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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

The far south-western corner ofEurope offers much for the naturalist,yet Portugal is a country so oftenoverlooked in favour of the largerlandmass of neighbouring Spain. Thisholiday is timed to get the best from thisbeautiful region's rich flora and diverserange of breeding and migratory birds at,what is coincidentally, one of the mostpleasant times of the year weatherwise.From the windswept cliffs, dunes andheaths of the west coast to the marshesand saltpans of the south, and from theCork Oak forests of the Monchique Hills tothe wide open grass plains and parklandof the Alentejo, we will encounter much ofinterest and wonder. All the time we will beimmersed in the rich culture and history ofsouthern Portugal, which is reflected in thefine Moorish architecture, excellent cuisineand wines, and rich contrasts from the20th century bustle of the Algarve coast tothe near medieval subsistence agricultureof the Alentejo valleys, where ploughingwith mules is the norm.Our tour starts in the beautiful hilltop townof Mertola, with its Roman ruins andspectacular Moorish castle. Perched highabove the Guadiana River, Mertola offersfine opportunities to explore both thestunning flower-studded plains aroundCasto Verde - where we hope to seeboth Great and Little Bustards, StoneCurlew and numerous Montagu's Harriers- and the rugged, seldom exploredsavannah country towards the Spanishborder, where we might encounter Black-shouldered Kite, Black Vulture, GreatSpotted Cuckoo and Black-belliedSandgrouse. Oscillated Lizards, thelargest European lizard, are common inthis area, and the rivers are full of terrapinsand water snakes.One of the highlights during our 3-night stay at Mertola might be a journeynorth to the spectacular gorge andwaterfall in the Guadiana valley at Pulo doLobo, where Black Stork and Bonelli'sEagle have bred. Mertola itself has a largecolony of Lesser Kestrels and the sight ofseveral dozen of these beautiful birdswheeling around in the evening sky abovethe castle and 14th century Franciscanconvent is something to be remembered. During the second part of our holiday wewill be based at a delightful innoverlooking the quiet mountain village ofMonchique. Just a short drive from thehighest point in the Algarve, our positionoffers wonderful panoramic views from theAlgarve to the Alentejo. Cork Oak forestsin these picturesque hills are home to awealth of woodland birds, including Azure-winged Magpies, and a range of colourfulbutterflies including Swallowtails andSouthern Festoons.Down on the Algarve coast, dunes,heathland, pine woodland and valleyfarmland will provide excellent botanisingin delightful surroundings. Local birds willinclude Bee-eaters, Short-toed Eagles,Nightingales, Red-rumped Swallows,Woodchat Shrikes, Cirl Buntings and manymore. We will visit various sites along thewest coast, including the dramatic CapeSt. Vincent, the south-western extremity ofEurope, with its towering cliffs completewith Choughs and Peregrines, and thenearby Sagres Point which offers us thechance to enjoy an extraordinary limestoneflora, resident Blue Rock Thrushes andThekla Larks, and Henry the Navigator's15th century School of Navigation. The Algarve coast has suffered much fromdevelopment for the tourism industry overrecent decades, but a few outstandingcoastal marshes still remain. One such isthe Quinta da Rocha near Portimão. Herethere is a bird observatory and field centrepoised on a picturesque peninsulacovered in almond and olive groves,scrubland and pine woodland, andsandwiched between two small riverestuaries. The range of plants and animalsto be encountered here is huge. Mirrorand Tongue Orchids, asphodels andbroomrapes abound. Bee-eaters, Hoopoesand Woodchat Shrikes are everywhere.Black-winged Stilts and Kentish Ploversbreed on the marshes which ring to theircalls and to the songs of Short-toed Larks,Fan-tailed Warblers and Yellow Wagtails.We will spend a rewarding day here,rounded off with an evening visit to thespectacular cliffs and stacks of Ponta daPiedade that house a large colony ofCattle and Little Egrets.Such are some of the delights of southernPortugal in spring that, by the end of thisholiday, we are sure, like many of our tourleaders, you will be truly under the spell ofthis charming country.Spring in Southern PortugalAn 8-day holiday of botanical and birdwatching walks and excursions in the hills, steppes, woodlands and coastal wetlands of southern Portugal.Saturday 6th April -- Saturday 13th April Cost: £1,295 Saturday 13th April -- Saturday 20th April Cost: £1,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationSPAINALJEZURCARRAPATEIRACAPE ST. VINCENTSAGRESLAGOSFAROLISBONPULODO LOBOCASTROVERDEOURIQUEMERTOLAMONCHIQUEATLANTICOCEANPORTUGAL RIO GUADIANA Outline itineraryDay 1Fly to Faro and transferto Mertola.Day 2/3Birdwatching andbotanising excursionsfrom Mertola.Day 4/7Birdwatching andbotanising excursionsfrom Monchique.Day 8Transfer to Faro, and flyUK.AccommodationA 2-centre holiday. Three nights ina traditional pensão in thedelightful, cobbled hilltop town ofMertola; four nights in acomfortable family-run inn on theedge of the quiet mountain villageof Monchique. All rooms withprivate facilities.Food All included in the price.GradingGentle day walks, part-day walks,and natural history excursions.Grade A.FocusBirds, flowers and butterflies.LeadersAndy Smith (ornithologist) and PaulHarmes or Phil Thompson(botanist).Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsArranged on request in hotel orself-catering accommodation, withor without car rental.Web quick search: PRT04109Algarve coastlinePaeonia broteroiLesser Kestrel