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The extensive forests and marshes ofeastern Poland have long been afavourite of birdwatchers. This popularspring tour focuses on two of the country'svery best wildlife reserves, the primevalforests of Bialowieza and the extensivemarshlands and floodplains of the BiebrzaNational Park. Within these two contrastingareas we hope to enjoy such avian delightsas Aquatic Warbler, Citrine Wagtail,displaying Great Snipe, Pygmy Owl,Spotted Eagle and up to eight species ofwoodpecker! In May the forests ofBialowieza will be alive with birdsong asnewly arrived warblers and flycatcherscompete for territory, whilst the adjacent wetmeadows echo to the bizarre 'crex crex' callof the Corncrake and all three species ofmarsh tern hawk for insects over theflooded fields that edge the Biebrza River.As we explore these pristine habitats wemay be silently - and unknowingly -watched by a Wolf or Lynx, both of whichstill patrol the forests, or perhaps comeacross a small herd of European Bisonwhich are being increasingly recorded inthe spring by our groups. Indeed, althoughbirds will certainly take centre stage on thisholiday, we will not ignore Poland's wealthof other wildlife which should include Elk,European Beaver and perhaps Wild Boar,plus an interesting variety of butterflies,dragonflies and plants. We begin our holiday with a flight toWarsaw from where we will drive east to theBialowieza Forest, close to the Belarusborder. This forest complex covers a totalof 1,250 square kilometres of land straddling the border of Poland andBelarus. Of this, 580 square kilometres liewithin Poland and hold some of Europe'slast remaining true primeval lowland mixedforest. It is home to over 200 species ofbirds and one of Europe's last herds ofWisent, the rare European Bison. Othermammals include both Lynx and Wolfalthough we would be very fortunateindeed to find either of these. During our 4-night stay here we will visit the famousBialowieza National Park, 471/2squarekilometres of magnificent untouchedlowland forest. The swampy alder woods,old limes, oaks and hornbeams are trulyimpressive and important enough to haveearned its selection as a UNESCO WorldHeritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. Inthe spring, the forest will be alive with thedrumming of woodpeckers, White-backedand Black included, and the songs of awide variety of other birds.We will also explore the vast managedforests, home of such species as PygmyOwl, Three-toed Woodpecker, Nutcrackerand the elusive Hazelhen. The marshesand meadows surrounding the NarwekaRiver hold a healthy population ofCorncrakes, together with Lesser SpottedEagles, Scarlet Rosefinches, and Barred,River and Marsh Warblers, whilst a walkaround the 'Palace Park' should addThrush Nightingale, Icterine Warbler andWryneck to our list. If there is one family ofbirds that epitomises the Bialowieza Forestfor birdwatchers then it has to be thewoodpeckers, and with careful searchingwe have every chance of leaving withsightings of no less than eight species -Green, Grey-headed, Black, Great Spotted,Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted, White-backed and Three-toed - an impressivetally to rival any site in Europe!We will then head north-west to our basefor the latter part of the holiday, the BiebrzaMarshes. En route we will visitSiemianówka Reservoir, a superb area ofopen water and marshes formed by thedamming of the River Narew. Both Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes arecommon on the water, whilst over it hunt allthree marsh terns (Black, Whiskered andthe beautiful White-winged Tern).Continuing north-west we will stop in theNarew Valley where we will take a shortboat ride into the maze of Okavango-like,reed-fringed backwaters that constitute theNarwianski Landscape Park. From here it isonly a short drive to our second base in theheart of the Biebrza basin.The Biebrza Marshes extend along themeandering River Biebrza between thetowns of Augustów and Lomza. This vastarea, a mosaic of marshes, ponds, wetmeadows, reedbeds and alder woodlands,makes up the largest continuous expanseof riverine marshland left in Europe. IfBialowieza conjures up visions ofwoodpeckers then, for the birdwatcher,Biebrza brings to mind pictures of GreatSnipe and Aquatic Warbler. At dusk theGreat Snipe move onto their lek site andduring at least one evening we too willmove in to watch the display unfold.Indeed, at this site there will be theopportunity to see all three Europeanspecies of snipe - Great, Common andJack - plus their close relative, theWoodcock. We will also search the sedgebeds and wet meadows for AquaticWarbler and during our stay in the marsheshope to see such species as Great Reed,River, Savi's, Grasshopper and MarshWarblers, Bluethroat, Penduline Tit, BlackGrouse, Spotted Eagle, Bittern, Crane,Little Crake, plus breeding Ruff and White-winged Tern. Elk are also common in themarshes and we will have every chance offinding one of these magnificent cervidsbefore being forced to head back toWarsaw for our flight home.Poland in SpringAn 8-day birdwatching tour focusing on two of Europe's most unique and precioushabitats, the famous Bialowieza Forest and Biebrza Marshes. Saturday 18th May - Saturday 25th May Cost: £1,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationRUSSIABELORUSSIAGERMANYSLOVAKIAUKRAINEWARSAWGDANSKBALTIC COASTHEL PENINSULAVISTULA BAYBIEBRZABASINNAREW VALLEYBIALOWIEZAFORESTBALTIC SEAPOLANDVISTULARIVEROutline itineraryDay 1Fly Warsaw andovernight Bialowieza.Day 2/4Bialowieza Forest.Day 5/7Biebrza Marshes.Day 8Transfer to Warsaw andfly London.AccommodationComfortable east European hotels,each room with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Day walks only.FocusBirds and larger mammals.LeaderPeter Dunn, plus local guides.Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsSightseeing extensions in Warsawand Kracow can be arranged.Web quick search: POL03107Biebrza MarshesCorncrakeWhite-backedWoodpecker

On this autumn tour ofnorth-eastern Poland wehope to enjoy the verybest of the country's birds,mammals and unspoiled countryside. Thisis a truly peaceful and undeveloped regionof Europe, where farming has beenpractised in harmony with nature forcenturies, and where the rural landscapeescaped the collectivisation of thecommunist era. Our tour embraces threemain areas: the famous primeval forests ofthe Bialowieza National Park, the greatmarshes and meadows of the meanderingRiver Biebrza, and the varied habitats ofthe Baltic coastline where bird migrationwill be in full swing. Eastern Poland is alsorich in its variety of ethnic groups, withUkrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Lithuanianand, of course, Polish villages oftenbetrayed by the style of their respectivechurches. Led by Rob Murray and expertlocal guides, this tour to eastern Poland isproving to be every bit as popular as ourother eastern European holidays haveproved to be over recent years.Upon our arrival in Warsaw, we will driveeast to the Bialowieza National Park,birdwatching en route beside the RiverBug, a major flyway for migrating birds. Wewill be based at Bialowieza for our firstthree nights, concentrating our explorationon the park's magnificent ancient forest,where such birds as Hazel Grouse,Nutcracker and White-backed, MiddleSpotted, Black, Grey-headed andThree-toed Woodpeckers may be seen. The larger mammals are always difficult tofind, but the autumn is a good time tosearch for Wild Boar, Red Deer and therare European Bison. Both Lynx and Wolfalso occur here in reasonable numbers,although a sighting of these elusivepredators will take considerable luck!Above all, the swampy alder woods andold limes, hornbeams, oaks and spruces ofBialowieza are truly impressive, andtogether with the park's rich diversity offauna, assured its selection as a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site.Our next destination is the Biebrza RiverBasin, the internationally important wetlandexclusively focused upon by the RSPB's1993 British Bird Fair, and for theprotection of which the proceeds of theFair were devoted. En route we will visitfish ponds to look for passage wildfowland waders, and stop at LakeSiemianówka, a superb area of open waterand marshes formed by the damming ofthe River Narew. Great Egrets are commonalong Siemianówka's reed-fringed edgeswhilst above the lake itself White-tailedEagles, Marsh Harriers and Ospreys oftenhunt. We will stay in the heart of theBiebrzaBasintoenjoy the goodmovements of migrating wildfowl, waders,terns and warblers, together with groups ofCrane,Black and White Storks, andresident Black Grouse, Great Grey Shrike,Penduline Tit and many more. Elk, too, arequite easy to see here as they plodthrough the birch-dotted peatbogs thattypify the region's landscape. This is a partof the country rich in folklore, where localfarming communities still use thehorse-drawn plough, cultivate crops instrips, and go about their business as theyhave done for generations.Leaving the Biebrza Basin, we will drivenorth-west to the Baltic Sea coast, our thirdand final point of call. The Baltic Coast lieson a major autumn migration route, with millions of birds passing through on theirsouthbound journeys. Songbird passagecan be particularly impressive, with eastern rarities often recorded. Tawny and Red-throated Pipits, ThrushNightingale, Aquatic Warbler and ScarletRosefinch are all regular as are Red-footedFalcon and Bluethroat. During our time onthe coast we will visit some wonderfulareas including the estuary of the RiverVistula with its sandbanks, dunes, pools,reedbeds and coastal marshes and thelong sandy strip of the Vistula Spit, allpopular with Polish ornithologists butseldom visited by overseas groups. The list of birds which pass along thePolish Baltic coast is very impressive andincludes such species as Garganey,Ferruginous Duck, Rough-legged Buzzard,Lesser-spotted Eagle, Mediterranean andLittle Gulls, Temminck's Stint, Purple andCurlew Sandpipers (indeed, just about any European wader!) and innumerablesongbirds. Redstart, Wheatear, Whinchat,Red-backed Shrike, Pied Flycatcher andvarious warblers are all common and witha degree of luck it is not unusual to find a passing Wryneck, Icterine Warbler orOrtolan Bunting. The Baltic Sea itself is a major wintering ground for divers,Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes, sea-ducks, skuas and gulls, many of which begin to arrive in September. All provide the ingredients for a bird-richholiday at an interesting and pleasant time of the Polish year.Poland in AutumnA 9-day tour of the forests, wetlands and coastline of north-eastern Poland insearch of the region's birds and larger mammals.Saturday 7th September - Sunday 15th September Cost: £1,395Outline itinerary Day 1Fly Warsaw and transferto Bialowieza. Day 2/3 Bialowieza Forest. Day 4/5Biebrza Marshes. Day 6/8Baltic Coast. Day 9Transfer to Warsaw andfly London.AccommodationComfortable east European hotels,each room with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Day walks only.FocusBirds and larger mammals.LeaderRob Murray, plus local guides.Single room supplement£175. ExtensionsSightseeing extensions in Warsawand Kracow can be arranged.Web quick search: POL02108Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItinerarySLOVAKIAGERMANYUKRAINEBELORUSSIARUSSIAGDANSKELBLAGMAZURIAN LAKESBIEBRZA BASINNAREW VALLEYBIALOWIEZAFORESTWARSAWRAJGRODBALTIC COASTHEL PENINSULAVISTULA SPITBALTIC SEAPOLANDVISTULA RIVER Bialowieza ForestWhite-tailed EagleEuropean Bison