Saturday 17 June 2017

North East Poland - May Trip Report

I spent 5 nights in the famous birding region of north east Poland in May, with three in the Bialowieza forest area and two in the marshes of Biebrza. I didn't come across any widespread devastation in Bialowieza and managed to see my three target species (Collared Flycatcher, River Warbler and Thrush Nightingale), although views of all were frustratingly brief with limited photo opportunities.

In Biebrza, I found Aquatic Warbler at the renowned Dluga Luka boardwalk without any difficulty. My first visit in the late afternoon was successful - so no real need for my subsequent dusk and dawn returns.

A trip report is now available on my website, with full details of sites visited and illustrated with some of the photos I took.

Here is a brief taster! To see a gallery of my better trip images, click here.
Red-backed Shrike in Bialowieza 
White-winged Black Tern in Biebrza
Aquatic Warbler in Biebrza
Citrine Wagtail in Biebrza


  1. You didn't see any clear felling because those parts of the forest that are being trashed have been closed to the public, covering about 2/3 of the forest complex. They're felling 20 ha per day, all through the breeding season. The felling is to the west and north/west of Bialowieza village, towards Narewka.

  2. Sounds horrendous. The track to Narewka had a red barrier across part of it, but it would have been easy enough to drive round it. Not sure even the locals are aware of this, though.

  3. Locals are well aware. Half of them are for it, supporting the nationalist, populist party in charge, PiS, which has taken control of state TV & radio to pump out daily propaganda and 'alternative facts'. The other half are protesting, especially those involved with tourism, science and the arts. There are increasing demonstrations, including sit-ins and chaining to machinery to stop them felling. The police (with new heads hand-picked by the govt to do their bidding) have been getting more heavy handed. Here they are dealing with a national poet who was protesting in a 'restricted area': It's a bit like if the UK police slammed Andrew Motion's face into the ground at an anti-austerity march. PiS are rapidly turning Poland into a thug state. Felling Bialowieza is about showing who is in control and who has the power, and also about lining pockets. The Minister in charge (Szyszko) is a forester with friends and business contacts in the wood pulp industry. It's actually illegal under Polish constitution to ban people from entering common land like the forest, but PiS have also taken control of the high court system, so there is no redress. Chillingly, if you enter the closed parts of the forest now, a state forester will come and demand your i.d. documents and write down your details for some sort of 'list'. Even more chilling, the forestry dept also funds a counter-protest group, called SANTA, through state funds, which turns up at protests to rough up and intimidate the 'lefties'. They have erected a banner over the main road to Bialowieza at Hajnowka (maybe you saw it), which reads: "Pseudo-ecologists are destroying the forest, we will repair it", by which they mean fell it and replant as a plantation. The 'pseudo-ecologists' are the scientists at the national academies and the National Park, i.e. the top biological scientists in the country.