here to see a slide show of images taken on our recent trips to
Day 1 Saturday 4 May 2013
We depart London Heathrow on a scheduled flight
to Warsaw. On arrival in Warsaw we'll meet our
local guide and drive east towards Bialowieza
(pronounced Bee-a-wo-veesha) National Park,
absorbing the peaceful rural landscape and making
a few birding stops on the way. We arrive in the
small village of Bialowieza in the late afternoon
and check into our beautiful hotel, which will be
home for the next four nights.
Days 2 - 4 Sunday 5 May – Tuesday 7 May 2013
We spend three full days exploring in and around the Bialowieza region, birding the myriad of trails that cut through this superb primeval mixed woodland. Bialowieza forest is the largest remaining remnant of the original European forest and birding here is like stepping back two thousand years! Covering an area of 580 square kilometres in Poland alone, the forest also continues in a vast tract across the Belarus border. The predominant woodland type in Bialowieza is deciduous and constitutes around 47% of the forest area. Coniferous forest constitutes 37% and wet deciduous and mixed forests 16% of the area. The forest stand consists mainly of Norway Spruce, Scots Pine, Alder and Oak as well as several birch species. Common Ash, Lime, Aspen, Hornbeam and Elm are also widespread. Much of the forest is sensitively managed but just under 50 square kilometres have been set aside and is known locally as the ‘Strict Reserve’. The main idea of setting aside the ‘Strict Reserve’ is to protect all the environmental elements in the forest - soils, waters, flora and fauna, as well as natural processes that are taking place in this complex ecosystem. Access to this area is strictly controlled but our guide has special permission and we will spend some of our time viewing wildlife within this area. It is incredible to think that almost 40% of the forest is covered with trees which are more than 80 years old! In fact the average age of the forest stand is 73 years in the managed areas and 130 years in the ‘Strict Reserve’! Even more incredible is the biodiversity of fauna - the forest contains approximately 9200 species of insect, 13 species of amphibian, 58 species of mammal and nearly 250 species of bird - 177 of which have bred.
Our days will be filled with the sights and
sounds of exciting forest birds. Perhaps the most
famous denizens of the forest are the woodpeckers
and we will spare no effort in trying to locate
as many as ten species, from the enormous Black
to the diminutive Lesser-spotted. We’ll be making
a particular effort to encounter the ‘special’
species such as the localised White-backed, the
secretive Three-toed, the handsome Middle-spotted
and the very vocal Grey-headed. By early-May all
the summer migrants will have arrived and will be
on territory. Stunning Collared and Red-breasted
Flycatchers sing their hearts out alongside
Icterine Warblers and there will be more familiar
woodland species such as Crested Tit, Siskin,
Redpoll, Redstart, Wood Warbler and Nuthatch.
Hawfinches are as secretive as ever, but they
breed here in high densities and in the spruce
stands Nutcrackers and Hazel Hens vie for our
attention – though they remain as secretive as
ever . Other highly sought after species include
raptors. Tengmalm’s and the minuscule Pygmy Owl
both breed in the forest and since
2007, Shetland Wildlife has paid for the
construction and erection of a number of
Tengmalm’s Owls next-boxes, so fingers crossed!
Looking skywards we‘ll keep an eye out for Honey
Buzzards, stealthy Goshawks, Booted Eagle,
Short-toed Eagle and even Golden Eagle. The
forest fringes, rough thickets and
sympathetically farmed damp meadows are home to
true eastern species such as ever-rasping
Corncrakes, delightful Thrush Nightingales,
Common Rosefinches, Wrynecks, Barred, River and
Marsh Warblers and stunning Bluethroats. Lesser
Spotted Eagles can also be found here, as indeed
can both Black and White Storks.
We also visit the woodlands and marshes in the vicinity of Siemianwka Lake. Damming the River Narew since 1970, it is hard to believe this region is man-made, for it is now a superb habitat and boasts an outstanding assemblage of both resident and migratory birds. The highlight for most here will be lemon-headed Citrine Wagtails – a very rare breeding bird in Europe but the area boasts some 30 breeding pairs. The lake is also superb for raptors with huge White-tailed Eagles virtually guaranteed along with Lesser Spotted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Osprey, Hobby, Short-toed Eagle and a few Red Kites. Out on the marshes, three species of ‘marsh’ tern breed – White-winged Black, Black and Whiskered – and the reedbeds are home to Bittern and Great White Egret. The forest also offers us a great opportunity to record some truly exciting mammals. European Bison (known here as ‘Wisent’) sadly became extinct in the wild in the 1920s but in 1952 a captive breeding programme was initiated and there are now some 250 individuals roaming the forests in and around Bialowieza. Other mammals to look out for include Wild Boar, Elk, Red and Roe Deer, Red Squirrel and the secretive Pine Marten. Both Wolf and Lynx occur here but we would be extremely fortunate to spot either of these. Fingers crossed then!
Days 5 - 7 Wednesday 8 May – Friday 10 May 2013
After some optional early morning birding, we leave Bialowieza after breakfast and gradually make our way north-west to the famous Biebrza Marshes. We’ll stop off at the Bialystok fishponds, which are a superb area of reed-fringed ponds holding species such as Red-necked Grebe, Penduline Tit, and Great Reed Warbler. We arrive at Biebrza and settle into our superb hotel, which overlooks the marshes. We have two full days to explore the internationally important Biebrzanski National Park – a wetland site unique in Europe and under RAMSAR protection. Like Bialowieza, the Biebrza region supports an incredible biodiversity. Over 270 species of birds have been recorded, 181 of which have bred. There are also 48 species of mammal, 13 species of amphibian, 5 species of reptile, 36 species of fish and over 750 species of moths and butterflies! We’ll be exploring the mazes of river channels, flooded meadows, lakes and huge areas of wild marshes for a superb selection of birds. Breeding waders such as Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwings are common and masses of ‘marsh’ terns hawk insects over reedbeds that are home to Blue-headed Wagtails, Little Crakes, Little Bitterns, Penduline Tits and Savi’s, River, Great Reed and Grasshopper Warblers. One of the most important reedbed denizens here is the globally threatened tiger-striped Aquatic Warbler. The global population is estimated at between 12,000-20,500 singing males, with major populations occurring in Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary and this region of Poland. The species winters in West Africa south of the Sahara but little more is known about the species during winter. The other speciality of Biebrza is the Great Snipe. During the daytime they skulk completely out of sight in the damp meadows but at dusk the birds move onto their ‘lek’ sites to perform their incredible displays. Males stand erect with their chest puffed out and their tails fanned, sometimes jumping into the air! This event will certainly be one of the highlights of our visit. Raptors are common here and on the very western edge of their range, Greater Spotted Eagles nest here in very small numbers. The damp meadow fringes hold Corncrakes, Black Storks, Thrush Nightingales, Bluethroats, Ortolan Buntings and Turtle Doves. If time permits we will also visit a site for Rollers and Bee-eaters, both of which are very rare breeders in Poland.
Day 8 Saturday 11 May 2013
After some morning birding around Biebrza we head towards Warsaw to check-in for a late morning or early afternoon flight back to London Heathrow.
2013 Operating Dates
Sat 4th May
Sat 11th May - SOLD OUT
Group Size - maximum 12 travellers
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