Lying at the very heart of Europe, the Czech Republic still remains largely unexplored by visiting birdwatchers and naturalists. Prague may remain as popular as ever with those interested in its history, architecture and culture, but few visitors venture outside the Czech capital and explore its natural treasures. This is a shame, for the Czech countryside is both varied and beautiful, blessed with a picturesque mix of rolling forested hills, karst landscapes, lakes, and meadows dotted with quaint villages and traditionally worked farmsteads. Such a diversity of landforms and habitats are, inevitably, home to a wealth of birdlife that includes Three-toed and White-backed Woodpeckers, Tengmalm’s, Pygmy and Ural Owls, Collared Flycatcher and the magnificent Eastern Imperial Eagle. Since the Czech Republic is equally rich in history, this new tour will not just focus on the region’s birdlife, but will include several of the country’s most treasured historical highlights too! We are additionally able to organise a pre-tour stay in Prague and/or a post-tour stay in Vienna should you wish to enjoy more of Central Europe’s cultural attractions.
Our holiday begins with a flight to the beautiful city of Prague, from where we will drive southwards to the Sumava (Bohemian Forest) Mountains for a 3-night stay. Bordering Germany, Sumava is an upland national park of forests, meadows, fens and peat bogs. The region was depopulated in the Soviet era and thus was inadvertently protected, allowing its wildlife to flourish. Today its quiet spruce, fir and Beech forests are particularly impressive and hold Black Stork, both Pygmy and Tengmalm’s Owls, Black Grouse and Hazel Grouse, Redbreasted Flycatcher, Nutcracker and Whitebacked, Black, Middle Spotted and Threetoed Woodpeckers. Although an upland area, the landscape here is gentle and the walking we will do is not strenuous.
From the Sumava Mountains we will transfer to the Trebonsko Basin Biosphere Reserve, a wonderful mosaic of ponds, woodlands and quaint historic villages covering over 70,000 hectares. En route we will stop at the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov (built in the 13th century) which is overlooked by a spectacular Renaissance castle. Our base for the next two nights will be Trebon, a fine old town with an impressive main square and cobbled streets … and rooftops favoured by nesting White Storks. There should even be time to sample one or two of the local beers! From here we will explore some of the 500 fishponds of the Trebon Basin, many dating back to the Middle Ages when they were created by monks in which to raise carp. Most of the ponds are fringed with luxuriant reedbeds, willow thickets and wet meadows, creating a fantastic habitat for birds. Species to look out for include Black-necked Grebes, resplendent in their breeding dress, plus Little Crake, Great Egret, White-tailed Eagle, Garganey, Bluethroat, Penduline Tit and a variety of warblers.
We will spend our final two nights in South Moravia, near the Austrian border. This region offers a complete contrast to earlier destinations with its warmer climate, limestone karst scenery, oak woods and oxbow lakes; indeed the region has much more of a Mediterranean feel about it. We will be based in an attractive chateau near the village of Breclav for our final two nights, from where we will head out on short drives to explore the surrounding countryside. We will visit the grounds of the splendid Lednice Chateau — former home of the Lichtenstein family — its ponds frequented by migrant waterfowl and breeding Night Herons, Little Bitterns and Garganey. Nearby woodlands are likely to hold such returning migrants as Collared Flycatcher, Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike and Barred Warbler, whilst a glance skyward could reveal an impressive tally of raptors, amongst them Saker, Honey Buzzard, Goshawk and perhaps even Eastern Imperial Eagle. We will also look for signs of Beaver activity here and, if fortunate, may even glimpse the animal itself!
For those wishing to extend their holiday, we should be delighted to arrange a couple of nights in Prague at the start of your holiday, or Vienna at the end. Prague, the Czech Republic’s delightful and vibrant capital, is one of the most beautiful in Europe. Here you may choose to explore the historic Old Town, visit Prague Castle or just enjoy one of the many cafés that line the Staromestske Namesti (Old Town Square). A couple of extra days in Vienna will be equally rewarding. The former home of Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud, Austria’s historic capital offers a fitting finale to the tour and an opportunity to relax amongst some of Europe’s finest architecture before a flight home.