Monday 18th April 2016 (b)

BUBO in POLAND  -  part 8

 A flooded road cannot stop the BUBO lads from their birding destiny.

A flooded road cannot stop the BUBO lads from their birding destiny.

After lunch, we headed for the village of Mscichy, a bit further north up the river. From here there is a track that leads right into the centre of the marshes, rather than just looking in from the edges. After a short while we managed to find this track which was exceptionally bumpy and tricky to negotiate in places. There were plenty of common marshland birds alongside the track and we got some decent views of Cranes and White Storks.

 White Stork - Biebrza Marshes

White Stork - Biebrza Marshes

Just as we were making progress along the track, as the bushes gave way to the proper marsh, the road ahead became totally impassable by car. There was a gigantic deep puddle, or more accurately, the marsh had decided to extend itself into the human world. So we had to park up and skirt around the water by foot. This was not a massive problem as the track looked OK ahead. We saw a male Redstart perch up here. The water was very extensive and stretched for miles in all directions but was clearly very shallow, with vegetation sticking out through the surface. The water was teeming with life, and in the shallows by the track we could see lots of massive caddis-fly larvae and these weird little Tadpole Shrimps.

 The Biebrza Marshes at Mscichy.

The Biebrza Marshes at Mscichy.

 Tadpole Shrimp - Mscichy - a weird prehistoric-looking creature which I'd never heard of before

Tadpole Shrimp - Mscichy - a weird prehistoric-looking creature which I'd never heard of before

 Mscichy - there was extensive waterlogged marsh in all directions

Mscichy - there was extensive waterlogged marsh in all directions

We continued walking down the track out into the marsh and could see the large viewing platform in the distance, but all of a sudden, the track was no more. The water had washed away part of the track and there was no way round. It wasn't too deep and wellies would have probably been fine, but we had none. So, like any self-respecting explorer, we removed our shoes and socks and waded across the gap in our bare feet. It wasn't too unpleasant actually although it was very cold. 

 Crossing the floods barefoot

Crossing the floods barefoot

We were very pleased that we made the effort because the view from the tower was great. There were a couple of larger lakes to our left where there were large flocks of widfowl including our first Pochards, but there was also a very distant goose flock. We really struggled to identify them due to the distance involved but we eventually worked out there was c.25 Bean Geese with a handful of White-fronted Geese amongst them. There were more waders feeding in the shallows and these had Blue-headed Wagtails for company, and a flock of c.50 Swallows had descended to feed. We managed to pick out both Bluethroat and Savi's Warbler singing from deep cover. Raptors included the now obligatory White-tailed Eagle, but we also saw a superb Rough-legged Buzzard soaring in the sunshine, readying itself to migrate to the far north.

 Mscichy - the view from the top of the observation tower

Mscichy - the view from the top of the observation tower

 Rough-legged Buzzard - Mscichy

Rough-legged Buzzard - Mscichy

 Rough-legged Buzzard - Mscichy

Rough-legged Buzzard - Mscichy

We waded back to the car and pushed further on to Osowiec where the valley narrowed quite a bit and the marshes were less extensive. We looked out from another viewing platform and saw another White-tailed Eagle and heard a Bittern booming. Two Hobbies raced around the sky above us. There was also a boardwalk here through the reedbeds and small trees and we had plenty of passerines: 3 Whinchat, a Tree Pipit, 2 invisible singing Bluethroats, at least 3 Penduline Tits, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a singing Savi's Warbler, a Willow Tit, and most incredibly, the only Dunnock of the whole trip! The afternoon was passing by now and we decided to call on the way home at the Great Snipe Lek again - just for the boldest gamble.

 Proof that there are Great Snipes here.

Proof that there are Great Snipes here.

For this second visit to Barwik, we only walked as far as the Great Snipe platform. We had a Wood Warbler singing in the trees near the car park and another not-seen Bluethroat singing from the bottom of a willow. The highlight though was a brilliant male Montagu's Harrier drifting back and forth above the reeds, the first I had seen for years. The Common Snipes were really showy this evening and were constantly drumming from all around but, unsurprisingly no Great Snipes could be found.

It was now well into the evening and we headed back down the road towards the guest house, where we came across a group of wildlife photographers parked by the roadside. We couldn't see what they were after at first, but then we suddenly saw that there was a massive Moose sat right at the side of the road! We stopped and crept back towards it and it was clear that it wasn't even a slightly bit timid. This gave us concern that it may have been injured - perhaps been hit by a car - so we didn't pester it, just took a few snaps and left. Hopefully it wasn't hurt and was just resting.

 A roadside Moose

A roadside Moose

Just a short while further down we saw some more photographers and they had two more Moose stood in a field by the side of the road, again quite close. It is obviously a thing for Polish wildlife photographers to do, to come to this road and take pictures of Moose/Mooses/Meese. Dusk fell suddenly and we headed out of the marshes.

As it was now past tea-time, our difficult task was to find somewhere open to eat. There was literally no restaurants on the journey home, and so we thought there must be something open in the town of Tykocin, near where we were staying. Despite it only being mid-evening the restaurant we went into had just finished serving and they couldn't suggest another one. However, they did direct us to a nearby hut that was serving kebabs. We certainly dined like royalty that night. We returned to the guest house and drank our beers in the lounge, toasting ourselves over another excellent day's birding.

 Not actually Hamburgers, but quite hamburgery.

Not actually Hamburgers, but quite hamburgery.