Saturday 16th April 2016 (b)

BUBO in POLAND  -  part 4

 Big skies at Siemianowka Reservoir.

Big skies at Siemianowka Reservoir.

We continued our exploration of Siemianowka Reservoir by driving right round to the north-east corner of the lake. It had to be the long way round as there's not a road up the western side, as it is too close to the border. On the way, we drove through a village where we saw two Serins fly up from a puddle at the side of the road. Eventually we drove as far as we could and climbed a railway embankment. From here the reedbeds seemed even more extensive.

 The marshes and reedbeds from the northeastern side of Siemianowka Reservoir

The marshes and reedbeds from the northeastern side of Siemianowka Reservoir

From our viewpoint we could see a few White-tailed Eagles flapping between perches - a lot closer this time, and we heard Bitterns booming from the reeds. We also briefly heard the call of a Spotted Crake from the wooded marsh behind us but there was no chance of seeing it. We had a few Cranes flying round including two very close birds flapping over our heads. The sun was out and it became rather hot, and there were harriers and storks circling in the warmth. It was just a great place to hang out and soak it all in.

 Cranes - Siemianowka Reservoir

Cranes - Siemianowka Reservoir

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 A distant White-tailed Eagle looks out across the marshes from its viewpoint.

A distant White-tailed Eagle looks out across the marshes from its viewpoint.

In the birch trees alongside the bank we could see an old Penduline Tit nest hanging from a branch. It clearly was not occupied, so I thought I'd take a wander further down to see if I could find any more nests. Pretty soon I saw a male Penduline Tit fly out from a waterside willow and go further down the bank. I kept getting brief sightings as it went back and forth and I eventually saw where it was going to - it was building a new nest. I had only seen the species once before in Israel and this is definitely one of my favourite bird species, with its unusual colouration. So it was great to have such smashing views as it gradually weaved its nest together. Unfortunately, I couldn't get close enough to focus the camera on the bird properly as it whizzed about.

 The bank alongside the reservoir with the trees that the Penduline Tit was nesting in.

The bank alongside the reservoir with the trees that the Penduline Tit was nesting in.

 An old completed Penduline Tit nest.

An old completed Penduline Tit nest.

 Penduline Tit - Siemianowka Reservoir

Penduline Tit - Siemianowka Reservoir

 Penduline Tit weaving its nest.

Penduline Tit weaving its nest.

 The railway with two guages of track - one european-sized going into Belarus, the other russian-sized coming into Poland. The distant trees are in Belarus. 

The railway with two guages of track - one european-sized going into Belarus, the other russian-sized coming into Poland. The distant trees are in Belarus. 

We drove down the track leading towards the open water but we didn't really see anything new here apart from a Common Gull passing overhead. So we headed round to another part of the northern side of the reservoir. Here it was more open and less 'reedy' and was much better for waders. We saw plenty more Ruff and a few more Black-tailed Godwits, along with Redshanks, Snipe, a Whimbrel and two Wood Sandpipers. On the open ground behind this area we had a Yellow Wagtail over plus a singing Woodlark. We also had a small number of Whooper Swans on the water's edge and our best views so far of a young White-tailed Eagle. A great birding spot.

 White-tailed Eagle - Siemianowka Reservoir

White-tailed Eagle - Siemianowka Reservoir

We made our way back to Bialowieza in the mid-afternoon and we returned to the guest house for a rest and to make plans for some evening birding. We had some discussion with Bogdan about potentially visiting a Great Snipe site but it wasn't too close, it was probably too wet for our non-wellies and they might not even have got back yet from Africa. So we scrubbed that idea, thanked Bogdan for all his help and bid him farewell.

 BUBO and Bogdan. If anyone is intending going birding in eastern Poland and wanted to hire a guide for the day, then I recommend Bogdan, as we saw everything that we wanted to. Get in touch and we can pass on details.

BUBO and Bogdan. If anyone is intending going birding in eastern Poland and wanted to hire a guide for the day, then I recommend Bogdan, as we saw everything that we wanted to. Get in touch and we can pass on details.

We still had a couple of hours of light left to get some birding in, so we were going to use more of Bogdan's gen to try somewhere else nearby. Unfortunately, I was unable to go out straight away due to some "intestinal difficulties", so the guys left me to sort myself out in the hotel room whilst they drove off to investigate a couple of likely spots. Finally, I was satisfied that I was able to get back out in the field safely, and I wandered down a track to the marshes just below the guest house where the boys had just had a Savi's Warbler singing. It was still being very vocal when I got there and managed to record a little of its song.

Meeting up with Andy and Ian again, we headed to an area round a bridge, just on the east side of town which was very good for White-backed Woodpecker, where hopefully we would get seconds with this rare species. Here was a break in the forest where a reed-fringed Narewka River slowly flowed east out of Belarus, which was about a mile away. We quickly saw a Great Grey Shrike at the top of a tree and were temporarily confused by its strange, surprising song. 

 There were lots of viewing platforms such as this in Poland - many for wildlife watching, but I suppose many also for hunters perhaps. 

There were lots of viewing platforms such as this in Poland - many for wildlife watching, but I suppose many also for hunters perhaps. 

We wandered up and down the roadside listening for woodpeckers and we heard a few Great Spotteds. Then all of a sudden, as they tend to do, a woodpecker flew in to the exact tree that Bogdan had suggested that we may see White-backed on. It was quite dusky by now but we got great views in the scope as the White-backed Woodpecker made its way to the top of the tree. We saw it a few times and we noted that it also liked to feed very low down on the trees by the waterside, so low that it was often hidden by the reeds. The species clearly loves to be near water.

 White-backed Woodpecker - Bialowieza Forest

White-backed Woodpecker - Bialowieza Forest

I wandered across the bridge towards the town and found another woodpecker drumming very close to the roadside. I managed to sneak up very close to it so it was drumming in the tree right next to me but the bloney bird seemed invisible! I recorded the drumming on my phone and Andy explained to me that with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, the drumming finishes suddenly, unlike Great Spot where it tails off slightly. Always learning! I did eventually see the Lesser Spot but only very briefly. 

Also in this area, I saw by a small creek, the stump of a tree that had been hacked down. Looking closely at it, you could even see the teeth marks from the Beavers that had gnawed the wood. Exploring this area, you could see lots of mounds of trees in the water and pools formed behind small dams and exit points that the beavers use to get in and out of the water. So lots of signs, but unfortunately no Beavers themselves.

 Here be Beavers! 

Here be Beavers! 

 Beaver lodge in the reeds.

Beaver lodge in the reeds.

It was now quite dark and we headed back to the guest house for some r and r. We were just settling down to enjoy some dinner when Ian rushes into the restaurant saying that he thinks we've been robbed! His coat was missing from the room with his wallet and passport in the pockets. Bloody Hell! It was all a bit odd - why steal a coat? I'm not going to go into all the madcap details of our investigation, but we were just about to call the police when we found Bogdan's coat in the car boot! He must have accidentally taken Ian's coat home with him instead of his own. We eventually managed to get hold of him on the phone and confirm that he did indeed have the coat and vital contents, and we arranged to collect it tomorrow. Phew, what a relief! That would have slightly put a dampener on the whole trip.

So after we had a meal and beers to calm ourselves down, we went for a wander along the boardwalk through the marshes by the town in the dark. There were hundreds of Tree Frogs calling from the trees across the way and the Savi's Warbler was still reeling away. We briefly heard a calling Spotted Crake and had superb torchlight views of a bat feeding back and forth right in front of us, up and down the river - very probably a Daubenton's Bat. We returned to bed after a terrific but ultimately traumatic day!