BUBO in POLAND - part 6
The guest house at Kiermusy, initially looked like a traditional old Polish house, but when you got close up it was clearly very new and had just been made to look like one. Nevertheless, it was superb and just what we needed as a base to explore the Biebrza Marshes. The housekeeper woman looked very confused at first as I think that she was expecting a 3-person family to arrive and had set up the room for it. As fond as I was of the lads, I didn't especially want to snuggle up with them in the double bed. But she said she'd rearrange the set-up whilst we were out for the afternoon.
Our major priority was the return of Ian's passport from Bogdan so we headed north again. We had arranged a meeting point half way between here and his house and we set off as soon as we could. Along the road north, we noticed a guy with a 'scope looking across from the side of the road near the village of Laskowiec. We of course stopped to see what he was looking at, and there were some great pools to the East of the road. There were lots more waders here than we had seen previously on the trip, with at least 200 Ruff and plenty of Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank. We also saw our first Greenshanks and a couple of Wood Sandpipers, with a pair of Garganey amongst the Shovelers. A couple of Cranes were noted and a Lesser Spotted Eagle - a great little spot to bump into.
We pushed on to our meeting point with Bogdan which was on the bridge over the Biebrza River on the edge of the village of Goniadz. Thankfully, Bogdan was there to greet us, coats were exchanged and Ian was reunited with his passport. It was weird to think that thirty years ago, behind the Iron Curtain, the passing of a passport to a British bloke on a bridge in Poland, would have been stuff of a spy thriller! It reminded me of "Bridge of Spies", although instead of soldiers and spies, we exchanged coats.
We said goodbye - again - to Bogdan, and realised it was getting really cold now and there was some wetness in the air. There was a high viewing platform just next to us and we climbed up and looked across the river-side marshes. We had a couple more Cranes in the fields, along with 2 more Garganeys and at least 20 Great White Egrets on the floods. A Red Fox stalked through the grass.
It was now late afternoon and we headed south back towards our guest house, along the road through the southern section of the marshes, where we had gen on a couple of sites. The weather suddenly deteriorated and we had the first proper rain of the trip. In the heavy rain, we managed to find the car park at Barwik. Luckily for us, it was just a strong shower and we managed to get out birding almost straight away. Here, there was a track which led right out into the marshes and was especially famous for the Great Snipe Lek. As we rounded the last pine tree and stepped into the marsh, the first bird we saw was our closest White-tailed Eagle of the trip. Despite the dark and dingy conditions I snapped a few record shots.
We stopped at the Great Snipe viewing platform but we felt it was a little early in the evening to be waiting around (especially as we didn't really think they would have migrated back yet anyway). So we carried on west through the marshes towards a tall viewing platform where we hoped we might spot a Moose. Along the track we heard some singing in the bushes along the edge of the reedbeds. Only after a while did we realise that we had at least one Bluethroat but it was unsurprisingly elusive, and I only had a brief flight view. We had a Willow Tit calling along the track and 2 Green Sandpiper flushed from a small pool.
The viewing tower was on a small, wooded mound sticking up out of the flat marshes. As we approached these trees we flushed a bird into some birches and were pleased to see a Wryneck - our 8th woodpecker of the trip. We climbed the steps and looked out upon miles and miles of marsh - quite stunning.
There were plenty of birds to see from here but everything was literally miles away. In the very far distance - I suppose close to the river - we could see large flocks of wildfowl and other birds but they were just too far. One thing we did see was that Cranes were clearly very common at this site. We counted at least 65 birds dotted across the vista. We scanned and scanned but couldn't find any Moose at all, which was surprising as they are meant to be very common here and they are so damn big. Eventually though, we managed to pick one out in a gap in the trees a very very very long way away.
Climbing down the tower we heard a locustella warbler singing from the reeds to the side of the path. We guessed it was a Savi's Warbler - which it was - but we had to have a good think about it. Now that we are older and cannot hear high-pitched sounds as well, accurate judging of pitch has become more difficult. Because we were being doubly sure about this bird and stayed to investigate, we actually saw it well in the 'scope, perched up on a twig above the reeds. Other birds recorded here at Barwik included a Cuckoo calling, a few booming Bitterns and a brief Penduline Tit.
We returned back to the Great Snipe viewing platform for a while, even though we honestly weren't expecting to see them. However, there were a few other birdwatchers there also, and one of them started claiming he had one on the deck. Apparently it was so hidden that it was barely visible, right near the back of the clear area. He spent the next 20 minutes comically trying to direct us onto it in his posh-boy English voice - "Oh just come down 45 degrees from the "brash" at the back" - it was most amusing to us, especially the 'brash' bit that no-one knew what on earth he was talking about! There was clearly nothing there. The platform was a nice spot to watch from though in the late evening. Common Snipes were drumming all around and were very visible, and we had a couple of Woodcock. We also saw a second Moose stroll out of the trees - quite a bit closer than the last one. The dark set in and we returned to the car.
We had to stop to eat straight away because restaurants in Poland seem to stop serving immediately after tea time. The nearest place was actually at the end of the track and it was all very traditional in there. We enjoyed a nice rest and a beer and a meal - well the other two enjoyed a meal, whilst I had to eat the only vegetarian option on the menu which was a plate of blackcurrant dumplings. Just one massive pile of dumplings filled with blackcurrants! It was foul. Hashtag vom.
We returned back to the guest house after a very tiring day and had a Whimbrel calling overhead in the dark. I had a massive shock when I lay on my bed and felt something in my hair. I pulled it out and it was the most massive tick I had ever seen! It seemed enormous - probably a Moose tick I'd have said. I was just relieved that it hadn't managed to find a piece of skin to stick its jaws into. After a long tick-inspecting, shower, we went to sleep to prepare for our day in the Biebrza Marshes tomorrow.