Tour Leader: Łukasz Mazurek (Luke)
Participants: Karin & Tim (UK), Julian & Natalie (UK), Thibault & Thomas (FR)
Text and photos by Łukasz Mazurek
It has been a very hot few weeks and the first rainy morning in Kraków in a long time as we picked everyone up. We stopped for lunch en route (traditional Polish ‘schabowy’ pork chop with chips) and arrived at our hotel in the Bieszczady Mts late afternoon.
We checked in and decided to go out for a short walk. It was very misty and we could’t see far but the silence and vast space were very recharging. We have found many Fire-bellied Toads in the puddles and everyone enjoyed this first outing.
On the second day, we woke up to a rainy and very foggy weather so decided to explore the forest at its edge with the river valley. We have done over 12 km this early morning and have seen several Nutcrackers, 2 Lesser Spotted Eagles, many Ravens, Whinchats, Pipits, Roe Deer and several Wolf and Bear fresh scat and tracks in mud.
After breakfast and a midday siesta followed by lunch the weather improved and we went out for a walk onto one of our favourite vantage points. We have spent a wonderful evening there with 9 Bison seen very well (and the usual Roe Deer, too). Chances for large predators were little, though, as we saw several people marching across the glade as well as a family with children camping just at the side of it.
Having done over 20 km on foot yesterday, we decided to take it easy and do much shorter walks on the 3rd day, spending more time at vantage points. The morning brought us a herd of 14 Bison, 1 Roe Deer and very fresh tracks of a huge Bear. In the evening we have spotted a herd of 30 Bison, Roe and Red Deer, several Red-backed Shrikes, Tree Pipits and a Lesser Spotted Eagle plus the usual several groups of loud tourists marching across the glade. By now it was very obvious that a large number of Polish tourists took a wilderness holiday in the country this year.
On our last full day, trying to get away from the crowds, we have explored the forest and meadows on the border with Ukraine. We have started at dawn at a Beaver pond. Tawny and Pygmy Owls were active and the latter responded very well but didn’t show. The Beaver did, however, and everyone had a short but good view of it swimming across the pond in torchlight.
We had an atmospheric walk through the forest and meadows bordering Ukraine, saw Red Deer, Nutcracker and some other birds but no predators. The evidence of former Ruthenian villages and an old cemetery was touching.
In the evening, we took a longer walk along the border with Ukraine and also through the forest, stopping at a vantage point at sunset. We had a very good view of a Lesser Spotted Eagle, Hobby, Great Grey Shrike, Buzzards, Crossbills, Red Fox, 3 Roe Deer and a huge Common Toad. We have also found some very fresh Wolf tracks as well as Wild Boar scat and fresh Brown Bear scat but saw no other large mammals.
On our final day we decided to go out at dawn once again (before heading back to Kraków) and went up to our best vantage point. Saw a Fox and a Hedgehog on the way and arrived at the parking site at the break of dawn. As we walked up the hill it was just getting bright and we took our position. Within the next 2 hours we have seen a total of 72 Bison, 3 Red Deer and 3 Roe Deer. At one point, when the Sun was already up, something that could be a Wolf ran across a distant glade but we had no second sighting to confirm.
After the usual hearty breakfast back at our hotel we took a short nap and headed back to Kraków. We have visited all the best sites, walked over 60 km in 5 days and really done our best. The unscathed nature and views of animals and their evidence were fantastic. Here are a few more photos from this tour: