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Beaver & Balloon Adventure, April 2018

Beaver & Balloon Adventure, April 2018

Tour Leader: Andrzej Petryna (Andy)
Participants: Maire (FI), Patricia, Adrian, Iain, Thomas (UK)

Text by Andrzej Petryna & Mariola Przyborowska
Photos by Andrzej Petryna

The beginning of April welcomed us with mild and sunny weather, and long awaited spring (exceptionally reluctant this year!) has finally reached the Marshes. With temperatures rising up to 18 degrees Celsius and azure blue sky over our heads, it was a true pleasure to spend the days outdoors and observe nature awakening to the warmth of sunlight.

Walking paths and trails of the Biebrza Marshes, photo by Andrzej Petryna
One of many dikes at the Biebrza Marshes

We arrived during first warmer days to the sight of first spring flowers dotted here and there in small concentrations (Mezereon, Hepatica, Marsh Marigolds), and first butterflies flying over the meadows (Brimstone, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Camberwell Beauty). Remarkable were large numbers of amphibians right at their mating season. Pictured below is a blue-coloured male of Moor Frog, although we have seen few more interesting species including Fire-bellied Toad and Common Frog. 

Male Moor Frog at mating season, photo by Andrzej Petryna
Males of Moor Frog transform their bodies to an attractive shade of blue during mating season

For the very start we saw our first Elk (Moose) from a close distance just after arriving to the Marshes – an exciting beginning of our stay, which in general was successful with large mammals. In total we saw 10 Elks, 6 Roe Deer, a Fox and a Hare. Additionally during our treks we spotted many animal tracks, some of them being a Lynx footprints. A small settlement of Dobarz is the most convenient place to stay in the closest vicinity of many interesting sites and trails, and especially for dawn and dusk patrols along the Tsarska Road (the narrow tarnac road that cuts right through the southern side of the National Park). Such close encounters with wild animals are pretty often there.

Elk (Moose) walking at the roadside at the Biebrza Marshes, photo by Andrzej Petryna
Elk (Moose) are often seen crossing the Tsarska Road that cuts through the Biebrza National Park

The main attraction, hot air balloon flight over the Marshes, covered a distance of ca. 25 kilometres and shown us an impressively vast, non-accessible areas of the Biebrza National Park from the best possible perspective. It was an eye-opening experience to notice such magnitude of the marshlands; no drive or walk could ever provide us with such astonishing views. From above we saw Cranes, Mute Swans and Greylag Geese nesting at the flooded vegetation, a young White-tailed Eagle circling over the Marshes, and a single Elk (Moose) browsing in a dryer inland part. The rhytm of nature undisturbed by human.

Biebrza Marshes seen from above during hot-air balloon flight, photo by Andrzej Petryna
the southern part of the Biebrza National Park seen from above
Spring and enxtensive floodings at the Biebrza Marshes, photo by Andrzej Petryna
severely flooded meadows along Biebrza River create very interesting mosaic-like scenery in a springtime

Another highlight of our stay was the evening boat trip in search of Beavers. Just before sunset we drove to the small river port, where we boarded our flat bottomed boat. The local crew gently cruised down the river spotlighting darkening banks, where these amazing rodents fed, groomed or just swam along close to our boat, totally undisturbed by our presence. During ca. one hour trip we saw about 20 Beavers! And when the warm colors of sunset finally faded away, the sky dotted with countless stars made our cruise even more special and atmospheric.

Beaver seen at close during the evening boat trip at the Biebrza Marshes, photo by Andrzej Petryna
one of many Beavers residing at the Biebrza Marshes

Our short break came to an end quickly and before we knew, it was time to leave the peace and quiet of the Biebrza Marshes, its picturesque rural landscapes and hearthwarming sightings such as this…

White stork at its nest against the first light of a rising sun, photo by Andrzej Petryna
white stork at its nest against the first light of a rising sun

Traditionally, we have finished our tour in vibrant Warsaw with a short walk around historical Old Town, and a tasty lunch at a small restaurant. 

Below is a little photo gallery from our tour, and a very interesting comment from one of participants:

The headline species were wonderful to see but the tracks left by other animals, the less iconic ones and the birds at every turn really made the trip.
– Adrian Wright, UK, 6 Apr 2018

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