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Bison Safari In The Białowieża Forest, January 2018

Bison Safari in the Białowieża Forest, January 2018

Tour Leader: Andrzej Petryna (Andy)
Participants: Laura & Nathaniel (AU), Colin, Stuart, Colin (UK), Joseph (IE), Thierry (FR)

Text by Andrzej Petryna & Mariola Przyborowska
Photos by Andrzej Petryna

Although New Year begun with rain and mild weather resembling late autumn rather than Polish winter, our first Bison Safari in 2018 started right at the time, when cold front approaching from the north has reached eastern part of Poland. The temperatures dropped down suddenly to the level of minus 7 – minus 10°C. There was no snow at the time we arrived in Białowieża, however some light dusting was expected in coming days. Lack of snow was a little disappointing, but in turn the sightings were rewarding!

Checking out the meadows in search of wild bison, Białowieża Forest, photo by Andrzej Petryna

Bison watching was very successful – during our daily trips we have spotted few separate groups of animals in different parts of Bialowieza Forest. From close encounters with small groups of adult bulls (2 to 8 animals), to the more distant view of a large herd counting ca. 90 cows with calves along with young males, we have seen in total ca. 110 Bison. It actually makes ca. 20% of entire Bison population in the Białowieża Forest!

Bison Bulls at the meadow in Białowieża Forest, photo by Andrzej Petryna

We have visited several sites, where chances of seeing large herds were the highest, including the northernmost part of the forest with many glades within.

Herd of Bison feeding at the outskirts of Białowieża Forest, photo by Andrzej Petryna

While wolf tracking was quite challenging in such weather circumstances and chances of spotting any footprints on the stone frozen ground were very slim, we found instead many other interesting traces of wolves’ activity in the area – scratches, droppings, and finally remnants of Red Deer killed few days ago at the bank of the forest river. This is just a piece of what we came across…

Wolf prey found nearby the river in Białowieża Forest, photo by Andrzej Petryna

At the same river’s banks we noticed fresh signs of beaver activity, and also few Red Deer were spotted in the area. Apparently the river and the fencing of the Strict Reserve right behind make a perfect terrain for a pack of wolves chasing their prey.

Various habitats in Białowieża Forest, photo by Andrzej Petryna

Few hours walk in the Strict Protection Area of the National Park has shown us the raw beauty of natural forest. Primeval woods on a gray cloudy day seemed still and indeed very atmospheric. Although the day was exceptionally cold, we were lucky to spot a Black Woodpecker. Some common birds we noticed included small flocks of Crested and Willow Tits, while outside the Strict Reserve we saw an adult White-tailed Eagle.

Inside the Strict Reserve in Białowieża National Park, photo by Andrzej Petryna

Traditionally we have finished our tour with a visit at the Old Town in Warsaw. Before saying goodbye to each other we had a short walk around the historical quarter followed by a tasty lunch at a small atmospheric restaurant.

Some more photos from our tour are available in the photo gallery:

Here is what our guests particularly liked about their holiday:

The experience of witnessing a timeless sight of bison in winter, something that has been since the Ice Age.
– Stuart Brooks, UK, 12 Jan 2018

The walk through the Białowieża Strict Reserve was an inspiring and educational experience – very much a worthwhile trip just for this component.
– Laura Ruykys, Australia, 12 Jan 2018

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