BUBO in POLAND - part 9
We woke up for our last day in Poland nice and early and got our stuff packed up. It was a nice sunny day, although again there was a chilly wind, and we could hear a Green Woodpecker calling from outside the window - our 9th woodpecker species of the trip! Also, looking out over the oxbow lake, I spotted a head slowly moving through the water. This could only have been a Beaver, and we saw it again briefly further up. We went for a wander to the lake to see if we could get a better look but we only found a beaver dam and suggestions of beaver activity. Back over by the guest house, the lads picked up a calling Hoopoe and we walked down the lane to investigate. We saw it in a large tree and were surprised to see two more. They were chasing each other and calling wildly - a terrific sight. We ate another fine breakfast and checked out. Our plan was to visit a few sites in the local area we hadn't been to and call at a couple more places close to the airport if we had time.
We headed firstly north-east to look at Czechowizna Reservoir. This was a pretty standard reservoir - open water with a reed-fringed edge - but it held a good selection of birds. We scanned the water from a bank behind the reeds and saw that there were some Little Gulls and Black Terns flying around above the lake. We distantly picked out 3 White-tailed Eagles and could hear a booming Bittern. We had chosen a spot which had a singing Savi's Warbler and we were lucky enough to see this one really well as it reeled away. We picked up some very distant wildfowl resting on the water. These were mainly Tufted Ducks and a selection of dabblers, but we also found 3 Goldeneye and a few Great Crested Grebes.
We saw that there some other birds in the far right corner and so we drove around to find another viewpoint. We found a track and parked on the edge of a farmer's field. The workers in the farmyard looked rather concerned why we were there, but we pointed to our binoculars and shouted "birdwatching", which often gives birders some kind of "diplomatic immunity" by totally bemusing the locals. From here, we could see that the dots we saw were actually 7 Black-necked Grebes and a first-year male Red-breasted Merganser. A Black Stork appeared over the lake in front of us and we saw a Whiskered Tern had joined the Blacks.
From the reservoir, we headed back south-west, almost past our guest house. As we passed the fields near here we picked out a pair of Montagu's Harriers which gave very good extended views, even landing on the ground.
We then started to head further south-west and made our way back towards Warsaw. We stopped at the very southerly part of the Biebrza Marshes, known as Wizna Marshes. This was a much narrower part of the valley and the marshes were not as extensive as we had seen the previous day, but it did concentrate the birds well. There were lots wildfowl present, including Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon and a Garganey, as well as about 200 Bean Geese, with a few White-fronted Geese mixed in. Waders were also visible, with lots of Ruff again and we had some excellent Cranes on the deck, displaying and calling in the marsh.
We had some good raptor sightings from here including the obligatory White-tailed Eagle, plus our first Osprey and Peregrine of the trip, and I was especially pleased with a Goshawk which swooped behind us and briefly landed on a tree. We were thinking of having a walk into the marsh here, but it started raining, so we pushed on.
By the roadside by the next village, we saw a Corn Bunting singing atop a tree, our first of the trip. We then made our way down the main road towards Warsaw, trying to make as much ground as possible as we didn't want to be stranded. On the outskirts of the city, we passed the huge Zegrze Reservoir which must provide all the drinking water for the capital. We stopped for a quick rest and a scan and we noticed that the air above the water was covered in birds! These were mainly Black-headed Gulls, but we estimated there must have been at least 50 Little Gulls amongst them and a bare minimum of 100 Black Terns, although there may have been many more. The only other gulls we managed to pick out were a first-winter Common Gull and a few distant Caspian-type Gulls. Apart from the gulls there were very few birds sat on the water apart from a couple of Great Crested Grebes. The other species that was present in huge numbers was Swallow. There was at least 1000, probably many more, feeding low over the lake surface. We passed the dam end of the lake and saw 4 Goosander sat on the bank, below the dam, our final new bird of the holiday.
We still had a little time left before we had to be at the airport, so we stopped at a site just next door - Pomiechowo Marshes. This wasn't as marshy as it seemed and was mainly just a walk along a river, with meadows. The river though was productive as we had singles of Little Ringed Plover, Green and Common Sandpiper, and a close Blue-headed Wagtail. We could have walked further but we had our eyes on the clock and we returned to the car, just as a Goosander flew over.
The airport was only ten minutes away and we dropped off our car, checked in and relaxed in a cafe eating pizza - the first proper meal I'd had all week. After eating, even though we thought we had plenty of time, we thought we might as well head through into departures, and it is a good job we did! We noticed a bit of a long queue, so we jumped into it, and all of a sudden, it grew and grew and snaked behind us right across the airport. I know that Modlin Airport is pretty small, but every single passenger had to join one single queue to get through security and it took absolutely ages - I am sure we were there for an hour before we finally made it to the gates. Ian's flight was before ours and we waved him off. Ours was just a short time after and we spent our final coins on crisps and tea. The flight set off n time and we snoozed our way back to England.
It was very late at night when we landed at Stansted and Andy drove me back to the Premier Inn. I had a very relaxing morning there the next day, gloriously stuffing myself at the breakfast buffet. I stayed right up to my check out time, and then made my way into the terminal. I had a few hours twiddling my thumbs at the airport before flying home.
So, a successful trip - all our targets seen, five ticks for me and loads of species that I'd not seen for years and years. I managed to see 146 species in the five days, which was pretty good, and more than many of the week-long tours get at this time of year. I thoroughly recommend eastern Poland for a quality Easter birding trip.