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Carpathian Autumn Wildlife Festival 2019 Photo Report

Carpathian Autumn Wildlife Festival 2019 photo report

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.

Brown bear with three cubs seen on Wild Poland Festival in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Brown bear with three cubs seen on Wild Poland Festival in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians

Day 1

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.

Wolf footprint in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Wolf footprint in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians

Day 2

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).

Highlights:

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.

San River valley in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
San River valley in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians

Day 3

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.

Highlights:

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.

Wild herd of European Bison in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Wild herd of European Bison in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians

Day 4

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.

Highlights:

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.

Sunrise in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Sunrise in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians

Day 5

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.

Highlights:

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.

Edible Dormouse in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Edible Dormouse in the Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians

Day 6

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:

Festival Inauguration, Carpathian Autumn Wildlife Festival 2019
Ready For A Dusk Patrol! Carpathian Autumn Wildlife Festival 2019
Old Growth Forest In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Brown Bear Footprints 5 Minutes Walk From Our Hotel In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Sunrise In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Deep In The Forest Of The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Tawny Owl In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Fire Salamander In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Evening Summary At The Festival Office, Carpathian Autumn Wildlife Festival 2019
Hiking In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Pygmy Owl In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Yellow-bellied Toad In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
New Trips Are Up At The Festival Office, Carpathian Autumn Wildlife Festival 2019
Moorland Hawker In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Wild Herd Of European Bison In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Red Squirrel In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Scarletina Bolete In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Border With Ukraine In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Primitive Baptismal Font In Beniowa, Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Primeval Landscape Of The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Breathtaking Sunset In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
On A Trip With Wild Poland At The Carpathian Festival 2019 In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Slow Worm In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Nutcracker In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians - A Common Sighting!
Lesser Spotted Eagle In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Unscathed Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
On A Lookout For Mammals In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Grass Snake In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Viviparous Lizard In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
European Bison Seen Early Morning In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Brown Bear With Three Cubs In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
Ethnography Tour In The Bieszczady Mountains, Eastern Carpathians
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