What a great week we had on our Wildlife Tour Poland during May. Wow, how time flies and I only writing up my report now! For me, the highlight was unquestionably on the double. First, we had Marsh Harriers passing food while flying above a little rushy marshland. Then, a few days later, we were treated to the extraordinary sight of 7 White Tailed Eagles fishing on a relatively small lake and in full sight of local farmers just going about their business, in wonderful harmony with these magnificent birds of prey. Farmers of Ireland, take note!
Lake holding White Tailed Eagles
And it was so fascinating to meet two border guards on the Polish-Belarussian border and listen to them recount their story of the time they decided to patrol along the border on foot for a while, only to return to find their trusted German Shepherd surrounded by three wolves! That same day, we had come across wolf tracks ourselves. Fantastic!
After six days of enthralling wildlife watching, we had accumulated a grand total of 103 bird species (either seen or heard), plus 8 mammals, including Bison, Elk, Stone Marten and Beaver. We came upon fresh Wolf tracks. Simply a great week spent in awe of the wildlife that thrives in this far eastern corner of Poland. I could list all the bird species, but that would almost spoil it. Let’s just mention a few – Golden Oriole, Bittern, Crane, Corncrake (excellent viewing), White & Black Stork, Pygmy Owl, Woodpeckers x 4, Warblers x 10, Ortolan Bunting, Penduline Tit (plus its amazing nest), Hoopoe, Thrush Nightingale, etc, etc.
Pygmy Owl through the viewing scope
Accommodation was lovely as always and the food is really good too. Great company and a few beverages thrown in makes for a week to remember. And getting up really early one morning to go looking for the grazing Bison is a special moment also. Not to mention an evening boat trip in search of Beavers!
If you would like to join our 2019 renewal of this really enjoyable week spent in two separate Polish National Parks, do get in touch on 086-8318748 or by email to info [at] tourismpurewalking.com. If you’re into your wildlife and some nice strolls in broad river valleys and stupendous primeval forests, then this trip is most definitely for you.
Wildlife Tour Poland 2015 Reviewed on “Mooney Goes Wild”
Listen back to what Éanna and Richard from “Mooney Goes Wild” on RTÉ Radio 1 had to say about this year’s trip.
I’m delighted to announce my Poland Birdwatching & Wildlife Tour, for May 2021, to the truly magnificent National Parks of Biebrza and Bialowieza, in eastern Poland.
Provisional Dates : May 8 – 15, 2021 (dependent on flight schedules, as yet unannounced) Price : Euro 895 pps full board in shared rooms (excluding flights) Interested ? Email info[at]tourismpurewalking.com or call 086-8318748
These two wonderful National Parks boast magnificent wildlife, much of which we will see, while some of which, like Wolf and Lynx, is just too elusive. The range of birds is stunning, including Golden Oriole, Great Grey Shrike, Hen, Marsh & Montagu’s Harriers, Ortolan Bunting, etc, all in beautiful landscapes. Wildlife observation here is a truly magical delight, in a part of Europe that remains deeply rural and beautiful.
Our rough itinerary, subject to change, is as follows :
Day 1 : Fly Dublin to Warsaw and transfer to Biebrza National Park.
Days 2, 3, 4, 5 : Birds and wildlife spotting in Biebrza NP. The Park is home to Elk, Red Deer, Beaver, Wolf, Lynx and birds, such as Lesser Spotted Eagle, Crane, Black and White Stork, Woodpeckers, Hoopoe, Penduline Tit, Honey Buzzard and so much more. Biebrza (‘beaver’ in Polish) NP is based around the river basin of the same name and is a spectacular area of river marsh and wetland woodlands. Beautiful forest tracks are perfect for exploring the woodland and marsh areas. We’ll go on an evening river boat trip to look for Beaver!
Transfer to Bialowieza NP.
Day 6, 7 : Wildlife spotting in Bialowieza NP, home to Bison, Deer, Wolf, Lynx, various species of Woodpecker and many other fabulous birds, including Pygmy Owl. Bialowieza NP is based around the primeval forest of the same name – one of the very last tracts of such beautiful and serene forest in central and eastern Europe. An iconic location for lovers of nature and Europe’s exceptional biodiversity, memories of your visit to Bialowieza will never leave you.
Day 8 : Return to Ireland.
We stay in shared rooms in lovely traditional Polish ‘pensions’ (sort of B&Bs). Meals, transport within Poland and full guiding with our wonderful local expert are all included. The flights are not included and should not be booked until the group is confirmed. Instead, please indicate your interest in travelling by emailing me on info [at] tourismpurewalking.com.
The cost of this great Poland birdwatching & wildlife trip, based on per person sharing, is Euro 895. This does not include your flights.
I cannot recommend this trip highly enough. Our local guide is so good, he’s written the guide book to the nature and biodiversity of Biebrza National Park. We are accompanied throughout both by our principal guide and additional guides as required.
There is very little walking during this trip and what there is is easy, on forest tracks, with no hills of any note. This is a bird watching and wildlife spotting trip, rather than a walking trip. It is a very lovely and relaxing discovery of the vast nature of Poland, mostly in glorious native woodlands. Throughout the week, we pause to observe so much fascinating wildlife all around.
And don’t worry, there’s beer spotting to be enjoyed in the evenings!
See pictures of this trip in previous years, by visiting here.
Watch a YouTube slideshow of a past group, set to music by Poland’s great composer, Chopin, here.
Poland Birdwatching & Wildlife Tour Reviewed on “Mooney Goes Wild” :
Listen back to what Éanna Ní Lamhna and Richard Collins from “Mooney Goes Wild” on RTÉ Radio 1 had to say about this trip.
Poland Birdwatching & Wildlife Tour, May 2021
If you would like to join our small group for this delightful Poland wildlife tour during May 2021, please get in touch, via e-mail to info [at] tourismpurewalking.com or phone, on 086-8318748, and reserve your place. Note that travel insurance is a prerequisite for this trip, as my walking guide insurance does not cover overseas birdwatching trips. Also, accommodation is in shared double or twin rooms, with a supplement due for those who would prefer a single room (where available).
Twenty five cows are to be handed over to farmers in eastern Poland to graze in the open, thereby creating an ideal habitat for the Lesser Spotted Eagle, Polskie Radio reported on January 5.
Lesser Spotted Eagle
This is part of a project aimed at protecting this large Eastern European bird of prey, launched in Poland with funding from the EU and the National Nature Protection Fund.
“The farmers are expected to breed the cattle and hand over the young to other farmers in the region. The programme focuses on improving the habitat of the Lesser Spotted Eagle in Bialowieza and Knyszynska Forests,” the radio said.
The project, which is costing some 4.6 million euro, also provides for erecting 300 wooden posts enabling the eagles to look out for prey in the open fields, mowing overgrown deserted fields and creating small water reservoirs.
About 1,900 pairs of the Lesser Spotted Eagle nest in Poland. I’ve been lucky enough to see two and other magnificent wildlife on visits during springtime in recent years.
At around 60 cm in length and with a wingspan of ca. 140 – 160 cm, this is a relatively small eagle. Indeed, the beak is also quite small for an eagle and the bird is not that dissimilar to a Buzzard. Eating mainly small mammals, frogs and insects, they like to perch at low level above fields, hence the erection of the wooden posts as part of this project. Absent in western Europe.
Bialowieza National Park is world-renowned, both for its population of European Bison and its famous Strictly Protected Area, where man’s intervention in its pristine nature is virtually nil. Bialowieza is the most celebrated remnant of the vast primeval forest that once covered most of central and eastern Europe. Home to elusive Lynx and Wolf, the Park also boasts Deer, Wild Boar, several species of Woodpecker and Owls and a host of other wonderful birds.
Bison in Bialowieza National Park, Poland
Bialowieza is situated some four hours’ drive east of Warsaw and the park that lies within Poland (152 km2) is part of a much larger forest that is shared with neighbouring Belarus. While the establishment of the park dates back to 1921, it was reopened after WW II in 1947.
Bialowieza National Park
The peacefulness of this place is extraordinary and lives long in the memory. On our pre-dawn walk to seek out the iconic Bison, the silence is broken only by cracking sticks underfoot, as we tread lightly along forest pathways in search of this impressive animal. The first time I laid eyes on them was one heck of a moment, one that I will remember forever. Quietly moving through the forest, our walk was disturbed by a family of Wild Boar running past. We then came upon an opening in the woods and there they were, some 7 Bison grazing in the morning mist. A magical experience.
Even back in the village of Bialowieza itself, we wander around taking in the quiet atmosphere and enjoying the lovely homes of these forest people. It’s a beautiful spot.
We are accompanied in Bialowieza by our friendly and superbly knowledgeable member of Poland’s National Parks Service. Indeed, on occasion, we’ve even been demonstrated the Polish method for regenerating their oak forests by a Forest Manager with the Polish Forestry Service.
Beautiful Bialowieza National Park
Visiting Bialowieza makes for a wonderful trip for bird watchers and true lovers of the outdoors. It is a unique place, offering a glimpse of what our own great forests might once have looked like.
Increasing reports of the wonderful Great Spotted Woodpecker’s return to Ireland are a delight to all nature lovers. In the last week alone, there have been sightings in Counties Wicklow (8), Dublin (2) and Down (1). Even last summer, there was a reported sighting as far west as Mayo, from a respected local birdwatcher.
Great Spotted Woodpecker (copyright RSPB, UK)
I have been lucky enough to see this fabulous bird over the last number of years in far Eastern Poland, on the walking and nature watching trips I lead over there from Ireland. I’ve also heard them many times in France, tapping away to their heart’s content. I’d love to get to see one over here.
We were all brought up watching Woody Woodpecker, but to see and hear the little guy actually doing his drumming ‘live’ is just brilliant. Drumming is the loud, rapid-fire tapping created by the bird beating its bill off a dead branch. The sound carries some distance and it is the woodpecker’s way of claiming territory and is one of the best ways to locate them in a wood. Although I’ve been lucky enough to see these birds oversees, it can be difficult when trees are in full leaf.
See photos from this week from Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, copyright Dick Coombes, here.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker is about 22 cm long, with a wingspan of ca. 36 cm – essentially the same size as a Blackbird.
Update 2014 : It is now the end of June 2014 and a quick look at Irish Birding reveals that 24 Woodpeckers have been reported as seen since the start of May. While some of these may well be of the same bird, nevertheless distribution now includes counties Monaghan, Cavan, Kilkenny, Longford and Armagh. It’s all good!
Further Update 2018 : In late autumn of 2018, a bird was photographed on coastal County Sligo. During 2017, I myself had a Woodpecker tapping on a tree near Mohill, Co. Leitrim. They’re coming west, boys and girls!
Biebrza National Park, in northeastern Poland, is a beautiful patchwork of forest, river and marshlands.
Protecting Europe’s largest marsh and swamp area, this is a landscape of truly international importance. The Park is based around the wide flat valleys of the Biebrza and Narew rivers in Poland’s North East. It is home to many bird species, including White Tailed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, White & Black Stork, Marsh, Hen and Montagu’s Harriers, as well as Wolf, Elk, Deer, Wild Boar, Beaver (‘Biebrza’ in Polish) and many more.
River Biebrza in flood, Biebrza NP, Poland.
The whole area is a glorious togetherness of wild forest, river basins and tiny quaint villages. Outside each home stands the family’s store of wood, cut from the sustainably managed forests that envelop each village. Between the villages is nothing but forest, river and river basin meadow. There’s no ribbon development here, only the odd lovely wooden house belonging to the foresters.
In recent years, Poland’s NPWS decided to increase the area within Biebrza National Park that is to be covered by total protection. The Park covers a total of 60,000 hectares and is Poland’s largest NP. Of this, 7,200 hectares now make up totally protected forest lands, an increase of 60%. Total protection means lands are kept away from man’s intervention. Nature is left to her own devices.
Biebrza NP has also begun the process of application to become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which would give the Park even greater prestige. Poland already boasts ten such reserves. [Ireland, by the way, has two at North Bull Island and Killarney NP.]
Biebrza in bloom
I lead a wildlife spotting tour to Biebrza NP during springtime, using only the services of a superb local guide and locally-owned accommodation and transport. Our guide is so good, he wrote the book on the National Park – literally. Trips are combined with days spent at Bialoweiza NP, another wondrous place.
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