Poland 2010

...with Felix Felger

May 8th - 15th

May 8th

After our early morning flight from Heathrow we landed in Warsaw and met up with our guide, Felix and his driver Raphael. We were then quickly on our way to the Biebrza marshes a journey of about 3 hours during which we saw our first Jackdaws, Hooded Crow, Common Buzzards and White Storks. After checking into the Hotel Zbyszko in Goniadz, our base for the next three nights, we took our first look at the vast area of wetland. Immediately we were overwhelmed by the sight and sound of literally hundreds of White-winged Terns, these newly arrived birds were in the process of seeking out nest sites to rear this year’s brood. On closer inspection we located Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and the symbol of this National Park the Ruff. These birds, each male in its unique breeding plumage, were displaying in communal leks in order to win the right to mate with the smaller females. This section of the marsh also provided sight or sound of Great Egret, Common Crane, Common Snipe performing their drumming flights, booming Bitterns, Common Cuckoos, Marsh Harrier, Yellow Wagtail, Water Rail, Thrush Nightingale, Corncrake, Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Bunting and Sedge Warbler.

May 9th

The area adjacent to the hotel provided a pre-breakfast birding opportunity. Tree Sparrow, Blue and Great Tit, Blackcap, Linnet, Serin, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Greater and Lesser White Throat and Fieldfare were all added to the list. After breakfast our guide took us to another area fairly local to the hotel where very soon we located our first Savi’s Warbler and Penduline Tit. Viewing from one of the many tower hides we had excellent views of a beautiful male Bluethroat in full song. The course of the day consisted of visits to various marsh side locations where we took short walks or viewed from the roadside or water’s edge. This provided views of Penduline Tit at the nest site, Black Redstart, Great Grey Shrike, Dunlin, Garganey, Coot , Shoveler, Mallard, Common and Wood Sandpiper and our first Lesser Spotted Eagle. Towards the end of the afternoon we visited the Aquatic Warbler nesting site and after a while we managed to see several of these birds singing from the marsh vegetation. The site also provided at least five Montagu’s Harriers and a Greater Spotted Eagle. We returned to our hotel very satisfied after such a brilliant day.

May 10th

The early morning birding produced the usual suspects including Starling, Magpie, Swift, Swallow and House Martin. After breakfast we went to a local forest area. On arrival we were greeted with a singing Yellowhammer, quickly however our attention was drawn to our first Wryneck perched at the end of a low branch completely in the open. Entering the forest proper we were reminded to apply our insect repellent as hundreds of Mosquitoes came to greet us. However we soon located our first woodpecker, a Great Spotted. A little further in we were surprised with another, it was a Middle Spotted this time. Also added to our list was a Hawfinch and on the return track we managed to pick out a Golden Oriole high up in the tree canopy. En-route to our next destination, Tykocin, we passed near to lake Zygrmunta Augusta, a site we were to visit on another day, but were treated to a fly over White-tailed Eagle. On arrival we were treated to great views of a singing Thrush Nightingale and from the tower hide another Savi’s Warbler performed well as did several Great Reed Warblers. Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers circled over the reed beds and our first Black Tern was picked out from the many White-winged variety. After lunch we visited a known site for Bee Eaters and Sand Martin but recent human activity had meant these birds had relocated elsewhere however a Northern Wheatear was an unexpected bonus. We returned back to the marsh and to a Syrian Woodpecker nest site where both birds provided outstanding views. Returning back to base we spotted a Hoopoe and stopping to get a better view our attention was drawn to a singing Marsh Warbler and our first Spotted Flycatcher. Two more stops before the day was over provided Whiskered Tern, nesting Whooper Swan, Pintail, Black-headed Gulls and Curlew.

May 11th

After breakfast we departed from our hotel for the Bialowieza National Park but not before Garden Warbler was added to our tally. Our route took us via the lake where we had seen the White-tailed Eagle the previous day and today we were given a repeat performance. However the big surprise came in the form of a Black-throated Diver, still in winter plumage and accompanied by a pair of Great Cormorant. We travelled further in a south-easterly direction towards the town of Bialystok and its fish pond area. Very soon we located several Red-necked Grebes, these provided excellent views in their breeding plumage. Great Crested Grebe and Tufted Duck were also present. We continued on but via the Siemianowka reservoir. This body of water close to the border with Belarus is a known site for Citrine Wagtail but we were unable to locate this bird, but were able to see more White-winged, Black and Whiskered Terns, Whinchat, Turtle Dove, Red-backed and Great Grey Shrikes. We proceeded on to our accommodation for the next four nights close to the small town of Narewka but within touching distance of the forest. During the afternoon we saw from the garden Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Hoopoe, Black Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Hawfinch. Taking a walk into the forest we had Black, Great Spotted and Grey Headed Woodpeckers, Willow and Wood Warblers and within the water meadow several Corncrake were heard, we knew then that this was an ideal location and further confirmed when our host Renata served our evening meal.

May 12th

Our first visit of the day took us to a section of forest that was partially flooded which provided a stand of dead trees that provided ideal perches to observe birds. We rapidly found a Collared Flycatcher and soon after a Pied Flycatcher provided excellent comparison. Treecreeper and Nuthatch were also added to the list. This last bird maybe of particular significance as it was of the ‘europaea’ sub-species and a pair was later seen regularly visiting a nest hole, which our guide Felix advised us would be a first for Poland. Whilst carrying out these observations a Honey Buzzard passed overhead and a pair of White-tailed Eagles circled even closer, a distant Black Stork was also seen. We next returned to the reservoir we visited yesterday but once again failed to connect with our target the Citrine Wagtail. However we did find a Green Sandpiper and another Lesser Spotted Eagle. On our return to base we heard and saw a pair of Ortolan Bunting singing from roadside trees. After an early evening meal we were off to a Great Snipe lekking site. On arrival a Woodcock was observed whilst roding overhead and it wasn’t long before we heard the display calls of several Great Snipe. We were then able to pick out a small number of individuals that were partially hidden within the lush meadow grass. Drumming Common Snipe was also heard and we were able to view a Grasshopper Warbler whilst making our return. Very close to the vehicle a pair of Woodcock flew over to salute our memorable visit.

May 13th

Our first visit of the day was to a site for Barred Warbler. A pair of Red-backed Shrike often seen in association with this warbler showed well and soon we heard the characteristic rattle of our target, unfortunately the bird remained elusive and we failed to obtain any view. Our next destination was to a White-backed Woodpecker nest hole and after a brief wait both male and female showed extremely well as they made frequent visits to their hungry young. European Robin was added to the list and whilst at our lunch stop River Warbler was heard and briefly seen. Close by an Icterine Warbler was successfully viewed as was, after a short chase, a very handsome Common Rosefinch. We returned for another early evening meal to allow for a planned mission to actually see the numerous and highly vocal but elusive Corncrake. However after great persistence we had to admit defeat and returned without success.

May 14th

Our pre-breakfast walk provided views of the following birds; Wryneck, Serin, Hawfinch, Common Redstart, Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike, Great Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Wood Warbler, Willow Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Lesser Spotted Eagle and of course the supporting cast of the familiar woodland birds. After breakfast we returned to the Bialowieza National Park Headquarters where we soon located a singing Red-breasted Flycatcher, we then re-visited the White-backed Woodpecker site where both birds put in a star performance and on our travels we also connected with a Tree Pipit and heard Hazel Grouse. After lunch we met up with a National Park guide for an escorted visit to the Special Reserve Area of the Park. This was truly a magical experience seeing a natural forest that has been unmanaged for over one hundred years. Nature had been left to its own devices and provided a window into a world that had once been common throughout lowland Europe. During the walk we recorded excellent views of a pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers at their nest hole. Our last visit of the day was to another section of forest to observe Pygmy Owl. Whilst waiting for our bird we were visited by a Woodcock which flew in and landed right in front of us onto a dead tree. Eventually the Pygmy Owl responded to our calls and provided a stunning end to our day and our wonderful visit to the marshes and forests of Eastern Poland.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at enquiries@birdwatchingbreaks.com.

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