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A Report from

Poland, 14-19th May 2009,

Ray Thorneycroft

The trip was made by four birders, Chris Johnson, Len Cusworth, Mick Bellas and myself. Chris had birded Poland some years before, and he planned this trip. This was for five days only, the plan being to pick up on some of the Polish specialities.

Flights: Were by WIZZ Airlines, a Polish low budget airline that had a number of flights per week into Doncaster Robin Hood Airport. As we all lived locally, we took advantage of this. The flight was Doncaster to Warsaw. A hire car was picked up on arrival at Warsaw. Chris and Mick did all the driving.

Research:  Chris’s previous Knowledge, Gosney’s “Finding Birds in Poland, Collin’s Bird Guide, “Birds of Britain and Europe” and trip reports from Birdtours on the internet.


May 14       Doncaster-Warsaw- Bialowieza
May 15       Bialowieza Palace Park-Podolany Bridge-Strict Reserve
May 16       Podolany Bridge-Wysokie Bagno-Teremiski-Zebra Zubra
May 17       Siemianowka-Goniadz-Mscichy
May 18       Goniadz-Barwik-Dluga Luka-Wizna-Warsaw

After landing at Warsaw, we picked up the hire car and hit the road. It was a long drive to Bialowieza, and we wouldn’t arrive there till after dusk. Along the road we started to pick up birds, mostly Corvids and White Storks, but we did have one Montagu’s Harrier and some Blue-headed Wagtails. Prior to dusk, we stopped at a small bridge en route and had Ortolan Bunting, Woodcock and a Corncrake was heard calling nearby. We walked the field and flushed it. On arrival at Bialowieza, we booked into the Pension Gawra for three nights.

15th Bialowieza  Palace Park-Podolany Bridge-Strict Reserve.

We were out of the hotel prior to daybreak and made the short walk to the park. As we approached the gates, we could hear a Thrush Nightingale singing really loud. We located it deep in a bush, and eventually it came out atop the bush giving good views to everyone and we also had a couple of Hawfinches at this spot. As we crossed the bridge, on either side of the path were small lakes and a Common Tern was quartering these, and a Great Reed Warbler was belting it out as he climbed a reed stem. Lots of small birds about including Serin, Linnet, White Wagtail, a dark Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch. As we neared the end of the path, towards the Palace, we veered left to a small wooded area by a hunting lodge. Here we picked up Marsh Tit and Spotted Flycatcher. Moving on into the wood proper, we had our first Collared Flycatcher, the first of several and Mick got onto a Red-breasted Flycatcher.

The wood ran out into parkland with large majestic deciduous trees. We branched to the left and walked towards the gate out of the park, and along a track towards the Strict Reserve. This was bordered by scrub on both sides. Walking along here we had a few Whinchats, Tree Pipit, Wryneck, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Great Grey Shrike, Grey-headed Woodpecker and Corncrake on call, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Lesser Spotted Eagle and two Whooper Swans flying over. Two men came down the track from the Strict Reserve. One of them happened to be a Guide for the Reserve whose name we already had as a contact to arrange entry, at a price of course. We booked him for that evening and arranged to meet him at 1600hrs.

We returned back to the Palace grounds, and birded around the trees in the park, and sorting out the wing identification marks on female Collared and Pied Flycatchers, and around the adjoining lake. We also had good views of Icterine Warbler, 3 Common Crossbills, Marsh Tit, 6 Song Thrushes, Greenfinch, Lesser Whitethroat, and Golden Oriole calling.

We also birded this area the following evening in pouring rain, spending most of the time on the porch of the Hunting Lodge, seeing Siskins, Nuthatch, Goldfinches and Collared Flycatcher.

Podolany Bridge

In the afternoon we travelled a couple of miles to Podolany Bridge, which is very near to the Belarus border. Around the bridge over a small river,  the terrain is marshy, reedy, and with some scrub. A couple of hundred yards along the road is the edge of a forest. We had Red-backed Shrike, Golden Oriole calling, Woodlark, Blackcap, Whitethroat, and good views of a Thrush Nightingale. In the air were a few Barn Swallows, and another Lesser Spotted Eagle. Woodpeckers were heard drumming from the forest area, and one was louder than the others. We went down to investigate, and Mick found a White-backed Woodpecker. He was drumming away oblivious to us, giving us all good views.

Bialowieza Strict Reserve.

In the late afternoon we met up with the guide for the trip into this protected area. Along the way we had White Stork, Marsh Harrier, 3 Whinchats, Cuckoo and the Corncrake heard earlier was still calling away. Inside the reserve the trees were fantastic, the majority being deciduous and Oak trees the like I had never seen before. They were massive. As we walked the guide gave us a potted history of the reserve. A herd of European Bison roamed the wood. Twice they had been shot out, the second time during World War Two for food. The present herd had been reintroduced with stock from Eastern Europe.

The one bird we did hope to see was Three-toed Woodpecker. We did get Greater Spotted, Middle Spotted, Grey Headed, and White Backed Woodpeckers. The guide thought he was on to a Three-toed, and we gave it about forty minutes, but nothing materialised. We also had 3 Collared Flycatchers.

We did make a loose arrangement with the guide regarding a Great Snipe lek, but as it was so far, and as we had limited time, we never followed it up.

16th Podolany – Wysokie Bagno - Terimiski-Zebra Zubra

We returned to the bridge again this morning looking for Marsh and River Warblers. The area was covered in mist to reed top level and we had plenty of common birds and some new ones including four Barred Warblers and Common Cuckoo. One of the highlights was watching Fieldfares carrying food to their nests, of which there were a few.

We walked back up the road from the bridge for few hundred yards, and took a track to the right which led in a circular direction through the forests of the Wysokie Bagno area, and eventually came back to the road in the area where we had the White-backed Woodpecker the day before. The woods were mostly coniferous, and the small birds we had included Blue, Coal and Great Tits and a couple of Crested Tits. I was the last in line, and a shout went up from the front. A Hazel Hen had been seen on the path. It was on its way to Russia by the time I got to the front. Another one bit the dust. The last part of the wood was deciduous trees, and Woodpeckers were drumming. We had both Greater and Lesser-spotted and the White-backed was still drumming very loudly, and had now been joined by a mate.

Walking back towards the bridge Mick had Marsh Warbler singing in a bush which eventually came to the top giving us all good views. He also had a River Warbler, which no one else got on, and Chris had a male Common Rosefinch.

We stocked up with provisions (Bananas) at the local shop, and then made our way to Teremiski. This was a flooded forest area on both sides of the road. Two Black Woodpeckers were seen, but not prolonged views. Other birds here were Greater Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Collared Flycatchers, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Red-backed Shrike, White Wagtail and Marsh Tit. A rather lethargic Pine Marten which approached close by provided an interesting diversion here.

We then returned via the Zebra Zubra boardwalk which was very quiet and yielded nothing new and also birded the adjacent campground area across the road by the river.

In the evening we again returned to the Palace Grounds but the rain had now set in so spent most of the time on the porch of the Hunting Lodge, seeing Siskins, Nuthatch, Goldfinches and Collared Flycatcher as already mentioned, then tried the Podolany bridge again but the heavy rain was incessant  so we returned to the hotel, where we had a slap up meal of beetroot soup, sauerkraut and pork.

17th Siemianowka Res-Goniadz-Mscichy.

We left Bialowieza early and arrived here mid morning and it was still raining. We went through the village to the shallow end of the reservoir, going left of the pump house to a tower hide overlooking the reed bed and onto the reservoir. Quite a lot was happening out there with about a hundred Whiskered Terns flying around, with one Common Tern and two Black Terns amongst them and a single Arctic Skua blogged straight through. Three Eurasian Marsh Harriers, two male one female were working the reed beds. Wildfowl seen were Greylag Geese, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Common Pochard.  There were also Great-crested Grebe and Coot along with six Great White Egrets.

We walked the flood bank to the right where the Citrine Wagtail area was. Sure enough we had female Citrine flitting in the field below the flood bank. Other small birds seen were Reed Buntings, Common Whitethroat, Whinchat, Yellowhammer and four Blue-headed Wagtails. Bittern were heard booming in the reed beds, a Golden Oriole was heard on call, Thrush Nightingale were singing, and a Turtle Dove was heard calling. Hirundines seen were Barn Swallow and House Martin, and two Ravens were also spotted. We then hit the road to Goniadz and the Biebrza Marshes.


Arriving at Goniadz, Chris took us to an area with a Panoramic view over the marshes. Miles, upon miles, of marsh and reed beds. We then went looking for our hotel. We had booked into the Hotel Zbyszko for one night. Alas, because a wedding was in full swing, they had transferred us to the nearby Kompleks Wypoczynkowy Hotel Goniadz, and if you can pronounce that you deserve a literary degree.

After booking in we drove out of the village, down the hill, across the bridge and onto the marshes. Just up the road was a tower hide, and we climbed into it. The air was full of Hirundines, Barn Swallows, House Martins, twenty Swifts, and a couple of Sand Martins. Ten Marsh Harriers were seen quartering the marshes along with four Montagu’s Harriers. Whiskered, and White-winged Black Terns were also in attendance, together with Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwings. On the other side of the road behind a large hedge was a pasture field. Here we had Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Blue-headed Wagtails, two Hooded Crows and about twenty Jackdaws.

We then drove to Mscichy for the evening as we hoped to get Aquatic Warbler here. This was an area of wet meadows on one side of the track with scrub and grassy marsh on the other. The track was about two miles long and finished at a hide overlooking the river. We started off to walk this, and a couple of hundred yards down it we had a pair of Citrine Wagtails giving all of us good prolonged views of them. A little farther along we had at least four Savi’s Warblers and got excellent views. White Storks were strutting around feeding, Common Cranes were heard calling and in the far distance a White-tailed Eagle passed by.

At the end of the track was a raised platform hide overlooking the marsh. Barn Swallows and Common Swifts were hawking above the reeds, and Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns were working the water channels. A Wood Sandpiper was seen, and in the distance was a Lesser Spotted Eagle.

On the return journey a Black Stork flew in and landed alongside the track. We were looking for Aquatic Warbler on the grassy marsh area, and all we were getting were Sedge Warblers and Whinchats. Eventually we homed in on one, singing at the top of a grassy stem giving good views. We saw the Citrines again in the wet meadows along with more Blue-headed Wagtails.

We drove back to the hotel and scrubbed up for dinner, and presented ourselves at the restaurant. This was a big hall with the tables set out in long rows, as if a shooting fest was going to take place. Lots of beer and food. The music was playing and we thought we were in for a good night. Unfortunately, we were the only customers and the food was straight from the microwave.

18th Goniadz-Barwik-Dluga Luka-Wizna-Warsaw.

The next morning, we walked down to the marsh by the hotel, and out onto the jetty. The mist was low over the reeds and the only birds about were a couple of Blue-headed Wagtails. We then saw some ripples by the edge of the reeds, and a pair of European Beavers swam into view. The birds started to wake up with both Reed and Great Reed Warbler singing. A Red-backed Shrike showed itself, and walking back to the car park, Willow and Garden Warbler were seen along with Blackcap and Common Whitethroat.

We left heading for Dluga Luka, and hopefully more Aquatic Warblers. We stopped at a place atop a hill, with some very heavy old concrete fortifications overlooking the river. This was near Osowiec and a local told us the fortifications were Russian, and dated from the end of the 19th century. Certainly a lot of toing and froing happened in this part Europe. Enroute here we had more Common Cranes, Red-backed Shrike, Fieldfare, Marsh Harrier and Montagu’s Harrier. From there we went to Barwick and had a look at the site of the old well known but now abandoned Great Snipe lek site, before driving further on and found Dluga Luka. This is a marsh with a boardwalk running into it, the right hand side of which has been set with a Sedge grass prepared habitat to attract Aquatic Warblers to breed as these are a declining species in Europe. We walked the wooden boardwalk picking up Sedge Warbler and Reed Warblers. A River Warbler could be heard calling, eventually giving good views and finally two Aquatic Warblers were watched singing against each other from the end of the causeway.

The next port of call was the marshes near Laskowiez. From the road we could see nesting White-winged Black Terns, of which there were estimated to be well over a thousand seen, and a single Black Tern. Two Marsh Harriers and two Montagu’s Harriers were also seen, and in the wet grass were Blue-headed Wagtails and one male Ruff in breeding plumage.

We then drove towards Wizna and birded another site where the main road crossed the river. Here was a colony of Black Terns. Most of them were hawking above the river and a Red-necked Grebe was also present here. We then went on to a site nearby to look for Corncrake and as soon as we alighted from the car one was heard calling. We listened to it for a while, during which time a Common Buzzard flew overhead, and Barred and Marsh Warblers were seen. The Corncrake was still calling from the same spot, so Chris walked towards it, and it flew for about twenty yards, and it was seen by everyone.

That was the end of the birding. We had to make the long drive back to Warsaw, where we planned to stay overnight to enable us to catch the early flight home to Doncaster. On arrival at Raszyn we were unable to locate the hotel we had arranged so we booked into the Motel Marysienka. During the night, a thief got into the room shared by Chris and Mick, and stole Chris’s wallet. The police were notified and were quick and helpful, enabling us to make the plane in time. This incident soured the trip for all of us.

Species Recorded

Great Crested Grebe
Red-necked Grebe : 1 at Wizna Bridge
Bittern: Heard calling at Siemianowka
Great White Egret: 6 at Siemianowka and 1 at Mscichy
Grey Heron
Black Stork: Singles at Goniadz and Mscichy
White Stork
Mute Swan
Whooper Swan: 2 flew over Bialowieza
Greylag Goose
Tufted Duck
Goldeneye: A pair at Siemianowka
White-tailed Eagle: A brief distant bird at Mscichy
Marsh Harrier
Montagu’s Harrier
Sparrowhawk: 1 at Mscichy
Common Buzzard
Lesser Spotted Eagle
Hazel Grouse: 1 flushed at Wysokie Bagno
Grey Partridge : 4 en-route to Bialowieza
Coot: A few at Siemianowka
Common Crane
Common Snipe
Woodcock: 1 en-route to Bialowieza
Black-tailed Godwit
Wood Sandpiper: 1 at Mscichy
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern
Whiskered Tern: 100+ at Siemianowka and others at Mscichy
Black Tern: 50+ at Wizna Bridge
White-winged Black Tern: In the thousands at Biezbra
Rock Dove
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Turtle Dove: 1 calling at Siemianowka
Common Swift
Hoopoe: 1 calling near Goniadz
Wryneck: One at Bialowieza
Grey-headed Woodpecker: 1 at Bialowieza
Black Woodpecker: 1 at Teremiski
Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker: 1 in Strict Reserve, Bialowieza
White-backed Woodpecker: A pair at Wysokie Bagno and 1 at Strict Reserve, Bialowieza
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker:  Singles in Palace Park and at Wysokie Bagno
Woodlark: 2 at Bialowieza
Sand Martin
House Martin
Tree Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Blue-headed Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail:  1 at Siemianowka and 2 at Mscichy
White Wagtail
Thrush Nightingale
Black Redstart
Song Thrush
Redwing: 1 singing at Zebra Zubra
River Warbler: Seen at Bialowieza bridge, Dluga Luka boardwalk and heard at other sites
Savi’s Warbler: 3+ at Mscichy
Aquatic Warbler: 1 seen at Mscichy and 2 at Dluga Luka boardwalk
Sedge Warbler
Marsh Warbler: 2 at Bialowieza bridge and 1 at Wizna
Great Reed Warbler
Icterine Warbler
Barred Warbler: 4+ at Bialowieza bridge area
Lesser Whitethroat
Common Whitethroat
Garden Warbler
Wood Warbler
Willow Warbler
Goldcrest: 2 at Palace Park
Spotted Flycatcher
Red-breasted Flycatcher: 1 at Palace Park
Collared Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher:
Marsh Tit
Crested Tit: 1 at Wysokie Bagno
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Golden Oriole
Red-backed Shrike
Northern Grey Shrike: 1at Bialowieza
Carrion Crow
Hooded Crow: 2 at Goniadz
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Siskin: 6 at Palace Park
Common Crossbill: 1 at Palace Park
Scarlet Rosefinch: 1 at Podolany bridge
Ortolan Bunting: 1 en-route to  Bialowieza
Reed Bunting


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