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Bison Bulls At Sunrise, Białowieża Forest, Photo By Andrzej Petryna

Primeval Forest and Marshes, Sep 2017

Tour Leader: Andrzej Petryna (Andy)
Participants: Lori (US), Andy and Vanessa (UK), Anne and Claire (AU), Jean and John (UK)

Text by Andrzej Petryna & Mariola Przyborowska
Photos by Andrzej Petryna

Although the first part of our tour, a 4-day stay in the Białowieża Forest, has started in rainy autumn weather, it didn’t stop us from visiting our favourite sites like the meadows in the northern part of the forest, where on one of the days we observed a large herd of Bison (ca. 80 animals strong, mostly cows with calves and young males). We had a great and lenghty opportunity to watch the animals from a safe distance, as they get very cautious.  The photo below shows a single female and her young, observing our group:

Watching the European Bison - cautious cow with young at the meadow in the Białowieża Forest, photo by Andrzej Petryna

Our second meeting with Bison was very interesting too. The weather improved, and with the morning sun gazing over the meadow we had a fantastic sighting of two impressive bulls feeding at the edge of the forest.

As usual, the highlight of our stay was a visit to the Strict Reserve of the National Park, the most natural part of the Białowieża Forest, designated the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ca. 6 hours walk with our expert NP guide was a valuable lesson in forest ecology. September is the best time of the year for colorful mushrooms, and we came across an incredible range of species growing on the ground, as well as those existing on deadwood. What is more, we observed interesting birds such as White-backed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers. Below photo shows the autumn aspect of the Primeval Forest:

Autumn in the Strict Protection Area of the National Park, photo by Andrzej Petryna

On a transfer day from Białowieża Forest to Biebrza Marshes we traditionally stopped at Dojlidy Fishponds near Białystok, to observe the ambundance of water birds (Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon, Garganey, Mallard, as well as Red-necked and Black-necked Grebe), with some Bearded Reedlings and Penduline Tits feeding in the reeds, but the undoubted highlight of this stopover was a view of White-tailed Eagle and an Osprey (very impressive birds of prey!).

White-tailed Eagle seen at Dojlidy Fishponds, photo by Andrzej Petryna

Large flock of Cranes feeding at the field welcomed us upon our arrival to the second destination, the Biebrza Marshes.

Flock of Cranes feeding at the field, Biebrza Marshes, photo by Andrzej Petryna

The second part of our tour was dedicated to exploration of the best sites in the Biebrza Marshes. After heavy rainfall the water level in the Biebrza Valley was very high, leaving the peaty areas along the river severly flooded. In this picturesque scenery we watched great numbers of waders on autumn migration, including Ruff, Redshank, and Greenshank, but also some Black, Whiskered and White-winged Terns. We also visited the famous Red Bog Reserve, the strict protection area of the Biebrza National Park with its variety of landscapes, from wet alder forest and bogs overgrown with dwarf trees, through sedges and sandy dunes, where we actually came across Tracks of Wolves and Badgers, and spotted numerous Grass Snakes, and Viviparous Lizards, like the one below:

Viviparous lizard at the sandy dunne, Biebrza Marshes, photo by Andrzej Petryna

We also enjoyed a remarkable view of this adorable Crested Tit feeding on a pine tree:

Crested tit, Biebrza Marshes, photo by Andrzej Petryna

The evening boat cruise at the Narew River was as always successful and brought us very close to Beavers feeding and grooming at water’s edge…

Beaver seen during an evening boat trip at the Biebrza Marshes, photo by Andrzej Petryna

… while our early morning wake ups and dawn patrols paid off with spotting 3 male Elks (Moose) at Bagno Ławki. Here is a photo showing an impressive vastness of the autumn marshland with one of the Elks browsing far away in the background.

Bagno Ławki with an Elk (Moose) in a distance, Biebrza Marshes, photo by Andrzej Petryna

Traditionally we finished our tour back at Warsaw, with short walk around the Old Town followed by delectable lunch in a small atmospheric restaurant.

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