Inasmuch as we had a few extra days to spend in central Europe in mid-July, 1997, we decided to visit the Karsiborska Kepa Nature Reserve in the Swiny Estuary in far NW Poland, near the Baltic Sea and the German border. It is the first reserve of OTOP, the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds, established in 1995 to protect a major breeding ground of the Aquatic Warbler as well as other wetland species. It is also a good area for White-tailed Eagle, another species we wanted to see.
We wrote to OTOP for information in early 1997, but before receiving a response, we learned via the Travigator of the Polish Bird Service run by Maciej Zimowski, who arranges hotel bookings and guide services. Maciej assured us he could book us into a decent nearby hotel in Miedzyzdroje and arrange a suitable guide from Szczecin. Miedzyzdroje is the nearest readily accessible town with a full range of services, ca. 15 km from the reserve; Swinoujscie, although nearer the reserve, is situated on an island accessible only by ferry, and hence inconvenient. Miedzyzdroje is a small but bustling seaside resort with one major tourist hotel, the Amber Baltic, readily bookable by any travel agent. Maciej booked us into the less grand but somewhat cheaper and perfectly acceptable Hotel Slavia. In fact, there are many places to stay in Miedzyzdroje, and it should not be a problem to secure accommodations upon arrival before the height of the holiday season begins in late June.
We left Berlin in the late afternoon on 15 July in a Budget (Sixt) hire car. Most companies in Western Europe won't allow their cars to be taken into Poland or other eastern European countries, but Sixt would for certain models. We reached Miedzyzdroje (ca. 250 km) in about 3+ hrs. Only one person associated with the Hotel Slavia spoke English, but fortunately he was present when we arrived. The next morning, our guide, Witold Wronski, arrived by train about 8:15 am. He was an interesting fellow, a part-time field ornithologist, who spoke good English and knew the local birdlife very well. We went directly to Karsiborska Kepa, reached by driving west towards the main ferry to central Swinoujscie, then turning south at a small sign to Karsibor just east of the ferry queue. Karsibor is an elongated village across a 1-lane bridge; a sign for the nature reserve is at a road fork about 4 km from the main turnoff. At the fork, bear left for 200 m, and then turn left at another small sign down a track to a small carpark across a short bridge. Witold took us down a footpath towards the southern end of the reserve, then through the reeds to an open area of sedge, where he quickly located a still-singing pair of Aquatic Warblers. We also had many Reed, Sedge, and Marsh Warblers in the area.
We spent all morning at the reserve, then started seeking eagles along the shore of Karsibor island, and then back towards Miedzyzdroje and southward along the east side of the estuary to a hilltop vantage point behind the church in the village of Lubin. Although we didn't find any eagles, we saw a nice variety of local birds, and I learned many good places to look. Our main meal was at the pub across from the Hotel. The next day, on our own, we returned to the Lubin vantage point in the early morning and soon spotted an adult White-tailed Eagle perched atop a distant power pylon. We quickly drove as close as we could near the village of Wicko, and watched the eagle at leisure both perched and later flying off. Then we did more birding and hiking in Wolinski National Park, which abuts Miedzyzdroje. We ate our main meal in the nice Astoria Restaurant next to the hotel. Because of deteriorating weather, we left early the next day to return to Berlin. We were slightly ahead of the R. Oder flood reaching the rivermouth area, and we don't know the consequences.
We enjoyed our little sojourn in Poland and found Miedzyzdroje a pleasant and friendly place to visit. Very little English is spoken, more German, but in fact not many non-Poles seem to visit here. There were some financial irregularities in our dealings with the Polish Bird Service, which I will disclose privately, but otherwise we had no problems and much good luck with the birds and Witold Wronski as a local expert. A complete trip list for the 2+ day visit follows:
Grebe, Great Crested Podiceps cristatus Cormorant, Great Phalacrocorax carbo Heron, Gray Ardea cinerea Swan, Mute Cygnus olor Goose, Graylag Anser anser Teal, Green-winged Anas crecca Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Garganey Anas querquedula Gadwall Anas strepera Pochard, Common Aythya ferina Duck, Tufted Aythya fuligula Kite, Red Milvus milvus Eagle, White-tailed Haliaeetus albicilla Harrier, Hen Circus cyaneus Harrier, Montagu's Circus pygargus Harrier, Marsh Circus aeruginosus Goshawk, Northern Accipiter gentilis Kestrel, Common Falco tinnunculus Coot, Common Fulica atra Lapwing, Northern Vanellus vanellus Greenshank, Common Tringa nebularia Sandpiper, Green Tringa ochropus Snipe, Common Gallinago gallinago Gull, Black-headed Larus ridibundus Gull, Mew Larus canus Gull, Herring Larus argentatus Gull, Great Black-backed Larus marinus Dove, Rock Columba livia Pigeon, Wood Columba palumbus Dove, Collared Streptopelia decaocto Swift, Common Apus apus Woodpecker, Great Spotted Dendrocopos major Skylark, Eurasian Alauda arvensis Martin, Sand Riparia riparia Swallow, Barn Hirundo rustica Martin, House Delichon urbica Jay, Eurasian Garrulus glandarius Magpie, Black-billed Pica pica Crow, Hooded Corvus cornix Tit, Crested Parus cristatus Tit, Great Parus major Nuthatch, Wood Sitta europaea Wren, Winter Troglodytes troglodytes Warbler, Aquatic Acrocephalus paludicola Warbler, Sedge Acrocephalus schoenobaenus Warbler, Reed Acrocephalus scirpaceus Warbler, Marsh Acrocephalus palustris Warbler, Willow Phylloscopus trochilus Chiffchaff, Common Phylloscopus collybita Whitethroat, Greater Sylvia communis Flycatcher, Spotted Muscicapa striata Robin, European Erithacus rubecula Redstart, Black Phoenicurus ochruros Blackbird, Eurasian Turdus merula Thrush, Song Turdus philomelos Thrush, Mistle Turdus viscivorus Tit, Bearded Panurus biarmicus Wagtail, Yellow Motacilla flava Wagtail, White Motacilla alba Pipit, Tawny Anthus campestris Shrike, Red-backed Lanius collurio Starling, Common Sturnus vulgaris Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella Bunting, Reed Emberiza schoeniclus Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Rosefinch, Common Carpodacus erythrinus Linnet, Eurasian Carduelis cannabina Greenfinch, European Carduelis chloris Sparrow, House Passer domesticus
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