When: 4 days in early February 2024

Where: Białowieża Forest

Who: Theresa & Christopher from Austria

Type of the tour: Winter Tour

Highlights: Wolves (seen twice!), Lynx footprints, Bison, Raccoon Dog + woodpeckers (White-backed, Middle spotted, Grey-headed, Black), Nutcracker, Pygmy Owl (heard only), Crane, Crested Tit.

Trip report

Due to the early flight arrival of Theresa & Christopher we had a chance to explore Białowieża Forest already in the afternoon of Day 1. Days in winter are short here but we still were able to do a little drive through the forest – the highlight was definitely an ongoing snowfall (looking very promising for the next day’s morning!) and calling male of Pygmy Owl. Moreover, before we even reached the Forest we already had our first European Bison – an impressive & large bull.

Fresh snow that fell in the night made us go for a little tracking on the morning of Day 2. That was definitely a good choice as immediately we found tracks of 2 Lynxes (!) – possibly a male & female during rendez-vous. We followed them for a few kilometers, watching the male mark any unusual points on his way. We also came across tracks of Badger, Red Deer, Wild Boar & Fox.
Not later than minutes after losing the track of Lynx we had our first Wolves activity – fresh footprints of a pack of six, scratching & urine marks as well as droppings. During the tracking of them we also observed White-backed Woodpecker & Nuthatch. One individual of latter was very pale underneath, suggesting that it might have some”siberian” genes.

After breakfast we did a little search for some Bisons that might be suitable for portrait photography. We found a group of 3 males easily and had a litlle photosession there. We also saw some nice Nutcracker there. Meanwhile, I got info of a wolf pack which decided to choose a small forest section for daytime rest. The decision was immediate & after 15 minutes we were already there. We decided to stay on the road crossing overlooking two directions, as I was expecting them to continue they journey west. And indeed, I was right – after half an hour they crossed our road and 4 wolves was observed by us from pretty close!

What happen next was pretty impressive even for me, for next hours I was predicting their route through the forest – they were making the territory patrol – and even though everywhere we were a few minutes too late while following them, it was still pretty exciting to (correctly!) think like a wolf. After our visual observation, the rest of the pack joined the group we saw and then a whole pack of ten was tracked by us. We did it until late afternoon, when we head for a little break before some surveillance of vocal acitivity in the evening. However, it turned out that it is too windy to hear anything and we headed back to a well-deserved meal. Nevertheless, even then we had some footprints of „our” wolf pack suggesting that they might spend the night a little bit more north-east. Seems like they easily made 30kms on that day!

Because of the fresh tracks we had hours ago, we decided to head to the area the wolves might have chosen for the night. We found their footprints, but it seemed like they moved north, so we decided to track them there in the afternoon. It also started to rain a little bit & the snow was starting to melt. Black Woodpeckers were extremely active this morning, we also had a single Middle-spotted Woodpecker there along numerous Crested Tits.

Chris wanted to photograph his first Tawny Owl so we made a little hit to a local church where we found the owl roosting in the old chimney. We found a group of 5 Bisons nearby, so we made a little session in a different conditions than a day before as there was almost no snow left.

In the afternoon we continued our Wolf tracking a bit more north than days before. It started to rain again which didn’t help us, yet at the end of our walk we found ourselves surrounded by many Ravens. It looks promising for me so we decided to give this place a chance in the morning… On our way back to accomodation we had Tawny Owls calling as well as Raccoon Dog that surprised us with observation almost in the middle of town.

And again yesterday’s decision was right. As soon as we reached the place at dawn of Day 4 we already had a Wolf encounter. Due to the foggy conditions we decided to wait on the road crossings. Shortly, another one individual appeared on the road a few hundred metres and decided to howl! After that the animal headed into our direction, but before being close enough for good pictures it turned towards the potential carcass. It reappeared twice again, giving us some nice, atmospheric views in the mist. After a long while without any signs of the animals we came closer and it turned out that pretty recently a wolf pack killed pretty large Red Deer stag there!

We were pretty satisfied not only with morning observation of wolves but generally their presence during whole tour so we headed to look for some last Bisons before journey back to Warsaw. We soon found 2 males. On the last day of our tour the weather was pretty warm as for early February so we were observing a passage of Skylarks above us, while Cranes were calling beautifully from the marsh nearby. A male Grey-headed Woodpecker decided to give us a concert in the village and finally showed well to us.

Around noon we said goodbye to Białowieża, said „thank you” to the Forest for such an amazing tour & slowly headed towards Warsaw. On the slow way there we had quite amazing encounter with a group of ca. 25 Bisons as well as numerous flocks of Lapwings & Geese trying to tell us that spring is just about to come…