Tour Leader: Bartosz Smyk (Bart)
Participants: Lisa and Anna (IT), Anke (DE), Christine and Zbigniew (AU), Sheila and Irek (UK), Julie, David, Piper and Wilson (US)
Text by Bartosz Smyk & Mariola Przyborowska
Photos by Bartosz Smyk
DAY 1, Friday, 19th July
As usual, our tour started in Warsaw around midday. Once we have all gathered together, we started ca. four-hour journey towards the Białowieża Forest at the north-eastern border of Poland. After short lunch break just outside of Warsaw we left the comfortable express road and turned into a country road, which offered much better insight into the landscapes of Masovian and Podlasie voivodeships (mainly mosaic of fields, pastures and managed forests), as well as a glimpse of architecture of towns and villages. The most noticeable representatives of Polish wildlife which we noticed on the way were White Storks. From the bus we were able to observe many of them, mostly juveniles in the nests, already nicely grown up and almost ready for their first flight.
After arrival and dinner at our hotel we met again for the first walk, to get familiar with the closest area. As we moved towards the outskirts of the Białowieża village, we carefully scanned the meadows and edges of the forest with a hope of spotting first respresentatives of local wildlife. As a result, in the last moments of daylight we observed several grazing Red Deer, Roe Deer, and a young Red Fox on the hunt for some small prey, while Noctule Bats silently hunted insects above our heads. It was finally time for some rest before an early morning wake up the following morning.
DAY 2, Saturday 20th July
Today we woke up before dawn. It was barely 3 am when we left the hotel and transferred towards the northern part of the Białowieża Forest, to the rural areas where vast meadows serve as a favourite feeding sites for large herds of Bison. First 2 hours of intensive search brought us the sight of several Roe Deer and beautifully bright Golden Oriole. The sun was already high over the horizon when we finally found ourselves in the right place at the right time. For the start we noticed some movement in the forest, and we were sure that in a moment we will see not one, but a group of Bison appearing at the edge of the meadow. It was a moment full of excitement when the herd finally came out in the open – we counted 18 individuals!
Keeping at a safe distance, we watched the Bison for a longer while and enjoyed an amazing show of their behavior, from steady grazing and resting at the meadow, to the playful ramming between young bulls. Everyone had a chance for a proper photo session.
After well deserved breakfast and short rest at the hotel, we set off for a day out in the forest. For the start we visited lake Topiło, an artificial forest lake with interesting educational path around. Warm afternoon was a perfect time for butterflies and we spotted lots of interesting species, including Silver-washed Fritillary, Map and Red Admiral, as well as few representatives of largest local dragonflie, the Blue Emperor.
After lunch we moved to the wherebouts of Budy, the village nearby Białowieża, where we entered a very interesting trail leading through the alder forest. The site is an exquisite habitat for woodpeckers and while there, we managed to catch a glimpse of a Middle Spotted and a Black Woodpecker. It was already long and very active day, nevertheless after dinner we decided upon yet another walk, this time in the closest vicinity of the hotel. Our eagerness was nicely rewarded. Walking along the Narewka River we spotted from a close distance 3 swimming Beavers, as well as Daubenton’s Bats silently hunting for insects just above a water surface.
Day 3, Sunday, 21st July
Today we visited the Strictly Protected Area of the Białowieża NP, the core part of the Białowieża Forest, protected since 1921 and listed the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our local guide, Irek, explained to us ecological and historical facts about this amazing site, where the cycle of natural processes still goes on, undisturbed. We have a chance to see the tremendous variety of fungis growing on living, dying and decaying trees, some of them pretty outstanding in their colors and shapes. What was even more interesting, on one of the forest tracks we came across Wolf’s scratches on the ground. It was pretty easy to imagine these elusive predators moving swiftly through the ancient forest. All in all, it was a fascinating walk through the rich nature and history, and thanks to Irek, a very educating too. We enjoyed our packed lunch and freshly brewed coffee out in the forest, barely noticing passing time and changing weather, and we were quite surprised when we noticed quickly approaching clouds. Just on the way back to the hotel we got caught by a sudden shower, that made us all completely wet. Typical Polish summer 😉
After well deserved rest and tasty dinner at our hotel, we gathered once again for the evening drive to northern outskirts of the forest. We aimed for more interesting sightings of mammals, especially Bison. We got lucky pretty quickly. Just a few minutes drive through the forest took us to the wherebouts of village Teremiski, where we spotted from the bus a lone bull. We watched the Bison for a while, as it walked with dignity across the meadow.
When we finally reached the northern side of the forest and climbed the viewing tower near Leśna, the vast meadows were already vanishing in the thick mist. Although it reduced our chances for seeing wildlife, the peace and quiet of the place and the amazing silence around made our evening enjoyable and somewhat special. It was already dark when we boarded our bus. The drive back to the hotel was a fantastic opportunity for spotting some nocturnal species, and this time we saw in the headlights of our bus two mammals we haven’t encountered before – a Badger and an Edible Dormouse.
DAY 4, Monday, 22nd July
After breakfast and check-out we transfered back to Warsaw. We arrived at lunch time and started our visit at the Old Town from a traditional Polish meal in a small restaurant. It was the last chance for recalling highligts of our time together. Afterwards we took a walk around Warsaw’s most beautiful part, the UNESCO-listed, beautifuly restored Old Town.
Please, enjoy a small photo gallery from our tour: