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NE Poland



26 June - 4 July 2009

Observers: F. Simpson




For several years now most of my trips have been to hot destinations with deserts or the Mediterranean featuring strongly. I wanted to get back to somewhere with a 'northern' feel, such as Scandinavia, or at least somewhere lush and green. Poland seemed to fit both these criteria (though I couldn't escape the heat there either) and had the lure of many great birds such as eight woodpecker species, owls, Aquatic Warbler, Great Snipe, marsh terns and eagles. Another side of recent trips I wanted to avoid was the country-wide rush to 'collect' all the candidate species. I decided on two bases for north-east Poland, both famous and well-trodden birding destinations: the Bialowiza primeval forest and the vast and pristine Biebrza marshes. Having acquired a decent microphone, my interest in recording bird vocalistions had also grown and was intended to be a feature of this trip. Add to that the attraction of rich continental dragonfly and butterfly faunas, and there was no reason to further delay a trip to the east!


Sound recordings were made with a Sennheiser ME-66 microphone and a Sony HD-MD MZ-RH1. Sonograms were produced using Syrinx spectrographic analysis software (www.syrinxpc.com) & labelled in Adobe Photoshop.

All photographs were made with Canon bodies & lenses.





Great Egret · Black Stork · White-tailed Eagle · Lesser Spotted Eagle · Great Spotted Eagle · White-winged Tern · Pygmy Owl · Hoopoe · Black Woodpecker · Grey-headed Woodpecker · Middle Spotted Woodpecker · White-backed Woodpecker Lesser Spotted Woodpecker · Wryneck · Woodlark · Citrine Wagtail · Bluethroat · Barred Warbler · Aquatic Warbler · River Warbler · Savi's Warbler · Marsh Warbler · Great Reed Warbler · Greenish Warbler · Red-breasted Flycatcher · Collared Flycatcher · Crested Tit · Penduline Tit · Golden Oriole · Hawfinch · Common Rosefinch · Ortolan Bunting.





Return flights with Easyjet from London Luton to Warsaw cost £172.04 including baggage. Obviously must cheaper flights can be obtained by booking earlier in the year.


Ground Transport

I used Easybus to get from Brent Cross (after a half hour walk from home with rucksacks) to Luton airport, booked online for £15.50. For travel in Poland, car hire was pre-booked through Holiday Autos and the rental partner turned out to be National. Prices were fairly expensive (£240), almost akin to Scandinavian prices. I had booked an economy 2-door but was pleasantly surprised to be supplied with a large 5-door saloon with air-con and large boot. This occasionally happens, probably when no other vehicles are available.


Camped each night in my new Quechua T2 tent (performed well under nocturnal thunder and lightning storms) at Grudki Campsite, Gródek (Fri 26th - Mon 29th) in the Bialowieza forest which cost 5 zl/night (less than a pound). At Bialy Grad campsite/observation tower near Mscichy in Biebrza National Park (Tue 30th - Wed 1st). This campsite is just a fenced area in the marshes and has no facilities. In fact it only opens in the last week of June as its usually under water! Someone comes to collect the 5 zl around 0630h and I was gone before this on the first morning. Finally the campsite at Osowiec Twierdza (Thu 2nd - Fri 3rd) in the Biebrza marshes which cost 5 zl per person, 5 zl per tent, and another 5 zl, perhaps for the owner's beer.... who knows, its difficult when you don't know Polish and you've given up on the phrase brook and reverted to a primitive form of sign language. Anyway that was on the first night, the second night it was only 5 zl. The showers here only operate for a couple of hours in the morning and evening... at a time when you're likely to be out birding! I investigated the campsite at Barwik (just a forest clearing with no facilities but a hole in the ground toilet) and although the location was ideal with birds all around, the vast quantities of mosquitoes here would have made for a less than pleasant experience.


I obtained maps from Stanfords in London and as is sometimes the case I later found they were much cheaper in the country of origin. Still, maps are really needed at the planning stage so the extra cost has to be accepted.

• For the Bailowieza primeval forest:

Puszcza Bialowieska (Polish part), Mapa Przyrodnicza 1:50,000 (3rd edition) published by PTOP - Polnocnopodlaskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Ptaków (the North Podlasian Society for Bird Protection - proceeds from the sale of this map are used for bird protection in the region). ISBN 83-903553-8-8. £6.95. It divides up the forest into individualy numbered 1-km squares (no northings/eastings) and maps forest habitat types based on age/biotope/species. All trails and drivable tracks are marked along with icons depicting certain bird species in a speculative attempt to indicate where they may be preferentially found. The restricted zone is also clearly indicated. The reverse contains some illustrations along with text in English/Polish on the habitats and bird of the forest.

• For the Biebrza Marshes:

Biebrza National Park tourist map. CartoMedia 1:100,000 and 1:50,000 published by www.cartomedia.pl

This map cost £6.95 in London but I noticed it in the park headquarters in English, Polish and German (at least) for about £2.00. It illustrates habitats, trails, cycling routes, campsites, observation towers and all the other typical features. A large amount of text on the reverse provides information on the park's history and nature along with desciptions of the various trails.

• For general navigation from Warszawa and beyond:

Poland North East (Polska Polnocno-Wschodnia) Michelin 555, 1:300,000 published by Michelin. £4.99

This was the largest scale map I found for this region of the country and shows even minor surface roads, forests, wetlands and other physical features as well as driving distances between towns and larger villages.


Day permits are required for walking the marked trails and visiting the towers within the boundary of the Biebrza National Park (Biebrzanski Park Narodowy); these tickets cost 4 zl and are available from the Park Headquarters in Osowiec Twierdza. Apparently they are also available from ranger lodges, agroturistic farms, and local shops.

Guides are required to enter the Bialowieska Park Narodowy strict reserve and can be arranged from the visitor centre in Park Palcowy. Considering the late stage of the breeding season during my visit and from reading observations (or the lack of) in trip reports, I decided to leave this for a future visit.



Petrol was still quite a bit cheaper, around 4.65 zl per litre (83p/l) considering how fuel prices in Britain have slowly crept up to break the pound barrier again. Food from small local shops and Polish supermarket chains was about a third of the price for most similar products back in Britain.


Exchange Rate June 2009
5.65 Polish New Zloty = £1.00



Literature, references & site guides used


•     Trip reports were obtained from Travellingbirder.com (the Internet portal to birding travel and birdwatching trip

•     reports)


•     Gorman, G. 1995. Where to Watch Birds in Eastern Europe. Hamlyn.
•     This old guide was consulted at the planning stage (had bought it years ago in a sale at Caerlaverock WWT)


    The field guides of choice were:

•     Svensson, L. et al. 1999. Bird Guide. HarperCollins.

•     Tolman, T. & Lewington, R. 1997. Butterflies of Britain & Europe. Collins.

•     Dijkstram,  K-D B.vensson & Lewington, R. L. et al. 2006. Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe.

•     British Wildlife Publishing.


•     Bedford, N et al. 2008. Poland. Lonely Planet.





Day 01       26/06/09     London Luton > Warsaw > Wyszkow > Zambrow > Bielsk Podlaski > Hajnówka > Bialowieza
Day 02       27/06/09     Bialoweiza Forest: Gródek > Bialowieza > Park Palacowy > Pogorzelce > Gródek
Day 03       28/06/09     Bialoweiza Forest: Gródek > Zebra Zubra > Budy > Teremiski > Dabrowo > Park Palacowy
Day 04       29/06/09     Bialoweiza Forest: Gródek > Teremiski > Dabrowa > Budy > Narewka River > Gródek
Day 05       30/06/09     Gródek > Hajnówka >  Siemianówka > Bialystok > Jezewo > Wizna > Brzostowo > Mscichy
Day 06       01/07/09     Biebrza Marshes: Bialy Grad > Mscichy > Rudzki Canal > Burzyn > Brzostowo
Day 07       02/07/09     Biebrza Marshes: Bialy Grad > Tama > Kuligi > Grzedy > Carska Dronga > Osowiec Twierdza
Day 08       03/07/09     Biebrza Marshes: Carska Dronga > Barwik > Budy > Laskowiec > Gielczyn >  Zajki > Barwik>
Day 09       04/07/09     Biebrza Marshes > Warsaw > London Luton




The Diary

Day 1
Friday 26 June 2009
London Luton > Warsaw > Wyszkow > Zambrow > Bielsk Podlaski > Hajnówka > Bialowieza
Cloudy, some breaks/sunshine after 1600h, max 18°C


Warsaw Airport
Most birders eagerly arriving in new territory are keen to see a few species before they are even off the plane. As the aircraft rolled along towards the terminal I noted a hovering Buzzard at some distance and a displaying Skylark in the airfield grassland.


Drive from Warsaw to Bialowieza Forest via Wyszków,  Ostrów Mazowicka,  Zambrow & Bielsk Podlaski
I eventually left the airport around 1120h and the first species I noted had me stumped for a few seconds as it flew into a deciduous tree cloaked in green foliage. It was of course a Fieldfare and as I headed towards the city, many more were feeding along the road on grass verges, central reservations and small parks. The city has no ring road and so the quickest navigation towards the east of the country is probably to head straight through via the city centre. The tree-line roads produced Hooded Crow, Magpie, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, and Swift. Once across the urban sprawl it was into the countryside with the first Buzzard noted near Marki, Linnets at Radzymin, and Montagu Harrier and Kestrel near Wyszków. Driving north-east on road 67, Jays regularly flew over this road which bisects the forest of the Puszcza Biala Park. The first of many White Storks on this trip was noted near the E67/road 50 junction for Brok. East of here many Rooks and Barn Swallows were noted in the farmland characterised by well defined strips of varying crops and silage grass. A Marsh Harrier was hunting around the village of Podborzae and a marsh field near Prosienica held White Stork, Rook, Magpie and Buzzard. After a stop for a caffeine boost, more Buzzards, Rooks, House Sparrows, Swallows, Jay, Yellowhammer and Collared Dove were noted near Zambrow before heading south-east on road 66. On the final stretch towards Bielsk Podlaski the effects of the coffee wore off and I had to stop for a sleep in a lay-by...


...two hours later I woke up to the ringing trill of a Wood Warbler and drove on, passing a dead male Redstart on the road. Several Red-backed Shrikes and Corn Buntings were noted near Patoki and some Fieldfares and House Martins further on in Bransk. East of Bransk the first Northern Grey Shrike was noted along with increasing numbers of nesting White Storks. Stopped in Bielsk Podlaski to buy some food, noting more White Storks, Goldfinch, Fieldfare and Collared Dove. Newly cut silage/hay fields in the area were being selected by roving groups of fledgling Starlings. The stretch between here and Hajnówka proved to be quite productive, particularly around the small villages with Red-backed Shrike, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Chaffinch, Thrush Nightingale, Yellowhammer, White Stork, White Wagtail, Wood Pigeon, Common Tern, Greenfinch, Black Redstart, Swift and Northern Grey Shrike (3). After passing through Hajnówka the Puszcza Bialowieska loomed large and road 689 through the forest lead to the famous village of Bialowieza. A quick drive around the village to get my bearings resulted in River Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, Common Rosefinch, Red-backed Shrike, White Stork, Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, White Wagtail, Song Thrush, and Spotted Flycatcher.


Grudki Campsite, Gródek
[52º 41' 01.1'' N  23º 49' 31.6'' E]
Having found this campsite on the web, its attractive woodland setting convinced me that it would make a good base for the first half of my trip. It was small, basic and quiet - just the way I like - and cost 5 Zloty/night (less than £1). A far cry from the Al Ain Hilton last year in the UAE but in a place like this its the best way to experience the forest. I arrived around 1900h and assembled my Quechua T2 tent to the sounds of Cuckoo, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush and Blackbird. The Chaffinches were singing with the terminal post-flourish 'cheek' element which sounds exactly like the call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker (I have previously heard this in SE Finland). After the dusk light had faded and I drifted off, a female Tawny Owl called for some time after 2215h.



Day 2
Saturday 27 June 2009
Bialoweiza Forest: Gródek > Bialowieza > Park Palacowy > Pogorzelce > Gródek
Hot and humid, partly cloudy, max 27°C. Rained for most of the night into Sunday morning.

Lesser Spotted Eagle, Goshawk, Barred Warbler, Hawfinch, Common Rosefinch, Marsh Warbler, Golden Oriole, and River Warbler.

Grudki Campsite, Gródek
[52º 41' 01.1'' N  23º 49' 31.6'' E]
0330h Woke up early to a loud dawn chorus with a Golden Oriole reverberating around the woodland at a lower pitch from all the other songsters which included Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin and Wren. I remember thinking I should really get up but tiredness meant this motivation quickly disappeared and the next thing I knew it was 0830h. Heading the short distance towards Bialowieza and crossing some old overgrown, railway tracks, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer, Red-backed Shrike, White Wagtail, House Martin and Swift were noted.


Park Palacowy, Bialowieza Forest © 2009 Fraser Simpson   Thunder clouds over Pogorzelce © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Park Palacowy · Bialowieza Forest |                                  | Thunder clouds over Pogorzelce |



Park Palacowy, Bialowieza
[52º 42' 04.6'' N  23º 50' 29.5'' E] 153m

Park Palacowy lakes
It was already very warm (23ºC) by this stage of the morning so I parked the car in the shade at Park Palacowy and went off to look for Collared Flycatchers. The first species I heard were Hawfinch and Nuthatch and were remarkably common and easy to see. Nearby on the lakes (or fish ponds) a pair of territorial Common Terns looked set to breed with a male regularly bring small fish to a female. At one stage a female Golden Oriole broke cover to angrily chase the male tern around. The area around the lakes was really productive with many species apparently breeding in the surrounding tree and vegetation. In contract he water bodies held very little apart from a few Mallard broods (with the male now in eclipse plumage) and it was the dragonflies, particularly Emperors (Anax imperator), that dominated the water surface.  Several Serins (6 singing mm) and Goldfinches were singing and fledged broods of Blue Tit and Great Tit were feasting on the abundant insect life. A few male (and most likely mated) Great Reed Warblers lazily churred around the lake. One bird was observed carrying food for the young into a Phragmites reed patch and another was searching for food in a small willow. Marsh/Water frogs were vocalising and a Common Rosefinch was singing at the small obelisk. At least 11 Spotted Flycatchers were noted around the lakes along with 5 singing male Blackcaps (female collecting insects in an elm), Fieldfare (3), White Wagtail, Icterine Warbler, another male Common Rosefinch, Hawfinch (another four birds observed), Greenfinch (b/2), Chaffinch, Swift, Tree Sparrow, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Swallow, Starling (46 juvs) and Great Spotted Woodpecker.


Along the Narewka River, dragonflies were abundant, particularly Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens) and Black-tailed Skimmers (Orthetrum cancellatum). Several Reed Warblers were actively feeding broods in the nest. The track along the western side of the park produced a Lesser Spotted Eagle soaring over the open area to the west, dozens of Small and Essex Skippers (Thymelicus sylvestris/lineola), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), singing Yellowhammers, Red-backed Shrike, calling Nuthatches, Swallow and House Martins collecting mud from the track with Tree Sparrows dust-bathing in the drier areas, singing wren, Great Tit and Chiffchaff, a juvenile Robin, a Spotted Flycatcher pursuing a Great Tit fledgling, Red Admiral, and House Sparrows nesting in some park buildings. Mistletoe (Viscum album) was particularly obvious in the canopy of many of the trees in the area.


Reaching the new-looking visitor centre with observation tower (6 Zl) I went to the top to scan around resulting in another Lesser Spotted Eagle soaring over the main forest area to the south and two White Storks soaring nearby. Another stork was feeding in a field on the edge of Bailowieza village. Two Crossbills flew over and a few Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) passed by. Also noted were singing Wood Warbler and Chiffchaff along with several Serin, Goldfinch and Spotted Flycatcher in the parkland below. Several Swift, Swallow and House Martin overhead.


Woodland to the north of the visitor centre
No Collared Flycatchers were heard singing - probably getting too late in the season now anyway. A pair was observed feeding young in a nest box. Species singing included Wood Warbler, Serin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wren and Chaffinch. Fledgling Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Great Tit and Robins were noted. White Stork and White Wagtail were feeding in the grassy clearings. Numerous Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus), Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) and Small White (Pieris rapae) butterflies.


Open area between Park Palacowy and the strict reserve (Orlowka Protected Area)
Walked north along the track through the grassland between the park and the gate to the strict reserve before returning along the track on the western side of the park. Lesser Whitethroat singing (another male observed with food), Montagu's Harrier over, Whinchat (5), Yellowhammer singing, Barn Swallow, Tree Sparrows common, White Wagtail, numerous butterflies including Heath Fritillary (Mellicta athalina), Large Blue (Maculinea arion), Pearly Heath (Coenonympha arcania), Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros), Comma (Polygonia c-album), Ringlet, Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina), Painted Lady, Large White (Pieris brassicae), Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and various skippers (Hesperidae). A track leading NW passed some dense willow marshland at 52º 42' 12.6'' N  23º 50' 31.4'' E where a Marsh Warbler was singing and a more distant reeling/stitching River Warbler. A male Barred Warbler showed well, flanked by a pair of Red-backed Shrikes and a drumming Snipe overhead. Two Hawfinches flew over. The track led to a building signed 'Oczyszalinia Scieków'; Golden Oriole singing and a Black Woodpecker calling from the woodland behind. Also Yellowhammer, Greenfinch, Starling and a few toadlets on the track.


Bridge over Narewka River in the SW corner of the park
In the south-western corner of the park a small weir and rickety footbridge (not in use) provided a good vantage point for watching Banded Demoiselle, Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea), White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) and Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans). Common Rosefinch, Blackcap and Thrush Nightingale singing. Spotted Flycatcher looping from riverside alders. Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over from the wooded island. Also Great Reed Warbler, Reed Warbler, Fieldfare, Nuthatch, Greenfinch, Swallow, Goldfinch, Swift and Chaffinch.


Drove back through to the forest to Hajnówka to stock up on food/water for the next few days and Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) crossed over the road about half way there.


Pearly Heath (Coenonympha arcania) © 2009 Fraser Simpson   Heath Fritillary  (Mellicta athalina) © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Pearly Heath  Coenonympha arcania |                                | Heath Fritillary  Mellicta athalina |




[52º 43' 25.0'' N  23º 48' 38.0'' E] 164m
A small, attractive, rustic village to the west of Bialowieza where White Storks were nesting. At 1848h it was still 25°C but dark sheets of storm clouds were closing in. I stopped on the east side of the village where two wooden crosses stand side-by-side. A Linnet was on the road and a distant River Warbler was heard. A Lesser Spotted Eagle circled over the forest to the north. Walking east back along the road brought me closer to the River Warbler. It was reeling right next to the road in small stand of willows bordering a field of long, damp grassland.



Sonogram of River Warbler, Locustella fluviatilis © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 River Warbler  Locustella fluviatilis

1925h, Pogorzelce, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 43' 25.0''  23º 48' 45.6'' E

Sonogram of the territorial 'reeling' song from a bird singing in small willows surrounded by long, damp grassland.

Recorded with a Sennheiser ME-66 mic and a Sony HD-MD MZ-RH1. Sonogram produced using Syrinx spectrographic analysis software & labelled in Adobe Photoshop.


A dead Mole (Talpa europaea) was found in the road here with its snout just visible in the gravel of a deep pot hole. It looked like it had tried to surface from under the tarmac and was unluckily squashed from above. From the crosses I took the track through the fields to the east towards the Narewka River. The river couldn't be reached due to the high water table and marshland sourrounding it: Yellowhammer singing, Red-backed Shrike (m), Golden Oriole (m), Whinchat (2 broods in small patches of alder saplings in the wide expanse of long grassland), Skylarks singing, another River Warbler singing, Great Reed Warblers singing close to the river, lots of roosting butterflies flushed including Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Ringlet, Small Skipper and Essex Skipper. After getting as close to the river as possible, a male Goshawk flew west along the forest edge on the other side. Around 1945h the sky darkened considerably and 30 minutes later a cool wind just picked up from nowhere, blowing leaves off the trees and eventually bringing rain from 2030h. Headed back to the village where a Fieldfare was perched on a telegraph pole.


Grudki Campsite, Gródek
[52º 41' 01.1'' N  23º 49' 31.6'' E]
A male Tawny Owl was calling around late evening.




Day 3
Sunday 28 June 2009
Bialoweiza Forest: Gródek > Bialowieza > Zebra Zubra > Budy > Teremiski > Dabrowo > Park Palacowy > Gródek
Hot and humid, few clouds, max 28°C

Middle-spotted Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Greenish Warbler, Wryneck and Corncrake.

Grudki Campsite, Gródek
[52º 41' 01.1'' N  23º 49' 31.6'' E]
Woke again at around 0330h to the sound of two singing Golden Orioles as light rain fell over the forest. I emerged at 0500h when it had stopped. Cuckoo and Yellowhammer were singing at the crossing of the old railway line.


Gródek old railway line
[52º 41' 05.9'' N  23º 49' 40.1'' E]
The woodland adjacent to the railway line looked and sounded interesting. A Middle Spotted Woodpecker was observed on the edge and several Wood Warblers were singing inside in an area of mixed beech. At least three Golden Orioles could be heard singing in calm, early morning conditions. The low pitched, fluty, melodic whistles of one bird was sound recorded.



Sonogram of Golden Oriole, Oriolus oriolus © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Golden Oriole  Oriolus oriolus

0515h, Grudki, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 41' 05.9''  23º 49' 40.1'' E

Sonogram of territorial song from a (most likely male) bird singing in mixed beech woodland. Low pitched flutey melodic whistles at 1-2 sec and 7.5-9.5 sec, spanning 1.1 to 3.3 kHz.



Sonogram of Wood Warbler, Phylloscopus sibilatrix © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Wood Warbler  Phylloscopus sibilatrix

0515h, Grudki, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 41' 05.9''  23º 49' 40.1'' Sonogram of a single verse/strophe of territorial song from a bird singing in mixed beech woodland; crescendo of elements decreasing in pitch.


Also noted were Hawfinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Swallow and Swift as the cloud began thinning to blue sky.


Bialowieza village
[52º 42' 03.0'' N  23º 50' 08.2'' E] 156m
Parked on the west side of the village where a Black Redstart was noted sitting on a garden fence. Red-backed Shrike, Serin and Lesser Whitethroat were found as I headed 600 metres west along the road to the start of the Zebra Zubra (Bison's Ribs) trail. The rank, marshy grassland to the left held rasping Corncrakes, yickerring Snipe, singing Yellowhammer, singing Golden Oriole in the nearby woodland. Also Siskin (3 o/h), Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blackbird, Swallow, House Sparrow, Song Thrush and House Martin.


Zebra Zubra, Bialowieza Forest © 2009 Fraser Simpson   Krynica alder swamp, Bialowieza Forest © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Zebra Zubra · Bialowieza Forest |                         | Krynica alder swamp · Bialowieza Forest |




Zebra Zubra (Bison's Ribs trail), Bialowieza Forest
[52º 42' 13.4'' N  23º 49' 47.0'' E] 147m
This boardwalk trail (crumbling places, engulfed by the mud in others) passes through four kilometres of dense, primeval forest, famous for its woodpeckers and other woodland denizens. It is particularly atmospheric here and reminded me of being in the Peruvian Amazon, complete with biting mosquitoes! Two Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were found at the start followed by singing Chaffinch, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Robin, Garden Warbler, Wood Pigeon, Nuthatch, Blue Tit, Firecrest, Golden Oriole, Wren, Swift (heard overhead - tree-nesting here) and strangely a River Warbler singing from an area of flooded, open alder woodland. The best though was a single White-backed Woodpecker, a red-headed male which didn't hang around to be photographed. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers were observed and of course were thoroughly scrutinised. At least 20 singing male Wood Warblers were heard along the trail. One particularly productive area was at 52º 42' 36.4'' N  23º 48' 23.3'' E between the 'Mountain Ash' and 'Blackcurrant' information boards with the following species detected: Firecrest singing (also singing Goldcrest, probably the first time I have come across this pair in a sympatric setting), Willow Tit (2), Nuthatch (5+), distant Greenish Warbler singing, Golden Oriole singing, Crested Tit (2), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wood Warbler singing, Great Tit brood, Blackcap singing, Chaffinch, Wren, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Robin and Wood Pigeon.



Sonogram of Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Chaffinch  Fringilla coelebs

0830h, Zebra Zubra, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 42' 33.0'' N  23º 47' 52.5'' E

Sonogram of a single verse/strophe of territorial song from a bird singing in mixed forest along the Zebra Zubra trail in Bialowieza Forest; terminal flourish proceeded by a Great Spotted Woodpecker-like 'kick' (common in northern Europe but rare in the British Isles).




Sonogram of Wood Warbler, Phylloscopus sibilatrix © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Wood Warbler  Phylloscopus sibilatrix

1000h, Zebra Zubra, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 42' 33.0'' N  23º 47' 52.5'' E

Sonogram of alternative territorial song from a bird singing in mixed beech woodland; piping notes.


Nearing the end of the trail, the perimeter fence of the bison reserve become visible at Reserwat Pokazowy Zwierzat. After several hours along the trail it was 1007h by the time I reached the end and it was already quite hot. A Yellowhammer was heard singing. Returning by the same route, no new species were noted but several frogs were observed leaping from floating logs in dark, tannin-enriched forest pools on my approach. A Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) tried to stare me out a point blanks range for about 30 seconds - it was probably a little shocked by my quiet and unobtrusive approach - but then it remembered it had some nuts and seeds to get back too and scuttled off. Made some sound recordings of Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon, Blackcap, Wood Warbler, Nuthatch, Firecrest and Blackbird.


Bialowieza village
[52º 42' 03.0'' N  23º 50' 08.2'' E] 156m
Back at the western end of Bialowieza, a Corncrake was half-heartedly rasping from the grassland.


After breakfast, I pressed on and found the nearby village of Teremiski to harbour many birds just along the main street (ok, the only street!) with the following noted in gardens: Wryneck, Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike, White Stork, White Wagtail, House Martin, Goldfinch, Swallow, Linnet and Starling.


Krynica alder swamp, Budy
[52º 43' 41.5'' N  23º 44' 51.4'' E] 168m
West of Teremiski, in the forest on the eastern side of Budy, there is an area of flooded alder woodland around a small bridge (with blue railings) where it crosses the Krynica stream, rich in emergent vegetation, willows, water-lilies, duckweed and typha. Apart from the scenic value of this area, the bridge was a good vantage point to watch various dragonflies in the heat (28ºC) including Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum), Downy Emerald, Emperor, Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), Banded Demoiselle, and Irish Damselfly (Coenagrion lunulatum). Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula) moths were particularly common here. The area looks good for woodpeckers, probably earlier in the season though, and several old nest holes are visible in the dead and dying alder trees. The bird highlight here was a Lesser Spotted Eagle that circled low over the forest. It was repeatedly calling and settled nearby, allowing me to get a sound recording, part of which is reproduced visually in the sonogram below. Also noted: singing Wren, singing Golden Oriole, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, and Chaffinch.



Sonogram of Lesser Spotted Eagle, Aquila pomarina © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Lesser Spotted Eagle  Aquila pomarina

1425h, Krynica alder swamp, Budy, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 43' 41.5'' N  23º 44' 57.4'' E

Sonogram of calls of a perched bird, possibly a male close to the nest site.


Teremiski > Dabrowa
[52º 44' 17.5'' N  23º 45' 53.4'' E] 154m
Back at Teremiski I took the track at the western end of the village which leads to the forest to the north. Clouds of butterflies were illuminating the verges in scenes probably not seen for decades in Britain. Lesser Marbled Fritillaries dominated the nectar sources in the rich grassland. Species noted: Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike, Barred Warbler, Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Skylark, Greenfinch, Starling, Yellowhammer (at least 6 singing males), River Warbler, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Fieldfare, Common Rosefinch (3 singing males) and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker feeding further down in the track in an avenue of alders - first detected chipping away quietly.


Lesser Marbled Fritillary, Brenthis ino © 2009 Fraser Simpson   Lesser Marbled Fritillary, Brenthis ino © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Lesser Marbled Fritillary  Brenthis ino |                       | Lesser Marbled Fritillary  Brenthis ino |



At the bridge over the Lutownia river, another River Warbler and a Whitethroat were singing here. Nearby in the Phragmites reedbed bordering the very slow flowing water, Reed Bunting and Reed Bunting were singing and a Snipe calling. Also noted: Swift (2), Swallow, Painted Lady, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, and Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus). Approaching the forest at Dabrowa, an Icterine Warbler was heard singing.


In the forest I took the track to the right at the first crossroads and walked as far as the road named 'Narewkowska Droga' at 52º 44' 32.0'' N  23º 47' 06.5'' E. Two Black Woodpeckers were heard but didn't reveal themselves. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were more confiding with at least seven birds seen. Scarlet Tigers were again common here and numerous Dor beetles (Geotrupidae) combed the track for dung. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was calling along with singing Golden Oriole, Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Wren. Also noted: Nuthatch, Jay, Goldcrest, Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Song Thrush and Red Squirrel.


Park Palacowy, Bialowieza
[52º 42' 04.6'' N  23º 50' 29.5'' E] 153m
I returned to the park mid-evening hoping to sound record any Thrush Nightingales that may have been singing at this late stage of the breeding season. However, a loud opera concert was in progress but it soon ended allowing to nature's music to dominate the scene again. Around the lakes: Hawfinch, Common Rosefinch, Great Reed Warbler, Black Redstart, Fieldfare, Serin, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Mallard, Common Tern, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. Numerous large bats (Mouse-eared Myotis myotis?) later appeared over the lakes at dusk.


Returned to the marshy area to the west of the park on the north bank of the Narewka river and met some Belgian/German birders... some of the few encountered on the whole trip: two Snipe drumming, River Warblers singing, Yellowhammer singing, Red-backed Shrike and Barred Warbler calling, and Serins singing. Walked up towards the strict reserve entrance and heard a Corncrake in the long grassland here. Also a Whinchat singing with Corn Bunting-like phrases.



Sonogram of Red-backed Shrike, Lanius collurio © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Red-backed Shrike  Lanius collurio

2000h, Park Palacowy,  Bialowieza Forest.

Sonogram of call.




Sonogram of Great Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus arundinaceus © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Great Reed Warbler  Acrocephalus arundinaceus

2055h, Park Palacowy,  Bialowieza Forest.

Sonogram of territorial song delivered from bankside vegetation around the fish ponds; harsh, crunchy phrases alternating with high-pitched squeaky notes.



Bialowieza village
[52º 42' 03.0'' N  23º 50' 08.2'' E] 156m
Back on the west side of the village after sunset, damp blankets of mist hung over the surrounding grassland and at least three Corncrakes were advertising with a River Warbler bringing its own vocalisations to the curious soundscape. More large bats (Mouse-eared Myotis myotis?) were hawking insects above the mist and a roding Woodock completed the crepuscular scene.



Sonogram of Corncrake, Crex crex © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Corncrake  Crex crex

2120h, Bialowieza village, 52º 42' 03.0'' N  23º 50' 08.2'' E

Sonogram of advertising/territorial song of male in rank, damp vegetation in a large forest clearing; classic rasping double-notes produced c50 times/min - note the 'broadband' frequencies between 1 and 7 kHz.



  Sunset, Bialowieza Forest © 2009 Fraser Simpson   White Stork, Ciconia ciconia, Teremiski  © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Sunset · Bialowieza Forest |                                 | White Stork Ciconia ciconia · Teremiski |



After dark, I drove around looking for mammals, hoping for Wild Boar and even Bison but the best was a night-wandering Raccoon Dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) (of Pom Poko fame) which sniffed along the road without much consideration for the blinding headlights. These small mammals are not native and are introduced from the Far East. Regular stops between Bialowieza and Budy produced Corncrakes and River Warblers. Lots of frogs crossing the road.




Day 4
Monday 29 June 2009
Bialoweiza Forest: Gródek > Teremiski > Dabrowa > Budy > Narewka River > Gródek
Blue sky with few clouds, max 32°C until thunderstorms from 1630h, afterwhich the air had cooled to 18°C by 1930h

Icterine Warbler, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Pygmy Owl, Eurasian Crane, Lesser Spotted Eagle, and Honey Buzzard.

Grudki Campsite, Gródek
[52º 41' 01.1'' N  23º 49' 31.6'' E]
Wakened later this morning at 0430h to the now familiar local community of Golden Oriole, Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Wren, Robin, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Leaving the campsite, Red-backed Shrike and Yellowhammer were seen along the narrow access track.


Teremiski > Bialowieza Forest
Walked the northerly track on the NW side of the village. Various species singing including Common Rosefinch, Barred Warbler, Marsh Warbler, River Warbler, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Skylark, Whitethroat and a distant Great Reed Warbler. A Marsh Harrier was hunting, Lesser Spotted Eagle calling, Snipe drumming, and a distant Grey-headed Woodpecker calling. Other species were more active and noticeable at this time of the morning including Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Wryneck, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Also noted: Starling (20+ juvs), Swallow, Swift, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. I spent quite a bit of time in this area making sound recordings.



Sonogram of Common Rosefinch, Carpodacus erythrinus © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Common Rosefinch  Carpodacus erythrinus

0745h, Teremiski, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 44' 10.2'' N  23º 45' 50.3'' E

Sonogram (3 verses/stophes) of territorial song of male in open alder/willow strip in damp grassland.




Sonogram of Common Rosefinch, Carpodacus erythrinus © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Common Rosefinch  Carpodacus erythrinus

0745h, Teremiski, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 44' 10.2'' N  23º 45' 50.3'' E

Sonogram of the harmonic wheeze-like calls following song of the above individual.




Sonogram of Marsh Warbler, Acrocephalus palustris © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Marsh Warbler  Acrocephalus palustris

0745h, Teremiski, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 44' 10.2'' N  23º 45' 50.3'' E.

Sonogram of territorial song of male in rank, damp grassland dominated by meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).




Sonogram of Barred Warbler, Sylvia nisoria © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Barred Warbler  Sylvia nisoria

0747h, Teremiski, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 44' 10.2'' N  23º 45' 50.3'' E

Sonogram of territorial song of male in open alder/willow strip in damp grassland.


Instead of heading straight over the river to the agroturistic place at Dabrow, I took the track to the left hoping to locate another marked bridge and alternative trail into the forest. This route provided one of the most fortuitous sightings of the whole trip as the photograph below reveals. This track initially crossed some rich flower meadows with numerous butterflies notably Large Copper (Lycaena dispar) and Northern Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus silvicolus). A female Grey-headed Woodpecker was perched up on a wire by a small group of larch trees at 52º 44' 13.0'' N  23º 45' 48.7'' E. Also singing Corn Buntings, Red-backed Shrike (3), Whinchat (2), White Wagtail, more singing Yellowhammers and several Tree Sparrows. Once in the forest, I realised I was probably not on the marked trail on the map (I had passed a burned-down house and then two cottages) but two Crossbills flew over so I kept going. A small bird then flew up from a muddy pool in a particularly dimly lit area of thick trees. I almost decided not to follow it in the bins, thinking it was probably a thrush. I'm glad I didn't though. It flew a short distance and appeared to settle, obscured behind much vegetation. It wasn't visible to the naked eye as conditions were quite dark but raising the binoculars and aiming for the right spot I was immediately struck by the piercing eyes of a Eurasian Pygmy Owl staring back at me! Binoculars downs and I still couldn't seen it unaided by optics. After another look, I got the camera on it, ramped up the ISO to 1000 to enable a shutter speed of 1/25 second and remarkably the Image Stabilisation helped to create a few sharp shots. It was initially difficult trying to locate the bird through the viewfinder due to the amount vegatation in the way but this actually helped to create the photograph below which isolates the owl in the dense habitat.


Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Glaucidium passerinum  © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Eurasian Pygmy Owl  Glaucidium passerinum |



After five minutes it bounded off out of sight and I retraced my steps out of the forest and took the other track to find the other bridge over the river. In the end I coudn't find it but came across an Icterine Warbler singing about 15 metres up in a birch in some long grassland. Also Red-backed Shrike and Goldfinch here.



Sonogram of Icterine Warbler, Hippolais icterina © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Icterine Warbler  Hippolais icterina

0957h, Teremiski, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 44' 24.5'' N  23º 45' 35.8'' E

Sonogram of territorial song of male in birch copse in damp grassland; probably the most manic sounding warbler in the WP!


Gave up on finding the bridge and went back to the eastern bridge between Teremiski and Dabrow and entered the forest as yesterday, this time taking the track to the left at the crossroads. Around the bridge were River Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, and Blue Tit.


Once in the forest it was pleasantly cooler though there was a lot of annoying flies and mosquitos as well as sweat bees (Halictidae). Wood Warblers were singing everywhere and many (but not all) Chaffinches were ending their songs with the GSW-like 'cheek'. Also singing were Firecrest, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin and Wren. A Coal Tit with a brood was found, at least four Crested Tits, and two Bullfinches. Scarlet Tigers were again common but the insect highlight here was the Poplar Admiral (Limenitis populi), probably a female, which just edges out the Purple Emperor in terms of size. It zipped through a sunlit glade fairly quickly and was probably searching for some dung.


Shortly after, took a barely visible grassy trail to the left which came to a hunter's tower. I started to climb it but it was old and unstable. This overlooked the Lutownia stream at 52º 44' 43.5'' N  23º 45' 15.7'' E. Common Rosefinch, Reed Warbler and Reed Buntings singing and a River Warbler giving half-hearted bursts up to five seconds long. Retracing my steps back to the forest trail, this trail later ended after a another inconspicuous trail to the left, This led to another tower overlooking the Lutownia stream at 52º 44' 43.8'' N  23º 44' 43.5'' E. Yellow-winged Darters (Sympetrum flaveolum) were abundant here along with a few Black-tailed Skimmers. After some time, a Eurasian Crane flew up from the rank, damp grassland on the over side of the stream. A Honey Buzzard flew over calling and a few minutes later a pair was present, calling to each other. I managed to get a sound recording of both birds, one uttering a melancholic 'whee-ee-loo' and the other responding with a longer 'whee-ooo' - see the sonogram below.



Sonogram of Honey Buzzard, Pernis apivorus © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Honey Buzzard   Pernis apivorus

1310h, Teremiski, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 44' 39.6'' N  23º 45' 14.3'' E

Sonogram of territorial/breeding calls of a pair in mature, mixed forest.


Masses of Lesser Marbled Fritillaries and a few Large Chequered Skippers (Heterpterus morpheus) here. On the trail back through the wood, a large patch of Bison dung had 140 Dor beetles on it! Banded Demoiselles common along the track. A spectacular Pallas's Fritillary was found in a flooded area of woodland. Also noted: Marsh Tit, Nuthatch (2) and Wood Pigeon (4).


Back at the bridge between Dabrow and Teremiski a Middle Spotted Woodpecker was chipping away in marsh-side alders and a non-vocal Thrush Nightingale flew out from cover and landed on the track. It was 1355h and hot, yet Common Rosefinch and Yellowhammer were still singing away. A pair of Swallows appeared to be nesting under the bridge and two Nuthatches were located in the same tree as the woodpecker.


Krynica alder swamp, Budy
[52º 43' 41.5'' N  23º 44' 51.4'' E] 168m
Had another look at this location but again, no interesting woodpekers were located: Great Spotted Woodpecker (2), Nuthatch, Chiffchaff singing, Blackcap singing, Chaffinch singing, Song Thrush singing, and an Emperor chasing a Downy Emerald around.


Drove down to this hamlet (in square 469 on the map) to access the more coniferous zones. Around the few houses were Red-backed Shike, Fieldfare, White Wagtail and Yellowhammer. Walked south over the railway track onto the the sandy track then took the small track to the right which soon splits (the right-hand one running parallel to the railway line). A pair of Hawfinches and two juveniles were down drinking at pool along with a Crossbill, Marsh Tit and various other common woodland species were visiting too. Thunder clouds began building from 1630h and it wasn't long before heavy rain followed. Returned to the tent and slept till 1930h. The rain had eased and after a bite to eat I went to look for birds around the village.


Bialowieza village - NE side
[52º 41' 36.6'' N  23º 53' 26.4'' E] 159m
On the SE side of the village, there is a track going east through Scots Pine forest towards the Belarus border. This was fairly quiet though a Black Woodpecker was heard calling and Woodcock were roding overhead from 2022h. Also noted: singing Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch and Dunnock.


Narewka River, Bialowieza Towarowa
[52º 41' 25.0'' N  23º 52' 44.6'' E] 156m
2045h This attractive location (sun setting, mist forming) around a bridge over the Narewka, south-east of the village (in square 476) is surrounded by reed, alder swamp and mixed pine forest. There is an information board here describing the Bialowieza Glade.


Narewka River, Bialowieza Forest © 2009 Fraser Simpson  Flower meadows, Teremiski © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Narewka River · Bialowieza Forest |                                    | Flower meadows · Teremiski |



Marsh Warbler singing, two River Warblers singing, Cuckoo singing, distant Corncrake singing, Blackbirds singing and a distant Thrush Nightingale singing. At least two Woodcock were roding and one passed over close enough to allow a sound recording of the two extremes of frequency uttered during its aerial display. Red-backed Shrike, Fieldfare, and Swallow also present. Emperor dragonflies were still hawking after sunset and the evening air remained warm.



Sonogram of Woodcock, Scolopax rusticola © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Woodcock  Scolopax rusticola

2110h, Bialowieza Forest, 52º 41' 25.0'' N  23º 52' 44.6'' E

Sonogram of the advertising vocalisations from rodding male flying a circuit c400 metres in length. High pitched double 'chi-sik' phrase preceeded two to three low pitched (0.6-1.2 kHz) frog-like notes.


Further to the west, the road crosses the old railway at the Carska restaurant and another River Warbler was heard reeling from a large stand of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). A Snipe was heard drumming in the distance here. The mists over the fields were extensive around Podolany and more Marsh Warblers, River Warblers and Corncrakes were heard. Went to sleep at 1125h when a distant Corncrake was rasping and a chorus of frogs came from the forest pools.




Day 5
Tuesday 30 June 2009
Gródek > Hajnówka >  Siemianówka > Bialystok > Jezewo > Wizna > Brzostowo > Mscichy, Biebrza National Park
Light rain early morning, later clearing to blue sky, max 28°C, spectacular thunder & lightning storms through the night into Weds morn'.

Great Egret, Savi's Warbler, White-winged Tern, Black Tern and Whiskered Tern.

Grudki Campsite, Gródek
[52º 41' 01.1'' N  23º 49' 31.6'' E]
Light rain early morning. Some additions to the campsite list on my last morning here were singing Firecrest, calling Nuthatch and a brood of Marsh Tits plus the usual species including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Wren, Chaffinch and Robin


Bailowieza > Hajnówka >  Siemianówka
Filled up the tank (7/8 tank at 126 zl or £22.30) in Hajnówka and stocked up on food for the rest of the trip. Jackdaw and Collared Dove were noted in the town; these two species had been absent from the villages and associated clearings in the forest. Drove on to Narewka via Nowosady. Just NW of Lesna, there was a freshly dead Pine Martin which has been hit by a vehicle. On the south side of Siemianówka, a group of four Golden Orioles flew over some open fields some distance from the nearest woodland. Also noted on the edge of the village: White Stork, Red-backed Shrike, Black Redstart, Corncrake, Yellowhammer, White Wagtail, Starling and Collared Dove.


Bialowieza Forest © 2009 Fraser Simpson   Pine Martin road casualty © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Bialowieza Forest |                                                                    | Pine Martin road casualty |




Siemianówka Reservoir (Zbiornik Siemianówka)
[52º 54' 00.0'' N  23º 52' 50.7'' E] 152m
This is an extensive 32 Km2 reservoir and away from the dams it looks more like a natural lake with extensive marshes and scrub. Various sandy tracks lead to the reservoir from the road to east of the village. I found myself at an information board and after a short walk through the sandy pine heathland came to the edge of a reedbed at 52º 54' 03.1'' N  23º 53' 42.9'' E. It was clear this wasn't the location of the observation tower marked on the map but it looked a productive area. At least 11 White-winged Terns were hawking, Savi's Warblers singing, up to four Great Egrets visible at anyone time as they changed feeding locations in the reedbed, Whiskered Tern (1), many Willow Warblers singing, Reed Bunting singing, Common Rosefinch singing, Reed Warbler singing, Cuckoo singing, Yellowhammer singing, Chiffchaff singing, Chaffinch singing, Great Reed Warblers singing, Marsh Harrier (f), Blackcap singing, Golden Oriole singing, Mallard (heard), Magpie, Swallow, Grey Heron, Whitethroat singing, Blackbird singing. Two Sand Lizards (Lacerta agilis) were observed in the sandy, thinly vegetated heathland among the pines. The insect life was abundant including Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa), Yellow-winged Darter, Variable Damselfly, White-legged Damselfly, Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja), Heath Fritillary, Scarce Copper (Lycaena virgaureae), the darker second generation of the polymorphic Map butterfly (Araschinia levana), Large Skipper (Ochlodes venatus), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus), Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet. The highlight was a Yellow-spotted Emerald (Somatochlora flavomaculata) defending/patrolling a grassy clearing in an area of pine/oak/alder woodland. On the horizon, on the far northern shore, there appeared to be a gull/tern colony hundreds strong to the east of the railway line that bisects the reserve across a causeway.


Walked west along the grassy dam towards what looks like a pink and green reservoir works building. On the right is ditch with a strip of willows that block the view to the open water. On the left is another, active and unvegetated ditch which held three Green Sandpipers. A Water Rail was calling and Marsh and Reed Warblers singing. The grassland here was alive with butterflies including Scarce Copper, Heath Fritillary, and Map butterflies among various skippers, browns and blues. Numerous Four-spotted Chasers (Libellula quadimaculata) and White-legged Damselflies resting on the willows. Also Whitethroat, Skylark, Black-headed Gull, Yellowhammer, Whinchat, Magpie, Red-backed Shrike and Common Rosefinch. When almost at the building, the bird tower comes into view from its hidden position between the building and the forest. There is actually a track to the building from the road but there is a no-entry sign on it.


Tower at 52º 54' 00.0'' N  23º 52' 50.7'' E 152m
Good, though distant, views across this vast reservoir with most species at 'scope distance. The highlights here were the 100+ White-winged Terns, Great Egret (9), Marsh Harrier (2), Whiskered Tern (1), Black Tern (2), and Goosander (f). Also noted: Great Crested Grebe (ad + chick), Sedge Warbler with food for young, Reed Warblers singing, Cuckoo singing, Red-backed Shrike (f), Grey Heron (2), Common Rosefinch singing, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Garganey, White Wagtail, Great Reed Warblers singing, Chaffinch singing, Chiffchaff singing, Magpie, Song Thrush, Blackcap singing and Yellowhammer singing. Despite waiting, no eagles were seen. Variable Damselflies were abundant along with Banded Demoiselle, Large Chequered Skipper, Red Admiral and Marsh Frog.


In this tiny hamlet (which I passed through quicker than it took me to try and pronounce it) a White Stork had at least one chick in the nest and a Golden Oriole flew past.


Siemianówka village
[52º 54' 17.2'' N  23º 50' 11.7'' E] 149m
Back in the village, Fieldfares and White Storks were feeding in fields of cut hay ready to be lifted by hand. Walked out to the reservoir dam at the white building just east of the railway. Water levels were high here and there were few birds around. Yellow Wagtail (2 singing mm and a pair in the hay), Skylarks singing, Common Sandpiper, Common Tern (pr), Whiskered Tern (20), Great Egret flew past, Black-headed Gull, White Wagtail, Swallow and Painted Lady.


Siemianówka > Bialystok > Jezewo > Wizna > Brzostowo > Mscichy
Departed for the Biebrza marshes. Thunder and lightning storms again from 1600h. Still raining when I finally arrived and pitched the tent around 2100h. The journey had probably taken longer than I expected due to the poor country roads I had taken from Siemianówka to Bialystok. The route from Wizna up the western side of the Biebrza valley was narrow and cobbled in places. Stopped briefly at Brzostowo and looked for the campsite. Realised it was just a field with no facilities next to the observation tower overlooking the river, which wouldn't have been so bad but the heavy rain and a noisy party of boaters put me off. Many Whiskered and White-winged Terns were visible over the marsh across the Biebrza river. Carried on north through several small villages, each of which had nesting White Storks and many Red-backed Shrikes, Black Redstarts and White Wagtails. One freshly cut field of hay contained 37 White Storks while another near Karwowo had three adult Eurasian Cranes. Also noted along the road north to Mscichy via Radzilow: Yellowhammer feeding newly fledged young on the road, Red-backed Shrike, White Wagtail, Wood Pigeon, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Black Redstart, Swallow, Starling, Linnet, Swift (18 over Radzilow), Goldfinch, Blackbird and Feral Pigeon.


Moody skies over the Biebrza marshes © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Moody skies over the Biebrza marshes |




Mscichy > Bialy Grad, Biebrza National Park (Biebrzanski Park Narodowy)
[53º 25' 46.1'' N  22º 32' 00.2'' E] 107m
Turned right in the village of Mscichy and found a dirt track going east through the farmland to the marshes. After about 2 km the track crosses the Biebrza National Park boundary where just before I instantly recognised the red marshland as typical Aquatic Warbler habitat. Stopped the car, windows down, engine off... and instantly heard the stuttering churrs and whistles from at least two Aquatic Warblers. Eager to get the tent up before dark, I pressed on and after another 1.5 km the track ended at the observation tower at Bialy Grad on an richly vegetated inlet of the Biebrza river. The campsite was as expected just a fenced area around the tower and these sites are probably used more by people canoeing or kayaking down the river than your usual camper. The setting was amazing with birds all around. Pitched the tent to the distant sound of bugling Eurasian Cranes, reeling Savi's Warblers, singing Reed and Sedge Warblers and Common Tree Frogs (Hyla arborea). A pair of Northern Grey Shrikes had a territory here and were observed hunting from some of the few trees in the area. Grey Heron heard 'cranking' at dusk.


Sunset over the Biebrza marshes © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Sunset over the Biebrza marshes |





Day 6
Wednesday 1 July 2009
Biebrza Marshes: Bialy Grad > Mscichy > Osowiec Twierdza > Rudzki Canal > Burzyn > Brzostowo > Pluty >  Bialy Grad
Cloudy and thundery at day break, later clearing, max 26°C, thunder and lightning through the night again

Aquatic Warbler, Bluethroat, White-winged Tern, Black Stork, Hoopoe, and Citrine Wagtail.

Bialy Grad, Biebrza Marshes/Biebrza National Park (Biebrzanski Park Narodowy)
[53º 25' 46.1'' N  22º 32' 00.2'' E] 107m
Heavy showers fell through the night as the thunder rumbled on. The lightning was so close at one point that the inside of the tent was illuminated. I usually sleep through everything and after the worst of it had passed I slept right through to 0630h. Unzipped the tent and the first bird of the day was a displaying Snipe, dive-bombing from the sky. Savi's Warblers were reeling from the nearby reedbed. Got up, had a look around and then walked the track back towards Mscichy. A Black Stork was feeding in dense vegetation of the inlet of the river with only its head showing most of the time. The highlight was two juvenile Citrine Wagtails feeding along the ditch between the track and the reedbed, at one point catching Sympetrum dragonflies. No adult birds were located. A Lesser Spotted Eagle was perched some distance away in a lone willow in the reedbed. Reed Buntings were abundant - don't think I've encountered such a high density anywhere before. Many were singing, several fledglings were seen and at one point three males were feeding in close proximity on the track. Two Cuckoos singing, Northern Grey Shrike (pr), Reed Warblers singing, Sand Martin (4), Swallow (25+ mostly juvs), Greylag Goose overhead, Magpie, Mute Swan (pr + b/4), Starling (many juvs). Common Rosefinch singing, White Wagtail (pr + b/3), song-flighting Sedge Warblers, Hooded Crow, Goldfinch (3), Golden Oriole singing, Great Egret (2) perched in thick, bushy willows with another flying past, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Heron, Lapwing (6 o/h), Marsh Harrier (2), Swift (2), Whinchat (m), Fieldfare (2), Sedge Warblers carrying faecal sacs over the reedbeds, Cranes trumpeting in the distance. Back at the tower, the source of all the fledglings was found as several nests were found in the structure including one still with an over-spilling brood. Rain fell from 0845h.


Thundery observation tower  © 2009 Fraser Simpson  Bialy Grad, Biebrza National Park © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Thundery observation tower |                                       | Bialy Grad · Biebrza National Park |




Mscichy > Osowiec Twierdza, Biebrza Marshes
Left to buy permits at the office in Osowiec Twierdza for the next three days. Another four Lapwings flew over en route. On road 668 north of Mscichy a Spotted Eagle sp. quickly cruised over near Km-48 and a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) crossed the road near Km-50. Coal Tit, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff and Chaffinch singing at Km-52 where a Jay flew over. Arrived at the park headquarters in Osowiec Twierdza just of road 65 where it crosses the Biebrza river. The permits for the three days cost 12 zl (just over two pounds) which represents extreme value when compared to the £9 for a day at the London Wetland Centre (luckily as a member of WWT I don't have to pay this each time).


Rudzki Canal (Kanal Rudzki), Biebrza Marshes
[53º 29' 06.8'' N  22º 37' 39.3'' E] 111m
1030h Rain off, but windy. On the south side of road 65 north of the exit to Osowiec Twierdza, there is an observation tower next to an old blown-up WWII bunker/shelter. It overlooks the Rudzki canal and an expanse of marshland and grassland though very little open water is visible. A Black Redstart was perched on the shelter and was probably nesting within one of the cracks. Best birds here were two Black Terns and a Bluethroat. Two distant Elk (Alces alces) were browsing in the marshes. Also noted: Northern Grey Shrike, Cuckoo singing, Reed Warbler singing, Blackcap singing, Willow Warbler singing, Reed Bunting singing, House Martin (50+), Yellowhammer singing, Whitethroat singing, Magpie, Swallow, Linnet, and four Greylags over. Taking the muddy track on the north bank of the canal, an assembly of hirundines comprised of around 20 House Martins and 2-3 Swallows were gathering mud. A male Bluethroat showed well on the track, revealing its rather long legs. Also noted: Common Rosefinch singing, Cuckoo flew over, Marsh Warbler singing, Blackcap and Whitethroat.


Mscichy, just north of, on road 668
[53º 25' 46.1'' N  22º 32' 00.2'' E] 107m
Just north of the village at the above GPS location, a freshly cut hay meadow held eight Eurasian Cranes feeding close to the woodland edge. Also two White Storks, singing Yellowhammer, Skylarks displaying, White Storks bill-clattering from a nearby nest with young, and both Blackcap and Blackbird singing from nearby woodland. Just south of here, another 10 Cranes were located in a more distant field - presumably immatures/non-breeders


Mscichy > Wizna
Displaying Skylarks were abundant along this country lane. A Golden Oriole was singing in Racibory with several Serins in Mocarze-Budne. South of Burzyn a Lapwing was mobbing a White Stork which was probably trying to feed right in the wader's territory in the ploughed field. A Whinchat was heard with Corncrake mimicry at 53º 14' 54.8'' N  22º 26' 13.2'' E. A hay field south of Sambory had 42 White Storks with some perched up on the haystacks. Also a Northern Grey Shrike. Further along the road at 53º 13' 09.2'' N  22º 24' 51.0'' E, an Ortolan Bunting sang briefly but failed to continue its performance once I had the mic out. Yellowhammers were singing everywhere, and two Yellow Wagtails, a Red-backed Shrike and 11 Hooded Crows were in a nearby field.


[53º 16' 31.4'' N  22º 27' 25.5'' E] 118m
Cloudy, strong wind from the SE, 24°C. Just south of the village is a look-out/observation point at an elevated location on a ridge above the river. It is sign-posted from the road with a 'binocular icon/200m'. A distant pair of Eurasian Cranes were present, White-winged Tern (6), Marsh Harrier (1), Golden Oriole singing, Yellow Wagtail (2), Grey Heron (2), Reed Bunting singing, Cuckoo singing, White Stork nest (b/2), Swallows mobbing a Hooded Crow after it displaced them from their bankside perches, Linnet, Whitethroat singing, Starling (60+), Skylarks singing, Magpie (3), Sedge Warbler singing, and Goldfinch.


[53º 19' 01.6'' N  22º 27' 53.4'' E] 106m
There are at least three towers in this village overlooking the river and floodplain marshes. The southerly one at the campsite cost 2 zl which an old boy came and collected after I had been up there about half an hour. A female Goosander was on the river and around 200 Greylags were feeding in the marshes but the main attraction here was the marsh tern colony. Birds were coming and going all the time to their nest sites but at anyone time at least 10 White-winged Terns, six Whiskered Terns and a Black Tern were visible. A few of the visible waders included Snipe (7), Lapwing (4), Black-tailed Godwit (3), Wood Sandpiper, Ruff and Redshank. Larger wading birds were represented by Great Egret (4), Grey Heron (8) and a Black Stork. A female Marsh Harrier hunted the marshes and Yellow Wagtails followed the feet of the cattle. Also noted: Mute Swan (4 ads + 1st-yr), Starling (200+), Swallow (65+), Cuckoo singing, Chaffinch singing, House Sparrow, Collared Dove singing, Hooded Crow and White Storks bill-clattering in a nearby nest.


Pluty, north of
[53º 21' 42.1'' N  22º 26' 38.1'' E] 114m
A Hoopoe flew over the road just north of the village of Puty. As I slowed down I could hear another Ortolan Bunting singing but, again, it soon stopped. A Quail was singing from a roadside field full of wildflowers. Two male Red-backed Shrikes were disputing their territorial boundaries. Another or the same Hoopoe was later seen lying over a wheat field, this time carrying food for the young. More time at this stop produced more goodies in the form of a Honey Buzzard overhead mobbed by one of the few Kestrels seen (and inexplicably absent on most days) on this trip. A male Montagu's Harrier then cruised by just above the cereal seed heads. A Jay flew along the edge of a distant pine wood. Also noted were Yellowhammer, Skylark and Chaffinch. The roadside graveyard had a male Wheatear and Linnet perched on the headstones.


Mscichy > Bialy Grad, Biebrza National Park (Biebrzanski Park Narodowy)
[53º 25' 44.8'' N  22º 29' 58.1'' E] 105m
I returned to this area in the late afternoon to concentrate on the Aquatic Warblers having heard how tricky they can be to observe. Hearing them was no problem and when I stopped at the first area of sedge marsh at 1625h, at least three were singing at 53º 25' 44.8'' N  22º 29' 58.1'' E. This area is just west of the national park boundary. One was eventually seen creeping up an emergent stem, but the strong wind probably didn't help. It was also quite distant at around 60 metres. I was hoping the wind would calm down before dusk so that I could obtain a half-decent sound recording. The wind was not putting off other species and Meadow Pipit and Skylarks displayed over the same habitat (see photograph below). Distant Corncrake, Golden Oriole, Snipe, Linnet and Reed Buntings all added their vocals to the acoustic scene.


Sonogram of Savi's Warbler, Locustella luscinioides © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Savi's Warbler   Locustella luscinioides

1905h, Bialy Grad, Biebrza National Park, 53º 25' 46.1'' N  22º 32' 00.2'' E

Sonogram of territorial reeling from a distant bird in a reedbed.


Back at the campsite, Savi's Warblers were still reeling, the Northern Grey Shrikes were taking grasshoppers and a feeding White Stork appeared to be after the same quarry. A calling Curlew passed over, a female Marsh Harrier glided over the tower and a Great Egret was feeding in a channel. A juvenile White Wagtail flew onto the car bonnet and picked off the dead insects. Later a cloud of c350 Starlings settled close by in the reedbeds to roost... typical Starlings, late to rise and early to bed. In a lone willow in the reedbed, a pair of Penduline Tits were located at 1912h and shortly after this a male Montagu's Harrier flew over. Distant Cranes called and Reed Warblers were singing.


Classic Aquatic Warbler habitat, mesotrophic fen dominated by sedge, Mscichy, Biebrza National Park © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Classic Aquatic Warbler habitat - mesotrophic fen dominated by sedge - Mscichy, Biebrza National Park |




Aquatic Warbler site, Mscichy > Bialy Grad
[53º 25' 45.5'' N  22º 30' 22.8'' E] 100m
After 2000h, I returned to another area of sedge marsh adjacent to the shelter of some alder woodland, and I was able to make a recording from inside the car as some Aquatic Warblers sang from the sedge marsh immediately to the north of the track. With the wind elimated, it was the thunder that now became the distraction...well, I guess it adds to ambience of the recordings! Corncrake and Cranes were calling just before the rain started.



Sonogram of Aquatic Warbler, Acrocephalus paludicola © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Aquatic Warbler   Acrocephalus paludicola

2012h, Mscichy, Biebrza National Park, 53º 25' 45.5'' N  22º 30' 22.8'' E

Sonogram of the advertising songs of two males (the initial reading on the spectrograph showing the more distant bird) in red sedge fen; a fairly simple song for an Acro, composed of short strophes of grating churrs alternating with purer and more musical whistles.


Around the campsite at dusk, three Fieldfares were still searching for food for their broods and a Grey Heron flew past, struggling with a very large rodent in its beak. It eventually lost its grip and dropped it into the reedbed. A female Cuckoo was calling at dusk. After dark, a male Cuckoo was still singing at 2150h with a calling Grey Heron later at 2206h. Frogs vocalised as I drifted off to sleep.


Camping at Bialy Grad in the Biebrza marshes © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Camping at Bialy Grad in the Biebrza marshes|



Day 7
Thursday 2 July 2009
Biebrza Marshes: Bialy Grad > Mscichy > Grajewo > Tama > Kuligii > Grzedy > Carska Dronga > Barwik > Osowiec Twierdza
Partly cloudy, max 25°C

Great Egret, Aquatic Warbler, Honey Buzzard, Greater Spotted Eagle, Red-breasted Flycatcher, and Woodlark.

Bialy Grad, Biebrza Marshes/Biebrza National Park (Biebrzanski Park Narodowy)
[53º 25' 46.1'' N  22º 32' 00.2'' E] 107m
Species noted around the observation tower and later while packing away the tent: Great Egret uttering a crunchy/throaty gurgle, Montagu's Harrier (m), Eurasian Crane, Bluethroat (distant bird singing), Black Redstart, Great Reed Warbler, White-winged Tern, Marsh Harrier, Black Stork, Northern Grey Shrike, Savi's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Mute Swan (pr + b/4), Sand Martin, Greylag Goose, Cuckoo, Grey Heron, Swallow, Hooded Crow, Mallard, Starling, Linnet, Magpie, White Wagtail, Reed Bunting, White Stork and Elk (2).


Bialy Grad > Mscichy
[53º 25' 45.5'' N  22º 30' 44.9'' E] 109m
Back along the track to the White Stork's nest at the alder woodland: Montagu's Harrier (f), Golden Oriole (2 singing), two small chicks in the White Stork nest, Hawfinch on the track carrying food for young, Common Rosefinch singing, Icterine Warbler singing, Reed Buntings numerous, Yellowhammer singing, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff singing, Blackcap singing, Fieldfare, Chaffinch singing, Goldfinch (2), Whitethroat singing and a large Chequered Skipper noted.

Passing the Aquatic Warblers habitat, birds were heard singing though much less so than at dusk the previous evening. Also Snipe, Skylark and Meadow Pipit.


Mscichy > Grajewo
[53º 25' 45.5'' N  22º 30' 44.9'' E] 109m
Noted around Mscichy village: Black Redstart, Common Rosefinch, Yellowhammer, White Stork, Chaffinch, Starling and House Sparrow. A slow drive north on road 668 found Yellow Wagtails to be frequently encountered in the farmland here and the only Stock Dove of the trip flew over. Also noted: Whinchat, Swallow, Common Rosefinch, Red-backed Shrike, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, Magpie, House Sparrow, Chiffchaff, White Stork, Chaffinch and Feral Pigeon. In the forest north-east of Kilmaszewnica: Crested Tit, Tree Pipit, Coal Tit, Woodlark, Siskin, Blackcap, Wood Warbler and Chaffinch were heard or seen. On road 65, Rooks were common between Ruda and Koszarówka, and Jackdaws were noted in Grajewo. Took road 61 eastwards before turning off into the forest at Tama.


Tama > Kuligi
[53º 25' 45.5'' N  22º 30' 44.9'' E] 109m
On the drive through the forest, the highlight was a Red-breasted Flycatcher which flew up from a pool on the track, revealing its distinctive tail pattern. Other species noted included Wood Warbler, Fieldfare, Willow Warbler, White Wagtail, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Blackcap, Great Tit, Robin, Wren, Red Squirrel and an unidentified hawker. In the open area around Kuligi, White Storks were following a tractor and Linnet, Spotted Flycatcher, Swallow, White Wagtail, Yellowhammer and Goldfinch were noted.


Elk, Alces alces © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Elk Alces alces |



Kuligi Bridge
[53º 38' 57.4'' N  22º 45' 18.4'' E] 114m
The bridge over the Jegrznia river overlooks a wide expanse of marshland, reedbed and forest and I found it to be a productive area for birds, butterflies and dragonflies. Many species were singing including Great Reed Warbler, Reed Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Yellowhammer, River Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Golden Oriole, Icterine Warbler, Cuckoo, and Snipe (drumming). A pair of soaring Honey Buzzards drifted directly over the bridge and several Marsh Harriers and a single Common Buzzard were seen over the course of an hour. The star raptor though was a Greater Spotted Eagle which soared over the forest to the south-east for around 10 minutes from 1155h. Other birds observed were Bearded Reedling, Bluethroat, Swallow, Whinchat, White Stork, Goldfinch, White Wagtail, Starling, Fieldfare and Chaffinch. Several dragonflies were identified including Green Hawker (Aeshna viridis), Yellow-winged Darter, Banded Demoiselle, Black-tailed Skimmer but the highlight was a Club-tailed Dragonfly (Gomphus vulgatissimus) -  see the photograph below. Along the track between the bridge and the forest, Large Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small White and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene) were found.


Club-tailed Dragonfly, Gomphus vulgatissimus © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Club-tailed Dragonfly  Gomphus vulgatissimus |



Kuligi > Grzedy
1st stop in the forest [53º 38' 49.7'' N  22º 45' 51.5'' E] 127m
This area of mixed birch/alder forest looked promising. A Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) was the highlight here along with Banded Demoiselle, Blackcap with food for young, and Chaffinch, Chiffchaff and Robin singing.


2nd stop in the forest [53º 38' 43.8'' N  22º 45' 54.2'' E] 125m
Further on the forest composition changed to mixed beech and oak. Marsh Tit, Golden Oriole, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wood Warbler Spotted Flycatcher, and Chiffchaff were found here. A silent Treecreeper here couldn't be assigned to either species but I soon ignored this conundrum when a male Purple Emperor sailed past! I was hoping it would alight on the squashed frog on the track, already being sipped by a Red Admiral. A Raven called as it flew overhead. Two Red-breasted Flycatchers were singing here and I managed to get a sound recording of one singing and calling.



Sonogram of Red-breasted Flycatcher, Ficedula parva © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Red-breasted Flycatcher   Ficedula parva

1235h, Grzedy, Biebrza National Park, 53º 38' 43.8'' N  22º 45' 54.2'' E

Sonogram of a single verse/strophe of territorial song from a bird singing high up in a rich, mixed forest.



Grzedy Forest Lodge: trail to the SE towards Czerwone Bagno (the "Red Marsh")
[53º 37' 55.4'' N  22º 46' 25.5'' E] 110m
Here at the national park boundary, no vehicles are allowed past the forest lodge unless accompanied by a guide or ranger. Around the forest lodge car park (3 zl), Icterine and Garden Warbler were singing, and Large Tortoiseshell, Spotted Flycatcher and White Wagtail were noted. Fire Bugs (Pyrrhocoris apterus) were everywhere! The trail through the forest towards Czerwone Bagno (the 'Red Marsh') produced numerous Heath Firillaries along the track verge and a look skyward revealed some Purple Hairstreaks. Noted singing were Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Robin, and Song Thrush. Two Nuthatches were seen near the forest pool. Also Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small White, and Red Admiral.


Small forest pond c400m along track [53º 37' 51.5'' N  22º 46' 51.5'' E] 125m

Many pairs of oviposting Variable Damselflies were found here as well as a Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo). A Firecrest brood were active in the sub-canopy. Also Wren, Blackbird, Great Tit, Wood Warbler and several Scarlet Tiger moths.


Animal rescue enclosure area [53º 37' 46.5'' N  22º 47' 14.0'' E] 125m

At least three Woodlarks were singing and displaying over this open area of the forest. A rich verge of flowers along the track produced many butterflies and one small path of Stonecrop (Sedum sp.) held 21 Scarce Coppers! Again, Heath Fritillaries were numerous along with a few Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, Large Whites, and Large Skippers. A female Great Spotted Woodpecker was feeding two fledglings, at least five Crested Tits were in the area along with Wood Warbler and Blue Tit. Another Yellow-spotted Emerald was found here along with several Four-spotted Chasers.


Blue/white marked trail to the left [53º 37' 45.9'' N  22º 47' 46.3'' E] 125m
Walked the blue/white marked trail and after just 100 metres located a fine adult male Red-breasted Flycatcher just as it was hovering to catch a moth. Another was located further on along with Treecreeper (3), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit (2), and singing Garden Warbler. Otherwise the forest was fairly quiet. Eventually came to a crossroads in the trail, with a boardwalk going left and right at an information board. I turned left into some dense marshland scrub where a Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) quickly slide of the side of the boardwalk. It soon ended at what is one of the intended look-outs over the Red Marsh but nothing could be seen due to the height of the birch and willows. Garden Warblers and Willow Warblers were singing. Back at the crossroads, I continued along the boardwalk which passed though an area of mature pine and birch bog where numerous Magpie moths (Abraxas grossulariata) were flying. A Map butterfly was seen but few birds with just a Great Tit brood, juvenile Robin and a singing Cuckoo. The Cuckoo switched from the typical two-tone song to a hoarse monotone song based on the lower note (the second 'koo').


Flooded alder forest, Biebrza National Park © 2009 Fraser Simpson  Scarce Copper, Lycaena virgaureae © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Flooded alder forest · Biebrza National Park |                | Scarce Copper  Lycaena virgaureae |



Main track back to the forest lodge
The trail eventually returned to the main track. More of the same was found: singing Chiffchaff, Wood Warbler, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Robin and Treecreeper. Of more interest was another Red-breasted Flycatcher and a Willow Tit. A Red Squirrel was seen near the enclosure. The Woodlarks were still singing at 1745 and I hurried back the 15 minutes to the lodge to pick up the microphone from the car. Of course when I had made it back to the spot they had stopped singing. This was a waste of time in view of the numbers of Woodlarks encountered along the Carska Droga the following day. Well, maybe not a complete waste... another singing Red-breasted Flycatcher was found here and I recorded some different calls not heard from previous birds; a Robin-like 'tic-tic-tic'. A Cuckoo and Garden Warbler were singing and a Raven flew over. Back at the forest lodge a Golden Oriole was uttering some harsh Jay-like calls.



Sonogram of Golden Oriole, Oriolus oriolus © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Golden Oriole  Oriolus oriolus

1905h, Grzedy, Biebrza National Park, 53º 37' 44.4'' N  22º 46' 25.5'' E

Sonogram of harsh, Jay-like calls.


Grzedy > Grajwo > Carska Dronga > Barwik > Osowiec Twierdza 
I then drove to Barwik (site of the well-known Great Snipe lek site) and intended to camp here. Two Brown Hares (Lepus capensis) were seen on the track in dense woodland. At Barwik there were clouds of mosquitoes waiting for their next victim so I returned to Osowiec Twierdza and found the campsite there... closed. Anyway, I opened the gate and drove in as it was getting late and found several other people there ranging from cyclists to canoeists. The showers had only been 'running' between 1730h and 1930h so no doubt this would increase my attraction for sweat bees and mosquitoes for another day! A Cuckoo was still singing at 2205h and a Quail was heard briefly.




Day 8
Friday 3 July 2009
Biebrza Marshes: Osowiec Twierdza > Carska Dronga > Barwik > Budy > Laskowiec > Gielczyn >  Zajki > Barwik
Blue sky, max 25°C


Woodlark, Hawfinch, Black Stork, Hoopoe, White-tailed Eagle, Aquatic Warbler, White-winged Tern, Marsh Sandpiper, Eurasian Crane and Black Woodpecker.


Osowiec Twierdza: campsite
Cuckoo singing when I woke up at 0400h. Raven calling nearby.


Carska Droga
• 1st stop [53º 27' 10.1'' N  22º 37' 16.6'' E] 121m
Took this quiet, forested road which runs down the eastern side of Bagno Podlaskie and Bago Lawki. Most of the road runs through pine forestry which has a well developed ground flora dominated by Juniper (Juniperus communis). Woodlarks were abundant along the entire stretch south to Dobarz. Made some sound recordings of birds singing from perches in the canopy and of their extended territorial songs (11+ seconds) when they occasionally made aerial display flights. A distant Grey-headed Woodpecker was calling.



Sonogram of Woodlark, Lullula arborea © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Woodlark  Lullula arborea

0715h, Carska Droga, Biebrza National Park, 53º 27' 10.1'' N  22º 37' 16.6'' E

Sonogram of territorial song from a bird song-flighting over a track in Scots Pine forest.



• 2nd stop [53º 26' 34.4'' N  22º 36' 48.7'' E] 115m
A second stop produced more Woodlarks along with Wood Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Wren, and Chaffinch. Many butterflies were already flying with fritillaries, Ringlet and Pearly Heath numerous.


Fritillary-fest, Biebrza National Park © 2009 Fraser Simpson   Scots Pine forest, Carska Droga © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Fritillary-fest · Biebrza National Park |                             | Scots Pine forest  · Carska Droga |




• 3rd stop [53º 25' 46.6'' N  22º 35' 29.6'' E] 115m

Clearing with abandoned house 7km north of Dobarz
At the 'Dwor Dobarz 7km' sign, two abandoned and derelict buildings sit in an attractive forest clearing. In this small area a large number of butterflies were nectaring on the abundant wildflowers in damp grassland: Purple-shot Copper (Lycaena alciphron), Violet Fritillary (Boloria dia), Heath Fritillary, Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia), Dark Green Fritillary, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Violet Copper (Lycaena helle), Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea didyma), Scarce Copper, Pallas's Fritillary, White Admiral (Limenitis campilla), Marbled White (Melanargia galathea), Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), Small Heath, Pearly Heath, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small White, Green-veined White, Small Sipper, Large Skipper, Large White, Essex Skipper, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, and Small Tortoiseshell. At least 8 Scarce Chasers (Libellula fulva) were present and a dried pond was located nearby. Yellow-winged Darters were common and an unidentified Hawker was seen briefly. Made some sound recordings of Hawfinches calling from the pines. Crested Tits calling more distantly. A Tawny Owl broke cover and flew across the clearing followed by a mobbing band of Chaffinches, Mistle Thrush and Hawfinch! Cranes could be heard echoing from a distance. Other birds noted included: Nuthatch, Woodlark, Wood Warbler, Cuckoo, Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Great Tit, Robin and White Wagtail. More Hawfinches were seen along the forest road.


Scarce Chaser, Libellula fulva © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Scarce Chaser  Libellula fulva|



• 4th stop [53º 25' 17.5'' N  22º 35' 20.6'' E] 106m

Sandy heath with birch/juniper
This site was in a smaller sandy clearing with drier, heathland habitat surrounded by birch, juniper and mature pines. The dragonly fauna was different here with Common Hawker (Aeshna juncea) and Northern Emerald (Somatochlra arctica) found along with the more ubiquitous Yellow-winged Darters. Crossbills heard flying over. Raven croaking. Many butterflies here: Spotted Fritillary, Heath Fritillary, Ringlet, Queen of Spain Fritillary, Map, Small Heath, Small White, Meadow Brown, Purple-shot Copper and Marbled White. Woodlarks were displaying, Chiffchaff singing, Willow Warbler singing, and Robin singing,


[53º 22' 23.9'' N  22º 34' 29.5'' E] 110m
The parking area in this part of the reserve is set in sandy grassland in pine forest and was again rich in butterflies including Purple-shot Copper, Spotted Fritillary, Heath Fritillary, Scarce Copper, Brimstone, Large Tortoiseshell, Silver-washed Fritillary, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Essex Skipper, Small White, Red Admiral, and Small Skipper. Several Broad-bodied Chasers (Libellula depressa) were resting on scrubby vegetation along with at least three Club-tailed Dragonflies and several Yellow-winged Darters. Black Woodpecker was calling, Crossbill flew over, Wood Pigeons were singing and Coal Tit and Chaffinch observed.


Broad-bodied Chaser, Libellula depressa © 2009 Fraser Simpson

| Broad-bodied Chaser  Libellula depressa |



Barwik > Budy
Followed the track north through the pines, passing the mosquito-infested camping area. Wood Warblers were singing and another Common Hawker was seen. Cuckoo, Chiffchaff and Wood Pigeon added their voices to the scene. Heath Fritillaries were common throughout in the woodland but one small patch of flowers held over 50 nectaring individuals. Another patch less than 50 metres away held 28, with another nine imbibing salts from a damp area of the sandy track. Another Black Woodpecker called and Willow Warbler and Blackbird were singing.


[53º 23' 01.0'' N  22º 33' 49.7'' E] 106m
The large clearing at Budy had at least one active settlement and some abandoned buildings. The area looked like good Nightjar habitat. A White Stork was taking grasshoppers in the grassland while its relative the Black Stork circled overhead. A Hoopoe was feeding in the fenced area next to one of the abandoned buildings. Several Woodlark, Willow Warbler, Yellowhammer, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Chaffinch were all singing from the surrounding woodland. In the grasslands were Small Tortoiseshell, Northern Emerald, Broad-bodied Chaser, Yellow-winged Darter, Painted Lady, Heath Fritillary, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Purple-shot Copper, Red Admiral, Silver-Y (Autographa gamma) and Common Darter (Sympetrum strolatum). Masses of late instar Peacock (Inachia io) larvae were feeding in a stand of nettles. I took a track out towards the marshes and this became quite flooded and scrubby (I had been wearing welly boots all week and had started to lose track of just where I was walking). This track was good for Map butterflies with at least six individual seen. A Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) buck with a sleek red coat was disturbed and on reaching the marsh a distant Bittern could be heard booming. Willow Emerald Damselflies (Lestes viridis) were numerous here. The walk back to Barwik added Treecreeper and an alarm calling Song Thrush in an otherwise quiet forest.


Dluga Luka just north of: observation tower looking west over Bagno Lawki
[53º 17' 58.6'' N  22º 36' 14.8'' E] 105m
Within a few minutes of arriving a 1st-cy White-tailed Eagle sailed past. Aquatic Warblers were singing at 1640h from the marsh. The views here were extensive but little else was noted. Three kilometres further south, a pair of Montagu's Harriers were hunting.


Laskowiec: north-east of, at alder swamp on National Park boundary
[53º 14' 29.4'' N  22º 34' 28.4'' E] 106m
This bridge lies on the national park boundary. Red-backed Shrike (pr with brood), Chiffchaff singing, Golden Oriole singing, Icterine Warbler singing, Great Tit, and distant Cranes calling. Brown Hawkers (Aeshna grandis) were present at this site along with Broad-bodied Chaser, Yellow-winged Darter, Scarce Chaser, Large Copper, Ringlet and Queen of Spain Fritillary. A pair of Eurasian Cranes later appeared in view, circling overhead.


Laskowiec > Gielczyn
This country lane led through some small villages where I got trapped by various cow herds coming home and old tractors pulling trailers piled high with hand-gathered hay. White Storks were nesting in the villages and Yellow Wagtails were observed in cereal fields. A small roadside pool had at least two Green Sandpipers and three Wood Sandpipers. Skylarks were singing everywhere and House Sparrows were abundant. The highlight was a Lesser Spotted Eagle overhead. Also noted: Swallow (numerous juveniles), Magpie, Northern Grey Shrike, Starling, Jackdaw, Yellowhammers singing, Whitethroat, White Wagtail, Cuckoo, Chaffinch, Linnet and Feral Pigeon.


Laskowiec > Zajki
[53º 13' 29.5'' N  22º 34' 28.4'' E] 105m
This road passes closes to some nice marshland and on the approach several White-winged Terns were noted along with a Black Stork, Grey Heron, Magpie and Hooded Crow. Several Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers singing. A flooded track at 53º 13' 29.5'' N  22º 34' 24.5'' E provides good views of the water meadows. Marsh Harrier and Montagu's Harriers were hunting while trying to avoid the mobbing White-winged Terns of which 40+ were in view at any one time. Something disturbed the waders and flushed birds included Marsh Sandpiper (2), Ruff (7), Garganey (3), Teal (4) and Mallard (3). Larger water birds were represented by Eurasian Crane (pr), Great Egret (3) and Grey Heron (2). Great Reed Warbler singing and Snipe drumming. Also White Wagtail, Yellowhammer, Swallow, Magpie and a Hoopoe.


Casrka Droga: Laskowiec > Dobarz
[53º 13' 29.5'' N  22º 34' 28.4'' E] 105m
On the road back to Barwik, a Black Woodpecker flew over the road in front of the car. It briefly alighted on a trunk before disappearing into the woodland.


[53º 22' 23.9'' N  22º 34' 29.5'' E] 110m
A pair of Black Woodpeckers at Barwik proved to be the most confiding of the trip and some sound recordings were made. A female Tawny Owl was calling and Cuckoo singing.



Sonogram of Black Woodpecker, Dryocopus martius © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Black Woodpecker  Dryocopus martius

1920h, Barwick, Biebrza National Park, 53º 22' 23.9'' N  22º 34' 29.5'' E

Sonogram of calls from a pair (the 2nd more distant bird showing between 3-4 sec) in mature mixed forest dominated by pine.



Barwik: Great Snipe observation platform
[53º 22' 14.5'' N  22º 33' 32.4'' E] 109m
Walked out to the Great Snipe lek viewing platform, though I knew my chances were very slim at this late stage of the breeding season. At least three Common Snipe were drumming and two Grasshopper Warblers reeling. Golden Orioles echoed out across the marshes from the forest and Cranes called some way off. Singing in the scrub behind the viewing platform were Whitethroat, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Willow Warbler. A Bluethroat was observed here. Sound recordings were made of the Snipe and Grasshopper Warbler but no Great Snipe were detected. An Elk appeared very close by on the track and continued to browse, unaware of my presence. More distant were three Roe Deer and a 'whipping' Spotted Crake. Returning to the car after sunset, Whinchats were the last species noted.



Sonogram of Snipe, Gallinago gallinago © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Snipe  Gallinago gallinago

2025h, Barwick, Biebrza National Park, 53º 22' 14.5'' N  22º 33' 32.4'' E

Sonogram of the advertising sound of a bird in aerial display flight (drumming) - a non-vocal sound produced by the rush of air over the bird's outer tail feathers. Flying a circuit c100 metres in diametre and 'diving' 4-5 times per minute. Note the striking pattern created by the harmonics from 0.22 kHz to over 8 kHz.




Sonogram of Grasshopper Warbler, Locustella naevia © 2009 Fraser Simpson 


5 Grasshopper Warbler  Locustella naevia

2020h, Barwick, Biebrza National Park, 53º 22' 14.5'' N  22º 33' 32.4'' E

Sonogram of the territorial reeling song of a bird perched in a small willow in long, flooded grassland.




Day 9
Saturday 4 July 2009
Osowiec Twierdza > Warsaw > London
Blue sky, max 26°C


Osowiec Twierdza: campsite
Species noted while packing up included Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Black Redstart, Garden Warbler, Chaffinch, Swallow, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Song Thrush.


Drive to Warsaw via Ostroleka, Rozan & Pultusk
White-winged Tern, Yellow wagtail, White Stork, Fieldfare, Jay, Wheatear, Black Redstart, Buzzard, Hooded Crow, Mute Swan, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff, Sand Martin, Common Tern, Swallow, Swift, Feral Pigeon, Linnet, Wood Pigeon, Rook, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Whitethroat, Collared Dove, Blackbird, White Wagtail, Swift, and a Pine Martin at Km 101.5 on road 61 near Mlynazre.



SPECIES LIST - POLAND 26 June - 4 July 2009

To follow...



 over'n'out © 2009 Fraser Simpson




 All photographs © 2009  F. S. Simpson

Fraser's Birding Website · fssbirding.org.uk

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