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European Bison, Wolf, and Lynx.These are three of the manymammals, formerly widespread inEurope but now extinct or rare in the moredensely populated west, that flourish inPoland. A number of these animals areeasily observed, but some only withdifficulty. The object of this unusual winterholiday, that has proved such a firmfavourite with clients since the first tour in1985, is to search for the mammals of thePolish forests, and to study their tracksand signs. The advantage of travelling inwinter is not only the snow cover whichmakes tracking so much easier, but alsothe cold weather at this season, whichforces many creatures to shun their naturalfear of man, and to appear less shy.On our travels, we will also be able to enjoythe winter birdlife of Poland. It is true, ofcourse, that many birds desert Polandduring this season; however, like themammals, those that do stay can be moreeasily found in the vicinity of man, wherefood is more readily available. Amongstthose that we may see are such dramaticand attractive species as White-tailedEagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Hazelhen,Black Grouse, Waxwing and Nutcracker.On our arrival in Warsaw we head north-east to Kruklanki, our base for two nightswhile we explore the Puszcza Boreckaforests in search of European Bison. TheWisent, as the Bison is also known, is thelargest land mammal in Europe and onethat became extinct in the wild in the1920s. Shortly after its demise, aprogramme of captive breeding wasinitiated and in 1952 this magnificent animal was successfully reintroduced backinto the forests of north-eastern Poland.These forests now contain Europe's lastremaining herds of Wisent and the sight ofone of these imposing animals slowlyplodding through the snow-coveredforests is sure to be one of the lingeringmemories of the tour. This is the mostreliable site in Poland for this impressiveanimal and, to date, we have never failedto find them here! Borecka is also a goodspot for the elusive White-backedWoodpecker, plus Roe Deer, Raven andWhite-tailed Eagle. If time permits we willmake the short drive to the astonishing'Wolf's Lair', Hitler's bunker complex informer East Prussia, and site of VonStauffenberg's abortive assassinationattempt.Next we head to the beautiful andfascinating forests of Puszcza Romincka,the favourite hunting area of KaiserWilhelm II. Our 4-night stay at Romincka islikely to be the highlight of the holiday formany. We spend our time here in theexperienced company of local foresters,exploring with them these ancient mixedforests, and looking for birds, mammalsand other winter wildlife whilst learninghow to decipher the tracks and other signsof Wolf and other large mammals.Sightings of Wild Boar, Red Fox, Red andRoe Deer, Elk and Brown Hare are allpossible, whilst Weasel (which turn whitein the winter here), Otter, Beaver and evenLynx have occasionally been seen on pasttours. There will also be the opportunity totake optional nocturnal excursions to lookfor Wolves by waiting in high seats(elevated hides). This will greatly enhancethe possibility of seeing this elusivemammal, though the experience is onlyrecommended for the hardy anddedicated. Birds of the area include White-tailedEagle, Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Hazelhen,Black Grouse, Black, Three-toed andGrey-headed Woodpeckers, Waxwing,Great Grey Shrike, Hawfinch, Crossbill andNutcracker. The highlight of all, however, isquite likely to be our accommodation! Wewill be based, during our stay, in theforester's house and lodge. This lodge,with its huge, old-fashioned (and veryeffective) enamelled wood-burning stoves,once widespread in eastern Europe, offersus exceptional hospitality, and is a firmfavourite with all our groups.Finally, we must tear ourselves away fromsuch old-fashioned comfort, and begin ourreturn journey to Warsaw. En route we willspend our final night at Dobarz, close tothe huge complex of marshes and riverinewoodlands along the meandering BiebrzaRiver. The Biebrza National Park is one ofthe most important wildlife sites in thewhole of Poland and an excellent area inwhich to look for Elk, the largest cervid inEurope and the same species as theanimal known as the Moose in NorthAmerica. We rarely fail to see it here! Wealso hope to find a variety of interestingbirdlife in the marshes, with a chance ofsuch species as Golden and White-tailedEagles, Rough-legged Buzzard, BlackWoodpecker and Waxwing, as well as allthe commoner species of winteringwaterfowl.Please note that we do not include theBialowieza Forest in the itinerary, as theBison and other mammals are difficult tofind here in the winter. Our time is betterspent in the Romincka Forest to the north,where we have a better chance of locatingthese elusive creatures with the help of thelocal foresters.105Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Warsaw and transferKruklanki.Day 2Puszcza Borecka.Overnight Kruklanki.Day 3/6Puszcza Romincka.Day 7Biebrza Marshes.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationA mix of forest lodges and hotels;normally three nights in rooms withprivate facilities and the other fournights in rooms with shared facilities.FoodAll meals included in the price.GradingA/B.FocusMammals, especially large mammals;birds; some World War II features.LeadersSinclair Dunnett and PiotrMoszkowski, plus local forest guides.Single room supplement£195. ExtensionsSightseeing extensions are availableto Warsaw and Krakow. Web quick search: POL04RUSSIAGERMANYBELORUSSIASLOVAKIAUKRAINEWARSAWGDANSK'WOLF'S LAIR'PUSZCZA ROMINCKAPUSZCZABORECKASUWALKIBIEBRZAMARSHESBIALOWIEZAFORESTKRAKOWBALTIC SEAPOLAND VISTULA RIVERBook direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationPoland in WinterAn 8-day winter adventure to Poland in search of large mammals that are rare or even extinct in much of western Europe.Saturday 19th January - Saturday 26th January Cost: £1,595WolfElkEuropeanBison

There are few placesleft in Europe that canclaim to be largelyuntouched by the stampedeof human kind. TheBialowieza Forest in Poland is one suchplace, tucked away on the easternmostfringes of Europe and straddling Poland'sborder with Belorussia. Within this vasttract of mixed forest lie 47.5 squarekilometres of untouched primevalwoodland, the largest remaining tract lefton the continent and a UNESCO WorldBiosphere Reserve. Outside the StrictReserve, as it is known locally, themanaged portion of Bialowieza covers afurther 580 square kilometres, a mosaic ofmature and young woodland, riverinemarshes, willow thickets and wet meadowsthat combine to create one of Europe'smost important bird habitats.Many of Europe's wildlife-rich areas aresynonymous with particular families orspecies of animals and birds. The SpanishSteppes have their bustards, the Pyreneesare famous for Wallcreepers and for thebirdwatcher, thoughts of the BialowiezaForest immediately bring to mind thecarpenters of the bird world, thewoodpeckers. Here, all 10 of Europe'swoodpecker species can be found withvarying ease and, with the invaluable helpof the local birdwatchers who scour theforests each spring, we will endeavour totrack down as many as we can during thisexciting Naturetrek weekend. We begin our holiday with a flight toWarsaw, the historic capital of Poland.From here we drive north-east to the smallvillage of Bialowieza, where we will bebased for three nights in a comfortablehotel on the edge of the village. For thenext two full days we will explore theforests and marshes of the BialowiezaForest, walking the trails that criss-crossthis magnificent mixed woodland. By earlyMay the forests will be alive with bird songas wave after wave of returning migrantsstake their claims for the year. Collared,Pied and Red-breasted Flycatchers allbreed here, along with Thrush Nightingale,Redstart, and both Icterine and WoodWarbler. Within this chorus of sound wewill be listening out for the characteristicnotes of the woodpeckers, from theexplosive laugh of the mighty BlackWoodpecker to the falcon-like chittering ofthe Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. White-backed Woodpeckers are early nestersand may already be feeding large young,and we hope to be able to locate the mostelusive and sought-after of the Picidaefamily, the unobtrusive Three-toedWoodpecker. A sudden flurry of wings andleaves may herald an escaping HazelGrouse, while other birds to look for, inand over trees, include Nutcracker,Crossbill, Hawfinch, White Stork, LesserSpotted Eagle, and even perhaps PygmyOwl on an evening foray. Outside the trueforest lies the 'Palace Park', another veryproductive area to explore. Here apatchwork of open woodlands, grassylawns and small lakes provides habitat forMiddle Spotted and Grey-headedWoodpeckers and Wryneck. The park isalso the one place to search for the SyrianWoodpecker, the most difficult of thebunch to find and, although expandingnorth, on the very edge of its breedingrange. Early one morning we will be escorted intothe Strict Reserve, Bialowieza's trueprimeval forest. Here we will have a uniqueopportunity to explore a habitat largelyuntouched by human hands. Indeed, awalk amongst the swampy alder woodsand ancient Limes, Hornbeams, Oaks andSpruces, with our guide talking through theecology en route, is a truly magicalexperience and, for some, will be theundoubted highlight of this short tour. If time permits we may also drive north toexplore the woodlands and marshes in thevicinity of Siemianówka Reservoir. LakeSiemianówka is a superb area of openwater and marsh, formed by the dammingof the Narew River, and holds a richassemblage of resident and migrant birdspecies, including White-tailed Eagle,Citrine Wagtail, passage waders, marshterns and grebes. The surrounding forestsare also another excellent place in whichto look for a few more woodpeckers, inparticular Three-toed. Back in Bialowieza, and if fortunate, we may find one of the forest's mostfamous inhabitants, the European Bison or Wisent. This magnificent mammalbecame extinct in the wild in the 1920s,but was successfully reintroduced into theforest 30 years later. Today the BialowiezaForest contains one of Europe's lastremaining herds, with approximately 250Bison ranging freely within the Polishsection. If we are lucky enough to comeacross one during our time here, it willundoubtedly provide yet another highlight,and an added bonus, to our short butvaried birdwatching weekend. Poland's Primeval ForestsA long-weekend spring break in search of the woodpeckers and other birdlife in Poland's magnificent Bialowieza Forest.Friday 3rd May - Monday 6th May Cost: £795Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Warsaw and transferBialowieza.Day 2/3Bialowieza Forest.Day 4Transfer to Warsaw andfly London. AccommodationComfortable hotel with privatefacilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade A.FocusBirds and mammals. LeaderRichard Bashford.Single room supplement£80.Web quick search: POL01106Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryRUSSIABELORUSSIAGERMANYSLOVAKIAUKRAINEWARSAWGDANSKBALTIC COASTHEL PENINSULAVISTULA BAYBIEBRZABASINBIALOWIEZAFORESTBALTIC SEAPOLANDVISTULARIVERThree-toed WoodpeckerWhite-winged TernCollared Flycatcher