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The PASTA project (1 Viewer)

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Yesterday was a first full day that we have fully dedicated to the PASTA project. PASTA stands for Polish Active Search for Tit Azure and also for "I just made uP A nonSense for a funny Title, Alright?". Originally we wanted to give it two days, but alas, for today we had the workers to install hot water for our place coming, which is also a relatively worthwhile thing to invest some time into.

The whole thing is BF's own jurek's idea started in a random thread - https://www.birdforum.net/threads/the-ukrainian-polesie-in-search-of-azure-tit.376072/#post-3845655 - to look for Azure Tit in eastern Poland, around the Bug river that makes the natural border between Poland and Belarus. In the same thread jurek also claims that the area is accessible without problems ... well, we'll shortly see about that.

After a 6:30 am alarm, we arrived to Terespol at 9:30, going straight for a really promising area of reedbeds between the city and the river. Despite Google Maps' promises of a route, the last kilometer had a no traffic sign, so we walked along the railway, hoping that there would eventually be a way through the weird fence around the road to reach the reedbeds proper. Long story short, there isn't, because the fence signifies a "railway border crossing" and this whole area between the city, two railway bridges and the highway is off-limits. The chat with the patrol guy was nice, but we had to wait for a patrol car to run out IDs through a computer and lost almost an hour altogether - at least they drove us back to out car. We also learned that outside of this triangle, the border is accessible, be that we should not enter within 300 meters from the border without requesting permission (by email) from the border patrol first and not within the last 15 meters to the river at all. We have done so in the past without issues, but we didn't really want to risk having the same guards sent after us again, so we chose other areas slightly further inland to continue the search, while thinking to ourselves silently that those people need to realize that the Cold War is over and this whole thing is a disgrace in civilized 21st century Europe.

We have thus moved NW to the Krzna river valley. This small watercourse that I have never heard about creates yet another lovely wild marshy valley - it's really beyond imagination how many of those are there in NE Poland. The lower part is surrounded by active cow pastures to which we had to climb carefully over an energized electric fence; a few kilometers upstream, the valley is deserted and has more reeds and some nice forests around. Even higher up into the very, very gentle (as expected here) hills, one finds extensive fishponds with nonetheless extensive reeds - and finally some more reedy fishponds are found in another parallel "valley" some 7 kms west. This all seemed like as good Azure Tit wintering habitat as any, so we walked through playing various AT sounds - which turned up to be very popular with all sorts of Tits: Great, Blue, Marsh and Long-tailed, but somewhat expectedly, no Azure Tit showed up.

It was a nice sunny day, first one after weeks of mostly cloudy weather, but it is undeniably winter now and the birds are scarce. Checking the current records, the country may seem teeming with wintering northern specialties, but considering the size of Poland, it's quite unlikely to stumble upon any Twites, Snow Buntings, Shore Larks, Great Loons or Slavonian Grebe by accident. Apart from the mixed Tit flocks, we saw some Bullifnches, Nuthatches, Starlings, Yellowhammers, Fieldfares, Mallards, Mute Swans and Mergansers, a considerable entourage of White Egrets and Grey Herons, a big flock of Greenfinches with some Goldfinches, a lone Grey Shrike, a Sparrowhawk, the inevitable Common Buzzards and a wide selection of Corvids; Cranes were heard in the distance, but never seen. Finally, when we stopped half-way to Warsaw near Siedlce to look for some mammals with the thermal camera in the night (after the absurd 3:30 pm winter sunset), we found a group of Grey Partridge hiding in a freshly plowed field.

The area along the border with Belarus and eventually Ukraine to the south is immense, as Bug flows along the border for hundreds of kilometers and is scenic enough that the lack of Azure Tits does not make one feel in any way unsatisfied after a visit. It is still 2 and a half hours from Warsaw, so it's not really a place to drive to every day, but I feel like we might pay it some more visits during the winter, unless something more urgent shows up, or the world gets magically suddenly open and safe for travel.
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
Yesterday was a first full day that we have fully dedicated to the PASTA project. PASTA stands for Polish Active Search for Tit Azure and also for "I just made uP A nonSense for a funny Title, Alright?". Originally we wanted to give it two days, but alas, for today we had the workers to install hot water for our place coming, which is also a relatively worthwhile thing to invest some time into.

The whole thing is BF's own jurek's idea started in a random thread - https://www.birdforum.net/threads/the-ukrainian-polesie-in-search-of-azure-tit.376072/#post-3845655 - to look for Azure Tit in eastern Poland, around the Bug river that makes the natural border between Poland and Belarus. ....
There was bound to be a Bug in it somewhere :ROFLMAO:

Good luck with the search over the winter!!
 

jurek

Well-known member
Sorry to cause you problems - I was not aware of any restrictions! Do they manage to keep anglers away from the river? Sounds not like Poland.

By the way, I refound the online page from the Red Data Book of Belarus, which shows Azure Tit locations few tens of km from Terespol and Janow Podlaski in Poland. I thought it disappeared from the internet.
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
Invest in handing out peanuts and suet cakes to the people of Terespol! One Azure Tit is bound to come down that river from Brest...
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
@jurek no problem caused, it was all in good fun :) I hope we aren't getting notorious intruders by now :) Good map, reinforces the idea nicely. Also shows this is the right area.

@Xenospiza from our feeding experience, Tits don't care about anything that's not sunflower seeds :) But if there were any coming to Terespol, it would be known, Poland is pretty penetrated by birder info nets - and if it were known, it would have reached me at this stage.
 

jurek

Well-known member
I read what is available online on Azure Tit in Belarus. Not much. Habitat is apparently dense bush in forest undergrowth or dense thickets of tall bushes, often overgrowing marshes but also on dry sites. Reedbeds are not the preferred habitat.

Do we have any BF member from Belarus? I know some Belarussian birders post photos on birdwatching.pl but otherwise they seem not very active on the internet.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
This frankly seems like Sobibór would be the logical answer with these habitats. But how would they go unseen by the people coming there for the other reason? :)
 

DMW

Well-known member
This frankly seems like Sobibór would be the logical answer with these habitats. But how would they go unseen by the people coming there for the other reason? :)
How easy is it so see the "other reason" :unsure: at Sobibór? Poland is on my list for the Spring depending on how things pan-out, and I'd be keen to try.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
How easy is it so see the "other reason" :unsure: at Sobibór? Poland is on my list for the Spring depending on how things pan-out, and I'd be keen to try.

I took me 4 (sometimes extended) visits to the area over several years. My friend then came all the way from Czechia and saw it almost from the car. It's unpredictable and most of all, it's absolutely unbelievable how hard it is to notice it given its size. The call doesn't really travel very far either. But I personally find the area so spectacular that I enjoyed even the unsuccessful visits a lot.
 

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
Being Italian, I really like your title Jan: I thought you had taken up cooking given reduced mobility of these times! Now you have to tell me the "other reason" is, as we have never looked into birding in Poland!
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Well I actually have been cooking much more since the pandemics started, because the place where we went to eat almost every day has been either closed or not attractive to visit since then. And since you ask nicely, that "other reason" was just a cheeky reference to the Great Grey Owls living in the area and the shroud of secrecy that used to exist around them - nowadays it's quite easy to find out they live there anyway (but exact locations are still relatively well guarded).
 

DMW

Well-known member
I took me 4 (sometimes extended) visits to the area over several years. My friend then came all the way from Czechia and saw it almost from the car. It's unpredictable and most of all, it's absolutely unbelievable how hard it is to notice it given its size. The call doesn't really travel very far either. But I personally find the area so spectacular that I enjoyed even the unsuccessful visits a lot.
Thanks, useful to know. I was rather hoping you would say one perches on the same stump every morning!
 

DMW

Well-known member
Well I actually have been cooking much more since the pandemics started, because the place where we went to eat almost every day has been either closed or not attractive to visit since then. And since you ask nicely, that "other reason" was just a cheeky reference to the Great Grey Owls living in the area and the shroud of secrecy that used to exist around them - nowadays it's quite easy to find out they live there anyway (but exact locations are still relatively well guarded).
The local tourist office has an online pamphlet with a map and exact (although quite possibly incorrect) directions!
 

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
Well I actually have been cooking much more since the pandemics started, because the place where we went to eat almost every day has been either closed or not attractive to visit since then. And since you ask nicely, that "other reason" was just a cheeky reference to the Great Grey Owls living in the area and the shroud of secrecy that used to exist around them - nowadays it's quite easy to find out they live there anyway (but exact locations are still relatively well guarded).
Good to know! And keep on looking (both for the owls and for the BTs)!
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Oh, this thing! That's about 25 kms west from the area I was talking about (Sobiborski Park Krajobrazowy). I have recently found about this trail by just stumbling upon it physically :) The area was quite busy with people and it looked just unlikely to me that an owl would be viewable from the trail, but it may be different in different times of the year/day/pandemic forcing locals to holiday in Poland. I also haven't really heard any recent reports of people seeing the owls there, but it just may be not publicized.
 

DMW

Well-known member
Oh, this thing! That's about 25 kms west from the area I was talking about (Sobiborski Park Krajobrazowy). I have recently found about this trail by just stumbling upon it physically :) The area was quite busy with people and it looked just unlikely to me that an owl would be viewable from the trail, but it may be different in different times of the year/day/pandemic forcing locals to holiday in Poland. I also haven't really heard any recent reports of people seeing the owls there, but it just may be not publicized.
Ah, thanks. It did seem a little too good to be true...
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
I hope to find some time to check it in some more favorable circumstances than "Friday afternoon", maybe something will come out of it. There is another really busy viewpoint in marshes (on Biebrza, not in Polesie) where you could see Short-eared Owls (reasily even though there were hordes of people, so all sorts of things are possible. I know Short-ears have quite different behavior, but still.
 

Larry Sweetland

Formerly 'Larry Wheatland'
Love it! It might be worth talking to Jos Stratford (from Lithuania and BF) as I think he's seen Azure Tits in Belarus, and he might have some ideas. I really hope you find a spot for them, as I'd love to make the trip (y)

Will there be pasta provided for birders making the trip?
 
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