Trip Report: Poland, August 15-28, 1999

Arnau Bonan Barfull, Barcelona, Catalonia/Spain;; with David Giralt Jonama, Santiago Guallar, and Oriol Soler Ferrer


This is the birdwatching trip report of a trip done in Poland by four Catalan birdwatchers, from the 15th until the 28th of August of 1999. For preparing the trip, we used the book Where to watch birds in Eastern Europe, by Gerard Gorman. The book has good drawings of the sites and good explanations, but does not give much phenologic information, so perhaps in another time of the year is more useful, but we found that some species where not present, or we could not found them where the book says. A friend of us was in Poland in June 1998, and he also helped us recommending places.

We flew from Barcelona to Cracow. We rented a car from National company at the airport. We had a problem with the car, and they did not explain well what we had to pay and when-why, so we are not happy with that company, but we know that more or less all the renting companies do the same.

We slept in a tent, in camping sites or free camping, depending on the site. In Poland, it was quite complicated to eat at reasonable prices outside of big cities.

It took more time that we expected to drive from one place to the other, as usually the roads are just single lane, so we did not drive too many Kms, but we spent a lot of time in the car.


Here follows a brief summary of the report.

DateRouteMost interesting species
August 15Day in Cracow, then we drove to Zakopane, where we arrived at night.--
August 16All day birdwatching at the Tatra National Park.Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Treecreeper, Wood Warbler.
August 17We drove to Bieszczady, where we arrived in the afternoon.Black Stork, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Treecreeper, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Great Grey Shrike, Nutcracker.
August 18All day in Bieszczady.Black Stork, Golden Eagle, Pygmy Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, River Warbler, Wood Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Nutcracker.
August 19Most of the day in Bieszczady, in the afternoon we drove to Bialowieska.Black Stork, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Wryneck, Great Spotted Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Lesser Whitethroat, Wood Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Nutcracker.
August 20Most of the day in the car, we arrived at Bialowieska in the afternoon.Lesser Spotted Eagle, Montagu's, Hen and Marsh Harrier, Pygmy Owl, Wood Warbler.
August 21All day birdwatching in Bialowieska. Hen Harrier, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Hazel Grouse, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Lesser, Middle and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Nutcracker.
August 22All day birdwatching in Bialowieska. Black Woodpecker, Sedge Warbler, Wood Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Eurasian Treecreeper, Nutcracker.
August 23In the morning we stayed in Bialowieska; at midday we went to Byalistok fish-ponds, and in the afternoon we drove to Biebrza marshes.Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Osprey, Black Tern, Wryneck, Sedge Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Wood Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Penduline Tit.
August 24In the morning we stayed in the Southern Basin, and in the afternoon we went to the Central Basin of the marshes. Golden Plover, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Great Grey Shrike.
August 25In the morning we stayed in the Central Basin, in the afternoon we drove to Gdansk, and at sunset we went to Swibno. Lesser Spotted Eagle, Great Grey Shrike.
August 26In the morning we went to Swibno, and in the afternoon we stayed in Rewa.Black-throated Diver, Mute Swan, Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, White-tailed Eagle, Sanderling, Knot, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Little Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher.
August 27We stayed in Rewa until 1 P.M., when we went to eat, we packed everything and we drove to Cracow.Black-throated Diver, Mute Swan, Pintail, Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wood Warbler, Penduline Tit, Eurasian Treecreeper.
August 28We arrived in Cracow and flew to Barcelona. --


15th of August

We arrived at Cracow airport at 2 o'clock P.M., we took the car that we have rented from Barcelona, and we went to Cracow to exchange money and to visit the city. We drove to Zakopane, a tourist town close the to Tatra National Park, and when we got there it was dark. We went to a camping site, we ate something and we prepared the next day, talking about where to go and which species could be seen at each place. One thing that surprised us during the trip by car was that we saw few birds perched on electric lines or flying over the fields, as it was sunset and usually at this hour at home we see lots of birds.

Birds seen in Cracow and during the trip:

16th of August

We woke up at 7 o'clock and while we had breakfast we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker. We decided to go to one Dolina that is a bit separated from town, so we took the car and drove there. While we arrived to the parking place it started to rain, not too much but enough to get wet and disturb birdwatching. The place was quite impressive with different large trees: deciduous trees like service trees and different coniferous trees like spruces, larches and pines. We followed a trail that passed close to a small river, and we saw some river species like Dippers or Grey Wagtails. We started to gain altitude, as it was quite steep, and as long as we climbed up we did not see many birds, as the vegetation was quite thick, and also it was raining. We arrived at a kind of cafeteria where we drank a cup of coffee, while it started to rain more and more, so we stayed there for a while until it rained less. We continued ascending, and the forest started to be less dense making place to meadows. As the hours passed, we realised that Polish people like walking up the mountains because at midday there were plenty of people. We were quite tired and sweated because of the walk, it was rainy and windy, we felt a bit frustrated because we did not see too many birds, so we decided to walk down, eat something and try somewhere else.

After lunch we went to the cable-car zone where the Nutcracker can be seen, but there were a lot of people, and after a short walk we decided to go to a place where we expected to find less people. We went near Krzepteówki where White-backed Woodpecker and Hazel Grouse can be seen, but again there were a lot of people, so we decided just to walk around, and go away next day to Bieszczady, close to the Ukraine border. During the day we saw some species that are interesting to us like Eurasian Treecreeper and Wood Warbler, but we expected more interesting forest species, like Nutcracker, White-backed Woodpecker or Hazel Grouse.

Species seen during the day:

17th of August

We woke up and while we had breakfast, we saw a lot of bird movement around the camp site: we saw our first Red-breasted Flycatcher, one female: it was amazing how it moved the tail from one side to the other showing the white spots of the tail. We also saw Eurasian Treecreeper and Crossbills.

We went to Bieszczady. The road was one lane, so we could not drive very fast, and it was a long distance to get there, more or less 300 km, so we arrived at 5 P.M., but the road passed through very beautiful agricultural areas, were we saw some really interesting species. Near Nowysacz we saw one Black Stork, and close to Besko we saw our first Lesser Spotted Eagle: first we saw it flying and it stopped in a small bush, and we saw it really well with telescopes. During the trip we saw another Lesser Spotted Eagle flying.

We arrived at Bieszczady and we went to a camping site. We went around for a small walk, and one of us saw one Nutcracker at sunset, while we were waiting to hear owls.

Species seen during the day:

18th of August

All day in Bieszczady. We stayed in a camping site that is located between the river and the road. When we woke up, we saw a male White-backed Woodpecker in a tree on the other side of the river, where we also saw Wood Warbler and Willow Tit.

In the morning we went to the Rawka mountain and we decided to climb it. We left the car in a parking place close to the road, and while we were preparing our backpacks, a female White-backed Woodpecker appeared on a tree close to the road: we could see it really well, as it stayed for a while moving on that tree.

We started to ascend. In the beginning there were open agricultural fields with trees close to them, and there were a lot of birds moving from the fields to the trees. After ascending for a while, we arrived in a beech tree forest, with huge trees, but with few birds. We stopped and waited for a while to hear woodpeckers, but we heard nothing. We ascended through the forest for more than one hour, and we heard just a few birds, then we reached the top, where we found high grass pastures. On the top we rested for a while just recovering from the walk, and we only saw Chaffinches and Bullfinches. While we were there, two militaries came to us, and they asked for our passports. We descended quite frustrated because of the few interesting species we had seen, except noteworthy one Nutcracker flying quite far away. A thing that surprised us was the large number of people who were around during the entire day, as there were a lot of sightseers, so after certain hour, there were too many people for birdwatching properly.

We ate and went to Berezki, and walked for a while but we heard nothing, so we decided to go out of the National Park. During the trip out of the Park we saw one Golden Eagle flying across a river. After driving for a while, we stopped by the road in a place looking like a small valley: there where mountains on the sides, and in the middle it was flat and very humid and there were lots of willows and bushes. There was some bird movement, and one of us saw River Warbler: it was the only one we saw during the whole trip, and it was a species that we expected to see, but just one of us saw it. We also saw a couple of Black Stork descending along the valley and landing quite close to us. At dusk, we heard a Pygmy Owl, and it was relatively close, but we could not localate it.

Species seen during the day:

19th of August

We woke up at 6:30, and while we were having breakfast, we saw a group of Nutcrackers flying from the mountains to a tree on the other side of the river and they were there for a while.

After breakfast we went to the place where the day before one of us saw River Warbler, but we were not lucky. We decided to go to Bukowiec. During the trip there, from the car we saw a Lesser Spotted Eagle very well flying over the other side of the river that flows close to the road, so the bird was in Ukraine.

We arrived at a parking place and we left the car and started walking. The place was really good for birdwatching, as there was almost nobody and the forest was very well conserved, with plenty of fallen trees and different species of coniferous trees and deciduous trees, and there were also open fields and small rivers. We saw Black, White-backed and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Wryneck, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, and a group of 30 Siskins.

The day was quite cloudy, and it rained intermittently, but suddenly it started to rain quite a lot and we decided to go back to the car: we finished completely wet. We think that this is the best place for birdwatching in that area, and we would have enjoyed being there for a longer time.

It was 4 P.M. when we arrived to the car and went to the camping site. We ate something and after packing everything, we drove to Bialowieska. The road was single lane, so we could not drive fast but enjoyed beautiful views. We slept in Polichna, near Lublin. We slept in a forest close to the road, where we heard Little Owl.

Species seen during the day:

20th of August

Most part of the day driving. We arrived at Bialowieza in the afternoon and we went to the information centre, where we bought the map of the area of the PTOP (a polish ornithological society) where it marks where some species can be found in the park. During the trip we saw one Lesser Spotted Eagle and one Montagu's Harrier. The information centre is close to the Palace ponds, where there are big trees. There we saw interesting species such as Wood and Willow Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Nuthatch and Hawfinch.

At noon we went to Pogorzelce trying to find Corncrakes. We were not lucky with this species, but we saw some raptors such as Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk.

One thing that surprised us sadly was the lack of birds more or less after 18:30 until sunset, as at home these hours are very good for birdwatching, but in Poland it looks like at these hours birds are more quiet and they do not move much.

We went to a camping site close to the village, and at night we heard Pygmy Owl: we tried to locate it, but again it was impossible.

Species seen during the day:

21th of August

All day in Bialowieza. We woke up at 6 AM, and at 7 we were in a coniferous forest close to the Narewka river. We parked the car, and we saw Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Icterine Warbler close to the parking place.

We followed a path that goes through the forest, and it looked like a really good place for Woodpeckers, but we only saw Black and Great Spotted. More or less at 9, we arrived to the Narewka river: the day was quite cloudy, and it looked like it could start to rain at any moment, and there were not many birds around. In that place it is possible to see River and Water Warbler and Corncracke, but we did not see any. We continued walking close to the river and the forest until we arrived to an open agricultural area, with pine forest, where we saw Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. In that area there were more birds, and we saw two species that we just saw once in the trip: one Grey-headed Woodpecker and one Hazel Grouse. During that walk, we saw one Pine Marten (Martes martes) coming from the top of a tree to the ground and going away, and also Sedge Warbler and Sparrowhawk.

In the afternoon we went to the information centre, where we saw Middle and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and Hawfinches, some in juvenile plumage. In front of the information centre there is a small house of the PTOP, where there were some people, and we tried to ask some questions, but they did not want to talk to us, a thing that surprised us sadly as usually everywhere ornithologists help each other.

We went walking to the marshes close to the information centre, where the book marks that Barred and River Warbler can be seen. We saw a probable juvenile Barred Warbler, but not well seen at all, and Hen Harrier. Suddenly, it started to rain, so we went back running, finishing completely soaked.

Species seen during the day:

22th of August

All day in Bialowieza. We woke up at six o'clock, and we went to Pogorzelce. We went walking to the Narewka river, and we moved around where the book says that is a good place for Corncrackes, but we did not see any. That place is close to the forest where the day before we saw Hazel Grouse and Grey-headed Woodpecker. We tried to see those species again, but we where not lucky. We walked around that area, until we almost reached the windmill. We also searched for Three-toed Woodpecker, but did not see them. That morning we saw three Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), and one Mink (Mustela lutreola).

We left that place and went to drink something, and later, we went to the area close to the information centre where River and Barred Warbler can be seen. We walked around and we saw all the Sylvia warblers of the area, but not the one we were interested in: Barred. During this walk we saw Garden Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroat and Blackcap. So we started to think that some species that we expected to see had already left, like the Corncracke, Barred and River Warbler, and Scarlet Rosefinch that is supposed to be seen around, as we did not see any. Noteworthy, we saw our first and last Long-tailed Tits of the caudatus subspecies, with the head completely white, amazing.

In the afternoon we went to Topilo, a small town with a small lake close to it, where the map of the PTOP marks that Goldeneye breeds there: the lake is nice but it is used by the people from the town as a leisure place, so there were small boats around the lake, people fishing and walking around, and we did not see many aquatic birds. There is a nice forest around the lake, where we saw trees with marks made by the Three-toed Woodpecker.

Species seen during the day:

23th of August

In the morning we went again to the Narewka river, trying for Barred and River Warbler, but we were not lucky. The day was sunny, so we expected to see species, but we did not see many. Some interesting species: Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and Lesser Spotted Eagle, Sedge and Wood Warbler.

At 11 o'clock, we decided to leave Bialowieza, and we went to the Byalistok fish-ponds, where the five European grebe species breed. We saw some Great Crested, one juvenile Red-necked, one juvenile Slavonian and some Little Grebe. We also saw Osprey, Wryneck, Lesser Whitethroat and Wood Warbler. The place is really good for birdwatching. At 4 o'clock, we decided to go to eat, as we had not eaten yet.

We went to sleep at the Biebrza marshes, where at sunset we saw two Hares (Lepus europaeus).

Species seen during the day:

24th of August

In the morning we went to the southern Basin, to the place where there is a lek of Great Snipe near Zabrok. We left the car in the parking place, and we followed a path, until we arrived to the place where the Great Snipe lek is situated. During the walk, we saw some species, but nothing very interesting though. We continued along the path until we reached a wood-hide, where we saw one Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

We went to eat, and then to the Central basin for birdwatching, as there were not many birds around in the Southern Basin. We drove around, stopping every time we saw birds, until we arrived to Przechody. There, we took a road that reached a forest, and driving through it we had a problem with the car: it stopped running, and we had to call a mechanic to repair it. When the towing vehicle arrived, the mechanic said that he could not repair it there, so they took us and the car to Grajewo, where he was repairing it until midnight. During the route we followed in the Central Basin, we did not see many species, and no raptors besides one Marsh Harrier. We have to say that it took some hours for the towing vehicle to find us, because people of National told them a wrong colour of the car, so the people of National did not know the colour of the car that they had rented to us, incredible.

Species seen during the day:

25th of August

We left Grajewo in the morning and we went again to the Central Basin, but there were no birds around, so we decided to leave the area and go to Gdansk, expecting to see some species in the Baltic sea. It took almost all day to reach Gdansk. We went to Swibno, but when we arrived there, it was too late. We went to camp in the camping site close to Sobieszewo, near Gdansk. While we were driving there, we saw a Fox (Vulpes vulpes) walking across the road.

Species seen during the day:

26th of August

At 8:30 AM we left the camping site and drove to the Vistula delta, at the Swibno side. We walked through a pine forest that leads to a marsh with willows and reeds, and afterwards there are sandbanks and dunes. Still in the pine forest close to the river, we saw a group of Goosander flying from the river to the sea and stopping on a surface on the other side of the river, almost at the end of the river. When we passed the reeds, we heard Water Rail. At the sand beach there were a lot of birds: shorebirds, gulls and terns. We saw quite a lot of species, some of them very interesting for us, as they are common in the Baltic but scarce in the Mediterranean, like Common and Great Black-backed Gull. There were Common Terns, and we searched for Arctic Tern, as it is possible to see them there migrating, and it also breeds, but all the individuals identified were Common. We also saw shorebirds: Sanderling, Knot, Dunlin, Grey Plover in summer plumage, Greenshank, Redshank and Common Sandpiper. On the beach, there were cages for catching shorebirds, and we saw some ringers walking around and taking off birds from those cages.

We came back through the middle of the reeds, and we found the ringing station. There were some ringers there, and we talked with them about some species. They had caught 3 Knots, the ones that we had just seen on the beach, and one Dunlin, and they let us see while they ringed them. Coming back to the car, we saw an immature White-tailed Eagle. We left the place at 3 o'clock.

We went to eat something, and we went to the Rewa delta, but we were not able to get there, as it was quite far away from where we parked the car. The Baltic sea was extremely quiet, and on the sea there were a lot of species, noteworthy Black-throated Diver, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Common Shelduck and Red-breasted Merganser. Close to the beach there were some reeds, and we saw some Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings. At night, before arriving at the camping site, we saw a Fox (Vulpes vulpes) crossing the road in the same place as the last night.

Species seen during the day:

27th of August

When we woke up, in the camping site we saw quite a lot of species, noteworthy Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crossbill, Nuthatch, Wood Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat.

We went to the Rewa, where the ringers told us that we could see Citrine Wagtail. We saw lots of ducks in the sea, more or less the same as the last day. We reached the delta, and we saw some shorebird species, like Dunlin, Curlew and Common Sandpiper, Ruffs, Little Stint, Greater and Little Ringed Plover. We also saw cages for trapping shorebirds there, and we saw also ringers controlling them. We walked trough the reeds, and we found the ringing station. We talked with them about some species, and they told us that the Citrine Wagtail had gone, but that there was a Broad-billed Sandpiper in a kind of big ponds of sewage water. We went there, and there was some water in one side of the ponds, and a group of shorebirds there: we were really excited, as none of us had ever seen this species before, and when we were approaching it, a Marsh Harrier appeared and frightened them, so all flew away. We waited there until they settled back, but no Broad-billed Sandpiper was in the group that came back.

At 1 PM we left the place, we went to eat and packed everything, and we drove to Cracow, as we were leaving the next day.

Species seen during the day:

28th of August

We arrived at Cracow, were we bought some souvenirs, and we went to the airport to fly to Barcelona.

Comments on Sites - Conclusions

We know that August is not the best month for birdwatching in Poland, but because it was the time that we had holidays, we could not choose. So, we went to Poland in August, and some species had gone. Also, the weather in August is not the best for birdwatching, as there were some days with grey cloudy sky, and also it rained some days.

The Tatra National Park is a really interesting place, but perhaps in August there is too much tourism, and in the mountains there are plenty of people climbing, so we would not go there again in August.

The Bieszczady National Park is a really interesting place to visit. There are also a lot of tourists, but the park is huge, and the place we went on the second day was really good for birdwatching. Perhaps it is not a bad idea to go out of the National Park, as there are fewer people outside of it.

Bialowieza is probably the most famous National Park in Poland, and the place is really impressive. We saw almost all the woodpeckers, except the Three-toed Woodpecker. But we could not see some species that we expected, such as Barred and River Warbler, Corncracke or Scarlet Rosefinch. We went to the places that the maps marked for those species, so probably at this time of the year, just few remain in Poland, or they are very elusive.

Biebrza marshes was probably the most frustrating place, as we saw few species, and none of the interesting ones that we could see there: Corncracke, Great Snipe and Aquatic Warbler.

The Gdansk area was very good to see northern gulls and ducks, and we really enjoyed these, but we did not see any of the rare species that the book lists, perhaps also because it was too late.

Looking back when we prepared the trip, and after have done it, it is frustrating for us that we did not see species like Corncracke, Great Snipe, Three-toed Woodpecker, Water Warbler, Barred Warbler, Scarlet Rosefinch, as we thought that we would see them, but sometimes things happen as one expected, and other times not. We know that in June it is easy to see most of these species, but in August it was not possible for us. The lack of information about phenology of the species, and the fact that we saw very few birdwatchers, made very difficult for us to find some species.

We also thought that we would see Collared Flycatcher, but we did not see it, although we looked carefully at the flycatchers.

However, we saw some really interesting species: Slavonian and Red-necked Grebe, Black Stork, Scaup, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Lesser Spotted Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Hazel Grouse, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, White-backed Woodpeckers, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Great Grey Shrike, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Eurasian Treecreeper, Wood Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Nutcracker. We heard Pygmy Owl, but we could not see it.

Also, we saw some interesting mammal species like Deer, Pine Marten, Mink, Fox and Hare.

We recommend that if you plan to go to Poland, try to go in June or July, since in August perhaps a lot of interesting species have gone, and also the weather can be quite disappointing.

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; January 21, 2001