On this autumn tour of north-eastern Poland we hope to enjoy the very best of the country’s birds, mammals and unspoiled countryside. This is a truly peaceful and undeveloped region of Europe, rich in wildlife, where farming has been practised in harmony with nature for centuries. Our tour embraces three main areas: the famous primeval forests of the Bialowieza National Park, the great marshes and meadows of the meandering River Biebrza, and the varied habitats of the Baltic coastline where bird migration will be in full swing. Eastern Poland is also rich in its variety of ethnic groups, with Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Lithuanian and, of course, Polish villages often betrayed by the style of their respective churches. Led by Rob Murray and expert local guides, this tour to eastern Poland is proving to be every bit as popular as our other eastern European holidays have proved to be over recent years.
Upon our arrival in Warsaw, we will drive east to the Bialowieza National Park, birdwatching en route beside the River Bug, a major flyway for migrating birds. We will be based at Bialowieza for our first three nights, concentrating our exploration on the park’s magnificent ancient forest, where such birds as Hazel Grouse, Nutcracker and White-backed, Middle Spotted, Black, Grey-headed and Three-toed Woodpeckers may be seen.
The larger mammals are always difficult to find, but the autumn is a good time to search for Wild Boar, Red Deer and the rare European Bison. Both Lynx and Wolf also occur here in reasonable numbers, although a sighting of these elusive predators will take considerable luck! Above all, the swampy alder woods and old limes, hornbeams, oaks and spruces of Bialowieza are truly impressive, and together with the park’s rich diversity of fauna, assured its selection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our next destination is the Biebrza River Basin, an internationally important wetland. En route we will visit fish-ponds to look for passage wildfowl and waders, and stop at Lake Siemianówka, a superb area of open water and marshes formed by the damming of the River Narew. Great Egrets are common along Siemianówka’s reed-fringed edges whilst above the lake itself White-tailed Eagles, Marsh Harriers and Ospreys often hunt. We will stay in the heart of the Biebrza Basin to enjoy the good movements of migrating wildfowl, waders, terns and warblers, together with groups of Crane, Black and White Storks, and resident Black Grouse, Great Grey Shrike, Penduline Tit and many more. Elk, too, are quite easy to see here as they plod through the birch-dotted peatbogs that typify the region’s landscape. This is a part of the country rich in folklore, where local farming communities still cultivate crops in strips, and go about their business as they have done for generations.
Leaving the Biebrza Basin, we will drive north-west to the Baltic Sea coast, our third and final point of call. The Baltic Coast lies on a major autumn migration route, with millions of birds passing through on their southbound journeys. Songbird passage can be particularly impressive, with eastern rarities often recorded. Tawny and Red-throated Pipits, Thrush Nightingale, Aquatic Warbler and Scarlet Rosefinch are all regular as are Red-footed Falcon and Bluethroat. During our time on the coast we will visit some wonderful areas including the estuary of the River Vistula with its sandbanks, dunes, pools, reedbeds and coastal marshes and the long sandy strip of the Vistula Spit, all popular with Polish ornithologists but seldom visited by overseas groups.
The list of birds which pass along the Polish Baltic coast is very impressive and includes such species as Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Rough-legged Buzzard, Lesser-spotted Eagle, Mediterranean and Little Gulls, Temminck’s Stint, Purple and Curlew Sandpipers (indeed, just about any European wader!) and innumerable songbirds. Redstart, Wheatear, Whinchat, Red-backed Shrike, Pied Flycatcher and various warblers are all common and with a degree of luck it is not unusual to find a passing Wryneck, Icterine Warbler or Ortolan Bunting. The Baltic Sea itself is a major wintering ground for divers, Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes, sea-ducks, skuas and gulls, many of which begin to arrive in September. All provide the ingredients for a bird-rich holiday at an interesting and pleasant time of the Polish year.
Both leaders are superb naturalists and guides - they worked hard to find and identify a huge range of species including insects and amphibians; and ensured all the party saw them.
I particularly enjoyed this trip - Poland was new to me. The tour leader, Rob Murray, was excellent: enthusiastic, knowledgeable and encouraging. His breadth of expertise was clearly borne of many years experience and interest - it was infectious! The local guide was brilliant!
Mr & Mrs K.
Wonderful trip, looking forward to our next Naturetrek trip - recommending to all our friends!
This was a good balance of environments - forests, marshland and coasts which make for a very interesting trip. It was good to be with John Carruthers again, he was immensely knowledgeable and extremely companionable.
The Leaders were very organised, friendly and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of both the area and subject... It was an excellent holiday and we will certainly be going on another in the future.
I very much enjoyed the trip and liked going to the three centres. Gdansk was a good finale. A good taster of Poland. I shall be back for more! Thanks for an enjoyable trip.
This was a most enjoyable trip.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and found John and the Polish leader very kind and helpful in all respects. I will certainly recommend your company to the friends and family.
We had a wonderful time in Poland. We especially appreciated the great efforts made by the guides to afford us excellent opportunities to observe birds, mammals and plants, as well as fascinating life of the local people.
Johns quiet restrained tactful manner combined with enthusiasm & a sense of fun make him a great person to be with.
The Polish guide was first class, excellent birdwatcher, good leader and his input really made the trip. I was so impressed that I plan to go back in Spring.
It was an interesting and enjoyable holiday. Thank you.