Participants: Valerie & Alan (UK), Sam (BE), Colin (UK), Julie & Kevin (UK), Kanut & Luca (DE), Lavinia & Corrie (UK), Krystyna (UK), Niels (DK), Dan (IE), Bart & Marteke (NL)
Wild Poland Team: Mariola, Michał, Peter & Łukasz
Lecturers: Dr Bartosz Pirga, Bieszczady National Park
Text by Łukasz Mazurek
Photos by Wild Poland Team
The 7th Wildlife Watching Festival is over and mission has been accomplished
This time we had a group of 15 participants and a fantastic time out in the wilderness of the Bieszczady Mountains. We have run over 20 trips in a week. We have walked the verdant river valleys, carpathian forest, tranquil glades and treeless ridges. We started at dawn and finished at dusk, we also walked out at night a few times and there was even one ethnography trip included.
The weather has been great, hotel comfortable and food delicious.
So what have we seen?
First and foremost – an overwhelming, unscathed nature and stunning landscapes. We hope everyone came back fully recharged, we certainly did! We have seen plenty of birds and some good mammals. We saw Bison almost every day, saw Brown Bears on two different trips, heard Wolves howling close and seen them well on two trips, plenty of Red & Roe Deer, Foxes, Raccoon Dogs, Martens, even a Wild Boar (despite them being heavily culled) or an Edible Dormouse (what a weird name these days).
The photo below is probably our favourite – a mother Brown Bear with three cubs seen for several minutes on a dusk patrol one evening by our happy group.
We started off with an opening ramble where everyone had a chance to get familiar with the hotel surroundings, directions for self guided walks and most importantly – the pristine Carpathian Forest. We even saw fresh Wolf and Bear tracks several minutes walk from the hotel!
After breakfast we hosted Dr Bartosz Pirga from the Bieszczady National Park who gave us an insightful talk about the large mammals of the Bieszczady Mountains.
The following Verdant River Valley and Dusk Patrol trips at some of our favourite, most secluded sites allowed everyone to warm up at their own pace, experience the unscathed countryside, forest, glades and see some good wildlife.
The highlights of Day 1 were:
The talk by Bartosz
Bison – 14
Lesser Spotted Eagle – 2
Great-Grey Shrike – 3
Black Stork – 1
plus Black Woodpeckers, Nutcrackers, Pygmy and Tawny Owls heard, plenty of fresh Bison, Bear, Wolf and Lynx tracks.
It was special for the dawn patrol group experiencing Wolves howling twice very near and later seeing one Wolf as it ran across the mountain slope. Bison were also seen by two groups plus a nice list of reptiles, dragonflies and birds. Unscathed landscapes made a huge impression on everyone and numerous fresh Bear and Wolf tracks and scat helped us plan the next days trips efficiently. Night drive was also fun with many Deer sightings, Raccoon Dog and hundreds if not thousands of frogs and toads on the road (this part not so fun, actually).
Wolf – 1 + howling
Bison – total 30
Eastern Hedgehog – 1
Raccoon Dog – 1
Red-backed Shrike – 1
Lesser Spotted Eagle – 3
Plus Yellow-bellied Toads, Grass Snakes, Adders, Slow Worm, Nutcrackers, Black Woodpeckers, Ravens, Cranes and many other birds.
We started off with birdwatching trip that took the group up to an unscathed countryside with tiny bogs and produced over 50 bird species – not bad as for late September when most migrants are now gone! The dusk patrol was also very successful as the group had good views of 6 Bison, many Deer, Fox on the hunt plus a Brown Bear very near on the way back (seen briefly by 4 participants as it walked through the forest next to our path!) and a Ural Owl hunting. A 2 hrs night drive brought us many Deer, one Wild Boar and 6 Bison seen well very near.
Brown Bear – 1
Bison – total 12
Ural Owl – 1 seen, 3 heard
Black Woodpecker – 1
Hawfinch – 3
Plus Pygmy Owls seen and heard, Tengmalm’s (Boreal) Owl heard, Ural Owls heard and a Fire Salamander seen on an owl recce.
This morning’s dawn patrol was a highlight to many participants for the close views of Bison herd at the riverside, sounds of Red Deer stags bellowing and fighting close and spectacular sunrise. This, as well as later trips also brought us many more new and fresh Wolf and Bear tracks and scat so we knew we were on a good track. An evening Owling trip was unforgettable for the brief views of Pygmy Owls overhead and a fantastic walk through the forest under stars with the sounds of Ural and Tengmalm’s (Boreal) Owls.
Bison – total 14
Pygmy Owl – 2 seen briefly
Ural Owl – 3 heard
Tawny Owl – 1 seen close on a night drive
Plus once again fantastic views and experiences of being out in the wilderness at dawn and dusk.
The dawn patrol today was perfectly planned according to our best knowledge and tracking insight and the whole group experienced thrilling sounds of Wolves howling from two different sides and later had excellent views of one Wolf on the track in front of them. Listening to all these sounds (wolves howling, Red Deer roaring) at day break, surrounded by mist and an old-growth forest was.. there are no words to describe how spectacular and reenergising it was.
Part of the group went on a self guided hike up the highest peak of Tarnica (1346 m.) while others joined the usual dusk patrol. Our efforts have paid and the happy group watched a female Brown Bear with 3 cubs for several minutes. To see them behaving completely naturally, cubs running away and refusing to lie down, mother trying to get hold of them – it was a once in a lifetime experience. Congratulations guys! But it wasn’t over as on the way back, apart from many Deer roaring, a Raccoon Dog and a few Tawny Owls we saw a beautiful Edible Dormouse in torchlight very near.
Brown Bear – 1 mother with 3 cubs seen well
Edible Dormouse – 1
Raccoon Dog – 1
Plus once again a few roaring Red Deer, Foxes, 4 Tawny Owls, Brown Hare and fantastic landscapes.
The last full day of the festival brought a great morning in the hotel area with pristine Carpathian Forest, several Pygmy Owls and many Red Deer roaring, 13 Bison incl. calves and a brief sighting of a Wolf on a dawn patrol plus four more Bison and Deer, Fox and a Ural Owl at the end of the day. There were also many Cranes migrating overhead today, heard everywhere and seen a few times. Part of the group joined our usual ethnography tour we always plan for the last day and everyone enjoyed it thoroughly.
Traditionally, we finished with a campfire, smoked sausages and a few Polish beverages long into the night.
Many thanks for a great time to everyone who joined and to Mother Nature for showing its beauty and being so generous with unforgettable sightings!
Here is also one of several great opinions we received from the participants:
A very special adventure! Highly intelligent guides with thought provoking conversation really made the holiday. Their warmth, friendliness and humour made each day a joy… as well as spotting incredible mammals and birds in the beautiful landscape. Add the odd spot of vodka and you will find yourself falling in love with Poland by the end of the week!!
– Julie Warburton (UK)
As always, we hope you will enjoy a small selection of photographs from this festival, below: