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.
25 April – 2 May 2020
Mike Russell and Marek Borkowski
Single Room Supplement – £195
Return flight from London to Warsaw. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Seven nights’ accommodation, full board.
Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.
Minimum 6, maximum 12.
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 Our flight takes us from the UK to Warsaw and we transfer to our hotel near the famous Biebrza Marsh. We should arrive in plenty of time to settle in and have a brief introduction to the holiday before dinner.
Days 2-4 We spend three days in and around Biebrza Marsh, looking for Polish specialities: Aquatic Warbler, Great Snipe and White-backed Woodpecker. We start early one morning to visit a Black Grouse lek and another to visit the Ruff leks. One evening, we will visit a Great Snipe lek. Both White and Black Stork are possible soaring overhead, along with up to 20 species of raptor 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. Spotted Crake and Corncrake are both often heard from our dinner table! Wolf, Eurasian Lynx, Racoon Dog and both Beech and Pine Marten are all present in the area.
Day 5 We transfer to Białowieża Forest on the border with Belarus, making several stops for birding on the way, including at the Siemianówka Reservoir where we may be lucky enough to find Citrine Wagtail. Our hotel is located on a clearing in the forest.
Days 6-7 We have two days to explore Białowieża 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. Our time includes a visit to a restricted access reserve where nine of the ten European species of woodpecker breed, as well as four species of flycatchers. We spend time exploring the trails in the forest, searching for the elusive Hazel Grouse. Eight species of owl breed here and we spend an 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 our flights back 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 Białowieża.
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.
Group flights are with LOT from London Heathrow.
25 April depart Heathrow 10.25, arrive Warsaw 13.55
2 May depart Warsaw 15.30, arrive Heathrow 17.20
Poland is one hour ahead of the UK
If you hold an EU passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Poland. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this. Should we leave the EU without a deal in place before April 2020, you should have at least six months left on your passport from your date of arrival.
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