Wednesday, May 29, 2019


It's a well trodden path but it doesn't make it any less magical.  Bialowieza.  Probably renowned for its' primeval forest but the area in general holds plenty of interest.  Just park the car and walk.

Having employed the services of a guide on a previous trip, I decided to go it alone this time.  The result was simple.  Plenty of time staring at Woodpecker-less trees and definitely no Owls.  That was ok though.  It was to be expected.  The forest spans just over 3000 square kilometeres.  That's a lot of ground to cover and that's a lot of trees.

I appreciate that the (mis)management of the reserve has its critics, there are problems for sure, but the habitat is nothing like what we see in the UK.  Well not on this scale anyway.  Let's hope it remains this way.

The forest speeds away at an astonishing rate where a short walk can easily turn into a serious hike.  The meandering trails hold the promise of an interesting something at every junction.

The meadows are full of wild flowers that cover vast areas where invertebrates, birds, and mammals abound.  Agriculture appears less intensified, what appear to be healthy numbers of farmland and meadow dwelling birds such as Yellowhammer, Skylark, Corncrake indicate a fertile environment on more than one level.

A walk along the Narewka River from the village is a good start.  A singing male Common Rosefinch sang its' little heart out from a telegraph wire.

An Icterine Warbler was close by and was equally vocal.  This species has a lovely song.

A Common Snipe sat on top of a Lamp-post.  It's the kind of thing that happens round here.  A couple of Lesser Spotted Eagle were seen soaring over the woodland.

While the route didn't exactly run alongside the river, it was never far away and would eventually lead back onto the banks.

Great Reed Warbler cronked from a small reed-bed, and a Savi's Warbler was reeling away nearby.  There were Thrush Nightingale exhalting their most astonishing chorus of shrieks and whistles.  The 'machine-gun' style rattle is truly incredible.

The 'Palace' Park is an absolute must visit.  It always hosts great birds.

 A wander round yielded fluting Golden Oriole high up in the canopy, Hawfinch that were reasonably common around the reserve. and Fieldfare hopping around in the woodland.  Common Rosefinch were present around the tarmac paths, where a couple of Icterine Warbler sang from the alder.  Great Reed Warbler are present in the reeds that skirt the ponds there.  There were family groups of Willow Tit in the woodland.

Icterine Warbler
My favourite bird of the park were the Collared Flycatcher.  There were at least three singing males there and I spent a bit of time watching them fly circuits round the woodland.  Such stunning birds.  They were rarely still, constantly flitting about, some seen displaying while listening to their delicate song.

Wandering round the woodland, I managed to find the nest of a Middle Spotted Woodpecker.

A trip to Kosy Most is around a 50 minute drive from Bialowieza.  It is a good place for woodpeckers and for Hazel Hen, species that I have caught up with here in the past there.  This time wasn't so fruitful, but the walk was pleasant and there were some interesting sightings.

The woodland was generally quiet but for a few singing Wood Warbler, their beautiful cascading melodies echoing from within the pines.

At the end of the path is a Bison watchpoint.  Not the best time to spot them, but a male Red-backed Shrike sat close to the hide.

Two extremely vocal Corncrake were inconspicuous within the wild flower meadow.  It still perplexes me how they can get so close whilst remaining incognito.  A really smart male Barred Warbler presumably had a nearby nest-site as it flew through singing and then sounding off its contact calls.  Two Honey Buzzard flew over the woodland.

Heading further along the tracks, the now regular Great Reed Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler were vocalising but there was very little in the woodland.  This was apart from a singing Red-breasted Flycatcher that I tracked down as a first summer male.

A slow retreat out of the Bialowieza area the following day it poured with rain but was surprisingly warm and humid.   I took my time stopping frequently along the way.  I stood high up on a platform listening to the chorus of birdsong.  The monotonous mechanical trill of a River Warbler, the cronking Great Reed Warbler, reeling Grasshopper Warbler, the distant echo of a Cuckoo, the weezing of the ubiquitous Yellowhammer, and the melancholic refrain of a Rosefinch.  There wasn't a soul in sight.  It was all so perfect.

Heading onto the 'Zebra Zubra' boardwalk yielded very little apart from singing Golden Oriole and a calling Black Woodpecker, neither of which were seen.

Slightly further along was another pull-in, not somewhere I had been before, but another boardwalk there was really picturesque.

The woodland held a singing 1st summer male Pied Flycatcher, a singing Red-breasted Flycatcher, and a singing Spotted Flycatcher which took me my surprise.  Never heard such a vocal Spotfly before.

I headed away, but not before one last visit to a new site.  It was two hours away but en route to Warsaw.  I had prior knowledge that this was a private area but with the agreement of the landowner, permission could be granted.  Driving through some violent thunderstorms, the rain was torrential.  Google Maps had directed me through some inexplicably awful roads of profound disrepair.  This coupled with the weather made it a nerve rendering experience.  Poland knows how to do a storm!

Having negotiated my way onto the site, I wandered over to some dwellings where a guy was tending to his vehicle.  A quick word and a lot of sign language and he was on the phone to the landowner.  I wasn't allowed in.  He asked me where I was from.  He saw that I was keen to explore the area.

He gave me an hour.

What a place.  Apparantly it's a protected area and brilliant during migration.  I could see why.  Shallow fishing pools that looked great for migrant waders and waterbirds.

Whilst these had all passed through, there were at least four booming Bittern, four Marsh Harrier, six Black Tern, two visible Whooper Swan with a number heard calling from the reed bed, and a supporting cast of Warblers and common wildfowl.  I was so grateful for being allowed access.


It was the culmination of another great trip to Poland and the food was great too.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

North Kent

An interesting day surveying an area on the North Kent coast.  The weather brought kindness in abundance, the strong May sun tempered slightly by a gentle  breeze.  It was great making tracks around the survey lines that covered eight miles in total.

Bird of the day went to a Nightingale that sang briefly within a large hawthorn and was always out of view.  A couple of Cuckoo were calling within the vicinity with one later seen flying low along the old sea wall.

There were plenty of vocal Warblers including a couple of Lesser Whitethroat, with Common Whitethroat and Reed Warbler plentiful.  Just one Sedge Warbler was noted during the course of the day.

There was a bit of interest on the receded tide.  A single Avocet looked forlorn in one of the bays, where a Common Sandpiper flicked low along the shoreline.  A stunning adult summer Grey Plover was accompanied by two not so dapper individuals with a Whimbrel and two Turnstone in the same area.

A constant sound during the day were the distant 'mewings' of Mediterranean Gull with around 20 sparkling adults seen flying over towards the estuary.

At least three different Marsh Harrier were quartering the area along with a minimum of six Common Buzzard soaring on thermals as the day warmed up.

A minimum count of five Yellow Wagtail were all flyovers.

There was some Butterfly interest with nine species seen including at least a dozen Wall Brown, five Orange-tip, a Small Copper, and two Small Heath.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Portland & Lodmoor

A really nice day with enough sunshine to make things feel comfortable, but a complete dearth of migrants on land and sea.

Stopping off at Ferrybridge first, at least 16 Little Tern were occupying the concrete buoys out in the bay.  Two Whimbrel were barely the only waders on the exposed mud.

On the Bill we gorged ourselves on food from the cafe, made tracks around the southern half of the island, indulged in cream tea, and sat lamenting our self-indulgence.  A perfect Saturday.

Watching seabirds off the east cliffs had me enraptured for a while.

The cliffs were busy with Guillemot, Razorbill, Shag, and a couple of Fulmar soaring to and from the cliff-face.

Moving onto Lodmoor later on in the afternoon provided a little more interest.

A sole 1st summer Little Gull roosted on the edge of a scrape amongst the raucous Common Tern and Black-headed Gull.

Waders were hardly plentiful but at least 30 summer plumaged Dunlin were present, four Bar-tailed Godwit including one in brick-red finery, and 15 Black-tailed Godwit.

Elsewhere, a few vocal Bearded Tit were zipping around the top of the reeds.

A sub-adult male Marsh Harrier was marauding the eastern fringes of the reserve.

A lone drake Pintail was present within the pools.  A female Bullfinch flew into cover along the southern path.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Staines Reservoir

A quick dash over to the reservoir this evening to get my mind off work and settle myself down with some bird therapy.

The south basin yielded the continuing 11 Black Tern that had been present for much of the day.  Two adult summer Dunlin were trotting along the causeway.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Borth to Aberystwyth

The five mile walk along the cliff-top from Borth to Aberystwyth is highly recommended with stunning views out over the Irish Sea and a heart-pumping undulating hike over to the fine town of 'Aber'.

Also make sure you visit 'The Sands' cafe in the quaint town of Borth for great food and coffee.

A highlight for me will always be the Red-billed Chough where a group of three birds passed overhead.

A freshly emerged Small Copper was present close to Constitution Hill.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas

There are some places in the UK that for me are are just pure magic.  Wales in one of them, and specifically mid-to-north Wales.  For the second year running, a visit was made to the fabulous RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas reserve around ten miles from Tregaron.

It was spectacular, and much like last year, the sun was shining against a crisp blue sky.

It started with a showy Garden Warbler singing freely near the top of a willow.  At least two Willow Warbler were in song in the vicinity.  The boardwalk enters the woodland where a subtle sounds of the Welsh woodland specialties draw in the senses.

Wood Warbler are particularly vocal, the trills echoing through the sun mottled woodland, with a couple of males seen displaying and at least six males heard around the reserve.

Pied Flycatcher are seen all around the reserve as are Common Redstart.  At one point, a male of each species were within ten metres of each other, while Tree Pipit and Wood Warbler provided a beautiful melodic soundscape.

The walk takes around two hours and should not be rushed.  The river held a couple of active Dipper and a Grey Wagtail.  The backdrop provided by a glowing hillside.

The woodland was carpeted with bluebells.

I cannot speak more highly of this place.

The drive to Tregaron is equally as picturesque as the road winds through the Twyi forest.

En route, a Whinchat flew past the car and perched up on a fern by the roadside.

A single Common Sandpiper fed along a mountain lake.  Red Kite and Common Buzzard soared through the valleys.