TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
10th - 18 th May 2003
Arek Szymura (Bialowieza forest guide)
Saturday 10th May Arrival
Bright & sunny, quite cloudy at one point
We met up with Ania at Warsaw Airport and were introduced to Janek, our driver for the week. We soon left Warsaw behind us, and were finding White Storks, Marsh Harriers and a single male Hen Harrier alongside the road. We broke our journey for a late lunch and watched a pair of Grey Partridge in the restaurant grounds. They crept out through the railings and everyone saw them creeping off through the dandelions in the neighbouring field. A Kestrel, a few Swallows and two Fieldfares apparently collecting food for young completed the main birds seen during the journey. We arrived at the Knieja Hotel near Rajgród in good time for dinner.
Sunday 11th May Wojdy fishponds & Biebrza National Park
Cloudy all day, light rain during late afternoon
Our early morning walk from the hotel took us only 100 m or so along the lake shore! Wood Warblers were singing near the hotel as we gathered outside and a Red Squirrel made its way through the tree tops overhead. Great Crested Grebes and Goosanders were seen on the lake. We were inextricably drawn along the bund towards singing Great Reed Warblers, finding Long-tailed Tits, Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat on the way. Whilst waiting for the Great Reed Warblers to show themselves, we saw a Red Kite way over at the end of the lake, a Sparrowhawk flew overhead carrying prey, and our first White-tailed Eagle was perched on the top of a pine opposite us. Two Cranes flew low across in front of us as we returned for breakfast.
After breakfast, we made the short drive to the Wojdy fishponds, seeing another White-tailed Eagle fly over us on the way. The semi-dry pans were alive with Wood Sandpipers, and Greenshank, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit were also seen. A pair of Common Terns were displaying to each other overhead and on a small muddy island. A male Garganey flew across in the distance, quickly dropping out of sight, but a male Red-backed Shrike showed well for everyone in the telescopes. A Little Grebe was more secretive, and there were several more Goosanders on the larger pond. A Black Stork was then seen as it flew across towards the distant trees. Both Savi's and Grasshopper Warblers were heard 'reeling', and Sedge, Reed and Great Reed Warblers were all singing around us. During the morning we had various views of Yellow Wagtails, these being the nominate subspecies Blue-headed Wagtail. Four Black Terns then flew overhead, and we began to discount Marsh Harriers, "just another Marsh Harrier!". Golden Orioles were more of a problem, with several heard and various brief views by different people. A pair of Penduline Tits flew across the dried-up rice pans, landing briefly in a willow bush before moving on out of sight. Whinchats by now were also being discounted - " just another Whinchat!". We eventually got back to the bus and drove the few kilometres to Marek's farm, where a wonderful lunch was waiting for us, laid out on a long table on the grass. As soon as we alighted from the bus, a White-backed Woodpecker flew right past us at eye level! Anyway, back to the lunch.... With straw bales and wooden planks for seats, we tucked in, accompanied by Fieldfares, a singing Redwing, a pair of Hoopoe, Icterine Warblers, Yellowhammers and a Lesser Whitethroat.
We walked out along the lane towards the river and the Biebrza National Park. Further Icterine Warblers, Red-backed Shrikes and some very smart Whinchats were seen. A Montagu's Harrier flew past ahead of us. Further on, a Thrush Nightingale was singing loudly from the roadside bushes, but of course went quiet as soon as we got close! We returned across the meadows for tea and a very scrummy 'dripping cake' on the veranda, flushing a Brown Hare and finding the quite extensive 'diggings' ploughed up by Wild Boar. Finally, Janek drove us back across the river and we walked out across a marsh. As it began to get a bit dimpsy, at least two, probably more, Great Snipe were flying round us, proudly showing off their startling white outer tail feathers. Several Montagu's Harriers appeared, as did Marek who had been busy elsewhere up to now. The harriers gave us wonderful views as they quartered the marsh all around us, occasionally flushing Great Snipe! Several pairs of Cranes were also seen flying across, but we really had to get back to the farm for dinner before it got too late.
Monday 12th May The far south of the Biebrza Marshes
Mainly overcast with sunny spell during pm
We were again out at 7 o'clock for our pre-breakfast walk, this time heading around the wooded shoreline. We found both Hawfinch and Mistle Thrush at their nests and a male Redstart sang nicely for us on the way back. After breakfast as we gathered by the bus, a Black Woodpecker flew across right overhead and we were soon enjoying excellent views of him through the telescopes. Flying back, he landed on a pine tree and started working a hole in the trunk.
We headed for the far south of the Biebrza Marshes, checking various viewpoints on the east side of the National Park. As we arrived at our first stop to view some Ruffs, we heard a Corncrake nearby. We were just about to walk off when a movement was noticed under the small trees bordering the road embankment. Diligent searching indeed found a Corncrake, or at least the head of a Corncrake! As everyone gradually found where we were looking, the bird called again, raising and throwing back his head, giving us fine views of most of the front end! Dropping back into cover, walking along and repeating this several times, we spent a good half hour keeping up with his position. Then, equally unbelievably, a Robin-sized bird flew low across our field of view and started to sing nearby - Thrush Nightingale! This then reappeared and we watched it behaving like a Robin at home, as it worked its way back along the hedge line. Two "impossible to see" birds have just been promoted to "merely difficult to see"!
The Narew River valley near Wizna was most exciting with many hundreds of Ruffs in their breeding regalia, together with Black-tailed Godwits, Wood Sandpipers, all three 'marsh' terns (Black, White-winged & Whiskered) and Little Tern. Ducks here included Garganey, Wigeon, Shoveler & Gadwall. A Temminck's Stint flew past us, and we then had a really busy spell as first a Peregrine disturbed everything on the marsh, then a Marsh Harrier, then Red-footed Falcon and a Hobby! Our first Lesser Spotted Eagle of the trip was seen from the bus, as were several Ortolan Buntings later in the afternoon. The final stop on the west side of the marshes briefly provided a second Temminck's Stint walking along the river bank, until a very dominant Ruff flushed it off. There were also at least six White-fronted Geese amongst the Greylags. Two distant Elk were the only ones we saw during the week. With lunch and dinner at a restaurant nearby, we were ideally positioned to visit the lekking Great Snipe at dusk. At least six birds were watched performing their jumping display, and we also saw roding Woodcock here, and heard Grasshopper Warblers and a Bluethroat singing and a Long-eared Owl calling in the distance. A long day, but what a day!
Tuesday 13th May Masurian Lakes
Thick mist early, dry & sunny am, but cloud building & rain late pm
Half of the group made it to the bus at 5 o'clock to travel to Jaglowo for Black Grouse. Unfortunately, there was a heavy mist with visibility less than 100m to start with. We could hear the lekking Blackcock frustratingly close but hidden in the mist. However, a dawn chorus when you are surrounded by the loudest of Thrush Nightingales has to be heard! We also caught up with Tree Pipit, a nice bird perched on wires just in front of us.
After breakfast, we headed west to Jezioro Luknajno, a reed- and carr-fringed lake near Mikolajki. En route, we stopped for Lesser Spotted Eagles circling over the road. Raptors abounded near the lake and we were surrounded by Hobbies at one point, swooping to catch insects along the tree line. Wonderful views! There were Lesser Spotted Eagles here too, and Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards and a single Honey Buzzard which unfortunately was rather distant and move off quickly. We found a nice Penduline Tit that appeared to be robbing an old nest to build his new one, and a second bird was in another nest about a hundred metres further down the path. Dragonflies were just emerging, and we identified both Downy and Brilliant Emerald. Several Map and Wood White butterflies were found on the grassy slope near the coach whilst we had our picnic lunch, before moving further round the lake to walk out to a tower hide overlooking the open water. Two White-tailed Eagles had a tussle over who would sit on the shore at the end of an island. An Osprey flew right past us, then came back a little later carrying a fish slung torpedo-fashion in his talons. A Great Reed Warbler showed well in the reeds in front of us, singing vigorously for ages whilst we all managed to view him through the telescopes. A Savi's Warbler flew through, landing out sight but immediately started to sing, and Bearded Tits showed several times but very briefly. A Mink then scampered across in front of the hide. Back to the bus, but not before the tail-enders heard a singing Icterine Warbler, and we headed for a short ferry crossing to take us south, only to find it out of action, forcing us to take the long return route via the north side of the lake. A pair of Bullfinches in the forest showed well for most of us.
We headed back through quite heavy rain and arrived only a little later than expected, in good time for dinner and to pack our cases. With the weather clearing and in nice calm conditions, a brief sojourn outside after dinner with Derek's bat detector produced a very brief Noctule Bat but only one or two other contacts.
Wednesday 14th May Transfer to Bialowieza
Overcast, windy at times, light showers
We walked up the main drive before breakfast and the pair of Black Woodpeckers showed well nearby. Further on, we heard Goldcrest singing from the tops of the pines, and found Pied Flycatcher, Nuthatch and Coal Tit. A Song Thrush was on one of the lawns as we returned, and three Tufted Ducks were seen on the lake by some from their rooms. After breakfast, we loaded the bus and headed south. Our first stop was at the meadows near Wólka Piaseczna. The weather wasn't really conducive for raptors to be soaring, but we did have an Osprey fly over. Also, a brief view of Golden Oriole, a Woodlark was singing overhead and as we left, a Turtle Dove flew past. We stopped again a short distance down the road near Goniadz. Looking out over the wet marsh, we found many Blue-headed Wagtails and Sedge Warblers. A Montagu's Harrier flew right past us, virtually overhead. An Aquatic Warbler was singing rather quietly and intermittently, so only a few of us could get on to it. The wind was also conspiring against us, and we never actually saw the bird. Time was pressing, so we continued to Bialystok and the Dojlidy fishponds. After having our picnic lunches, we walked out to overlook the ponds. A pair of nesting Red-necked Grebes quickly got our attention. Two further pairs were found, and with Great Crested Grebes out on the open water, and two pairs of Black-necked Grebes being rather more secretive, we did well. This is one of the most easily accessible Black-headed Gull breeding colonies that I know of, with birds on nests down to some 15 metres from the path. There is nothing quite like a seabird colony, with constant sound and movement. Further out, we found three Little Gulls, one being a stunning adult bird. Whiskered Terns were also present, and on the second pond, we found a nesting colony of these very attractive birds. Three Whooper Swans flew over, as did three Common Pochards. Having previously struggled to get good views of Great Reed Warblers, here they were exceptionally visible, with birds hopping around in the short reeds and often being seen right out in the open at the tops of the emergent vegetation or even at the tops of willows. Having got back to the bus, a Marsh Warbler tantalised us from the middle of some nearby willows. Our final stop was on the south side of the reservoir at Siemianówka. Walking up on the bund, we 'scoped out across the wet marsh. Blue-headed Wagtails were particularly obvious, as was a male Red-backed Shrike and several Whinchats. Then a male Citrine Wagtail appeared, but disappeared equally quickly! Eventually, most of us had views of the bird quite close on a metal pole, and further more distant views as it appeared and disappeared - a very mobile bird which did not help getting everyone on to it. Eventually, we had to move on to check in at our hotel at Bialowieza.
Thursday 15th May Zbiornik Siemianówka & Zebra Zubra trail
Overcast and drizzle all day
Our early morning walk took us just round the corner from the hotel, past some gardens to the edge of the forest. We heard Wryneck calling, had really excellent views of a singing Icterine Warbler, found a Fieldfare on its nest and ended with some brief views of Middle Spotted Woodpecker and a pair of Collared Fly-catchers. After breakfast, we returned to the reservoir of Zbiornik Siemianówka, this time exploring the northern shore near Bachury and again near Cisówka. All three 'marsh' terns again accompanied another Black-headed Gull colony near Bachury. Good numbers of Tufted Duck, Gadwall, a few Pochard, Garganey and Black-necked Grebes here as well. Two breeding plumaged Dunlin showed well if rather distantly. An adult White-tailed Eagle circled low over the marsh, and eventually landed at the top of the pines on the other side, joining an immature bird already there. We then moved on to the railway embankment near Cisówka. A Great White Egret here was new for the trip. We eventually counted five White-tailed Eagles loafing on a distant grassy embankment and found two more on the other side on some dead trees. Another eagle there may well have been Spotted Eagle but really the rainy conditions and distance precluded a positive ID. A Common Gull here had remarkably yellow legs, rather than the more normal grey-green, and an immature Caspian Gull landed briefly before flying off. Three Whooper Swans were found here with another already noted at Bachury. We checked the surrounding fields and heathlands on the return journey back to the hotel for a late lunch, but not before getting our wing mirror smacked by a Pepsi truck going in the opposite direction!
We set out again mid-afternoon, to walk the Zebra Zubra (Bison's Rib) trail near the town. There was a White-backed Woodpecker nest-hole beside the road and we all had good views of the male. The woodland here is a superb wet mixed wood with a partly-boarded trail meandering through. The rainy conditions were really against us, though we did see Pied Flycatcher and a Golden Oriole briefly responded to our whistles, allowing some to see him. As we approached the 'wild animal' enclosures, we found several Collared Flycatchers - brief views for some, just song for others, very frustrating for all! Janek had managed to replace the wing mirror and was waiting to take us back to the hotel to dry off and dinner. Let's hope for a dry day tomorrow!
Friday 16th May Bialowieza, Zbiornik Siemianówka, Janowo,
Narewka R & Wysokie Bagno
Overcast am, sunny pm, still a chilly wind
We walked around the Palace Park in Bialowieza before breakfast, quickly finding a Collared Flycatcher and Red Squirrel. Several Golden Orioles were very noisy and restless, flying from tree to tree. A Marsh Warbler sang briefly and a Grey-headed Woodpecker and Wryneck both called briefly (though Ania, who had walked off to get our permits for the Strict Reserve tomorrow, did have fine views of a singing Wryneck!). After breakfast, we returned for the third and final time to Zbiornik Siemianówka. We immediately found the Citrine Wagtail just in front of us. Then we realised that there were two together, in fact the group were watching different pairs, so a total of at least four birds, all being very active and highly visible, very close to us and giving a stunning display. As we returned to the bus, a fine male Marsh Harrier quartered the ground nearby and virtually flew right over us at one point. We retraced our route and stopped near the village of Janowo to walk a very pleasant forest trail, and having excellent views of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinches, Crested Tits and Collared & Pied Flycatchers for everyone.
Lunch at the hotel, then a short ride just to the east of Bialowieza, to the R Narewka. We quickly heard River Warbler (like an old fashioned sewing machine!) and saw both Common and Lesser Whitethroats. By the old railway, a fine male Barred Warbler was singing and was seen well by everyone. Then a second River Warbler started to sing and Golden Orioles were calling. No sign of the River Warbler, but the Golden Oriole was seen by most as it flew over us and away. After playing with the point mechanism of one of the old sidings (!), we walked back along the lane and took the forest trail into the High Marsh or Wysokie Bagno. Relatively few birds here but a lovely walk nonetheless in improving weather. A Red-backed Shrike was near the bus on our return, and Tree Sparrows and another pair of Red-backed Shrikes were found by some near the hotel.
Saturday 17th May Bialowieza Forest
Mainly sunny, though still chilly
Most of us gathered at the bus at 5am for a drive through the forest trails in search of European Bison. Unfortunately, no Bison, but a nice, if brief, view of a Wolf. Birds were few, but on one of our stops, we did see Crested Tit very well, and a very smart male Red-backed Shrike perched nicely on a bush beside the bus. Back for breakfast.
After breakfast, we walked a trail near the hotel. Collared and Spotted Flycatchers were found, but the highlight was our first Red-breasted Flycatcher. This was a brown male but showed well nonetheless. Later, we found another brown male, then a lovely red-breasted male showed well. Janek picked us up in the bus and took us back to the start of the Zebra Zubra trail. Here, in the wet scrub opposite the car parking area, a fine River Warbler was singing away, and we obtained a number of good if brief views. Map butterflies were much in evidence, and we also found a number of Wood Whites and a Green Hairstreak butterfly. Towards the end of the morning, we drove to another area, having good views of Black Redstart and Red-backed Shrike. A Common Rosefinch was heard to sing briefly but failed to show.
Lunch at the hotel, then we went to the Palace Park, to walk across the open meadows to the 'Strict Reserve'. Arek met up with us and we all had excellent views of a Northern Grey Shrike, before walking into the reserve. Arek captivated us with his seemingly infinite knowledge of the forest. I also found the graves of the wartime partisans very moving, with their simple wooden crosses. Collared Flycatchers showed well, and we again had brief views of Red-breasted Flycatcher, and both White-backed and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. We walked back to the Palace Park, finding Wryneck, Golden Oriole and hearing Grey-headed Woodpecker drumming and calling. Two of the group were lucky to find a drumming Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Back to the hotel for dinner after quite a long but very rewarding walk.
After dinner, we took a short drive with Arek, who called out a Pygmy Owl at about 8:15pm. This stunning little bird gave excellent and prolonged views, sitting at the top of nearby conifers in the fading light.
Sunday 18th May Departure
Sunny & warm
An early breakfast but not before finding a very nice Wryneck just in front of the hotel. A 7am departure enabled us to have a couple of hours in old Warsaw before checking in at the airport. We said goodbye to Henryk who was catching a train home and to Alec and Jenny who were staying on in Poland for an extra week. Everyone enjoyed their brief visit to the old, reconstructed, part of the city, where a Festival of Music was being prepared. We duly met up with Janek and the bus at the allotted time, and headed for the airport and home.
BB = Biebrza Marshes & area (10th - 14th)
BW = Bialowieza Forest & area (14th - 18th)
D = Dojlidy fishponds (14th)
JL = Jezioro Luknajno (Masurian Lakes) (13th)
SIE = Zbiornik Siemianówka reservoir (14th - 16th)
W = Narew River valley near Wizna (12th)
Little Grebe / Dabchick: One at Wojdy fishponds on 11th.
Red-necked Grebe: Three pairs (D) on 14th.
Great Crested Grebe: Noted on 6 days, up to 6 on the lake in front of the hotel on 10th - 13th, c.6 (D) on 14th, several on nests (SIE) on 15th.
Black-necked/Eared Grebe: Noted on 2 days with 2 pairs (D) on 14th, 3 pairs (SIE) on 15th.
Great Cormorant: Noted on 5 days with up to 6 on the lake in front of Knieja Hotel, at least 25 (JL) on 13th, singles (SIE) on 14th & 16th.
Grey Heron: Noted most days.
Great [White] Egret: One (SIE) on 15th.
Great Bittern: Heard booming on 4 days (BB), unfortunately not seen.
Black Stork: Two at Wojdy fishponds on 11th.
White Stork: Noted each day, many nests and birds in fields.
Mute Swan: Noted on 6 days (BB & SIE).
Whooper Swan: Three at Dojlidy fishponds on 14th, four (SIE) on 15th.
[Greater] White-fronted Goose: Noted on 2 days with six (BB) on 12th, two (ZL) on 13th.
Greylag Goose: Noted on 4 days with up to c.50 on 12th - 15th (BB, ZL & SIE).
Eurasian Wigeon: Noted on 2 days with 6 (BB) on 12th, 2 males (SIE) on 15th.
Gadwall: Noted on 3 days with a pair (BB) on 12th, up to 10 (SIE) on 14th & 15th.
Mallard: Noted most days.
Garganey: Noted on 5 days with a male briefly at Wojdy fishponds on 11th, c.10 (BB) on 12th, up to 5 (SIE) on 14th - 16th.
Northern Shoveler: Noted on 2 days with 4 (BB) on 12th, a male (SIE) on 15th.
Common Pochard: Noted on 3 days with a female (ZL) on 13th, and 3 (SIE) on 14th & 15th.
Tufted Duck: Noted on 2 days with 3 near Knieja Hotel on 14th, c.20 (SIE) on 15th.
Goosander: A pair on lake in front of Knieja Hotel and 2 pairs at Wojdy fishponds on 11th.
Osprey: Noted on 2 days with 1 (ZL) on 13th, and another flew over us at Wolka Piasecza on 14th.
European Honey-Buzzard: Noted on 2 days with 1 (JL) on 13th, 2 (BW) on 17th.
Red Kite: Noted only on 1 day, 1 over lake near Knieja Hotel on 11th.
White-tailed Eagle: Noted on 4 days with 1 on tree opposite Knieja Hotel plus a second from bus on 11th, 3 (JL) on 13th, 2 on 14th, 9 (SIE) on 15th.
Hen Harrier: A male seen from bus en route on 10th.
Montagu's Harrier: Noted on 5 days (BB, BW) with 6 on 11th, 3 on 12th, then singles on 14th, 17th, & 18th.
[Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: Noted most days with up to 15 counted.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk: Noted on 2 days with singles at Knieja on 11th & BW on 17th.
Common Buzzard: Twos and threes noted most days.
Lesser Spotted Eagle: Noted on 2 days with 1 (BB) on 12th, 6 on 13th.
[Greater] Spotted Eagle: One, very distantly at SIE on 15th, was possibly this species.
Common/Eurasian Kestrel: 1 from bus just as we left Warsaw on 10th.
Red-footed Falcon: A female (W) on 12th.
Eurasian Hobby: Noted on 3 days with 2 on 12th, at least 10 (JL) on 13th, 1 at Goniadz on 14th.
Peregrine Falcon: 1 (W) on 12th.
Black Grouse: Several lekking males heard near Jaglowo on 13th. Unfortunately, thick mist prevented us from viewing them - very frustrating!
Grey Partridge: Noted on 4 days with a pair at lunchtime plus several en route on 10th, then singles from bus on 12th, 13th, & 18th.
Common Crane: Noted on 5 days with minimum of 12 seen on 11th - 14th, heard on 15th.
Corn Crake: Noted on 5 days with 1 seen plus 2 others heard on 12th, then up to 3 heard on 13th, 14th, 16th, & 17th.
Little Crake: Heard at Wojdy Fishponds on 11th.
Common Moorhen: 1 near Bachury (SIE) on 15th was the only bird seen.
Eurasian/Common Coot: Noted on 6 days.
Northern Lapwing: Noted most days.
[Greater] Ringed Plover: Noted on 2 days with singles on 12th & 15th.
Little [Ringed] Plover: 1 at Wojdy Fishponds on 11th.
Black-tailed Godwit: Noted on 4 days with singles at Wojdy Fishponds on 11th, nesting birds on 12th, singles on 13th, & 15th.
Eurasian Curlew: Noted on 2 days with 1 seen on 12th, 'bubbling' heard during early morning on 13th.
Common Redshank: Noted on 4 days (BB, SIE).
Common Greenshank: Noted on 2 days with 1 at Wojdy Fishponds on 11th, 3 (BB) on 12th.
Green Sandpiper: Noted on 2 days with 1 over Marek's house on 11th, 1 (BB) on 12th.
Wood Sandpiper: Noted on 3 days with at least 5 on 11th, many on 12th, 2 at Goniadz on 14th.
Common Sandpiper: Noted on 2 days with 1 on Wojdy Fishponds on 11th, 1 (BB) on 12th.
Eurasian Woodcock: Noted on 2 days with 2 roding over Great Snipe lek in evening on 12th, 1 roding at Pygmy Owl site on 17th.
Great Snipe: Noted on 2 days with several (BB) on 11th, at least 6 at lek in evening on 12th.
Common Snipe: Noted on 3 days with 1 on 11th, and drumming birds on 12th & 14th.
Temminck's Stint: Singles at (W) and west side of (BB) on 12th.
Dunlin: 2 in breeding plumage (SIE) on 15th.
Ruff: Many hundreds (BB) on 12th.
Common/Mew Gull: 3 (SIE) on 15th.
Caspian Gull: 1 (SIE) on 15th.
Black-headed Gull: Noted most days; in particular, a large nesting colony at Dojlidy Fishponds on 14th.
Little Gull: 3 at Dojlidy Fishponds on 14th.
Whiskered Tern: Noted on 4 days with 2 (BB) on 12th, at least 2 (JL) on 13th, nesting birds at Dojlidy Fishponds and c.50 (SIE) on 14th & 15th.
White-winged [Black] Tern: Noted on 2 days with c.10 (W) on 12th, 2 (SIE) on 15th.
Black Tern: Noted on 5 days with 4 on Wojdy Fishponds on 11th, many birds including a nesting colony (BB, W) on 12th, at least 4 (JL) on 13th, 3 Dojlidy Fishponds on 14th, (SIE) on 15th.
Common Tern: Noted on 6 days with a pair on Wojdy Fishponds on 11th, 1 on 12th, 2 on 13th, 4 fishponds on 14th, 3 on 15th, 2 on 16th.
Little Tern: 1 (W) on 12th.
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon: Noted most days.
[Common] Wood Pigeon: Noted each day.
European Turtle Dove: 1 at the Wólka Piaseczna meadow on 14th was our only sighting.
Eurasian Collared Dove: Noted most days.
Common Cuckoo: Noted most days, both seen and heard.
Long-eared Owl: A single bird was heard in the distance from the Great Snipe lek in the evening of 12th.
Eurasian Pygmy-owl: 1 seen well at dusk on 17th.
Common Swift: Noted most days.
Eurasian Hoopoe: Noted on 4 days with a pair around Marek's farm on 11th, 1 (W) on 12th, 1 from bus on 13th, and heard at Wólka Piaseczna meadows on 14th.
Eurasian Wryneck: Noted on 4 days with birds heard twice on 15th, heard on 16th, 1 seen (at last) and another heard on 17th, 1 seen well right outside hotel before breakfast on 18th.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Noted on 2 days with single birds seen (BW) on 16th & 17th.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker: 1 seen during early morning walk (BW) on 15th.
White-backed Woodpecker: Noted on 3 days with 1 at Marek's farm (BB) on 11th, a male on 15th, and 1 on 17th (BW).
Great Spotted Woodpecker: Noted on 3 days with 1 near hotel (BB) on 12th & 14th, 3 (BW) on 17th.
Black Woodpecker: Noted on 5 days with a pair right outside the hotel (BB) on 12th - 14th, and heard (BW) on 16th & 17th.
Grey-headed Woodpecker: Unfortunately not seen, but birds heard calling & drumming on 16th & 17th.
Wood Lark: A singing male overhead at Wólka Piasecnza meadow on 14th.
[Eurasian/Common] Sky Lark: Noted most days.
[European] Sand Martin: Noted on 4 days with small numbers from bus at one spot on 10th, 20 on 11th, many at Dojlidy Fishponds & SIE on 14th & 15th.
Barn Swallow: Noted each day.
[Common] House Martin: Noted most days.
Yellow Wagtail: The nominate race, Blue-headed Wagtail M. f. flava, was noted most days.
Citrine Wagtail: Noted on 2 days with a male (SIE) on 14th, then at least 2 pairs seen well (SIE) on 16th.
White Wagtail: Noted each day.
Tree Pipit: Noted on 3 days with a bird heard singing (BB) on 11th, 1 seen near Jaglowo on 13th, 2 at Wólka Piaseczna meadow on 14th.
Meadow Pipit: Several (BB) on 11th.
Northern/Great Grey Shrike: Noted on 4 days with singles on 11th, 13th & 17th, several from bus on 18th.
Red-backed Shrike: Noted most days.
[Winter] Wren: Heard calling along the Zebra Zubra trail on 15th.
Common Blackbird: Noted most days.
Fieldfare: Noted each day including nesting birds.
Redwing: A singing bird at Marek's farm on 11th was our only record.
Song Thrush: Noted on 6 days.
Mistle Thrush: Noted on 2 days with 1 at nest near Knieja Hotel on 12th, several (BW) on 15th.
European Robin: Noted on 3 days, on 11th, 16th & 17th.
Thrush Nightingale: Noted most days, usually heard singing but one seen well (with a Corn Crake!) on 12th.
Bluethroat: One heard singing near Great Snipe lek in evening on 12th.
Black Redstart: Noted on 4 days (BB, BW) with 1 at Marek's farm on 11th, 2 on 12th, 1 from bus on 14th, 1 on 17th.
Common Redstart: A male on territory at Knieja Hotel on 12th.
Whinchat: Noted most days.
[Common] Grasshopper Warbler: Heard 'reeling' on 4 days (BB), 11th - 14th.
[Eurasian] River Warbler: Noted on 2 days (BW); 3 heard on 16th and 1 seen well but intermittently with others heard on 17th.
Savi's Warbler: Noted on 3 days (BB), birds heard 'reeling' at Wojdy Fishponds on 11th, several heard on 12th, heard & 1 seen (JL) on 13th.
Aquatic Warbler: Unfortunately not seen, but heard intermittently (& distantly!) at Goniadz on 14th.
Sedge Warbler: Noted on 5 days (BB, BW).
Marsh Warbler: Noted on 3 days with 1 at Dojlidy Fishponds on 14th, others heard singing (BW) on 16th & 17th.
[Eurasian] Reed Warbler: Noted on 3 days (BB, JL).
Great Reed Warbler: Noted most days with birds heard singing and eventually seen well at Dojlidy Fishponds.
Icterine Warbler: Noted on 5 days with 2 at Marek's farm on 11th, one heard singing (JL) on 13th, another singing & seen very well (BW) on 15th & 16th, and several singing on 17th.
Willow Warbler: Noted most days.
Common/Eurasian Chiffchaff: Noted most days.
Wood Warbler: Noted most days, heard singing and several seen well in particular at BW.
Blackcap: Noted on 5 days.
Garden Warbler: Noted most days.
Common Whitethroat: Noted on 5 days.
Lesser Whitethroat: Noted on 5 days.
Barred Warbler: A male heard singing and seen well (BW) on 16th.
Goldcrest: Noted on 4 days (BW), mainly heard singing.
Spotted Flycatcher: Noted on 6 days (BB, BW).
[European] Pied Flycatcher: Noted on 5 days at Knieja Hotel on 12th - 14th, and (BW) on 15th & 16th.
Collared Flycatcher: Noted on 3 days (BW), several poor views on 15th and again on 16th, good views on 17th.
Red-breasted Flycatcher: At least 5 seen & heard (BW) on 17th, excellent views of both red-breasted and brown-breasted males.
Long-tailed Tit: Several at Knieja Hotel on 11th.
[Eurasian] Penduline Tit: Noted on 2 days with 2 at Wojdy Fishponds on 11th, 2 seen at nests plus others heard (JL) on 13th.
Marsh Tit: Noted on 3 days at (JL) on 13th, and (BW) on 15th & 16th.
Coal Tit: Noted on 4 days (Knieja Hotel & BW).
Crested Tit: Noted on 2 days (BW) with at least 2 on 16th, and nice views on 17th.
Great Tit: Noted most days.
Blue Tit: Noted on 5 days.
Bearded Tit: Two at (JL) on 13th was our only record.
Eurasian Nuthatch: Noted on 4 days.
Eurasian Jay: Noted most days.
Black-billed/Eurasian Magpie: Noted on 6 days.
Western/Eurasian Jackdaw: Noted each day.
Rook: Noted on 6 days.
Hooded Crow: Noted on 3 days (BB).
Common Raven: Noted on 6 days (BB & BW) with 2 at lunchtime on 10th, c.10 on 11th, 1 on 12th, 1 meadow on 14th, 1 on 15th, 2 on 17th.
[Eurasian] Golden Oriole: Noted most days with several heard plus at least 2 seen briefly on 11th, heard on 12th & 13th, a male heard & seen briefly on 14th, another seen briefly plus others heard on 15th, 4 at the Palace Park and several Narewka R on 16th, several seen & heard on 17th.
Common Starling: Noted each day.
Yellowhammer: Noted most days.
Ortolan Bunting: 2 seen well plus others seen from the bus (BB) on 12th.
[Common] Reed Bunting: Noted on 6 days.
Common/European Chaffinch: Noted each day.
European Greenfinch: Noted on 4 days.
Eurasian Siskin: 5 noted throughout day (BW) on 16th.
European Goldfinch: Noted most days.
Common Linnet: Noted on 2 days (BB & BW) with c.6 on 12th, 6 near hotel on 17th.
Common Rosefinch: One heard singing (BW) on 17th was our only record, but unfortunately could not be seen.
Common/Eurasian Bullfinch: A pair in the forest near (JL) on 13th.
Hawfinch: Noted on 5 days with 1 at nest near Knieja Hotel plus another at lunchtime on 12th, 1 flew over Wólka Piaseczna meadows on 14th, several birds at various locations, including good views, on 15th - 17th.
House Sparrow: Noted each day.
[Eurasian] Tree Sparrow: Noted on 5 days.
Eastern Hedgehog: One dead on road on 18th.
Wolf: One on forest trail in front of bus (BW) on 17th.
Red Fox: Singles at (BB) on 12th & (SIE) on 15th.
American Mink: One in front of hide (JL) on 13th.
Wild Boar: Extensive 'diggings' on 11th & 12th.
Red Deer: One seen (by KG only) at (BW) on 16th.
Elk / Moose: Two distantly at (BB) on 12th.
Roe Deer: Noted on 4 days with at least 6 on 11th, and several on 12th - 14th.
Red Squirrel: One at Knieja Hotel on 11th, and another at the Palace Park (BW) on 16th.
European Beaver: Tree damage and an old lodge seen on 12th.
Brown Hare: Several noted on 5 days.
Common Mole: Mole-hills noted on 11th & 12th.
Noctule Bat: Calls detected at Knieja Hotel on 10th & 13th.
Serotine Bat: Calls detected at Knieja Hotel on 10th, and Soplicowo Hotel on 17th.
Pipistrelle sp.: Calls detected at Knieja Hotel on 10th were at two distinct frequencies; those of the Common Pipistrelle and those at a higher frequency were of the newly recognised species named Soprano Pipistrelle.
AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES:
Fire-bellied Toad: Calls heard (BB) on 11th, 13th & 14th.
Common Frog: Noted only on 12th.
Marsh Frog: Noted on 4 days, 11th - 14th.
Sand Lizard: A very greenish individual seen on 13th was thought to be this species.
Grass Snake: A dead individual found at (SIE) on 15th.
Large White: Noted on 2 days, 10th & 12th.
Small White: Noted on 2 days, 10th & 12th.
Green-veined White: Noted on 2 days, 12th & 17th.
Orange-tip: Noted on 4 days, 10th, 11th, 13th & 17th.
Brimstone: Noted on 3 days, 10th, 13th & 17th.
Wood White: Noted on 3 days, 13th, 16th & 17th.
Green Hairstreak: Noted only near the Zebra Zubra trail (BW) on 17th.
Small Copper: Noted only on 17th.
Holly Blue: Noted only on 17th.
Common Blue: Noted only on 12th.
Peacock: Noted on 2 days, 13th & 17th.
Small Tortoiseshell: Noted only on 13th.
Comma: Noted only on 17th.
Red Admiral: Noted only on 17th.
Map Butterfly: Noted on 2 days, 13th (JL) & 17th (BW).
Lesser Purple Emperor: Noted on 2 days, 16th & 17th (BW).
Weaver's Fritillary: Noted only near Soplicowo Hotel (BW) on 17th.
Small Heath: Noted only on 18th.
Speckled Wood: Noted only on 17th.
Brilliant Emerald: Noted only on 13th.
Downy Emerald: Noted only on 13th.
I hope you all enjoyed the trip and have returned home with your own special memories. My own personal highlights were the Wolf seen oh-so-briefly in the forest and the Weaver's Fritillary found near our hotel at Bialowieza.
The weather wasn't quite with us during the middle part of week, but even so, we did really well. The spring seemed to be delayed with some relatively common summer visitors not arriving, and most of the butterflies not yet emerged. Certain birds eluded us completely and others we heard but failed to see, and as always, no-one saw everything that we recorded, but that is birding!
Well done to all of you who made this trip the success it was, and our special thanks to Marek and his family for the wonderful day at their home, and to Ania, Henryk and Arek who shared their knowledge so freely, and of course to Janek who drove us so patiently and safely during the week.
I hope to see you all on another trip sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Keith Grant, May 2003