A birding tour to Poland.

Please note: this page gives details of our 2010 trip.

For details of our 2011 trips please click here

 

 

NORTH-EAST POLAND

rare European birds in Poland's primeval forests and unspoilt marshes

 

Things are changing in Poland. Fifteen years ago the standard of accommodation was barely adequate and only a handful of adventurous birdwatchers travelled there. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, more and more birdwatchers have visited, and there have been great improvements to the infrastructure. In 2004, Poland was welcomed as a new member of the European Union, and travel there has never been easier. There is, perhaps, no better time to go. Who knows how long it will remain unspoilt? 

This ancient, unexploited land offers us a glimpse of what most of Europe was like before the ravages of modern man led to the draining of the marshes and the felling of the forests.

To the north-east of Warsaw, near the Belorussian border, wetlands stretch away as far as the eye can see. There are numerous lakes, and forests that have stood for hundreds of years. The timing of our visit is carefully planned. It is critical that our arrival coincides with that of the incoming summer migrants whilst ensuring that resident birds such as woodpeckers, which started breeding earlier in the year, will still be in evidence.

 

Our local guide will be invaluable in helping us find one or two elusive species such as White-backed Woodpecker and Aquatic Warbler.

 

We shall have two bases for this holiday, firstly the famous Bialowieza Forest, followed by Tykocin, near the vast marshes of Biebrza. We will have ample time to cover all the varying habitats.

 

ITINERARY

BIALOWIEZA FOREST

Having arrived at Warsaw Airport we will be met by our guide and drive east to Bialowieza. We will spend the first four nights in a hotel at the edge of the Bialowieza Forest. This huge area of ancient woodland situated on the Belorussian border covers over one thousand square kilometres and has remained undisturbed by humans for thousands of years. It is perhaps the closest thing we have left that resembles the old primeval forests which once covered much of Europe. It was protected as a hunting area for Polish Kings and Russian Czars and is now a famous national park. Many of our previous customers have regarded the experience of visiting the forest as the highlight of the trip, as it is so different from anything else in Europe. In the forest around the hotel we should find Wood Warbler, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Marsh and Crested Tits, Serin, Hawfinch and Jay, as well as Black Redstart on the building itself. If we are lucky our first Black Woodpecker may reveal itself, or perhaps even a Hazel Grouse.

 

The forest is home to a number of elusive mammals, with the herd of European Bison being the most important. Others include Wolf, Lynx, Beech Marten, Moose, Wild Boar and Racoon Dog.

 

When we think of ancient forests we immediately think of woodpeckers and indeed these will provide many of the highlights during our stay. Nine species breed, including Black, White-backed, Middle Spotted, Three-toed, Grey-headed and Wryneck. Most occur in sufficient numbers that we can hope to see them during our stay, although Three-toed can be difficult. Black Woodpecker is by no means the rarest of them, but is often the most highly prized, as it is so impressive. Local help should play a part in finding one.

 

Owls may feature too, as there is a chance of seeing Ural Owl and we have never failed to see European Pygmy Owl.

 

Black Storks, Honey Buzzards, and Booted and Short-toed Eagles all occur here in small numbers. Golden Orioles call from the tree tops throughout the day, occasionally showing us their dazzling yellow plumage. Easier to see are the obliging Red-backed Shrikes. The smart males are regularly seen perched on the tops of small bushes.

 

There are a number of species which breed here, appearing in the UK only as rare, windblown vagrants on the east coast or remote islands. Thrush Nightingale, Icterine and Barred Warbler, Scarlet Rosefinch, and Red-breasted and Collared Flycatchers are all fairly common. The mysterious River Warbler reveals itself by its distinctive song, a loud, pulsating, buzzing which sounds like a cross between a sewing machine and a steam train! The impressive Nutcracker, whose harsh, Jay-like cry is usually the first sign of its presence, can also be found.

 

BIEBRZA MARSHES

The next three nights will be spent in the heart of the Biebrza Marshes. The meadows close to our hotel hold breeding Bluethroat, Corncrake, Saviís Warbler and Syrian Woodpecker.

 

Lakes, marshes, peat bogs and damp forest together cover an area of over 130,000 ha, making Biebrza the largest inland wetland in Europe. Internationally important for a number of breeding birds, we will have ample opportunity to explore the area, our main aim being to find the rare Aquatic Warbler and Great Snipe.

 

Much reduced over its range, the Aquatic Warbler is Europeís most endangered song bird. Finding one in the endless sea of grass where they nest seems an impossible task at first. However, with a little local knowledge, we stand a great chance, as they are in full song at the time of our visit.

 

One evening we will visit a Great Snipe lek. These rare and declining birds call at dusk, jumping into the air like a jack-in-the-box, flashing the white in their tail. Later as they chase each other low across the tussocky marshes we will walk away feeling privileged to have witnessed this magical event.

 

The prize raptor here is the magnificent White-tailed Eagle, the largest of Europe's eagles and a species which takes one's breath away with every encounter. Other raptors in this area include Lesser Spotted Eagle, the rare Spotted Eagle, Hobby, and Montagu's and Marsh Harriers. There is even a chance of Pallid Harrier, which has increased in recent years. Ducks to look for include Ferruginous, Pochard, Tufted, Goldeneye, Goosander, Garganey, Gadwall and Pintail. Other species include Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, Bittern, Spotted Crake, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Gull.

 

Thousands of White-winged Black Terns have colonised Polandís marshes in the last few decades. Their buoyant flight over the wet meadows is a delight to watch. Both Black and Whiskered Terns breed in smaller numbers.

 

Corncrakes have survived the ravages of modern agriculture in this unspoilt area and are subject to a concentrated conservation effort. White Storks are common and we may also see the occasional Common Crane, as well as the rare Black Stork at the edge of its forest home. The area is also rich in songbirds including Woodlark, Fieldfare, Northern Grey Shrike, Ortolan, Bluethroat, Grasshopper, Savi's, Great Reed and Marsh Warblers and Hoopoe as well as the diminutive Penduline Tit. The latter provided one of the highlights on a previous trip when it was watched at close range skilfully constructing its large, pouch-shaped nest.

 

On day eight we will head back to Warsaw in plenty of time for our flight back to the UK.

 

PACE

Breakfast will be taken at about 7am most mornings, perhaps slightly later following a pre-breakfast walk or if the previous day has been tiring. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and medium length walks on the flat will be undertaken regularly. There will not be any uphill walking of significant distance. The walk to the Great Snipe lek is on wet, uneven ground.

 

ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

Full-board accommodation is provided, with four nights at the Pension Gruszki, Bialowieza and three nights at the Dobarz Pension in Biebrza. All rooms have en suite bathrooms. Packed lunches will be taken every day.

 

PRICE INCLUDES Ö..

All birdwatching excursions with expert leaders and local guides, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 22nd, ending with breakfast on 29th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, international flights and airport taxes.

 

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.

 

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

Return flight with LOT Airlines from London Heathrow to Warsaw. Outbound flight departs late morning, return flight arrives back late afternoon. Shuttle flights are available on this tour for £70 return (due at time of booking), from Manchester and other regional airports.

 

 

 

7 nights:

                               

Principal leader:

 

Local guide:

 

Maximum group size:

 

Cost with discount

(if you book before

6th February 2010):

 

Full Cost:

 

Single supplement:

 

Deposit:

 

 

22nd to 29th May 2010

 

Phil Palmer

 

Felix Felger

 

12 clients with a leader

and a local guide

 

 

£1390 per person sharing

 

£1490 per person sharing

 

£170

 

£300

 

 

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Birding Poland, Birdwatching Poland, Poland Bird Tour, Birdguides and expert leaders who can find all the specialities. Great Snipe, Aquatic Warbler, elk, bluethroat, european woodpeckers.