BUBO in POLAND - part 7
We awoke in the morning to a much more pleasant climate. There was bright sun shining through the window and there was a distinct blueness to the skies - a great improvement on yesterday evening's murk. This encouraged us to get ourselves out birding before breakfast and we went for a stroll across the fields around the guest house. As we left the house we collected a birding buddy who joined us on our early morning jaunt. He was a little, friendly dog who was apparently a stray, but seemed to enjoy our company - we named him "Dogban".
Just north of the guest house was the River Narew and the fields formed part of the flood plain. There were multiple oxbow lakes which attracted waders and ducks, and also a Goshawk which we spied swooping through the waterbirds over the other side of the river. Dogban flushed some Grey Partridges and we had our first Sand Martins of the trip. The overnight rain seemed to have grounded some migrants as Whitethroats were suddenly present in the bushes. We also observed more Jay movement with c.20 birds passing overhead. It was extremely pleasant outside, but we were happy to return to the guest house where there was a most magnificent spread set out for us for breakfast.
We loaded up the car with our gear and headed off to the epicentre of the Biebrza Marshes for the day. These stretch for a good 40 or 50 miles alongside the Biebrza River as it winds its way across eastern Poland. Luckily we had some decent gen as to where the best spots to view from were. Although it was nice and sunny, there was a chilly breeze whipping through the countryside.
The first of the stops was the village of Burzyn where one could scan with the 'scopes from a small hill across the wide, wide vista. We found a viewing shelter to keep the wind off us, but we didn't stay very long there since it seemed to be the night-time haunt of a local homeless dude and his 'sanitary facilities'. In the far distance we saw soaring eagles with both White-tailed and Lesser Spotted noted. There were plenty of ducks and waders on the waterside but this was a little too far away for us to see in detail. We picked out Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff and Wood Sandpiper but we really needed somewhere where the water was closer. More Jays were observed passing overhead and in the bushes around here we had a Lesser Whitethroat, and a singing Serin, plus a showy Wryneck resting in a tree.
Driving along the road northwards to get to our next stop we drove past a Moose casually feeding along the edge of wood near the roadside. It was the closest one we had seen but did not play ball when trying to take a photo of it and it belted into the trees. We also stopped to take some photos of an impressive White Stork nest right by the roadside.
Our next stop, Brzostowo, had much better viewing of the wetlands as we were able to walk right down to the banks of the Biebrza River. this was a brilliant spot as it also had a raised viewing tower on the water's edge. This meant that we could get a lot closer to the numerous waders and other waterbirds. However, as these marshes were so extensive, we were still very far away from most of them! We saw various wader species here : Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Greenshanks, both Ringed and Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper. There were quite a few Great White Egrets dotted around, and from the top of the tower Andy counted 114 distant Cranes. At least 3 White-tailed Eagles flew around. It was a great spot.
After a while of searching, we saw a tern or two flying back and forth across the wetlands. There were at least 3 Common Terns, but pride of place was the terrific Whiskered Tern which gave us a fabulous display, choosing to feed over the closest bit of water to us. The rarest species we saw here was a Marsh Sandpiper, which we almost missed as I'd already put down my scope, and dismissed it as a Greenshank through the bins as it wasn't very close to us. Luckily I decided to re-attach the scope for a final check, since it walked past a Redshank and looked small. I am not sure of their status in Poland but I don't think they are that regular.
We dragged ourselves away from this excellent spot and as we did so we were met by some ancient Poles by the car. They were trying to tell us something but we hadn't a clue as they had no English and we just smiled and nodded. After they persisted and started tugging our elbows, we finally realised that they wanted a few Zlotys for the use of the observation tower, pointing to a sign that we had missed. It wasn't very much at all and we were happy to pay. The old man looked as old as the marshes, and the old lady - who took quite a shine to Ian - was the dictionary definition of a 'crone'. Luckily I managed a record shot through the car window of this declining species. In the next village we called in at a supermarket for lunch and beers for the evening, before pushing on further North for the afternoon.