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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
North Eastern Poland - 18th-25th May 2009,
Group Members: Ben Eaton, David Eaton, Peter Sofley.
Accommodation: In the Bialowieza Forest we stopped at U Michala campsite, Str. Krzyzy,11. 17 - 230 Bialowieza. The campsite is well signposted on the right upon entering Bialowieza from Hajnowka. The facilities are good with toilets, showers and washing areas as well as an area for having fires. Prices were 20 PLN per person per night, so around £5 a night. There is no need to book as it is relatively quiet at this time of year.
In the Biebrza marshes we stopped at Brzostowo on the west side of the river. Follow the road through Brzostowo village to the river and the campsite is on the left. Facilities are extremely basic, no showers or washing facilities, not even a tap just a little shed as your toilet. From what it lacks in facilities though it certainly makes it up in its riverside location and your own personal watchtower.
For our final night in the marshes we camped at Barwik, off the Czar’s Road just north of the village of Dobarz. Follow the track through the woods until you reach a resting area with benches on the left. The camping area is opposite, up the track to the right. No facilities at all.
Food: Small food shops in Bialowieza were suitable for our camping needs though there are large supermarkets in Hajnowka if needed. There are few restaurants to choose from, so no problem for food.
Supplies for the Biebrza marshes were bought mainly in Tykocin though the larger town of Goniadz would be good. We didn’t bother cooking evening meals whilst camping as it was just as cheap to eat out and obviously a lot easier. We used the U Dany Bar west of the bridge over the River Biebrza on the 64 road east of Wisna. Very good for lunches, the meals are very cheap, around £2.50 each and the views from the balcony overlooking the Biebrza river are great. For evening meals we used the restaurant Dwor Dobarz in Dobarz village on the eastern side of the marshes. Though more expensive, with meals being more like English prices, the food was excellent. Just what you need after a full days birding. Hearty Polish food for reasonable prices and some good Polish beers and vodkas.
Maps: We used the Michelin road maps, Poland North East 555 and Poland South East 558 which I purchased from Waterstone’s. Detailed maps covering both Bialowieza and Biebrza National Parks are available from hotels and visitor centres in and around the national parks. We though found the maps in the Gosney guide to be adequate for the Bialowieza National Park, whilst the maps in the Biebrza Site Guide were excellent.
Books: Finding Birds in Poland by Dave Gosney proved useful mainly for the Bialowieza Forest as no other literature with maps is available for that area at the moment. The information though is a little old and needs updating. For the Biebrza Marshes we used the Biebrza Site Guide available through the website www.wildpoland.com. This proved to be an excellent purchase. The book gives details of 58 sites in the Biebrza Marshes along with detailed maps for many sites. As well as birds it gives details on mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plants which added extra interest to the trip. The book gives several sites for Greater Spotted Eagle for which details are hard to find elsewhere and also a couple of sites for Greenish Warbler. The book is available as a softback for 35 euros or as printable PDF file for 25 euros. Though it may seem a bit expensive, the info in it means you can find all the species yourself and so do without the greater expense of a guide. The website www.wildpoland.com is also planning to release a Bialowieza Site Guide in 2010 along with a North-Eastern Poland Birdwatcher’s Site Guide which presumably will cover all areas.
Guides: I enquired about obtaining the services of Lukasz Mazurek as recommended by a birding friend, though he was booked up leading a Naturetrek tour. Lukasz though was extremely helpful, arranging a guide for us in the form of Arek Szymura. We arranged for an 8 hour trip with Arek for a price of 390PLN plus 10PLN per person in the group. The evening trip with Mateusz Szymura (Arek’s son) to see the Great Snipe lek cost 30PLN per person. So the day cost a total of 510PLN or £105, £35 per person.
Lukasz is the founder of Wild Poland, a company providing a range of birding and mammal tours in the Bialowieza and Biebrza regions. The tours are normally half or full day trips and are led by local, knowledgeable guides. Check them out at www.wildpoland.com.
Tips: Familiarise yourself with the songs and calls of the key species. This proved to make finding birds a lot easier in the Bialowieza forest. I made play list of the key species on my iPod and so had the calls at hand in the field. A good set of speakers to attract species would also be very useful.
Talk to other birders that you meet. You will likely see them several times throughout your trip as you are all visiting the same sites. Share info with them and tell them what you have seen and they will repay you with some goodies that you wouldn’t have seen on your own.
Beware of mosquitoes! Apparently when we went it was a drier year and so the mosquitoes weren’t as bad though some years they can be pretty nasty. The Great Snipe lek and Dluga Luka boardwalk were particularly bad on our visit. Get some strong repellent but more importantly cover up.
We didn’t need Wellingtons due to the drier conditions but many people have mentioned areas in the Biebrza marshes such as Mscichy trail and Gugny being flooded or inaccessible without wellies.
Morning flight from Birmingham to Krakow. A quick and smooth trip and no hassle with the car arrangements mean we were on the road by 11:30am. That was the easy bit, now for the 8 hour journey north to the Bialowieza National Park. The road quality was okay, good in some areas but more dodgy as we got into more rural areas closer to Bialowieza. The main problem was that the roads are all single carriageways and so you get stuck in long queues behind trucks. Birding relieved the boredom a bit with 6 Great Grey Shrikes, 2 Turtle Doves, Little Egret, Crane, Corn Bunting, Buzzard, Kestrel and Yellow and Pied Wagtails being seen.
After a what seemed like forever we arrived at Campsite ‘U Michala’, Bialowieza. Upon arrival, birds were everywhere including our first Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Hawfinch, Lesser Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Fieldfare, and Black Redstart as well as hearing Crane, Thrush Nightingale, Grasshopper Warbler, Corncrake and Golden Oriole.
On our first day we decided to do a large circular route following the map in the Gosney guide on page 7 under the heading Pogorzelce. Starting on the road on the bottom right edge of the map we then went along the Zebra Zubra Trail (1). From there north along the forest track up to the road west of Pogorzelce(3), then on to Stara Bialowieza. From there we went east along the forest trail to the River Narew (4), then headed south through the woods to the village of Pogorzelce and walked south along the road back to the car. This was a very long day starting at 6:30am and reaching the car at 5pm. We walked slowly all day but we must have covered some miles.
Parked the car at the edge of Bialowieza village at 6:30am and walked along the road towards the Zebra Zubra trail viewing the open land. Birds seen were 5/6 Whinchat, 2 Barred Warbler, 2 Red-backed Shrike, 2 Hawfinch, Meadow Pipit and White Stork. River Warbler and Thrush Nightingale were also heard.
Right on the edge of the woods we saw our first woodpecker, a male Middle Spotted Woodpecker that performed well, sitting in the road. The woods also held Golden Oriole and Icterine and Garden Warblers.
We started on the Zebra Zubra Trail at around 7am. The forest was quite dense which made birding difficult, but there was plenty of activity with a couple of Collared Flycatchers, Spotted Flycatchers, Marsh Tit, Icterine, Willow and Wood Warblers all along the first section of the boardwalk. Further along the boardwalk Red-breasted Flycatcher was heard but could not be picked up. The trail then goes through spruce woodland and there we got a very brief and rubbish view of a Hazel Grouse. Disappointingly the only woodpeckers noted along the trail were Great Spotted Woodpeckers although we did meet some German birders who had seen a Grey-headed Woodpecker.
At the end of the Zebra Zubra Trail we took the forest trail north (also called the yellow trail) which proved to be very productive, with a pair of Red-breasted Flycatchers being seen very well and another 6 or so birds were heard singing along the length of the trail. Two woodpeckers were seen together further along the track, only one though could be positively identified - a female White-backed Woodpecker. A pair of Nuthatches nesting in a dead tree had very pale underparts but I‘m not sure as to what race they were. Further along we had brief views of a Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Pete had a Hazel Grouse fly across the path. We also had some great views of a singing Thrush Nightingale in a clearing.
We had lunch in a forest clearing near the road, just west of Pogorzelce and saw our only Tree Pipit of the trip as well as a Yellowhammer. From there we moved on to Stara Bialowieza seeing little along the way. The track east from Stara Bialowieza (4) was useless really as the forest was way too dense to see any woodpeckers or any other birds, but we did see a Hazel Grouse running along the ground under the pines on the north side of the track, giving good views plus a very smart Red Squirrel.
Things improved though as the track came out of the forest to the River Narew. In the extensive reedbeds and willows around the river we saw/heard; River, Marsh, Great Reed and Sedge Warblers, Thrush Nightingale, a pair of Common Rosefinches, a pair of Red-backed Shrikes, Raven and a female Goosander which was a bit of a surprise.
The plan was to take the track south through the woods and then go through the fields as shown in the Gosney guide labelled (2), but instead we got a bit lost and emerged from the woods to the west of Pogorzelce village. Common garden birds in Pogorzelce included Black Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Barred Warbler.
On the road south back to the car in the forest clearings we had a good flight view of a Lesser Spotted Eagle, as well as 2 Marsh Harriers, 2 Red-backed Shrike, Common Rosefinch, Corncrake calling, a Savi’s Warbler singing from the reeds as well as numerous River and Grasshopper Warblers and Thrush Nightingale.
Further down the road, the forest comes to the road edge and we got good views of a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker being mobbed by a female Collared Fly. After being left alone it began to drum on a tree and a female responded though we didn’t manage to find the bird. Moments later Pete found a brilliant male White-backed Woodpecker feeding in a dead tree. We heard 2 Crossbill flew over and got views of a Red Deer.
We had a very lazy morning. Started with a cooked breakfast on the campsite and made our way to Park Palacowy by 9:30am. Around the lakes and marshy areas Great Reed and Marsh Warblers were numerous. Further on into the wooded areas Collared and Spotted Flycatchers were everywhere, giving excellent photographic opportunities and we managed to find a male Pied Flycatcher though its greyish plumage was unusual. Hawfinches gave superb views around the park and here we saw our only Redstart of the trip.
At 11:00am we met up with Arek Szymura our guide for the rest of the day. We still had some woodpeckers to see, so first stop a Grey-headed Woodpecker nest site on the eastern edge of Bialowieza village. After about 10 minutes of Arek’s very good Grey-headed Woodpecker impression, the male of the pair stuck his head out to see what was going on. Unfortunately no more of the bird came out but we got a great head shot through the scope. Whilst waiting we had good views of 3 Barred Warblers and our first Honey Buzzard of the trip floated over.
Next, we marched off into the conifer plantations east of the village looking for Three-toed’s. The woods were very quiet as expected but we did get good views of a Crested Tit shooting in and out of its nest site. Arek told us that he knew of 7 Three-toed Woodpecker territories in the Bialowieza area and 3 were in the area we were in now, though no sign.
We moved on now to the brilliant Teremiski Forest Swamp. Go west through Pogorzelce to the next village of Teremiski. After passing through the village park up before the small road bridge and view the flooded woodland from the bridge. Other people explore the woods northeast of the bridge though we didn’t find this necessary. The woods around here are also very wet and may require wellies or may be completely impassable. We parked a bit before the bridge and had some lunch and spotted a very tatty looking female Middle Spotted Woodpecker. We then walked up to the bridge and set our scopes on the Black Woodpecker nest hole situated in a large pine on the north side of the road and waited. Whilst waiting we saw another Middle Spotted Woodpecker, this time a really bright male seen in the oaks south of the bridge. 2 Honey Buzzards also flew over, a dark phase and a rufus type bird whilst Collared and Spotted Flycatchers were everywhere. After half an hour Dave spotted something shuffling up a pine tree quite close to the bridge, a male Three-toed Woodpecker! Got some brilliant views. Just moments later as we were admiring the Three-toed, Arek shouts as he sees the Black Woodpecker coming to feed its chicks! Got some good views of it feeding its chicks and then flying away very un-woodpecker like, more like a crow.
As we had completed our target list and still had a couple of hours spare, Arek offered to take us into the strict reserve. On the way there we were driving through the clearings at Teremiski, when Arek spots a group of 5 Bison! We slowly crept out the car and got some great scope views and photos of 5 young male Bison having a good feed in the meadows. Arek was very excited and told how lucky we were to be seeing these animals. Apparently they usually only feed at 4am or at dusk and even then you do well to see them and we saw them at 12 in the afternoon! It is only the second time this year that they have been seen in the daytime. We also had good views of a Lesser Spotted Eagle, Marsh Harrier and 2 Red-backed Shrike.
We moved onto Bialowieza, got our tickets and began the walk to the entrance to the strict reserve. Along the road we had a Grey-headed Woodpecker fly by quite close and then perch in a tree. Once in the strict reserve the woods are rather quiet with less bird activity than I thought there would be. Arek guided us around the main 2 hour trail showing us some highlights of the reserve. Arek specialises in plants and was keen to show us some of the forest fauna. The main highlight was the biggest tree in the forest, a 500 year old pendunculate oak which was enormous. He also showed some interesting animal tracks such as wild boar and taught us how to identify the feeding marks on the dead trees made by different woodpecker species. As for the actual birds we saw 1 superb male White-backed Woodpecker feeding low to the ground close to us, a female Black Woodpecker, 2 Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Red-breasted Flycatcher and many Collared Flys.
After our tour we said goodbye to Arek and had a pizza in the village before meeting Mateusz Szymura along with a convoy of birders from around Europe, for our evening visit to the Great Snipe lek. The lek is near the village of Narew, 45 minutes by car from Bialowieza village. The site is obviously very sensitive and so the only way of seeing these birds is to arrange a visit with local guides such as Mateusz. The trip to see the Great Snipes cost just 30 zlotys - around £7.50. After a short walk through the woods, we stopped in a wet meadow and stayed until dusk. Here a telescope is essential to observe the snipes sitting in the long grass. The sound of the snipe lekking is amazing and as it gets dark they start jumping around and showing off their white tail feathers. We also saw our first Moose, a Crane, Woodcock roding, Common Snipe drumming and calling Corncrakes and Grasshopper Warblers. We found the mosquitoes to be far worse here than anywhere else in the week, so be warned. Cover all flesh. I would recommend wearing a big, thick hoody to keep the blighters off your head and neck.
Another slow start today. Packed up camp and began our journey to the Biebrza marshes, two and a half hours away. We managed not to get lost in Bialystok which others birders have struggled with, then decided to stop at Tykocin just east of the Biebrza marshes. According to the WildPoland Biebrza site guide, this site had previously had Syrian Woodpeckers and as we had nowhere else to see this species we thought we’d give it a go - though we weren’t hopeful. We parked our car by the cross next to the road just north of the bridge across the river. Within one minute of getting out of the car a woody flew over our heads calling and landed on the tree next to us. I could not believe it when I looked and saw a female Syrian Woodpecker! Incredible! We saw the bird fly further north up the road and decided to follow it. On the way up we saw loads of Golden Orioles and in the marshy areas and reeds, we saw/heard: Sedge, Marsh, Reed and Savi’s Warblers. Further north along the road in the trees surrounding a new castle like building we came across the Syrian Woodpeckers again, this time a pair and got good views of the male. We were informed later by birders who we had told about the site that they had found the birds nesting hole in a dead poplar by the roadside near the castle like building.
Back at the bridge on the east side, by the smaller river, there are some marshy areas that are good for Bluethroats and we eventually saw 2 birds along with a Penduline Tit, our only decent view of the holiday. A little later we saw a massive Beaver swimming along the river carrying food back and forth and diving showing off his huge rubbery tail. On the river we saw our first marsh terns: a few Black, 2 Common and 1 White-winged Black.
We met the Naturetrek tour group at the bridge, led by Lukasz Mazurek, whom I had been in contact with in arranging the holiday and also Pete Dunn. They were glad to hear that we had found the Syrian Woodpeckers and took their group to have a look. They came back and told us they had just found a Green Woodpecker nest right by our car! Now this was the only woodpecker species we had failed to see so far and we went off to try and complete the list. We failed. After half an hour, no show but we vowed to return.
Next, south of Tykocin about 2 miles out of town was Tykocin sand quarry, home to a small colony of Bee-eaters. Instantly one flew over us and landed on the telegraph wires giving good views. Other birds seen included Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers and 2 Blue-headed Wagtails.
From the journey then on towards Wisna, south of the marshes, we heard a Quail, saw a male Montagu’s Harrier and a large, very dark Aquila eagle, possibly a Spotted, sat on an electric pylon. We decided to camp at Brzostowo, a tiny village on the western side of Biebrza river. Turn right off the cobbled road to the village and drive through the village to the river. The small field on the left with the watchtower in it is the campsite. This campsite is superb, you can camp 5 feet from the edge of the river where Black, White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns are feeding and you have your own personal watchtower to scan from.
Early start and a quick scan from the tent over the river produced 20 or so Black-tailed Godwits, 10 Redshank, Dunlin, Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Little Tern, Crane, Shoveler, a pair of Gadwall and Greylag Geese.
Carried onto the village of Mscichy, 20 minutes north of Brzostowo. Took the dirt track east through the marshes to the watchtower. The weather was miserable, so the birds were keeping their heads down. Very little seen, only Sedge and Reed Warblers and a few Common Rosefinches. Bluethroats were also heard but most frustratingly was a calling Citrine Wagtail that only one of us saw very badly. Further down the track in wooded patches, 3 or 4 Cuckoos were seen, as well as 6 Common Rosefinches, Hawfinch and a Red-backed Shrike.
Close to the tower we had a great view of a reeling Savi’s Warbler and we got some brilliant views of a male Citrine Wagtail feeding right on the track along with a pair of Blue-headed Wags. From the tower the views of the marshes are amazing. It is important that you stay here for a while as birds keep coming and going. We saw: 4 Black Stork with 100+ Whites, 2 Great White Egret, 1 Purple Heron, 10 Crane, 6 Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Buzzard, a few White-winged Black, Black and Whiskered Terns, 3+ Garganey, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Snipe, Redshank and a Red-backed Shrike. On the track back the only new bird was a heard only Hoopoe but we got some more great views of a male Citrine Wagtail.
Next stop was the “Old Restaurant”, a viewpoint from a derelict building in the town of Goniadz. We spent an hour or so here whilst eating our lunch, overlooking the vast marshes down below. Scanning with our scopes which are essential here, we picked up quite a few raptors. We saw: 1 adult White-tailed Eagle being mobbed by a Greater Spotted Eagle, 1 Lesser Spotted Eagle, 4 Montagu’s Harriers, 4 Marsh Harriers, 2 Black Storks and a few Cranes.
From here we went to Osowiec Fort and boardwalk seeing a Hoopoe enroute. The boardwalk itself was a bit quiet for birds being the midddle of the day, I think a morning visit would have produced a few more birds. There were plenty of Bluehtroats around, at least 6-10, some with white spots and some with just plain blue throats. We didn’t see a single Penduline Tit though we heard plenty of them hiding in the dense willow scrub. We saw our only Osprey of the trip fly over here and a bizarre sighting was a Snipe sitting in a tree. We saw/heard the usual reed warbler species and a pair of Red-backed Shrikes were present.
We travelled down the eastern side of the Biebrza marshes now, stopping for dinner at Dwor Dobarz - a proper Polish restaurant in the village of Dobarz. In the garden with our beer we watched as a Lesser Spotted Eagle flew over along with 3 Hoopoes.
Late in the evening we planned to visit Dluga Luka boardwalk, by far the easiest site to see Aquatic Warblers. The boardwalk is situated just on the side of the main eastern road (Czar’s Road) south of Dobarz in between a watchtower called Bagno Lawki and the main bog alder forest to the south. Whilst waiting for the Aquatic Warblers to start singing and showing themselves at dusk, we saw 4-6 Whinchat and several Grasshopper Warblers as well as the usual Cranes, Corncrakes, harriers and drumming snipe to entertain us. 2 or 3 Aquatic Warblers showed really well as dusk approached, though at least 10 birds were heard singing around the boardwalk. The mosquitoes were pretty bad here so be prepared. Back at the campsite the river was alive with the sound of Corncrakes and various species of waders and a Bittern was heard booming in the distance.
Woke up to a Hoopoe this morning before beginning to pack up camp. Whilst packing up 3 Italian birders whom we had met earlier in the trip at the Great Snipe lek came to have a look from our watchtower. They quickly found 3 Red-necked Phalaropes for us to have a look at. Nice to see and not expected on this trip at all. After packing up we had a thorough look from the watchtower ourselves and spotted another White-tailed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, 10 fly over Great White Egrets, Curlew Sandpiper amongst 40 or so Dunlin, Jack Snipe, 4 Little Gulls, Garganey and a Teal.
Leaving Brzosotowo we checked the arable land along the cobbled road just south of the right turn into Brzosotowo village. This is the best area for Ortolan Bunting and eventually we found a stunning male singing from one of the trees that line the road. There were plenty of common farmland birds: Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers, Linnets and Black Redstarts.
From there we stopped for lunch at U Dany bar which is before the bridge over the Biebrza river. From here we saw Lesser Spotted Eagle, our first Hobby, another Hoopoe and a few Golden Orioles.
From there we crossed over the bridge and took the road south signed to Rutki. We checked the marshy pools down the western side of the road, parking the car and walking down to the pools. Be careful not to get too close as there are plenty of breeding birds. This area is described in the Gosney guide on p.18-19 and was recommended to us by two English birders we had met. We found the breeding Red-necked Grebe they had seen, 4 or 5 Garganey and plenty of breeding terns, mainly Black but a few of the other two.
We decided to return to Tykocin to hunt down the elusive Green Woodpecker. We parked the car in view of the nest hole and had our lunch, determined to sit it out and see these birds. It wasn’t long before we saw something creep up the tree trunk and quickly disappear into the hole - a female Green Woodpecker! An epic moment! We had seen all 10 European woodpeckers in just 5 days. We later spoke to the Naturetrek tour group who told us that they have been to Poland for the last 7 years and had seen all 10 on only one occasion!
Running out of things to see we thought we’d have a look at Knysyn Ramek fishponds north of Tykocin to try and see some Whooper Swans. Apparently this site is private and permission is needed to get into the site. The ponds though can still be viewed from the roads around it. We got a bit disoriented and ended up driving straight onto the site. Instead of leaving we were tempted by the good birds on show and stayed. Nobody stopped us or said anything so we carried on enjoying ourselves. On the 3 or 4 pools that we checked we saw: 50+ Whooper Swans (2 or 3 had yellow neck rings), a sub-adult White-tailed Eagle, Black Stork, 4 Temminck’s Stints, 1 Little Stint, 8 Wood Sandpipers, 4 Redshank, 4 Ruff, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, female Goldeneye, 6 Tufted Ducks, nesting Common Terns, Stock Dove and calling Bearded Tit.
We moved onto Czechowizna, a village next to Jezioro Zygmunta Augusta - a large lake/reservoir. We had been told that this was the place to get good views of White-tailed Eagles. The two we had seen so far were dots on the horizon so it was fantastic to get brilliant views of 3 flying right over our heads, they are absolutely massive! Naturetrek told us that they had had 7 perched in a single tree! We had a quick scan over the water, spotting 2 Black-necked Grebes, 15 Pochard, 5 Tufted Duck , 2 Cormorant and millions of hirundines. No sign though of the Velvet Scoters we had been told about.
Back for another great meal at Dwor Dobarz, seeing a Redwing enroute. We then visited the watchtower at Gugny down the road. From the Czar’s Road take the track signed to Gugny and park your car in the sandy clearing in the pine woods by the settlement. This area is good for Nightjars at dusk though not when we were there. We spotted a Great Grey Shrike being mobbed by 4- 5 Woodlarks and then took the track west through the woods to the watchtower out in the marsh. From there we saw a few mammals including 8 Moose feeding on the edges of the marshes, both Red and Roe Deer and a Fox. Not many birds seen at all really, an eagle species disappeared quickly, 2 Woodcock flew over, a few Cranes and reeling Grasshopper Warblers. We were hoping for some crakes as this site was recommended for them but it seemed quite dry and so not really suitable for crakes. Camped overnight at Barwik.
Rather quiet in the morning in the pinewoods though another Black Stork flew over, with a couple of Ravens and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Decided to visit Zajki meadows before returning to Krakow. Really good for the terns and great for photographic opportunities. We took the second track and drove up taking a few photos. Getting out of the car proved to be dangerous but fun, being dive bombed by angry White-winged Black Terns! Nothing new noted though, just good numbers of common stuff.
Began our 7 hour drive back to Krakow, a much smoother and quicker route back through Warsaw on better quality roads. Picked up two new species on the way back, a Coot and a Great Crested Grebe! Wow! Two species we had somehow managed to miss in the biggest marshland in Europe. Stopped overnight in a hotel near to the airport before our flight back to Birmingham the next morning.
What We Missed
Pygmy Owl - We had hoped to see them in the Bialowieza Forest with the help of Arek Szymura but he had bad news for us. He told us that he had been monitoring 7 Pygmy Owl territories over the few weeks before we arrived but they had stopped calling and so making them very difficult to find. We tried briefly with Arek to look for them but we decided that our time and money would be better spent elsewhere.
Nutcracker - Present in the Bialowieza forest and supposedly also in the conifer plantations around the Biebrza marshes though difficult to find at this time of the year. Arek advised us that without a sound recording we would be wasting our time. Birders have seen them though and perhaps we should have a had a go at Kosy Most if time allowed. Directions for Kosy Most quoted from an unknown report: “From Stara Białowieza go north toward Narewka then, at block 101, turn right (Kosy Most is signposted) until you reach the parking area. From here is a short walk up to the river. From the bridge a path leads to an observation tower. An area of dead trees after the bridge good for woodpeckers. The small tracks leading into the woods from the car park are the best for Hazel Grouse”.
Crakes - Dluga Luka boardwalk and Gugny are both sites mentioned for hearing Spotted Crakes though we heard none though staying until dusk. Mscichy trail is mentioned as a site for Little Crake by some. The swampy ditch running alongside the left of the track is perfect for crakes but it is essential that you are the first people down the track in the morning before cars disturb the birds.
1 Black-necked Grebe - 2 at Jezioro Zygmunta Augusta, 23rd.
2 Great Crested Grebe
3 Red-necked Grebe - Breeding bird on ponds near Rutki, 23rd.
5 Bittern - Booming bird at Brzostowo, 22nd.
6 Little Egret
7 Great White Egret - 2 at Mscichy, 22nd. 10 at Brzostowo, 23rd.
8 Grey Heron
9 Purple Heron - 1 distant bird at Mscichy, 22nd.
10 White Stork
11 Black Stork - 4 at Mscichy, 2 at Goniadz, 22nd. 1 at Knysyn fishponds, 23rd. 1 at Barwik, 24th.
12 Mute Swan
13 Whooper Swan - 50+ at Knysyn Ramek fishponds, 23rd.
14 Greylag Goose
21 Tufted Duck
24 White-tailed Eagle - Adult, ‘Old Restaurant’, Goniadz, 22nd. Adult at Brzostowo, sub-adult at Knysyn fishponds and 3 at Jezioro Zygmunta Augusta, 23rd.
26 Lesser Spotted Eagle - Quite common in Bialowieza and Biebrza.
27 Greater Spotted Eagle - Possible near Wisna, 21st. 1 at ‘Old Restaurant’, Goniadz, 22nd.
28 Marsh Harrier
29 Montagu’s Harrier
31 Honey Buzzard - 1 over Bialowieza and 2 over Teremiski, 20th.
35 Hazel Grouse - 3 in a day. 1 on Zebra Zubra Trail, 1 on trail north from end of ZZ trail, 1 on trail east of Stara Bialowieza, 19th.
36 Grey Partridge
41 Little Ringed Plover
44 Curlew Sandpiper
45 Temminck’s Stint - 4 at Knysyn Ramek fishponds, 23rd.
46 Little Stint - 1 at Knysyn Ramek fishponds, 23rd.
47 Wood Sandpiper
50 Black-tailed Godwit
52 Great Snipe - Dozen or so birds lekking at the traditional site near Narew, 20th.
54 Jack Snipe - 1 at Brzostowo, 23rd.
55 Red-necked Phalarope - 3 summer plumaged birds at Brzostowo, 23rd.
57 Black-headed Gull
58 Herring Gull
59 Little Gull - 4 at Brzostowo, 23rd.
60 Little Tern
61 Common Tern
62 Black Tern
63 White-winged Black Tern - Everywhere, most numerous at Zajki meadows, 24th.
64 Whiskered Tern - Seen in several places but in smaller numbers, most at Brzostowo.
65 Stock Dove
67 Collared Dove
68 Turtle Dove
70 Tawny Owl
72 Hoopoe - 1 at Goniadz and 3 at Dwor Dobarz, 22nd. 1 at U Dany bar, 23rd.
73 Bee-eater - 1 at Tykocin sand quarry, 21st.
74 Black Woodpecker - Male at Teremiski and a female in the Strict Reserve, 20th.
75 Green Woodpecker - Female at nest site in Tykocin, 23rd.
76 Grey-headed Woodpecker - Male at Bialowieza village and 1 at Strict Reserve entrance, 20th.
77 Great Spotted Woodpecker
78 Syrian Woodpecker - Pair at Tykocin, 21st.
79 Middle Spotted Woodpecker - Male at Zebra Zubra Trail and 1 at Yellow Trail, 19th. 2 at Teremiski and 2 at Strict Reserve, 20th.
80 White-backed Woodpecker - 1 or 2 along Yellow Trail and a male near Zebra Zubra Trail, 19th. Male in Strict Reserve, 20th.
81 Three-toed Woodpecker - Male at Teremiski, 20th.
82 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - Pair near Zebra Zubra Trail, 19th.
85 Woodlark - 4 at Gugny, 23rd.
86 Sand Martin
88 House Martin
89 Meadow Pipit
90 Tree Pipit
91 White Wagtail
92 Yellow Wagtail
93 Citrine Wagtail - Male feeding along Mscichy trail, 22nd.
97 Thrush Nightingale - Commonly heard. Seen well on Yellow Trail, 19th.
98 Bluethroat - 2 at Tykocin, 21st. 6-10 at Osowiec Fort, 22nd.
100 Black Redstart
102 Song Thrush
104 Mistle Thrush
107 Barred Warbler - Common in Bialowieza area.
108 Garden Warbler
110 Lesser Whitethroat
112 Sedge Warbler
113 Aquatic Warbler - 2 or 3 seen and up to 10 heard at Dluga Luka Boardwalk, 22nd.
114 Grasshopper Warbler
115 River Warbler - Heard regularly in Bialowieza area, hard to see. No records in Biebrza area.
116 Savi’s Warbler - Heard River Narew, Tykocin, Osowiec Fort, seen well at Mscichy, 22nd.
117 Reed Warbler
118 Marsh Warbler
119 Great Reed Warbler
120 Icterine Warbler
121 Willow Warbler
122 Wood Warbler
125 Spotted Flycatcher
126 Red-breasted Flycatcher - Pair seen on Yellow Trail and at least 6 birds heard singing, 19th.
127 Pied Flycatcher - 1 male in Parc Palacowy, 20th.
128 Collared Flycatcher - Common in Bialowieza area.
129 Great Tit
130 Blue Tit
131 Crested Tit - 1 in conifer plantations east of Bialowieza village, 20th.
132 Marsh Tit
133 Long-tailed Tit
134 Bearded Tit
135 Penduline Tit - Male at Tykocin, 21st. Many heard at Osowiec Fort, 22nd.
138 Red-backed Shrike - Common.
139 Great Grey Shrike - 5 or 6 on journey to Bialowieza, 18th. 1 at Gugny, 23rd.
147 Golden Oriole - Common around Bialowieza and Tykocin, 21st.
148 House Sparrow
149 Tree Sparrow
158 Common Rosefinch - Common.
159 Reed Bunting
160 Ortolan Bunting - Male along cobbled road near Brzostowo, 23rd.
162 Corn Bunting