Woodpecker – One seen on a treetrunk at the Black WP nest site .
Black Woodpecker – Excellent view of a male returning to nest hole ( after one hour wait ! )
Green Woodpecker – seen flying at first stop on first day
Grey headed Woodpecker – several seen and heard after guides called them in by imitating their call
Woodlark – Several seen on the ground and on display flights
Skylark - common
Sand Martin – seen on several occasions, large numbers at the Bee eater sand quarry site presumably both breed here?
Swallow - common
House Martin - common
Yellow Wagtail – many seen ,some with blue heads
White Wagtail – Commonest wagtail overall
Tawny Pipit – seen at Bee eater sand quarry site
Meadow Pipit - common
Red backed Shrike – only shrike seen but excellent view frequently of males & females
Wren - common
Dunnock – few seen
Blackbird - common
Fieldfare – common including one pair nesting at the “Stork” village
Songthrush - common
Robin - common
Thrush Nightingale – another of the weeks highlights! Their wonderful song was often heard with the bird clearly visable in a bush or tree
Bluethroat – male singing close to the boardwalk simply amazing colours.
Black Redstart – seen daily earlier in week near the forest.
Redstart – one nesting pair at one of our refreshment stops
Winchat – some very good views of perched males
Northern Wheatear – seen on three occcasions
Grashopper Warbler – often heard only seen by some of our group
River Warbler – excellent views of a bird singing in a small tree near the river
Savi`s Warbler – Heard very clearly on many occasions but only seen by some of the group
Aquatic Warbler – excellent views of this little beauty !
Sedge Warbler common near at all water locations
Reed Warbler – see above
Great Reed Warbler – Very good views of birds singing on top of the reeds
Icterine Warbler – brief but clear view in the park on the first morning at our first destination
Willow Warbler – common everywhere except in the old forest where it was replaced by the Wood Warbler.
Chiffchaff - common
Wood Warbler – Commonest Warbler in the old forest.
Blackcap - common
Garden Warbler - common
Whitethroat - common
Lesser Whitethroat – several heard and seen flying
Barred Warbler – very good views of many birds, some of which looked like small cuckoo`s
Goldcrest – several seen
Spotted Flycatcher – common overall
Pied Flycatcher – some seen but not common
Collared Flycatcher – commonest flycatcher of the old forest, the red-breasted had not yet returned from Africa.
Long tailed Tit – several seen
Penduline Tit – very good view at a nest site near the fish ponds
Marsh Tit – several seen
Willow Tit – several seen
Coal Tit – seen on a couple of occasions
Great Tit - common
Blue Tit - common
Nuthatch – several seen
Treecreeper – very good views in the forest
Jay – several seen
Magpie - common
Jackdaw – common overall
Rook - common
Hooded Crow – very common
Raven – many seen, they nest in the old forest
Golden Oriole – often heard and on some occasions seen flying
Starling - common
Roller – One close fly-past of this late returning species
Reed Bunting - common
Yellowhammer – very common, song heard daily
Chaffinch – looked very small amongst the Hawfinch
Greenfinch - common
Goldfinch - common
Serin - common in the park and forest
Linnet - common
Common Rose finch  - seen by the guides only heard by the group
Crossbill – several seen
Bullfinch – one seen
Hawfinch – The number of these in the park and forest was another trip highlight
House Sparrow – several seen
Tree Sparrow – seemed much more common than the House
Curlew – several seen
Ortolan Bunting – Excellent views of a singing male.

Other wildlife

Grey Wolf on the road
Elk good views of two animals at the Blue throat site
Beaver -  Very good close view from our vehicle. Much evidence of their activities on boardwalk (chewed planks) and on many rivers ( small dams & chewed treetrunks)
Deer -  both Red & Roe seen
vocal Fire bellied Toad
uncommon Green Toad

I have been helped by other people`s reports and recommendations so I would be happy to give you any further details of our trip, which we believed gave very good value for your money.

Please contact me at the following


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