TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
18 - 26 May 2002
The marshes, lakes and forests of Poland have once again made a splendid venue for a wildlife holiday. I am grateful to you all for contributing so much to the success of the holiday. My thanks also go to Bogdan, Janek and all the members of the Borkowski family who entertained us like royalty. I hope we will travel together again in the near future.
The weather throughout the week was fine, sunny, often cloudless and calm. The only rain of the week fell when we were enjoying lunch at a restaurant! Heavy rain in March and a very warm April produced an earlier than usual spring 'flush' so that grasslands and woodlands were really abnormally lush.
SATURDAY 18TH MAY
Despite the chaos at Heathrow Airport caused by an air traffic control problem on the 17th we all managed to catch the flight to Warsaw.
Bogdan met us at the airport and we drove to the Knieja Hotel in Rajgrod. On the way we stopped at the village of Zbojna where we had a short walk during which we enjoyed fine views of Northern Grey Shrike, Wood Lark and a male Sparrow Hawk.
SUNDAY 19TH MAY
An early morning walk in the grounds of the hotel was rewarding. The open waters of the lake held Great Crested Grebes, Goldeneye and a lone Goosander whilst the reed fringe rang with the song of Great Reed Warbler. Forest birds included Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Thrush Nightingale, Great-spotted Woodpecker and a variety of warblers. After breakfast we drove to the Masurian Lakes. En route we saw the only Moorhen of the trip at a wayside pond.
Jezioro Luknajno is a lake surrounded by reed, carr and flower rich grasslands. Birds of Prey abounded, including three White-tailed Eagles, three Lesser-spotted Eagles, a Red Kite, an Osprey, a Hobby and two pairs of Marsh Harriers. One of the most exciting events of the day was the sweeping display flight of a male Marsh Harrier. A pair of Golden Orioles also gave us great views as they flew from Poplar to Poplar.
Climbing the watchtower overlooking the lake enabled us to enjoy views of some fifty Black Terns, eight immature Little Gulls and a Common Gull dip feeding. Bittern and Penduline Tit were calling from the reeds as we watched Sedge and Reed Wablers.
Lunch was taken at the hotel at Wierzbo, after which we visited Bogdan's home village of Popielno. Here he led us to the forest where we enjoyed fine views of two singing male Red-breasted Flycatchers and heard the trilling song of Wood Warbler. We also had a brief encounter with a solitary Crossbill.
After dinner we drove to nearby woodland where we enjoyed views of displaying Nightjar and roding Woodcock.
MONDAY 20TH MAY
A few stalwarts ventured into the wooded meadows at Jaglowo to hunt for Blackcock. Eventually we discovered two cocks at the Lek. We also had fine views of Whinchat, Redbacked Shike, Northern Grey Shrike, Hawfinch and Scarlet Rosefinch. Just before we left the area the two Blackcock flew past. A Great White Egret also flew over us.
The morning was spent in the northern part of the Biebrza Marshes. Our first port of call was the Wojdy Fishponds. As we watched White and Yellow Wagtails a pair of Citrine Wagtails flew to the tops of the reeds. They were also seen in flight with a second pair. This sighting was significant, as the species has only recently started breeding in Poland. The ponds echoed with the sounds of frogs and toads. We were able to enjoy close views of Fire-bellied and Common Toads and Common, Marsh and European Tree Frogs. The pools with muddy edges hosted Redshanks, Lapwing, Common Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover. As we watched a male Marsh Harrier mobbing a White Stork two Bittern flew over the reed bed causing a great deal of elation. A Penduline Tit building its nest was the icing on the cake.
We drove to Marek's house in the village of Kuligi where we were greeted by the whole family. A fine lunch was taken in the paddock where we were surrounded by feeding butterflies whilst a Hoopoe and a Turtle Dove called nearby.
After lunch we admired Marek's house and his herd of Tarpan horses. We then walked around part of the village enjoying Marek's insights into life in rural Poland.
After tea and traditional cake we walked to the nearby bridge over the Biebrza River where we delighted in the antics of Red-backed and Northern Grey Shrikes, Scarlet Rosefinch and displaying Snipe and Black-tailed Godwit. A pair of Montagu's Harriers also quartered the meadows. Later we walked into the meadow and enjoyed wonderfully close views of a singing Aquatic Warbler.
A delicious meal in the Borkowski family home was followed by a short walk to the marsh to listen to the eerie calls of Corncrake.
It had been a long but rewarding day; a day crowned by the hospitality of our hosts.
TUESDAY 21ST MAY
The day was spent in the southern part of the marshes exploring the Narew and Biebrza Rivers. Not surprisingly water birds dominated the day. These included forty White-winged Black Tern, Little Tern, Ruff, Garganey and Tufted Duck in an area south of Wizna in the Narew Valley.
Our exploration of the area north of Wizna in the Biebrza Valley was also rewarding. A delicious picnic lunch was accompanied by sightings of Roe Deer and Elk. Grey Herons, five Black Storks and four Common Cranes also entertained us. A muddy area also revealed Common and Wood Sandpiper, Little and Temminck's Stints, Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover and Black-tailed Godwit. The stars here though were a pair of Ruff, the male in full breeding plumage displaying vigorously to the reeve. Whilst we watched an adult White-tailed Eagle flew by.
Nearby we found a singing male Ortolan Bunting, a Hobby and a Red Fox.
We ate dinner at a restaurant at Laskowiec.
Having driven to the tiny hamlet of Budy we walked out onto the marsh to a wooden platform. Once settled, we listened for the distinctive display call of Great Snipe. Despite the height of the lush foliage we were soon watching male Great Snipe stretch their necks, flap their wings, fan their tails and then jump clear of the ground. At one stage we saw six displaying simultaneously but Marek estimated that there were at least twelve lekking males in all. As we watched, Bluethroat and Grasshopper Warblers were singing nearby.
What a day!
WEDNESDAY 22ND MAY
We travelled to Bialowieza.
Before leaving the marshes we called in at Wolka Piaseczna to watch raptors. During our stay at this complex of meadows and forest we noted two Common Buzzards, a Honey Buzzard, a Marsh Harrier, two Lesser-Spotted Eagle and, the prize of the day, a Spotted Eagle.
Later having passed through the city of Bialystok, we visited the Dojlidy Fishponds. The ponds were full of wetland bird species. Ten Great-crested Grebe, three Red-necked Grebe and two Black-necked Grebe, all in full breeding plumage were the star players. Duck included Gadwall, Pochard and Shoveler. Three Black Terns and three Whiskered Terns also entertained with complex aerial manoeuvres.
As we watched an adult White-tailed Eagle flew in and was mobbed by two male Marsh Harriers. The Eagle then perched in a large tree before taking off and plunging towards the surface of the lake. Within seconds it had grasped a large fish, taking it back to a new perch. It was soon driven off by a Marsh Harrier, ensuring though that it hung onto the fish!
As a Bittern boomed in the reeds a Penduline Tit and then a singing Marsh Warbler gave us a fine display.
Lunch was enjoyed in a nearby forest.
As we arrived at the huge reservoir Zbiornik Siemianowka we encountered a Honey Buzzard. The shallow waters were distant but proved attractive to hundreds of Marsh Terns. Three Caspian Gulls, twenty Grey Herons, three Black Storks and twelve Great White Egret were also noted.
Two more Lesser-spotted Eagles were seen as we passed through the nearby village of Zaleszany.
We then drove through local villages and mature forest towards Bialowieza.
Our arrival at the Hotel Soplicowo, Bialowieza was marked by the simultaneous arrival of a Wryneck in the Garden!
THURSDAY 23RD MAY
The area around the hotel was rich in birdlife, including Common and Black Redstarts, Nuthatch, Wryneck, Red-backed and Northern Grey Shrike, Hawfinch and Icterine Warbler. The local pond was graced with three Green Sandpiper.
The morning exploration took us to the west of the town. The walk-boarded area and that around the zoo was a fascinating insight into the mature mixed forest, which dominated the area. Birds noted included Wood Warbler, Treecreeper (by a lucky few) Crested Tit (by a different lucky few!), Marsh Tit, a male Collared Flycatcher at a nest, and a fine male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker at the nest.
A Black Woodpecker was heard but could not be found.
Yet another fine lunch followed. We then drove south to the River Lesne where male Rosefinches and Red-backed Shrike vied for attention. Meanwhile singing River Warblers remained unseen, as usual. Hawfinch, Honey Buzzard and Red Deer were also seen.
FRIDAY 24TH MAY
A pre-breakfast walk by a few resulted in sightings of Barred Warbler and Lesser-spotted Eagle.
The morning was spent in a forest to the north of Budy. Wryneck, Pied Flycatcher and Great Spotted Woodpecker were seen by all, but a Hazel Grouse eluded most of us.
Later we confined our attentions to the Narewka River and the carr at Wysokie Bagno on the outskirts of the town. Here, to our delight, we found a singing River Warbler performing in full view. A singing Barred Warbler was also noted. Corncrake called incessantly.
SATURDAY 25TH MAY
Singing birds dominated our early morning walk. Woodlark, Hawfinch, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and Coal Tit song filled the forest whilst Corncrake was heard and Corn Bunting seen in the meadow surrounding the hotel.
The mid morning was spent north of the town near Narewka. We walked the forest alongside the meadow of the River Jelonka. Corncrakes, River Warblers and Great Reed Warblers sang from cover and Marsh Warblers were seen catching insects. White-backed Woodpecker and Grey-headed Woodpecker were seen in flight whilst a pair of tree Pipits fed young.
After lunch we walked through the Park Palacowy to the restricted Bialowieski Park an area protected from development since the 15th Century. We met Dorota, a park warden who guided us through the wonderful ancient forest dominated by huge Norway Spruce and Oak supported by a host of other tree species. A pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were watched feeding young at a nest and an adult and an immature White-backed Woodpecker were seen briefly. Black Woodpecker called from the distance. Hawfinch were abundant as were Collared Flycatcher. Surprisingly Bank Voles were also numerous; seven were seen in a couple of hours, some carrying nesting material. Finally we watched Nuthatch as the song of Red-breasted Flycatcher rang through the cathedral-like forest.
In the evening we drove to nearby woodland where Arek, a local naturalist, called to a newly found male Pygmy Owl. The owl replied but could not be seen. Just before we left a Woodcock flew by.
SUNDAY 26TH MAY
The drive to Warsaw included sightings of a male Pheasant, Roe Deer, and Hare and, during a short stop, a Bank Vole.
As we had made good time we made a brief visit to the beautifully reconstructed 'Old Warsaw'. Ironically whilst there we had a great view of the only Kestrel of the trip.
The flight home and 'get away' at Heathrow were very efficient; we landed early and had escaped within fifteen minutes of the scheduled arrival time!
M Masurian Lakes
D Dojlidy Fishponds
ZS Zbiornik Siemianowka
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena Four (D)
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Common on open waters (M)(BB)(D)
Black-necked (Eared) Grebe Podiceps nigricollis Three (D)
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Very common (M)(BB)(D)(ZS)
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Very common in wetlands (M)(BB)(D)(ZS)
Great White Egret Egretta alba One (BB) and twelve (ZS)
(Great) Bittern Botaurus stellaris Two seen Wojdy Fishponds (BB) and heard in reedbeds (M)(BB)(D)
Black Stork Ciconia nigra Five (BB) three (ZS) and one (BW)
White Stork Ciconia ciconia Common throughout
Mute Swan Cygnus olor Common in the wetlands
Greylag Goose Anser anser Two (BB)
Gadwall Anas strepera A male (D)
Common Teal Anas crecca One (M)
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Common in all wetlands including (BW)
Garganey Anas querquedula Three Wojdy Fishponds (BB) and one (D)
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata A pair (D)
Common Pochard Aythya ferina Three (D)
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula A male (DD) and two pairs (D)
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula Eight Rajgrod (BB)
Goosander Mergus merganser A female Rajgrod (BB)
Osprey Pandion haliaetus One (M)
European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus Two (BB)and two (BW)
Red Kite Milvus milvus Two Rajgrod area (BB)
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla An adult and two immature birds (M) and two adults (BB)
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus A pair (BB)
Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Noted daily. More common (M) (BB)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus A male en route Rajgrod 18th and one (BB)
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo Common throughout
Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina Three (M) three (BB) and four (BW)
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga An adult Wolka Piaseczna (BB)
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo Two (M) and two (BB)
Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix Two (BB)
Hazel Grouse Bonasa bonasia One (BW)
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus A male en route Warsaw
Common Crane Grus grus Noted daily in the wetlands and two (BW)
Corn Crake Crex crex Heard (BB) and (BW)
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Only one record in a pond near Rojgrad (BB)
Common Coot Fulica atra Generally scarce except (ZS)
(Northern) Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Common in the wetlands
Greater Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Two records (BB)
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Six records (BB)
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Wonderful views of breeding birds (BB)
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata Heard (BB)
Common Redshank Tringa totanus Small flocks (BB)
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus Three (BW)
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola Two (BB)
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos One (BB)
(Ruddy) Turnstone Arenaria interpres
(Eurasian) Woodcock Scolopax rusticola Three records (BB) and one (BW)
Great Snipe Gallinago media Six males were seen in simultaneous display. It was suggested by Marek that there were probably twelve birds in all !
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago Seen (BB) and heard (BW)
Little Stint Calidris minuta Three (BB)
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii Three records (BB)
Ruff Philomachus pugnax Ten birds (BB)
Common (Mew) Gull Larus canus An immature (M)
Caspian Gull Three (ZS)
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Common in the wetlands
Little Gull Larus minutus Eight immature birds (M)
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus Two (D)
White-winged (Black) Tern Chlidonias leucoptera Common in the wetlands. Peak count forty (BB)
Black Tern Chlidonias niger Common in the wetlands. Peak count fifty (BB)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo Five records (BB) two (D) and two (ZS)
Little Tern Sterna albifrons Two (BB) and two (ZS)
Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia Common, especially near habitation
(Common) Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus Very common
European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur Heard Kuligi (BB). Common.
Common (Eurasian) Cuckoo Cuculus canorus Very common
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo One heard, Kuligi (BB)
Tawny Owl Strix aluco Heard Kuligi (BB)
Eurasian Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum Heard (BW)
European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus A male displaying (BB)
Common Swift Apus apus Common
(Eurasian) Hoopoe Upupa epops Only (BB)
(Eurasian) Wryneck Jynx torquilla Heard (BB0, Zaleszany near (ZS) and three sightings (BW)
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor A male at a nest (BW)
Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius A pair at the Ancient Forest, (BW)
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos Heard and seen briefly (BW)
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major Very widespread in woodlands
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius Heard (M)(BW)
Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Heard en route (BB)
Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus Heard and seen (BW)
Wood Lark Lullula arborea Pairs at two sites (BB) and a singing bird (BW)
(Eurasian) Sky Lark Alauda arvensis Common in open country
European Sand Martin Riparia riparia Common near water (BB)
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Very common
Common House Martin Delichon urbica Common
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Common (BB)(ZS)
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola Two pairs at Wojdy Fishponds were probably migrants (BB)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba Noted daily
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis Two pairs (BW)
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Only (BB) and (ZS)
Northern (Great Grey) Shrike Lanius excubitor Pairs noted in open, bushy habitats but not in the true forest
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio Very common
Hedge Accentor (Dunnock) Prunella modularis Heard (M)
Common Blackbird Turdus merula Very common
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Widespread
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Very common, especially in the ancient forest where they have had a 'bumper' breeding season
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Very local
European Robin Erithacus rubecula Elusive
Thrush Nightingale Luscinia luscinia Noted throughout, only a few sightings
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica Heard Budy (BB)
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros Common (BW)
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus Singing males (BW)
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra Widespread but never common
Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia Heard (BB)
(Eurasian) River Warbler Locustella fluviatilis Heard and seen well (BW)
Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola Wonderful views of a singing male (BB)
(European) Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris A singing male (D) and another at (BW)
(Eurasian) Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus Common in reed beds
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus Common in well developed reed beds
Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina Heard (BB)(BW) but seen only once
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Common
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Common
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix Heard widely, seen well
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Heard throughout but only seen once
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin Local. Heard at a number of sights but only seen (BB)
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis Widespread
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca Only (M) and (BW)
Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria Seen and hear (BW)
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Common
European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca Only (M) and (BW)
Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis Only (BW)
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva Wonderful views (M) and (BW)
(Eurasian) Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus Seen (BB) and (D)
Marsh Tit Parus palustris Five records (BW)
Coal Tit Parus ater In woodland (M) (BB) (BW)
Crested Tit Parus cristatus Brief sighting (BW)
Great Tit Parus major Common
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus Common
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea Five sightings (BW)
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris Very elusive. Two brief sightings (BW)
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius Common
Black-billed Magpie Pica pica Very common
Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula Common except in (BW)
Rook Corvus frugilegus Commo in agricultural areas
Hooded Crow Corvus corone Widespread except (BW)
Common Raven Corvus corax Isolated records (BB) but more common (BW)
(Eurasian) Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus Well seen throughout
Common (European) Starling Sturnus vulgaris Common and widespread
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra One (BW)
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella Common
Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana Males singing (BB) and (BW)
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus Common even in small reed fringes (BW)
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Common especially in the ancient forest (BW)
European Serin Serinus serinus Elusive
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Only in (ZS) and (BW)
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Flittingly common
Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina Singly birds and pairs seemingly at random
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus Wonderful views of singing males. The enigmatic females also seen.
Common (Red) Crossbill Loxia curvirostra One (M)
Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula Local (M) (BB) (BW)
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus Widespread
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes One (BB)
Raccoon Dog Nyctereutes procyonoides One possibly this species (BB)
Red Deer Cervus elaphus Two (BB)
Elk Alces alces Two (BB)
Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus Widespread
Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris In the forest (BW)
Bank Vole Clethrionomys glareolus Very common this year in the ancient forest (BW). Seven sightings.
Northern Water Vole Arvicola terrestris One (BB)
Brown Hare Lepus europaeus Common and widespread
AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES
Common Tree Frog Hyla arborea (BB)
Viviparous (Common) Lizard Lacerta vivipara (M)
Grass Snake Natrix natrix (BW)
Swallowtail Papilio machaon Only (BB)
Large white Pieris brassicae (BB)
Green-veined white Artogeia napi Only (BB)
Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines Widespread
Brimstone Goneptryx rhamni Widespread
Wood white Leptidea sinapis Only (BW)
Common blue Polyommatus icarus Widespread
Peacock Inachis io Only (M)
Map butterfly Araschinia levana Common
Ringlet Aphantopus hyperanthus (M) (BW)
Small heath Coenonympha pamphilius Common
Speckled wood Pararge aegeria Common
Many thanks to David and Barbara Glayzer and Pauline Grimshaw for compiling the plant list.
FLOWERS AND SHRUBS
NF Not in flower
© The Travelling Naturalist 2002