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Thursday 15th May - Wednesday 21st May 2008

Mike Watson

This shortened version of our ever popular Poland tour, with the legendary Marek Borkowski, focused on the specialities of this fantastically bird-rich region of Europe and recorded 168 species, of which eight were heard only - a total only exceeded once in our last five tours! Amongst the many avian highlights were: great views of one of Eastern Europe’s very special birds, Aquatic Warbler, buzzing away in a sedge bed; the enthralling experience of a Great Snipe lek; a fierce little Eurasian Pygmy Owl caught in the act of devouring its freshly caught treecreeper prey; eight species of woodpecker including a pair of very obliging Eurasian Three-toeds near their nest hole deep in the primeval Bialowieza Forest and a family of newly fledged White-backeds; an impressive fourteen species of raptors, including the threatened White-tailed and Greater Spotted Eagles; a blur of thousands of marsh terns (Whiskered, Black and White-winged) hawking over the Biebrza Marshes; Corn Crakes (happily still common in Northeast Poland); a turquoise blue European Roller (one of the last survivors of the sadly dwindling Polish population) and a loud Spotted Nutcracker, which flew in to inspect our group. Further interest was provided by a great line-up of sought after European passerines, many of which are difficult to see elsewhere: 19 species of warblers, including sewing-machine-imitating River Warblers and the explosive mimic, Icterine Warbler; rich bursts of song from Thrush Nightingales; shy and retiring Red-breasted and strikingly black-and-white Collared Flycatchers; a fine singing male Citrine Wagtail; jaunty whistling Common Rosefinches and the sadly beleaguered Ortolan Bunting. An added measure of excitement came courtesy of two ‘write-ins’: Pallid Harrier (a beautiful male gave a breathtaking sky-dancing display in a remote corner of the Biebrza Marshes) and two Black-winged Stilts (a rare migrant to Poland) - quite an achievement for a tour that has been operating for over twenty years! The backdrop of a largely unspoilt ancient countryside of flower-filled meadows, pretty, rustic villages and vast expanses of quiet forest was complemented by an amazing variety (and large quantities) of delicious local cuisine, making this action packed Polish adventure an unforgettable experience.