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Poland - May 2024 (1 Viewer)

foresttwitcher

Virtually unknown member
United Kingdom
Whilst bored rigid over the so-called 'festive period', when I booked my trip to Cyprus last month I must have got a bit carried away and went on to book a week in eastern Poland for a month later. So, in my usual way, flights were booked through Expedia, car via Rentalcars and accommodation with Trivago. Gosney's 'Finding Birds in Eastern Poland' was duly purchased.

Tuesday 14th May:

In the ridiculously early hours of the morning I was off around the M25 and heading for Stanstead Airport. Parking, bus transfer, check-in, etc. all went as planned and before 06:00 I was seated for my first Ryanair experience - a shortish flight to Warsaw Modlin. As is often the case with this and other low budget airline airports the destination was not particularly close to Warsaw but it's small size and location worked out well and I was soon through security, with bags and in the hired car and, without having to negotiate any city traffic, was setting off for the first of a couple of ebird hot-spots I had sussed out. First birds of the trip had been a White Wagtail on the apron walking from the plane to the terminal building and a House Martin overhead. Common roadside birds were the usual Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Magpie, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow and Starling.

Soon I was in the Kuligow area at the Roziewiska viewpoint overlooking the Bug River. Just as I was pulling into the parking area, in warm sunshine, there were a couple of Fieldfare feeding on the short grass of a football pitch. As I opened the door a Grey Partridge flushed from close by and flew off. With just the company of a lone fisherman I scanned across the floodplain: Mute Swan and Mallard on the open water; Great Egret and Grey Heron on the edges of the reeds; Northern Lapwing flying up to mob Black-headed Gulls; White Storks and Common Cranes in with the horses on the dry higher land; Cuckoo and Pheasant calling; Common Swift and Barn Swallow overhead; House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow both on the short grass and the track and a Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail by the car when I returned.

After this good start and a bite to eat I moved on to the next hot-spot, also on the Bug River in the Wywloka area. I parked off the rough track and first walked along the riverside edge of a field to the soundtrack of Cuckoo, Chaffinch, Great Reed Warbler, winnowing Snipe and Golden Oriole. Once a view along a section of the river was reached a number of Black Tern could be seen patrolling up and down. In a scrubby hedgerow both Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were singing and moving about and a Common Buzzard flew over. Retracing my route I managed to actually see the Great Reed Warbler in flight between patches of reeds (I'd forgotten how big they look), watched a Red-backed Shrike in the top of a bush for some while and managed to track down a very loud Thrush Nightingale for brief perched and flight views. Back at the car I wandered in the other direction along the track into an area that was more damp open woodland and scrubby clearings and this area added Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit and Jay to the list plus a heard only Yellowhammer.

With that it was time to hit the road and start the drive in earnest to Goniadz and check-in to my accommodation for the next tree nights.

Photo:

Bug River from viewpoint near Kuligow.
 

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Can't wait to read next chapters. If I'm properly guessing your accomodation location in Goniadz, you would be eligible for Citrine Wagtail and Lesser Spotted Eagle observations while having your breakfast on the terrace...

Probably not where you are thinking as I tend to go cheap on the accommodation and not spend too much time there, so no terrace or breakfast :LOL:
 
Wednesday 15th May:

A relaxed start this morning as I needed to collect a permit for Biebrza National Park and wasn't sure when the HQ opened. When I got to the office near Osowiec Twierdza it appears it opens at 07:30. I collected a couple of useful maps and walking permits for the next 3 days and headed into the Southern Basin.

First stop, given my primary target bird in Biebrza, was the parking area for the boardwalk at Dluga Luka. I got out of the car to a chorus of birdsong from the roadside trees: Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat & Willow Warbler, all dominated by a Thrush Nightingale. Starting along the boardwalk Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat joined in. An early contender for bird of the day was a Lesser Grey Shrike sallying out from the birches to the south. A slow wander to the end and quite some time spent scanning and listening did not produce the target but I did have Marsh Harrier quartering in the distance, a single each of Buzzard and Raven over, Snipe displaying and landing close by, a single very distant Crane and a pair of Whinchat perched up on reed stalks.

Planning to come back later, I wandered slowly back down the boardwalk and drove north a short distance to the Bagno Lawki observation tower. It was a bit quiet with the only new species added being Kestrel and Reed Bunting. Thinking I had another good location for my principal target I headed north a short way again to the parking area for the Grobla Honczarowska path out on to the marsh but, having spoken to a Brit birder on a camper road-trip, just as I got geared up and set off down the track a park ranger stopped me and told me it was closed due to the ground conditions and suggested an alternative further north.

So I parked at Barwik and set off on the Budy trail through the woodland. This change of habitat added: Great and Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Blackbird and Wood Warbler. All was quiet from the observation platform, apart from the common warblers and the first seen (as opposed to heard only) Yellowhammer. This tower was also a bit quiet adding just Cuckoo and Wood Pigeon for the day. As the path came out of the scrub to enter the marsh, the ground conditions became much wetter (unsurprisingly, I suppose) and, although I continued for a while picking my way around the deeper mud and seeing an incongruous Hawfinch in some willow scrub, I eventually had to admit defeat after sinking shin deep and so returned along the same route.

Back at the car and intent on gaining access to the marsh I turned back south and parked at Gugny to try the path loop from the other end. The woodland at the start had much the same species as above but I did add Great Spotted Woodpecker and heard Golden Oriole. With a bit of deja vu, as I emerged from the trees and on to the marsh the path became impassable after a few hundred metres so I had to turn back again. Back near the car I got great views of a male Common Redstart.

After a quick diversion to buy some food and water I returned to Dluga Luka and dawdled along the boardwalk and sat at the end eating. But no target and similar species to this morning.

Again vowing to return I headed south and stopped by the small bridge just north of Laskowiec to scan the wet woodland and added Middle Spotted Woodpecker in the alders and a Green Sandpiper posing on top of a dead stump in the stream channel.

Roadside stops around Laskowiec and Zajki added common species to the day list, such as Collared Dove, Magpie, Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, Starling, House and Tree Sparrow plus a pair of Rook 'courting' on top of a manure pile! Plus a couple of Fieldfare. But not much seen actually out on the marshes.

So I headed to the end of the small road in Brzostowo (where the tower mentioned in Gosney seems to have gone) and spent some time admiring the nice view out over the Biebrza river: Mute Swan and Mallard on the river, a small group of Greylag Goose hiding behind the reeds, a pair of Northern Shoveler flying in, a Great Cormorant heading upstream, Great Egret and Grey Heron stalking the reed edges and Black Terns patrolling the main channel. Then something must have disturbed the birds in an unseen channel further out as a large group of Black-headed Gull, some Northern Lapwing, a single Oystercatcher and three Black-tailed Godwit all rose up, circled briefly and then disappeared back behind the vegetation just as quickly.

I thought the last site was good so hoping for similar headed north again to Mscichy and drove the rough track east of the village until it proved too much for my low ground clearance vehicle. I parked up where I could and continued on foot with very birdy marsh on both sides of the raised track. Loads of White Stork, various warblers singing, White Wagtail on the track, Common Swift, Barn Swallow and House Martin hunting low overhead, Cuckoos calling and at least two booming Bittern. As I neared the Biebrza river there were clouds of Black-headed Gull and Black Tern feeding and a large flock of White-winged Tern flashing black and white in the early evening sunlight, quite a sight. From the tower I watched these numbers for some time and in the river channels and ox-bows added a fine drake Garganey, a couple of Redshank flying around calling, a group of Ruff in a pool with some of the males posturing in breeding finery and a Curlew flying through. As the sun was getting low, I reluctantly left this great place and walked back alongside the frenzied tern flock to return to the car, to the background sounds of Cuckoo and Bittern, and passed a surprisingly tame Wood Sandpiper on a pool on the track. Just after turning the car round and heading back slowly along the track something in a field caught my eye and I pulled up to see a smart male White-spotted Bluethroat sitting on a fence post and as I watched it flew from post to post toward me along a fence-line giving great views. With that it was time to retire to base after a long but good day.

Photos:

1. View of Bagno Lawki marshes from end of boardwalk;
2. Dluga Luka boardwalk.
 

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Quite a trip you made in one day.
Barwik and Gugny are hard to navigate without Wellingtons, I admit. They're also a bit overrated as birding spots in my opinion, so you did not miss much.
You did not go to the shelter in Zajki, I suppose. It's a great place, but strongly dependable on water level on the meadow.
The rough track from Mscichy you mentioned in the end is one of the top spots in the area. It's called "Biały Grąd" in Polish, which you could translate to "White Hail". Many great photos and observations had been done there. It also tends to be quite crowded on spring weekends...
Overall, it's fascinating to read a story about the places I know so well from your perspective.
National Park permits can be obtained through the website.
You have also mentioned your bird of the trip already, since observations of Lesser Grey Shrike are extremely rare - last breeding in Poland had been observed in 2010. It fits with male observed three days later some 30 miles south, maybe it was the same bird?
 
Quite a trip you made in one day.
Barwik and Gugny are hard to navigate without Wellingtons, I admit. They're also a bit overrated as birding spots in my opinion, so you did not miss much.
You did not go to the shelter in Zajki, I suppose. It's a great place, but strongly dependable on water level on the meadow.
The rough track from Mscichy you mentioned in the end is one of the top spots in the area. It's called "Biały Grąd" in Polish, which you could translate to "White Hail". Many great photos and observations had been done there. It also tends to be quite crowded on spring weekends...
Overall, it's fascinating to read a story about the places I know so well from your perspective.
National Park permits can be obtained through the website.
You have also mentioned your bird of the trip already, since observations of Lesser Grey Shrike are extremely rare - last breeding in Poland had been observed in 2010. It fits with male observed three days later some 30 miles south, maybe it was the same bird?

Thanks for the comments and extra information.
I did not go down the track at Zajki as the fields / marshes seemed quiet.
I really enjoyed Bialy Grad and can see why it is popular.
 
You have also mentioned your bird of the trip already, since observations of Lesser Grey Shrike are extremely rare - last breeding in Poland had been observed in 2010. It fits with male observed three days later some 30 miles south, maybe it was the same bird?

Your comments about the rarity of this species has made me re-visit my memories of the sighting. Full disclosure, I have only ever seen one Lesser Grey Shrike previously so with little experience I could easily be wrong. There are no ebird checklists for Dluga Luka on 15th and those on 14th and 16th reported Great Grey Shrike and indeed I also saw one there on 16th. However, at the time I was happy with the identification especially the larger black mask and forecrown and the pinkish / buff wash to the breast. The Great Grey I saw on the next day at the site definitely had whiter underparts and a mask as expected for that species. So, all in all, I think I'm happy with the sighting but may well be mistaken.
 
In any case, Rarities Committee of Poland would be happy about the report of this LGS - you can do it in English, much like you would report a rarity in your home country
 
Sorry, but I do not consider myself either a competent enough birder or a confident enough person to make my sightings a matter of scientific data, either abroad or at home.
 
Thursday 16th May:

An early start this morning for a return to Dluga Luka at a different time of day and the chorus on opening the car door at the parking area was even more intense than previously. A slow wander up the boardwalk produced a Great Grey Shrike flying out over the marsh from a lone birch but the singers in the low vegetation were all Sedge Warbler again, with the exception of a Grasshopper Warbler reeling away - the only glimpse I got of it was some movement within a small clump of vegetation. At the end, I met up with the Brit again who also had not had any luck with the target bird. I spent some time at the end just taking in the atmosphere and other birds, again including Whinchat, close Snipe and Marsh Harrier. There were also a couple of Ringtail Harriers, that are beyond my ID skills, but a stunning male Montagu's Harrier turned up and performed for a while. Eventually I gave up and slowly walked back to the car.

With a tip on another of my other targets from the other chap, I headed to the North Basin, seeing the usual roadside birds en route, and stopped off at Kuligi Bridge. As soon as I was out of the car and looking at the information board a Lesser Spotted Eagle flew from behind and only about twice tree canopy height overhead and lazily circled out over the flood plain - thanks to my informant. I wandered back down the road and part way along Dobra Droga checking out the songsters, which included Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff plus a much quieter and more melodic version of the numerous Thrush Nightingale that I took to be a Common Nightingale, and Merlin agreed. Back at the car, coming from the nearest bush was another different song and after some effort I had brief views of a Barred Warbler - including the yellow eye. I sat eating in the pic-nic area for a while adding Reed Bunting, a single Whiskered Tern low along the river and a fly-over Black Kite, plus Lapwings and a Red-backed Shrike.

I moved just down the road and parked in Grzedy, the nice young ranger at the information office checked my permit and confirmed the parking was free. I walked the main track south east and then took the blue trail but the short spur path to the tower was closed so along the boardwalk to the main track and back north. The mixed woodland and a couple of small glades added Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Wren, Great Tit, Jay, Wood Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, a pair of Bullfinch, Yellowhammer and best of all a singing Red-breasted Flycatcher - a very nice lifer but no red breast; do females also sing on territory or do young males migrate and start singing on the breeding grounds before moulting out of first-winter plumage?

After a fair walk I drove back to the Osowiec Twierdza area, collecting some supplies along the way, and parked up by Fort Zarzeczny. A Great Grey Shrike flew over and perched in a large poplar as I set off down the boardwalk. The usual suspects were singing in the scrub plus Great Reed Warbler and from the platforms and viewpoints I had Mallard, Greylag Goose, Great Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Black-headed Gull and Black Tern. Crossing the road and railway I spent some time in the tower seeing many of the same species plus White Wagtail and the usual Swifts, Swallows and Martins overhead.

Just a short trip back to my accommodation and as I pulled up to the gate into the property a fine male Black Redstart flew down off the gatepost into the adjacent paddock. Later, I sat outside the patio door in the fading light eating and keeping an eye out for the Redstart again and a Black Stork flew over.
 
Two down Pete, keeping my fingers crossed for the rest! It will surely have been a non-breeding male singing. I get a lot of Red-breasted Flycatchers pass through here but hardly ever males in breeding plumage. Still a delightful little bird though!

Chris
 
Two down Pete, keeping my fingers crossed for the rest! It will surely have been a non-breeding male singing. I get a lot of Red-breasted Flycatchers pass through here but hardly ever males in breeding plumage. Still a delightful little bird though!

Chris

Thanks Chris, yes, going well. Thanks also for the input on the Flycatcher, much as I suspected.
 
best of all a singing Red-breasted Flycatcher - a very nice lifer but no red breast; do females also sing on territory or do young males migrate and start singing on the breeding grounds before moulting out of first-winter plumage?
A lot of younger breeding males, 2CY birds and perhaps 3 CY, have very much reduced red or none. I have a male singing on my land at present which could easily pass for a female on many views.
 
Friday 17th May:

Having had no luck with probably my main target at the primary site at different times of day I, much too late, did a bit more reading and discovered that evening may be better. Yesterday evening it was too late to get to the site and this was my last day in the area so I needed to check in to my next accommodation this evening. So I was left with visiting again at a less than optimum time before I left the area and hoping for success or being faced with the possibility of a very long drive on a forthcoming afternoon if I failed to connect. So, after an early morning supermarket visit, I stopped off at Goniadz Bridge but only saw a Mallard and a Mute Swan.

Next I headed through Wolka Piaseczna and parked up to walk the Brzeziny Kapickie track through wet woodland. Despite being well loaded with insect repellent I spent most of the time trying to avoid being eaten alive by mozzies but did manage to hear Golden Oriole and locate Spotted Flycatchers, more singing non-breeding male Red-breasted Flycatchers and Middle Spotted and Black Woodpecker, in addition to the expected woodland birds.

Time to return again to Dluga Luka. It seemed a little quieter this time. Just as I started up the boardwalk a guided group of Brit birders were leaving and when I asked they confessed that they had not had any luck. The song was again Grasshopper and Sedge Warbler. From the end the usual Marsh Harrier was around again with a Ring-tail but this time the male that appeared soon after was a fine Hen Harrier. After a while on the end platform, I heard a subtly different song I had not heard in this spot before. But despite thinking I knew where it was singing from, try as I might I couldn't locate the singer. It would go quiet for a while and then sing again from a similar location. The only other person there, as he was leaving, said he had seen it! After a couple more bouts of song, I eventually saw the culprit further out than I had been looking (there was quite a strong breeze blowing toward me) and there it was, an Aquatic Warbler sitting up on a tall, thin stem. After a while sitting, listening to and watching the bird in the warm sunshine I got up and had a last scan around the marsh only to have an unmistakeable male Citrine Wagtail fly past the platform at eye level and only a few metres out! A very happy walk back along the boardwalk and I could relax and move on from Biebrza at my leisure.

So I headed south to the Wizna Marshes. The roadside overlook did not provide anything new but the trees around the crossroads of tracks (north of Grady-Waniecko) did add a nice purring Turtle Dove plus a Kestrel hovering. I tried the track that runs west from just before the small bridge south of the village. At first this produced Grey Partridge, Pheasant and Skylark around the crop fields and then further along near an area of damp woodland White and Blue-headed Wagtail and a Tree Pipit. But eventually the roughness of the track became too much for the car before reaching the path to the tower. I cut my losses and backtracked.

Heading further south again, picking up the common roadside / farmland species, I parked at the north east end of Waniewo. A visit to the tower produced Great Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-headed Gull and Black Tern. I then walked the boardwalk path across the valley to Sliwno and back scanning from all the hides and and rather enjoying the novelty of the self-propelled pontoon crossings. I had: Cuckoo calling; Swift, Swallow and House Martin overhead; and Reed Bunting, Thrush Nightingale and Great Reed Warbler singing from the reeds. Choice of the sightings though were a male Northern Wheatear perched on, and flycatching from, the top of a very tall, thin pole (presumably set up as a perch for photographs) in the middle of the marsh and a Savi's Warbler reeling from within the reeds by the first hide.

Back at the car it was time to head towards Bialowieza for the rest of the trip. The route Maps.Me decided upon coincided partly with the longest and most poorly organised set of roadworks I have ever encountered but I was not in a hurry and the stops at red lights allowed for good views of a Buzzard in a roadside tree, Cranes in a field and a Black Redstart on the verge in front of someone's front garden. Finally, I made it to the forest and my accommodation for the next four nights.

Photos:

1. Boardwalk at Waniewo;
2. As above;
3. Pontoon for channel crossings.
 

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Great story. I genuinely felt intrigued after every chapter, waiting for the questions to get answered, like "will he make it to Kuligi bridge?" (he did); will he do the right thing and go back to Dluga Luka in the evening?" (he did!); "will he go through Dolistowo bridge to Jaglowo?" (he did not, but went to Wizna, which is also great choice).
Now, fingers crossed for Bialowieza. Did he find Three-Toed nad White-Backed Woodpeckers? We're about to know.
 

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