Poland - Bierbrza Marsh and Białowieża Forest
North eastern Poland is the location of some of the richest wildlife habitats remaining in Europe. The main focus of this two-centre holiday will be on birds, but we will also be looking at other aspects of natural history, particularly mammals.
This holiday will take us first to the vast wetland complex of the Biebrza Marshes. Here, peat bogs, flooded meadows and seemingly endless marshes of the floodplain of the River Biebrza form what is believed to be the most natural inland wetland in Europe. More than 180 species of breeding bird include Aquatic Warbler, Black Stork, Corncrake, White-winged Terns and one of the highlights of this area, the Great Snipe. We will be visiting a lek site one evening to watch as the males gather at dusk for their bizarre courtship display, leaping into the air with a flap of their wings to impress the females.
From here, we will travel south-eastwards towards the border with Belarus and the Białowieża Forest. This is one of the last great tracts of the original ’wild wood’ left in Europe, an unmanaged primeval forest home to some of the iconic beasts of the forest: European Beaver, Elk, Wolf, Eurasian Lynx and one of the last remaining European Bison herds.
Nine of the ten European species of woodpecker make their home in the forest, alongside other exciting forest species: Pygmy Owl, River Warbler, Collared Flycatcher and Hazel Grouse will all be possibilities during our time amongst the ancient oaks, poplars and spruce of this untouched wilderness.
Our local guide is Marek Borkowski of Wildlife Poland, one of Poland’s leading conservationists who has dedicated his life to protecting the wildlife of the region.
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Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 Flight from UK to Warsaw and transfer to our hotel near the famous Biebrza Marsh.
Days 2-4 We will spend three days birding in and around the Biebrza Marsh, looking for the Polish specialities: Aquatic Warbler, Great Snipe and White-backed Woodpecker.
We will start early one morning to visit a Black Grouse lek and another morning to visit the Ruff leks. One evening, we will take time to visit a Great Snipe lek reserve. Both White and Black Stork are possible soaring overhead during our relaxed lunches in the garden, along with any of up to 20 species of raptor breeding nearby including both Lesser and Greater Spotted Eagle. Up to 19 species of warbler have been found in the area, including Savi’s, River, Great Reed and Marsh Warblers. During the day, we are likely to find all three species of marsh terns: Whiskered, Black and White-winged Terns. Nightjars hunting and breeding nearby are possible in the evening as well as Spotted Crake and Corncrake, both often heard from our dinner table! Wolf, Eurasian Lynx, Racoon Dog and both Beech and Pine Marten are all present in the area, although we would be extremely lucky to catch a glimpse of them.
Day 5 Today we will transfer to Bialowieza Forest on the border with Belarus. We will make several stops for birding on the way, including at the Siemianówka Reservoir where we may be lucky enough to find Citrine Wagtail.
Days 6-7 We will have two days for our explorations in the Bialowieza Forest. This famous forest lies in the extreme east of Poland and continues across the border into Belarus. It is the home of the largest wild herd of European Bison, once driven to the verge of extinction across Europe, and is the largest surviving remnant of ‘wild wood’ in the continent, covering some 1200km2. Our time will include a visit to a restricted access reserve where nine of the ten European species of woodpecker breed, as well as four species of flycatchers: Spotted, Pied, Collared and Red breasted. We will spend time exploring the trails in the forest, searching for the elusive Hazel Grouse and the re-introduced European Bison. Eight species of owl breed here and we will spend one evening ‘owling’, looking in particular for Pygmy Owl, Europe’s smallest.
Day 8 We will enjoy a final hearty breakfast and some morning bird watching before travelling back to Warsaw and then on home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
Our accommodation will be at good three-star local hotels, all with en-suite accommodation: four nights in Raigrod (Biebrza Marsh) and three nights in Bialowieza.
Meals provided during the stay will be a mixture of local and International dishes, with an emphasis on local cuisine. We will have a barbeque on one evening and a reception at Marek’s farm. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.
Transport will be by minibus or small coach.
The group flights are with Lot from London Heathrow to Warsaw.
Poland is one hour ahead of UK time.
If you hold a British passport, from 1 January 2021 you will be able to travel to countries in the Schengen area (including Poland) for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. You must have at least six months left on your passport to travel to most countries in Europe.
The weather should be pleasantly warm and spring like, even hot at times. However, rain is always possible, as is cooler weather, particular in the evenings.
We are out and about for much of the day as we travel around the countryside looking for the special wildlife of the area. Walking boots (light weight) are essential, and wellies can be useful at Biebrza Marsh. There are likely to be steps at our hotels, with no lift, and we are likely to be climbing in and out of the vehicle fairly often.
Mosquitoes and biting insects aren’t usually a problem until late May.