When: 5 days in late August 2023

Where: Białowieża Forest & Biebrza Marshes

Who: Dafna & Shaul from Israel

Type of the tour: Autumn tour

Highlights: 7 sp. of woodpeckers (White-backed, Grey-headed, Black, Middle-spotted, Lesser spotted, Three-toed), Hazel Grouse, Nutcracker, Pygmy Owl, Black-necked Grebe, Crane, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Black Stork, Osprey, Greater & Lesser Spotte Eagles, White-tailed Eagle, Red-footed Falcon, Red-backed Shrike, Marsh & River Warbler, Firecrest, Hawfinch + Bison, Elk, Raccon Dog, Pine Marten, Badger, Red Deer stags roaring.

Trip report

After meeting in Warsaw we started our road to Białowieża Forest. After about 2hrs we made a little stop next to Bug river where we expected to find some waders due to low summer water level. And indeed we found Curlew Sandpiper, a flock of 10 Dunlins, single Golden Plover flying overhead & 3 Little Ringed Plovers. We continued our journey after short lunch in Drohiczyn and soon we arrived to Białowieża Forest. Having done our check-in we decided to have a walk in the afternoon as we still have a few hours of light. That was a good decision as we had really good birds there – a beautiful male Red-breasted Flycatcher, first White-backed Woodpecker (which later become suprisingly common woodpecker during the tour) & Black Woodpecker, but also some passerines like Hawfinch, Nuthatch & Crested Tit. We also bumped into European Bison!
That was a pretty good start and we were looking forward to what next days will bring.

On the morning of Day 2 we set off to look for Pygmy Owl in the early morning. We quickly localized a male that gave us good views, but we also had another bird calling nearby. After the success we continued our birding and this paid off with beautiful White-backed Woodpeckers feeding on the deadwood. Around this site we also had Firecrest & Lesser-spotted Woodpecker.

After breakfast we decided to look for some more woodpeckers. Shortly after we departed Nutcracker showed up on the road in front of us and soon it changed the location for a tree nearby where we were able to watch it comfortably as well as hear it calling. We reached our destination and started our walk down the stream valley. We had a several Hazel Grouses calling (incl. two giving brief flight views), Black Stork circling overhead and of course woodpeckers- a male Three-toed, female Grey-headed & Middle-spotted.

Rutting time of Red Deers had begun, so for an evening excursion we visited a mid-forest glade where we were hoping for some mammal watching. When we arrived huge Bison bull was already feeding on the grass and no long after 4 female Red Deers joined him. We were also able to hear first Red Deer stags roaring in the distance & when it got completely dark Tawny Owls became active.

A visit to the Strict Reserve of Białowieża National Park (UNESCO heritage site) was planned for the after morning of Day 3. We spent four hours listening to the guide of how unique the area is and how it should be the reference for all european woodlands. We found massive diversity of fungi inside the area, but we also had a Bison bull there.
The rest of the day was filled with searching for birds & mammals that we haven’t seen yet. We had Lesser-spotted Eagles hunting above meadows of Białowieża Forest, Red-backed Shrikes looking for prey in the open landscape & first Cranes of the trip feeding on the crop fields at the outskirts of the Forest. We completed the list of Tits with Long-tailed, Marsh & Willow, but also Raccon Dog crossed our road during exploration of Białowieża.

At dawn of Day 4 we started our Bison Safari in the northern part of Białowieża Forest. We had two Bison bulls & single old female, but also Badger & Roe Deer crossing our road. When the sun rised we also observed Lesser-spotted Eagles & Great Grey Shrikes. Being not far from the Siemianówka Reservoir we decided to visit a local bird ringing station & to have a look what’s on the lake surface. That was a good choice as soon we had a privilege to watch Marsh & River Warblers being handled by the ringer between our regular scanning of the reservoir where we watched a huge flock of waders (5  Little Stints, 50+ Dunlins, Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Broad-billed Sandpipers, 4 Curlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel and Spotted Redshank), two Ospreys & Black-necked Grebe.
But a definite highlight of the day was a pair of Hazel Grouses which we observed from a distance of a few metres for several minutes!

In the afternoon we started our journey to Biebrza Marshes where we were planned to stay for one night. But before that we stopped on Knyszyn Fishponds for some White-tailed Eagle photo-session. As always, the spot did not disappoint – we had 11+ eagles hunting over the fishponds, including 5 seen together!

In the evening we arrived to the accomodation on Biebrza Marshes, where we were greeted by 3 Red-footed Falcons nearby. We also observed dozens of Cranes coming to a roosting site at dusk.

The last day of the tour began with Elk Safari on the Marshes. Scanning the terrain from the elevated point we found two individuals and we also heard one male calling nearby. A hunting Pine Marten was also a nice suprise. Conifer woodlands were full of passerines – we watched Goldcrests & Treecrepers looking for insects in the pine needles.

After breakfast we departed in the direction of Warsaw, but still with a plan of making a few stops en-route. This was pretty succesful as we had Greater-Spotted Eagle, Red Kite & Marsh Harriers hunting over the meadows. Tawny Owl resting in the chimney just below a huge stork nest was a last bird observed on the Marshes. After two hours we reached Warsaw where this succesful trip ended.