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Bialowieza, NE Poland - Woodpecker jaunt 7-11 May 2015 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member

Getting there

£130 return flights from Luton Airport to Warsaw Chopin Airport with Wizz Air, booked on-line (www.wizzair.com). Set off from home 4am to get to Luton by 6am, flight departed 8.30am arriving couple of hours later.

A hire car from Thrifty Car Hire cost £75 for four days, I have my own annual excess document.

The Warsaw 'driving' Nightmare

Getting out from Warsaw's major airport was a mare, signage is awful. You initially have to follow signs for Central Warsaw on the 634 dual carriageway, ignore the first right turn for "Terespol" but then take a right turn at the first major junction after less than a mile onto the A30, following signs for "Poznan" but only initially, and then follow E67 "Bialystok" signs. The A30 and E67 are in effect the interconnecting motorway ring-road system in a westward and then northerly direction, circum-navigating Warsaw. Have your wits about you and look out for signs all the time. They are small. It was equally bad getting back to the airport and took an hour longer due to the crawling traffic - so allow 4.5 hours when you leave Bialowieza for the airport. Also note signs for this airport are for "Lotnisko Chopina" with a small plane sign. This full airport name is little used and on your flight tickets it will just refer to it as "Warsaw Chopin".

A Better Alternative?

I really think a better option would be fly with Ryan Air from East Midlands or presumably Stansted to Warsaw Modlin Airport, which is a smaller airport about 20 miles out of Warsaw which links to the E67 "outside" the mass urban core area.

I then followed the route off the E67 where the town of Brok was signposted, and from Brok then followed the pleasant route through Polish villages & countryside via Nur, Ciechanowiec, Bransk, Bielsk Podlaski, Hajinowka & finally Bialowieza. Bialowieza was only signposted once you were at Hajinowka, if I recall correctly.

This is the route recommended by www.wild-poland.com, but you may well choose alternative routes to get there.

Petrol stations are the same as in the UK, though sometimes an attendant does the petrol-filling for you. The Polish currency takes a bit of getting used to.


I had booked Hotel Zubrowka in Bialowieza via www.booking.com which was a Best Western on a B & B basis, costing about £45 per night, though using its car park was about a fiver each time you used it, which is not good for birders. It was a fairly good quality hotel, with tea and coffee making facilities, mini-fridge, TV (no English channels so watched Polish Sports channel), and wc/hot shower. There is a petrol station and supermarket close to each other as you first enter Bialowieza, which you will likely use once or twice - I bought 4 cans of beer per night, plus milk and bread and cereal for my own pre-dawn breakfasts. I had taken my own plastic knives and bowl. Breakfast was included in the rate, but only started at 7.30am.

There are plenty of alternative cheaper hotels in the small town. There are also plenty of small pubs (wherever there is a "Zubr" sign) and a couple of restaurants, but I had take away pizza every night costing about a fiver. There is only one pizza place as far as I know, near one of the Palace Park entrances in central Bialowieza.


One way or another you are likely to use them, via their quite superb site guide book (also available as a PDF download) that provides precise detail of numerous sites within the Bialowieza Forest wider area including Siemianowka Reservoir. This is possibly the best guide book I have ever seen, complete with maps and directions. Attention to every detail is afforded, and it is worth noting where you can and cannot go, and how to park up by forestry roads (i.e off the road but before the red circle sign with white inside circle). See photo later. Forestry Police may arrest you if you enter these forestry tracks in a vehicle.

You are also likely to enrol the use of a guide from Wild-Poland, I was fortunate to have Tomasz (co-finder of the company and co-author of the guide book) all to my self on the 9th May for four hours 5-9am. There was no one else booked but they still honoured it, and for 60 euros it was great value, as his precise knowledge and acute skills afforded me views I would not otherwise have obtained of wanted species. Thanks Tomasz, you were really superb, and good company. He also dropped into my hotel on my arrival night, to provide detail of recent sightings. What service! He was choc-a-bloc booked after I left, guiding daily from 5am-9am, them 7-11pm.

I visited all the key areas in Bialowieza, using the guide book - Palace Park (aka Park Palacowy), Narewka Bridge & the adjacent Wysokie Bagno trail, Zebra Zubra trail, and just outside the town the area around the Bison Reserve, Teremiski Bridge, and a little further afar along the Narewka Road at Kosy Most, Gruszki Oaks, and of course Siemianowka Reservoir.

You will need to refer to the guide book but all these areas are within 15-20 miles, and most within 2 miles of Bialowieza town. It might be ideal to hire a bike to go on some of the longer trails which I just could not consider.

The Weather

On my arrival on the 7th there was heavy rain, but 8th, 9th and 10th were glorious and sunny at around 20C, my final morning of the 11th was damp overcast and cold.

When to visit?

The Guide book produced by Wild-Poland.com discusses these issues in great detail, but even with that in mind, each spring is different - sometimes breeding starts earlier or later than usual. Such is the unpredictability of nature! Optimum time to find the big 5 bird species would probably be the first week in April - Woodpeckers are still drumming, and Hazel Grouse and Nutcracker will not have yet vanished deep into the forest with their first young, but general spring migration starts in May and builds up through the month, so its a trade-off really, depending what is most important to you. Even by the time I left, spring migration was yet to undergo full swing, no Common Rosefinches or Barred Warblers for example, and few River Warblers around.

Its also important to note that for long spells during each day, the birds go quiet, so you need to work out where you want to be between 5-8am, and then again between 6-8pm in the evening - the two peak periods of bird activity. I found that this broke up my day in a frustrating way, I never had a lie in even after my lengthy drive from Warsaw, hence was knackered for most of my trip. I suppose that is a disadvantage of birding alone.

Many people visit here to see animals of course - and the "Big Five" means something else - Bison, Wolves, Lynx, Elk/Moose, Brown Bear. I would like to have seen these of course, but birding is my love first and foremost, unfortunately you cannot be in two places at one time. It does seem a long way to go to NOT to see at least some of these. But like the birds, they may take considerable effort to see. Again, Wild-Poland offer dedicated tours to try to see these creatures.

The Birding

A few obvious tips to start with.............

1) Even with car hire, birding around the area will include quite a lot of walking, and your feet will get wet, so if you can pack wellies or water proof boots. Early morning, dew off misty grass drenches your feet at this time of year, even when it has not been raining. Pack several pairs of really thick socks if you are not used to walking, I got a number of nasty blisters on my feet from my first day of trudging around in wet socks.

2) It really is critical to study in advance, the different drumming sounds of the 'Woodies' - these will guide you precisely to your quarry in Spring (March and April is when they are most vocal), and help you eliminate the many Great Spotted Woodpeckers that will be drumming - and that you don't want.

3) Also study the difference between Jay and (Spotted) Nutcracker call - again it may just pay off. There are plenty of Jays around so it may help you not waste time trying to get views of the these.

7TH MAY - The only birds seen en route to Bialowieza after my arrival were around 30 White Storks, 4 Buzzards, plenty of corvids, Swallows, House Sparrows etc. Though I was concentrating on getting the route right.

After my 3.5 hour journey from Warsaw Airport, and after checking in to my hotel at about 4pm (with the customary pair of White Storks nesting on telegraph poles opposite), I drove around Bialowieza, stopping by the main bridge by Palace Park, where I noticed a tall birdwatching hide nearby. A pair of Snipe were displaying and I saw a Marsh Warbler briefly. The general feeling was exciting - Thrush Nightingales and Great Reed Warbler calls were all around along with birdsong I was familiar with from home. I stopped to allow a Hedgehog amble across the road.

I then decided to drive out into the forest to the so-called Bison Reserve, which was closed when I got there mid evening. It is signposted off the main 689 road you arrived at the town on. I took a right turn towards the Reserve, and 200 metres ahead I saw what I thought was a Wolf, the long grey bushy tail was distinctive - but it slinked away into the forest. Not a bad start I thought!! More of that later............................

I went back to the hotel where Tomasz had agreed to meet me at 9pm, to discuss a few locations I could try the following day. He told me of a female White-backed Woodpecker being sometimes seen drumming at 5am by the main bridge by Palace Park, and of 2 more non-breeding White-backs being seen in the top end of the Park, along with a couple of Grey-headed Woodpeckers. My juices were flowing................


After just two hours adrenalin-pumped sleep, I was up at 4am, had breakfast in my room and drove the short distance to Palace Park bridge. Instantly upon leaving the hotel, the cacophony of bird song was noticeable - and I emerged out into a beautiful sunny morning. The mist covered pools and dew-ridden meadows of Palace Park gave a great effect, I really felt I had arrived.

But there was no sign of the "sometimes-seen" White Backed Woodpecker by the bridge, but a Thrush Nightingale sang half way up a tree, out in the open, and I located a 'reeling' Savi's Warbler on the other side of the bridge, at what was to be its regular exposed, fallen tree-branch perch. Wing-winnowing, displaying Snipe added to the magical feel of this wonderful place, whilst omni-present singing Chaffinches, and any other routinely seen finches such as Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Linnets and House Sparrows were virtually ignored by these English eyes. Song Thrushes and Blackbirds belted out their songs continuously, and the same Great Reed Warbler 'croaked' away close by. Golden Oriole song was also routinely heard throughout the forest, but I only managed to grab a glimpse of one of these elusive beauties, whilst a male Collared Flycatcher was as usual a delight to the eye. Swallows were everywhere, as the rest of Bialowieza still slept.

After parking the car just past the bridge, I entered Palace Park at its nearest of several entrances, and walked up to the 'top half', where a wet meadow was surrounded by tall trees. Again, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were seen, and a 'calling' Cuckoo was seen in flight. I hoped to see White-Backed or Grey-Headed Woodpeckers Tomasz had said may be around, but I only managed to find 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a few 'pale' eastern-race Nuthatches, and a couple of Blue and Great Tits - not quite what I had envisaged or hoped for from a walk around a Polish Park a mile away from Europe's last ancient, relic forest.

Back in the car, with wet feet even though I had only walked across the dew-drenched meadow, I drove the short distance of about half a mile out of Bialowieza, and parked at the small parking area at Zebra Zubra, the infamous trail with broken-boardwalk and fallen tree-logs, that so often produces those rare Woodies. Especially the first 500 metres, although you can if you wish, walk a further mile or two as it leads to the Bison Reserve (Zoo). For me, it produced male Black Woodpecker (sadly not a lifer) - a nice bird nevertheless, Treecreeper, and 2 more Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

I returned to the hotel for a Polish breakfast at 7.45am, and then drove the 15kms out along the Narewka Road to the signposted Kosy Most, where a wide open parking area with shelter and portable wc welcomes you. To your left is a straight wide open glade that leads to two small bridges, whilst in front of you and just to the left of the shelter are two tracks next to each other, you want to take the one which has a barrier. This path leads through prime forestry habitat, potentially good for Nutcracker and Hazel Grouse, then turns left to connect to the two bridges, from where you finish the circular walk by returning to the car along the long straight glade. I saw 5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Jays making all sorts of sounds, Wood Pigeons, a male Northern Bullfinch, Wood Warbler, heard-only Quail, along with the usual noisy Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. You felt rarer, sought-after birds were around but I could not find them. Disappointing!

I briefly visited Teremiski Bridge on the way back, where a pair of breeding Fieldfares were seen and looking and acting quite differently to those gangs of marauding invaders feasting vigorously, that we see in English autumns.

I then returned to the Bison Reserve, where I paid to go in to look at the Wolves, Moose, Bison, Wildcat, Deer and of course Bison. The area is quite good for birds with Nuthatches, Yellowhammers, White Wagtails, Spotted Flycatcher, Starlings, and Jays being seen, though frustratingly I just could not find the 'yodelling' Grey-Headed Woodpecker here. They often sing from quite a concealed location in May, but it certainly didn't help my mood that one or two others had connected with it here the day before.

At 2.30pm I returned to the hotel for a brief lie-down, change of socks, quick foot wash, hot drink - having failed to connect with any of my key targets. It was dawning on me that things were clearly not going to be as easy as I had hoped. I should have known better really.

By 4pm, I was back out, to the 'top end' of Palace Park, having discovered a perfectly driveable track up to the far end along its western edge. In the Park again, birding picked up - my good track record of finding Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers continued - as I found my 8th of this species - a male 'tapping' away high up in a tree. A Red Squirrel and Nuthatch were enjoyed, and then I was really pleased to see a Lesser Spotted Eagle 'soaring' above the park. I was to learn that they favour the wide open meadow between the top end of the Park and what is called the "Strict Reserve" - the ancient relic forest where you can only enter with a guide.

I drove out to the Bison Reserve again, just a few km's out of Bialowieza, checking the trees around the car park, finding 6 Hawfinches (a routine bird here), Spotted Flycatcher, and a 'rare' Robin.

After an hour failing to find the Grey-Headed Woodpecker at the Bison reserve, I returned again to the 'top end' of the Palace Park, and again found the Lesser Spotted Eagle perched in small trees lining the path across the meadow towards the "Strict Reserve". It took to flight where I could appreciate the contrasting dark and pale brown colours. I enjoyed views of it perched down to fifty metres. Great stuff. I was feeling better. Not a WP lifer but certainly my best ever views of this species. As I drove back along the straight and dusty Palace Park perimeter road, a second Lesser Spotted Eagle 'tussled' with an aggressive Common Buzzard. As I neared the Park's main pools, I noticed two birders I had seen earlier at Kosy Most (either German or Dutch) and thought that they looked like they were looking at something with interest. Having initially drove past them on the way back to the hotel, I made the decision to turn around and check out what they were looking at. I got out my car and approached them and as we all do, uttered those 'hopeful words' - "anything about?". "Just a small woodpecker" in broken English was the reply, "but a minute ago there was a White-Backed Woodpecker in that tree there, and er, yes he is still there". I was shaking with anticipation, thanking them both embarrassingly profusely, and moved closer to the bare-branched tree where this beast was 'chiselling' away quietly, in what is the part of the park with most human interference. I enjoyed views down to ten metres for at least a minute - what a bird with its fluffed-out, streaked underpart feathers, red crown, pink vent, and barred black and white back with obvious white patch. It had real character, real attitude, and with its more 'open' face it looked so different to its fairly-similar Great Spotted cousin. It flew over my head to 'turf off' a male Collared Flycatcher feeding on another dead tree. Then it flew off into the distance. It is just so hard to predict where these birds move around to, unless you can put hours and hours in.

I suddenly felt elated, way better than earlier, and I retired to my bed with four cans of lager and a take away pizza, to watch Polish football. Does life get any better than retiring to your hotel room with great beer, great pizza, great football (it was actually) on TV, and a stunning bird dominating your thoughts?


Despite the happiness and beer, I still failed to get more than two hours sleep, perhaps in anticipation of my pending 5am guided tour with Wild-Poland.com's Tomasz, who indeed promptly met me outside the hotel, on another gorgeous sunny morning. I told him of my delight at having connected fortuitously, with White-Backed Woodpecker, which meant my revised targets were in this order - Three-Toed Woodpecker, Nutcracker, Grey-Headed Woodpecker. Hazel Grouse too would have been nice but he said it was very difficult right now. I can't really explain why my preferences were in that order, but we all have our top targets even if there is often no logical thought process as to why. We drove in my hire car, which was fine with me as he was offering me the individual four-hour tour. We drove to the eastern end of Bialowieza and parked opposite the signpost that marks the end of a town (a row of houses with a line through it). This was where the Wysokie Bagno Trail starts, another famous and highly rated trail in the forest. What we saw here correlated very closely to the guide book and map - it is that accurate. However, without Tomasz's level of skill and acute hearing (which I no longer possess), I would not have connected. We walked for around ten-fifteen minutes, before Tomasz said "this is the area". For twenty minutes nothing happened, but then he heard the faintest tapping and in his wellies he happily walked off the main path and trudged out into the water-logged fallen birches and bog, and after a few minutes he returned, beckoned me to follow him, and after I tiptoed across trying to protect my feet from another drenching in my cheap and inadequate JD Sports-acquired walking boots, I was where he wanted me to be - and there in front of us was a superb, adult female Three-toed Woodpecker - just ten metres away. She was entirely unconcerned by our presence. Wow! What a superb bird. My heavy breathing at this point was genuinely caused by sheer adrenalin-rush, not the fact that I had walked twenty metres across boggy grass. This magnificent bird offered dream views from all angles as it manoeuvred around the favoured tree trunk, and indeed at times mirror-imaging what I had wrongly imagined was an exaggerated 'swollen-belly' caricature in some bird books. We nearly saw the male too, but this time it flew off just before we got close enough to see him.

Back at the car by the edge of town, we walked a little further out along the main road, stopping by 3 obvious bare trees, favoured drumming posts for many Woodpeckers just before Narewka Bridge. And there, on one of those trees, was another male White-Backed Woodpecker, drumming away, culminating in a frenzied, pneumatic-drill speed motion. Incredible neck muscles this species must have. Great prolonged views were enjoyed, and then the female White-Backed Woodpecker replaced him on the same tree. Incredible fortune. 2 Waxwings, a 'pale-headed' Northern Long-Tailed Tit, and Garden Warbler were nearby, and a "meowing" male Middle Spotted Woodpecker also showed very well, though only for a few seconds, on the same tree. All good birds.

We walked into a beautiful, nearby meadow opposite the three drumming trees, where Beavers had built their houses, and where Swallows were diving around feeding frantically. The White-Backed Woodpecker pair continued to call, drum, and fly around. A Red-Backed Shrike was astride a bush, as Tomasz brilliantly mimicked Grey-Headed Woodpecker song, as he explained he was "trying to drag it in" from a distance. This he succeeded in, but unfortunately it only very briefly alighted back at the nearby "drumming trees". I saw its distinctive barrel-shape for two seconds as it flew between glades in the woods - and that was as good as it got for me with this species.

We then returned to the car and moved on to three separate areas within a fairly tight area around Bialowieza, where Tomasz vaguely hoped to entice Nutcrackers to his 'play-back' 'Nutcracker-disco'. I wasn't really expecting any to respond, for they are highly secretive and deep in the forest right now - probably the worst time of year to see them. But boy did Tomasz try for me. More Hawfinches, Yellowhammer, and Jays were all that we could summon, but I had really enjoyed my time with Tomasz, but I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the guided four hours, thrilled to have seen Three-Toed and White-Backed Woodpeckers so very well, as well as Middle-Spotted too, and a glimpse of Grey-Headed was a little better than nothing. It was time to bid farewell's to Tomasz - a top chap, great company and quality guide!

Back on my own, and still 'floating' on what little adrenalin I had left, I walked around the 'top end' of Palace Park again, noting "calling" Wryneck, Buzzard overhead, and yet another Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Yet again I drove out to Bison Reserve where a male Black Woodpecker showed well around the car park, along with more Hawfinches. Tiredness and dizziness kicked in, and I hit the sack back at the hotel for a few hours, not sleeping but just resting. Hours passed, and at 4pm I headed out in the car again, picking up the usual takeaway pizza, and parked up past the "drumming trees" at Narewka Bridge. Mid-pizza, I was amazed to find my very own White-Backed Woodpecker feeding on an isolated tree trunk by the river - I can only presume that this was the male seen earlier as it was only a few hundred metres away from that sighting - so I think I still only have 3 White-Backed Woodpeckers to my name, not 4. But it was still nice to find my own one, and he was very showy, just like the others. A Great Grey Shrike was also seen here, but little else.

Back at Palace Park I notched up a Common Sandpiper by one of the main pools, where the only wildfowl were as usual a couple of Mallards. The usual Starlings flying around, a pair of Fieldfares and 2 Nuthatches were also seen, before I retired to my bed to drink 6 cans of lager and watch Polish football - only this time I had two stunning birds on my mind.


I had a lie in until 5am this morning, but still felt partially 'comatosed'. But I had a full day ahead and wanted to make the most of it, now I had had had my first five-hour sleep, compared to the previous three nights where just two hours had been managed. I was out heading towards Kosy Most again, and on the Narewka Road I disturbed a female Moose and her calf, both which quickly moved off the road into the dense forest. I was at Kosy Most by 6am, and I slowly 'ambled' around the circular trail, as per the guide book. A Racoon Dog scuttled across the track at one point, but again no Hazel Grouse or Nutcrackers. Plenty of Jays, and by the two bridges a male Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Wryneck, and Hawfinch were seen. I tried but failed to get close to what I think was a 'drumming' White-Backed Woodpecker.

I returned to Bison Reserve at 10am, again paying to go in, but failed to hear or see the Grey-Headed Woodpecker here, though 2 male Collared Flycatchers were nice to see. The usual tits including Coal Tit, White Wagtails, Yellowhammers, Jay, Starlings, Serin, and male Redstart were seen in the enclosures of the captive animals. A Sparrowhawk through flew.

By noon, I had had enough of staring high into vast trees, so I drove the 20 kms jouney to Siemianowka Reservoir, en route noting 2 Red-Backed Shrikes, Great Grey Shrike, Stock Dove, Fieldfares, Blue-Headed Wagtail, and 2 Whinchats at the Siemianowka Meadows. There are several different points to check out the reservoir, perhaps the most famous being by the village of Siemianiakowszczyzna - not the sort of place you could ask for directions to! But again, using the Wild-Poland guide, it was all very straightforward. Citrine Wagtail breed in the meadows but I could only find White Wagtails and Whinchats where they might have been, though I enjoyed brief but great views of a Thrush Nightingale and a brown-phase Cuckoo. Walking up to the 'raised' bank, Reed Warbler and a pair of Whitethroats were the only passerines I could find along the adjacent scrubby areas. A few Common Cranes, and a dozen or so Greylag Geese flew overhead, whilst Grey Heron and Great White Egret were seen out on the marsh. A few Mute Swans and Great Crested Grebes were seen on the water, but I suspect you need to circum-navigate this marvellous reservoir to appreciate all it has to offer, but that would take a full day. Views of open water from this specific point were distant, and frustratingly I could not get particularly close to the many terns here. A few Common Terns and several Whiskered Terns were seen, and at least 100 Black Terns. The real prize for me were the White-Winged Black Terns in summer plumage - at least 10 were present but maybe significantly more. They were particularly mobile and flew in pairs, so were hard to count. A few Black-Headed and Little Gulls were also present. The other highlight here were 2 immature White-Tailed Eagles, which caused mayhem in comparison to 3 'hunting' Marsh Harriers when they circled over the reservoir. One of these gigantic birds came fairly close to me, so views were fairly good. But a scope is critical here.

Whilst I was in this area, I checked out Gruszki Oaks, which required only a short walk according to the guide book. This plush and wealthy little village has a parking area, and nearby a pleasant walk at one end of the village led through giant oak trees. But mid-afternoon was inevitably quiet birdwise, and in the meadows by the river little was seen, though a few Corncrakes were calling. I would love to come here early morning, it looks to have lots of potential.

I enjoyed my final pizza back in Bialowieza, again at Narewka Bridge, but no notable birds were present, so I was back in my room by 8.30pm, drinking more beer and watching more Polish football. No new birds to think of tonight though!


All too typically, I enjoyed a good nights sleep - at least 7 hours - and knew I had to leave Bialowieza by 9am to check in at Warsaw Airport for my late afternoon departure. But I wanted to sample Bialowieza one more time, so after another breakfast in my room, I was out by Palace Park, by the main road bridge. It was cold and overcast. The Great Reed Warbler and Savi's Warbler were still singing away, as was the Thrush Nightingale. 2 male Redstarts were seen on the roadside as I drove out to Narewka Bridge for a final time. A pair of Reed Buntings, distant Sparrowhawk, and Great Grey Shrike were seen from there, and just as I was about to get back in my car, the 'rasping' call of Nutcracker was heard. I looked up, and about 200 metres away, a pair were flying over and behind trees, and out of view. I had a split second binocular view. A tick, but a most unsatisfactory one, just like the Grey-Headed Woodpecker sighting. Still, it was better than nothing. I will still strive to see these two species, as I have not seen them properly.

A final port of call was checking out the tower hide close to Palace Park bridge. There was nothing special to see over the marsh - a few Lapwings, Whinchat, 100 Starlings flying around, Great White Egret, displaying Snipe - and then below me the briefest of views of a 'skulking' River Warbler. It flitted across the bank and then peered back out at me. The mottled face or cheeks are quite distinctive, in fact this really being a continuation of the breast streaking. But its a useful feature, in contrast to Savi's Warbler. Its dull-brown, unstreaked upperparts were seen a few times over the next twenty minutes, but it just wouldn't reveal its underparts, perhaps my elevated position didn't help.

I 'soaked in' the sight and sound of Bialowieza for a final time, picked up my bags and checked out.

A few stops were made as I headed back to Warsaw, to look at a 'close' Red Fox, a few Common Cranes, White Storks, 2 Hooded Crows amongst the many Carrion Crows and Jackdaws, a Marsh Harrier hunting Skylarks, but my Polish adventure was over...........well nearly. As I say, the stop-start, 'rammed-up-close' traffic heading towards Warsaw Airport was hair-raising, and scared me shitless. But I made it somehow. Chaotic!


A great trip overall, with stunning views of White-Backed and Three-Toed Woodpecker, and unsatisfactory views of Grey-Headed Woodpecker and Nutcracker. Throw in Lesser Spotted Eagle and White-Tailed Eagle, Black Woodpecker, Middle-Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Wryneck, Cranes, White Storks, River, Marsh and Savi's Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, Great Grey and Red-Backed Shrikes, Hawfinches, Collared Flycatchers, and 4 species of marsh terns!

94 bird species seen. Not that good a total, but as a single birder I miss out what groups between them inevitably see. Most birders go on to Biebrza Marshes, something I chose not to do as 'lifers' for me could all be seen around Bialowieza.

Animal-wise Racoon Dog, Moose, Red Squirrel, and 'potential' Wolf - I mentioned "more of that later" regards the possible Wolf seen by the Bison Reserve back at the start of this thread - well upon my final visit there I found out what the creature was - despite being out in the forest with no houses within miles, it was a domestic cat !!

It really was a case of "Don't Cry Wolf----------Birder" !!


Three-Toed Woodpecker x 1
White-Backed Woodpecker x 3
Grey-Headed Woodpecker x 1
Black Woodpecker x 2
Middle-Spotted Woodpecker x 2
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker x 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker x 30
Wryneck x 2
Nutcracker x 2
White-Tailed Eagle x 2
Lesser Spotted Eagle x 3
Golden Oriole x 2 (heard many)
River Warbler x 1
Marsh Warbler x 1
Savi's Warbler x 1
Reed Warbler x 1
Great Reed Warbler x 1
Wood Warbler x 1 (heard a number)
Garden Warbler x 1
Blackcap x 10 (heard many)
Whitethroat x 2
Chiffchaff x 5
Thrush Nightingale x 2 (heard several)
Collared Flycatcher x 4
Spotted Flycatcher x 4
Nuthatch (Eastern race) x 10
Treecreeper x 1
Waxwing x 2
Great Grey Shrike x 2
Red-Backed Shrike x 4
Whinchat x 6
Redstart x 3
Black Redstart x 1
Yellowhammer x 5
Hawfinch x 30
Bullfinch (Northern race) x 1
Chaffinch x 50
Linnet x 4
Goldfinch x 10
Greenfinch x 5
Reed Bunting x 3
Serin x 1
House Sparrow x 100
Blackbird x 100
Song Thrush x 80
Mistle Thrush x 4
Fieldfare x 6
Robin x 1
Wren x 1
Skylark x 5
Blue-Headed Wagtail x 4
White Wagtail x 10
Wood Pigeon x 20
Collared Dove x 30
Stock Dove x 1
Feral Pigeon x 100
Jay x 30
Rook x 2
Jackdaw x 100
Carrion Crow x 200
Hooded Crow x 2
Raven x 2
Magpie x 3
Starling x 300
Tree Pipit x 1
Great Tit x 6
Blue Tit x 6
Coal Tit x 2
Northern Long-Tailed Tit x 1
Cuckoo x 2
Swift x 10
House Martin x 8
Swallow x 400
White-Winged Black Tern x 10
Black Tern x 100
Whiskered Tern x 8
Common Tern x 4
Little Gull x 2
Black-Headed Gull x 5
Common Crane x 7
White Stork x 100
Grey Heron x 2
Great White Egret x 2
Greylag Goose x 16
Mute Swan x 3
Great Crested Grebe x 2
Mallard x 20
Snipe x 4
Lapwing x 8
Common Sandpiper x 1
Sparrowhawk x 2
Kestrel x 2
Buzzard x 6
Marsh Harrier x 4


Moose x 2
Racoon Dog x 1
Red Squirrel x 1
Red Fox x 1
Hedgehog x 1
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Photos - Apologies for being unable to flip them over - its my new crappy cheap laptop.

1) Hotel Zubrowka (Best Western), Bialowieza
2) Typically tall trees of Bialowieza Forest
3) The Tower in Palace Park, Bialowieza
4) River Narewka, from Narewka Bridge at eastern end of Bialowieza
5) Mobile phone camera shot (screen dump) of my female Three-Toed Woodpecker. The original image was taken and sent to me by Tomasz, and is obviously way way clearer


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More photos........again I have no idea how to flip them (I have tried) on this laptop, sorry.

1) The "Drumming trees" at couple of hundred metres before Narewka Bridge, at the eastern end of Bialowieza.
2) These trees are directly opposite Lamppost number 248/10, along the main road.
3) A shot of Zebra Zubra trail.
4) The attractive Teremiski Bridge
5) How to park by forestry trails - OFF the main road but not blocking the track AND not past the signpost by the car.


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Final set of photos.........

1) Kosy Most - when you get there, away to your left is this wide open glade - you can take this outward route on the recommended circular route
2) Kosy Most - alternatively, there are 2 tracks close to each other - take the one with the barrier, this leads through prime forest and then left, linking up to the glade in the first photo.
3) Kosy Most - view from Kosy Most bridges.
4) Siemianowka Reservoir - the open water is distant from the bank at Siemieniakowszczyzna
5) Pizza - don't be put off - this looks quite unappetising but it was delicious. I had a different one each night.


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An excellent and well documented report Nick, from a country that I might visit one day.

Firstly let me congratulate you for ''navigating'' Warsaw's urban core, a feat that would deter ''lesser men'' (self included). In achievement terms, I might suggest surpassing the ticking off of White-backed Woodpecker.

I found the species tally to be of particular interest! especially the ratio of WBW to Great spot. and also Hawfinch...''even stevens!''

Cheers :t:
Thanks for taking the time to read it Ken, and for your kind comments. Appreciated!

Warsaw is probably little different to many big cities, but it truly felt foreign to me, Polish language is as different to English as one could possibly imagine. Actually many people head south and then north-eastward through the city to connect to the E67, I think the route I took (southward and then north-westward) is a bit longer but at least on dual-carriageways. I will definitely fly to Warsaw's 2nd airport with Ryan Air if I return, hence missing the Warsaw suburbs altogether.

I found the trip very demanding compared to my previous 4-day trips, partly because of the distance (over 200kms) to the destination once I had landed, and then because of the need to rise so early to see the birds. In Cyprus for example, its not necessarily a case of the early bird catches the worm!

Ken, if I really wanted to count Hawfinches, I bet I could have amounted 100 with effort, and they were never in flocks just 3's and 4's - always beautiful birds though. This must be the easiest place to find White-Backed Woodpecker in Europe - tho time of year is of course critical. Gt Sp Woody is still the default Woody there, but to see a White-Backed in the local park next to a big pool where many people were walking including noisy school kids, quite surprised me as you imagine they can only be seen by visiting some isolated, deep-in-the-forest swamp area with dead trees.

Thanks again Ken for taking interest.
It has been pointed out that I got the website address wrong on the report, for 'Wild Poland'. There is no dash as I repeatedly referred to in my report.

Please note it is :-


Sorry to resurrect the report but this is important. Too late to amend my original report.
Excellently detailed for anyone following in your footsteps. Having recently driven the maniacal streets of Sofia I can understand the tip about Warsaw airports and had never thought of the positive side to Ryanair's often deeply misleading routes.
Poland is a possible for next year !
Certainly great for woodpeckers Dave, but don't think you would get anything like as good photos of the Nutcracker as you did in Bulgaria.

Mind you, the Bison would be potentially photogenic !

And yes mate, even Ryan Air use occasionally has it's benefits!
Certainly great for woodpeckers Dave, but don't think you would get anything like as good photos of the Nutcracker as you did in Bulgaria.

Mind you, the Bison would be potentially photogenic !

And yes mate, even Ryan Air use occasionally has it's benefits!

Must admit having now used Easyjet a couple of times I have been very impressed. As yet they don't have a weight limit on cabin baggage, and if you book the seats at the from you get a bigger bag size and a guarantee that they travel in the cabin with you. Invaluable if you have a fair amount of expensive photographic equipment you want to take.
As yet I have not built up the courage to try Ryanair !

I think that Mount Vitosha must be one of the best spots in Europe for Nutcracker as you can drive right up to the place you find them....in fact finding the road is the hardest part.
Trigrad has to be the best for Wallcreeper too. Potentially stunning views if you are prepared to put in the time and wait.
I think that Mount Vitosha must be one of the best spots in Europe for Nutcracker as you can drive right up to the place you find them.....

I have been to the village of Caux in Switzerland for conferences (1,000m above Montreux). Nutcrackers are commonly seen there. Not sure I'd want to go that far just for nutcracker though! (There are other interesting birds but I usually go in the summer when it can be hard to locate them.) See John Gooders' classic Where to watch birds in Europe.
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