Poland-Birds, Beavers and Bisons Itinerary
Flight from Britain to Warsaw. Three-hour transfer by minibus to the Bialowieza Forest. As we leave busy Warsaw and head east, we will enter the most rural part of Poland which has a long and diverse historical past with influences coming from different cultures and religions. You will be introduced to some aspects of it as we travel past picturesque churches, roadside crosses and wooden settlements. An evening meal will await us at a comfortable guest house on the outskirts of the Bialowieza National Park where we will spend our first three nights.
We will start our visit with an early morning walk in the Strict Nature Reserve, where entry is by permit only and with an accompanied guide. Walking under the canopy of those gigantic trees will be an unforgettable experience.
In the next two days, we will undertake walks or cycle rides (optional) through the Bialowieza Forest to see the full spectrum of different habitats and bird communities they support. There are a number of species that are typically associated with old forest and on our first day we should be able to see Pied, Collared, Spotted and Red-Breasted Flycatchers, Icterine, Wood and Greenish Warblers, Thrush Nightingale, Firecrest, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Crossbill, Hawfinch, Black Stork and the elusive Hazel Grouse. A visit to river valley and flood-plain forests could add to our list: Barred, River, Marsh, Sedge and Great Reed Warblers, Marsh Tit, Green and Wood Sandpipers and Woodcock. The Short-toed, Lesser Spotted, Booted and White-tailed Eagles could be seen soaring high in the sky at any time. However, an ornithological highlight (or challenge?) for the majority of us will be sighting all nine species of woodpeckers: Three-toed, White-backed, Grey-headed, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Green and Black Woodpeckers, and Wryneck. At dusk, we will undertake a special trip in search of Nightjar and owls, with a good chance to see (or hear) Pygmy Owl, and possibly Tengmalm's and Eagle Owls. A real bonus will be an early morning pursuit with the help of an experienced forester for the emperor of the forest, the European Bison.
We will also undertake a day trip outside the Bialowieza Forest to explore the Polish countryside and enlarge our bird-list. We will visit an extensive water reservoir where, amongst the array of wildfowl species, Citrine Wagtail and Common Resefinch breed. En route, we will stop in several places to look for Ortolan Bunting. Also, in an evening, we will make a visit to a nearby lek of the Great Snipe to observe their contest.
We will conclude our stay in the Bialowieza Forest with an evening bonfire where we will barbeque our own sausages. The dishes for the night will also include traditional local cuisine.
We will leave Bialowieza Forest today and head north to an interesting complex of fishponds, where five species of European grebes can be viewed in their full breeding plumage. En route, we will stop at the breeding colony of Eurpean Roller.
In the afternoon, we should reach Narwianski National Park, known as "the Polish Amazon". This is a unique wetland of hundreds of square kilometres of marsh intersected by a web of channels of the river Narew, and endowed with small lakes and islands of sedges and reeds. There are numerous backwaters with little or no current where water-lilies and other floating vegetation cover the surface. Here, we will take a trip on long and narrow, two-man boats to reach secluded channels. Pushed by long poles, the boats will move slowly through the alley-ways of reeds on the dark waters where Otters and Beavers lurk. Although it is difficult to observe them, we will occasionally come across Beavers’ lodges. Here, the warblers (Grasshopper, Savi's, River, Marsh, Reed and Great Reed) blend in so perfectly among the reeds that only their continuous songs will alert us of their presence. Sedge Warblers alone have a breeding population of 10,000 pairs! The park is also home to Bittern, Marsh, Hen and Montagu's Harriers, Water Rail, Spotted and Little Crakes, Aquatic Warbler and Scarlet Rosefinch. You will be stunned by the richness of wildlife you will witness in this place but, at the same time, you will be touched by the peace and tranquillity of it.
We will spend three nights at an upmarket hotel on the Biebrza Marshes, where a panoramic view from our own balcony stretches across the valley. Here, you will enjoy birdwatching from your doorstep. The marshes in front of the hotel host a healthy population of all three harriers: Marsh, Hen and Montagu's Harriers.
During our two-day stay at Biebrza Marshes we will travel across the Biebrza valley, visit several platform and bird hides and undertaken moderate walks across the area.
Hundreds of White-winged Black Terns, Black Terns and Whiskered Terns dipping over the water, drumming displays of Common Snipes, booming Bitterns, dancing Cranes in a distance, or Mute Swans taking off in front of you will be just a fraction of what there is to take in. Sea Eagle, Hobby, Golden Oriole or Bluethroat (both forms are found here) are some of the more interesting species we should encounter at some stage of our trip. An evening visit to breeding habitat of Aquatic Warbler will give us a chance to get a good glimse of these secretive birds. For many though, the highlight of the trip might be the fascinating display rituals of Ruffs, beautifully adorned in their full breeding plumage or a Penduline Tit's nest suspended from the branch of a Willow tree. A colony of European Bee-eaters is well established in the area and we will pay there a visit as well.
Although the White Stork is a fairly common species in the Polish countryside, a visit to a farm that hosts 22 nests of this species will be a delight.
The Biebrza Marshes are also home to 600 Beavers and we will undertake a night boat ride in search for these illusive animals. Amongst bushes and swamp vegetation the elegant Elk is guaranteed to be seen.
One of the restaurants we will visit is styled in an old fashion way and you will enjoy its tastefully designed interior and great range of antiques. Here, we will taste “nalewka”, a traditional Polish vodka/honey liqueur based on a 100 year-old recipe.
After breakfast, we will travel back to Warsaw to take our return flight to Britain. If time permits, we will have a quick tour of the old part of Warsaw.
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