Sunday 22 May 2011
On arrival at Warsaw, Trevor Hatton and I waited for the guide and the other two in the party, Edward and Mandy, to arrive. Then we set off for the Białowieża Forest. It was clear as we got nearer that this was an immense expanse of forest. On the way we saw wild European bison and a singing ortolan bunting! I was excited for the next day.
We set off to just a couple of km. down the road where the day started well with barred warbler, thrush nightingale and a common rosefinch (all lifers). We heard great reed warbler and pale backed woodpecker too.
Off then to another bridge over the river to the nest of a middle spotted woodpecker and the perch of a collared flycatcher, again, both lifers.
|Middle spotted woodpeckers changing duties in the nest|
|Lesser spotted woodpecker|
|Middle spotted woodpecker|
Later, we waited quite a long time near the nest of the rare three-toed woodpecker. The female poked her head out once or twice but the male did not appear!
On the way back to the pension some whinchats were soaking up the last rays of the setting sun while a solitary corncrake called from the meadow. Meadows in Poland are not the green sterile affairs we have in England but rich in wild flowers giving them a green, red, blue and yellow tint.
Next day we were up early and were rewarded by a lesser spotted eagle flying over:
Wednesday 25 May 2011
We headed off towards the Biebrza Marsh, the second centre for our tour. On the way we started to see red-backed shrike, which had been strangely absent until then. Great grey shrikes were also to be seen reasonably often.
At some fishponds we saw a juvenile rosefinch, a red-necked grebe, several great reed warblers and a great crested grebe.
It's difficult to describe the feeling of being in a place so isolated that there is no mechanical noise at all. It's wonderful, and allowed us to hear the sounds of the countryside. This included bitterns booming from what must have been miles away. The same was true for hoopoes. A pair of red-backed shrikes prospected for a nest in the back garden and a pair of black redstarts had already made their nest and hatched their young in the rain guttering on the left of the porch. We watched them bring food to their young while we drank a cool beer!
|Black redstart with food for chicks|
We went to a wet meadow which was a stronghold of a vanishingly small population of aquatic warblers. A savi's warbler reeled unseen in the corner. We stayed for an hour or so but the warbler did not want to show. The others wanted to go and look for lady's slipper orchid. I decided to stay and let them pick me up later. When they had left I walked back along the boardwalk. My eye was attracted to some movement in the reeds and there, sure enough, a small warbler with pronounced eyestripe was moving through the reeds. I managed a few shots and, further on, more experienced birdwatchers confirmed that it was an aquatic warbler. I quickly sent off a 'grip' text to the others.
While I waited for the others to return I staked out the savi's warbler. It was reeling almost constantly and I saw it once briefly but I was unable to get a picture. The others picked me up. They hadn't seen the orchid. They decided to return in the evening. In the meantime we drove to the centre of the marsh where we hoped to see marsh terns flying near.
We lunched at a spot where the terns were swooping near and it should have been possible to get good pictures. I hadn't bargained for them being so fast, and my camera's autofocus system did not work very well unless the terns were against the sky. If there was any sort of background, the camera would focus on that! After several hundred photos it was possible at home to choose just a handful that were acceptable.
|White winged tern|
|White winged tern|
|Yellow wagtail (blue-headed)|
|Red-backed shrike - female|
Friday 27 May 2011
We packed up for the journey back to Warsaw. On the way at a small pond we saw turtle dove and I finally got a picture of a golden oriole. They are quite fast and elusive.
We stopped at a bridge for sandwiches. A great reed warbler was singing nearby. I went down to get closer. Patience was rewarded. The warbler took about 15 minutes to climb higher and higher, singing most of the time. Gorgeous! By the road, Przemek was trying to coax a corncrake out with a recording. These are shy birds but when one appeared close he waded into the meadow with his recording at full volume! Needless to say we saw no corncrake!
|Great reed warbler|
If any of you are thinking of going to this area of Poland, we saw 132 species in the five days with 13 lifers for me. We needed insect repellent all the time. The cost of living is quite reasonable.