Birding & Wildlife Tours
Poland - Primeval Forests and marshes of eastern Poland
17 – 23 May 2020
Cost: £950/person (plus single room supplement)
This tour is reasonably priced as we have opted to avoid expensive hotels when time spent in them is minimal? Exploring the wildlife-rich forests and marshes has to be our priority, so we’ll spend most of our daylight hours in the field. We’ll stay in small, comfortable, often family-run hotels where we will be able to properly enjoy Polish culture and experience the local cuisine. Past tours have accrued over 160 species of birds (including all ten European woodpeckers), 30 butterflies, 30 dragonflies and 10 mammals.
Our Itinerary is as follows:
Fly UK/Warsaw. After arrival at Warsaw airport, we will transfer by minibus to Białowieża, taking the 220 km journey along minor roads through rural Poland. We will pass through transitional Polish villages and soon we encounter White Storks nesting on specially prepared platforms. White Storks have long been a symbol of good luck in Poland, so their return from their African wintering grounds is eagerly awaited. If the stork fails to return then it is widely believed that the village crops will fail! Other relatively common birds likely to be seen on the journey include: Montagu’s Harrier, Red-backed Shrike, Whinchat, Thrush Nightingale and Serin
Overnight at Hotel Unikat, Białowieża (tbc)
We will explore Białowieża village and the local park and take circular routes along forest tracks and rides each day. Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Great Grey Shrike, Golden Oriole, Common Rosefinch, Hawfinch, Black and Common Redstarts, Red-backed Shrike, Icterine, Barred and Marsh Warblers and Wrynecks breed in and around the village. In the forest, we should find Hazel Grouse, perhaps Pygmy Owl, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Red-breasted, Spotted and Collared Flycatchers and woodpeckers along with other wildlife forms. If we are really lucky we may see Spotted Nutcracker and Greenish Warbler. Corncrakes and Spotted Crakes often call from the boggy marshland areas and we will keep an eye out overhead for large raptors such as Lesser Spotted, Short-toed, Booted and other eagles. One of the mornings will be devoted to a tour of the “restricted area” accompanied by a licensed guide. We will see the last stretch of temperate primeval forest left in Europe which is simply breath-taking. It consists mostly of ancient oaks, limes, ash and spruce that tower skywards and the forest floor littered with decaying timber, mosses and lichens. When was the last time you saw an ancient fallen tree, hollow from end to end and clad inside and out with an abundance of moss? You’ll see some good examples here! During the week, we will explore two areas known as the dead forest where beavers have dammed streams with their lodges, causing water levels to rise and kill off the trees. The standing dead timber attracts an abundance of woodpeckers including target species such as: Black, Three-toed, White-backed and Middle Spotted. One evening, will visit an area renowned for lekking Great Snipe. The Białowieża Forest is the last remaining refuge of European Bison and, although never guaranteed, we have been extremely lucky on recent tours. There are also numerous Red Deer, Wild Boars and Wolf and Pine Martins have been occasionally logged. The boggy pools host a number of dragonfly species including ruby and yellow-spotted white-faced darters and downy and yellow-spotted emeralds.
A visit to Siemianówka Reservoir will be a priority as this huge area of freshwater hosts a diversity of wildfowl and wader species. We should expect Black-necked and Red-necked Grebes, Garganey, Gadwall, Common Teal and Tufted Duck. Citrine Wagtail and Penduline Tit will be target birds and Black Storks are regular seen here. Raptors such as White-tailed and Short-toed Eagles, Marsh Harriers and perhaps even a Greater Spotted Eagle regularly hunt over the reservoir and all three marsh terns feed and breed here so we should expect good views of White-winged, Black and Whiskered.
Overnights at Hotel Unikat, Białowieża (tbc)
The normal early morning birding near the hotel before breakfast will apply and then we will transfer to Biebrza stopping off at a number of stops en route. On reaching the Biebrza River, we will check into Carski Traki hostel that is idyllically situated beside Wizna bridge before making our first visit to the marshes. Carski Traki is a family-run hostel and a notable feature is a military museum, which is run solely by the proprietor, Janek, who has been collecting an array of World War II photographs and artefacts found near his home from The Battle of Wizna. Between 350 and 720 Poles defended a fortified line from September 7-10 1939. The Polish forces were up against 42,200 German soldiers with 350 tanks, 457 mortars, cannon, grenade launchers and 600 Luftwaffe aircraft. Although defeat was inevitable, the Polish defense stalled the attacking forces for three days before the tanks broke through the Polish line and the bunkers eliminated one by one. The last bunker surrendered around midday on September 10th and a monument now stands at the site from where you can see the Polish soldier’s vantage point viewing vast tracts of the magnificent Biebrza Marshes. We will visit the site after dinner where we may see Beavers as they work their lodges and dams. The relatively untouched fens were used by Napoleon to graze his horses. We will make an early start to walk fenland tracks looking for Aquatic Warbler in its specialised wet meadow habitats. We will also scan the marshes for the boardwalks and tower hides for Common Cranes and Elk.
Overnight at ‘Carski Trakt’, Sulin
As well as Aquatic Warbler, the reed-beds and sedges play host to Great Reed, Reed, Sedge, Grasshopper and Savi's Warblers, White-spotted Bluethroat and Penduline Tits. The pools within the reed beds host Common Crane, Little Gull, Black, Whiskered, and White-winged Black Terns. We will also visit a site for breeding European Bee-eater. We will make special trips to focus on Citerine Wagtails and Ortolan Buntings, the latter breeding in agricultural areas adjacent to the marsh. Butterflies and dragonflies are also a feature of this wonderful wetland and lily-pad white-faced dragonfly will be a target.
Overnights ‘Carski Trakt’, Sulin
We will return to Warsaw airport for our flight home stopping at a few birding stops en route to break up the journey.
The price is based seven nights en suite accommodation with two people sharing, packed lunches (at Carski Trakt only), dinner, bed and breakfast, ground transport in Poland, services of leaders and local guides and reserve entrance fees. Packed lunches will be made up soon after breakfast at Carski Trakt but we’ll shop at local stores for lunches whilst in Białowieża.
Air flights to and from Warsaw (guidance on available flights given), travel insurance, lunches if required at Białowieża (we’ll call in at the shop each morning), drinks and items of a purely personal nature
Steve Piotrowski is an accomplished tour guide and has worked in Poland for local conservation bodies. His numerous visits to eastern Poland means that he is familiar with the best wildlife sites and will be able to locate key species that inhabit those magnificent forests and marshes.
Local guides will be employed for the Białowieża Restricted area and for the location of specialist species.
Click images to enlarge