Many shops sell bread and other lunch items, and naturally you will want to have your lunch in the field, watching the White-tailed Eagles, or a Hoopoe at its nest. Shops are indicated as such (sklep) and the only other two Polish words we used were czesc for hallo (pronounced as chech) and especially dziekuje for thank you (pronounced as dzjenkooyeh).
|Polish money can be
obtained now from many cash machines serving
most credit cards and also Cirrus. There are several
in Gorzow, and a very useful one in the village of
Witnica right along the main road from border town
Kostrzyn to Gorzow, at N 52°4034 E
15°0024, next to a shop with bread.
The Polish are good map makers and we heavily relied on the excellent 1:100.000 map of the region (Okolice Gorzowa Wlkp). This map is sold locally for only 1.4 euro (a Dutch map of similar high quality would cost a sixfold of this). We had got it beforehand from a friend (Arend) who had been here 3 weeks before, and he also gave us many hints for birding stake-outs. Without his help this trip would have been far less succesful.
We came in our own car
but it seems possible to drive in a rental car from
Berlin into Poland. Somebody told me they did it with
Hertz (they had asked them beforehand).
On the first full day (Friday 25 May) we restricted ourselves to the long and winding river dikes SW of Gorzow. First the one which goes West from below Witnica, and on this one we used hours for only 2 km, with a calling Bittern every 300 meter or so. The best birds were a Penduline Tit on its long hanging nest (at N 52°4024 E 14°5341) and sightings of Thrush Nightingale nearby. We heard and mostly saw all the reed warblers except Aquatic Warbler. Gradually we got used to seeing relatively often such goodies as Red-backed Shrike, Crane, Black Stork, Great Reed Warbler, Garganey.
The nearby ferry was out of service because the last stretch of the road up to it was still flooded, so we drove a 6 km detour eastward, to the bridge S of Nowiny. Across this bridge we followed the southern river dike eastward. We added Red-necked Grebe NE of the hamlet of Kolczyn, where a large old reed marsh with lakes (with a flying Bittern) is at the land side of the river dike, and several Black Tern nests in the river floodplain. Reed Bunting is everywhere, and we often met whole families of Fieldfare in the large trees near the idyllic farm cottages. There is a debate in the European Union now if houses in Poland should be freely for sale to Germans etc. after Poland has joined the EU. These cottages would be an easy prey for Berliners etc. because of the enormous price difference.
On Saturday 26 May we visited Drawienski national park ('park narodowy'), 50 km NE of Gorzow. This is a heavily forested and slightly elevated area with a few lakes and a small river running the length of the park, and some small old agricultural enclaves (photo). The forest is mixed deciduous along the river, and mixed pines and deciduous elsewhere. A narrow but good road traverses most of the park. This is the first paved road on the left after you have followed the long straight stretch of road 22 from Dobiegniew. Inside the park, in the central hamlet called Glusko is a small café & office where a good 1:50.000 map of the park is for sale.
We ticked a good supply of forest birds here, including Black Woodpecker (several), Honey Buzzard, Redstart, Wood Warbler, Firecrest, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, all 7 tits, Hawfinch, Bullfinch. We tried most of the bridges across the small river inside the forest, and were rewarded with four breeding bird specialties of this environment: Green Sandpiper, Goldeneye (3 young), Goosander, Kingfisher. Driving back along the cobblestone road West of the park we had Great Grey Shrike in the fields which reach into the forest here. Here, near the rather elevated hamlet of Radecin, it would be worthwhile to check the air above the park for Lesser Spotted Eagle (mentioned for this park on a web site) but then you may need several hours of course.
The Slonsk bird reserve is the most western and wettest part of the main goal of our trip, the lower Warta river valley. In this reserve we stayed all Sunday 27 May. A narrow concrete road runs from the NW outskirts (N 52°3435 E 14° 4718) of the Slonsk village for a few kms into the reserve, and for the most part you may only walk here - a glorious walk barely above the water level, in a very bird rich river wetland, alongside a creek. Here we had several pairs of Black-necked Grebe, some with young on their back. Three to four White-tailed Eagles of different age were roaming the area. Little Terns passed us close by all the time, on their way to the mixed tern and gull colonies further on. Two Wood Sandpipers were the last of many that must have been here just a month before. A Great White Egret was also present.
One km along the main road from Slonsk to the West is a small sign (at N 52°3318 E 14°4730) telling that something is at 2000 m from there. This is for a tall hide on a small rise inside the reserve, to be reached along a (now) driveable track. This drier border of the marsh did not produce many bird species but the multitude of singing Sky Lark is a good sign, and typically this was also the only place where we saw a few Ruff, another species which is much more numerous a month earlier.
We visited three more spots along that road from Slonsk to Kostrzyn but we didnt see that much either. From the reserves information centre not far from Kostrzyn a trail leads to the right to a pond where Little Crake had been seen. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was in the large trees bordering this dike road through the marshes.
That night the clear weather changed and our last full day, Monday 28 May, was overcast with rain spells. Yet we we still had several stake-outs to go. The first was a site for Aquatic Warbler along a trail (starting at N 52°3239 E 14°4440) into the same bird reserve and from the same road as the foregoing afternoon. The low sedge habitat seemed perfect for this rare and difficult species but we didnt get it. What we did get however, were loads of Snipe (another species that has declined so much in western Europe) and a close but safe encounter with a family of Wild Boar (with 6 piglets) walking through this wet open sedge marsh.
On we went to a site ( N 52°3151 E 14°4305) 2 km N of Zabice, where the small road crosses the Czerwony canal (photo), and near here we saw the promised Hoopoe in its nesting tree in the meadow, and a Barred Warbler, highly territorial and yet difficult to detect. At the same spot we also had another Great Grey Shrike.
We had our field lunch at a small lake between the low hills W of the road from Gronow to Charlow and here we got fine views of Wryneck.
Then we went on to the beautiful mixed beech forest at the border of the Warta valley bottom, between Slonsk and Lemierzyce. We had a long spell of rain here (our track starts at N 52°3340 E 14°5300) but the forest should be good for a/o Red-breasted Flycatcher and Black Woodpecker. A sign of the good quality of the forest were the sad road kills of martins (Martes spec.).
Finally we slowly
drove the splendid river dike stretch from Slonsk to
the NE (starts E of the big church) with wetlands on
the river side and wet meadows and some reed beds on
the other side. Despite the weather we had a nice
retrospect of many species here, like Black Tern, Red-necked
Grebe, Savis Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler.
Along this dike we also saw the house of a Hoopoe
Wildlife Tours and sitting in the car we read their
address through the rain: firstname.lastname@example.org and tel. +48 95 75 72 212.
We had a fine farewell dinner at Don Vitorio in Gorzow and found it hard to leave this lovely region the next morning, when we drove back to Berlin (for our friends flight back to London) and on to Holland.
Below is the species list. This includes several heard-only observations, but all species were actually seen (once or more often), except Golden Oriole, Nightingale and Water Rail.
25/5 - Along the dikes of the river Warta, between Witnica and Gorzow 26/5 - Drawienski National Park (forest, streams) 27/5 - Bird reserve Slonsk in valley bottom of river Warta near mouth in Oder 28/5 - South border of Warta valley near Slonsk sev = several 25/5 26/5 27/5 28/5 Little Grebe 1 Dodaars Great Crested Grebe sev 1 4 2 Fuut Red-necked Grebe 3 1 Roodhalsfuut Black-necked Grebe many Geoorde Fuut Cormorant 2 3 many many Aalscholver Bittern 7 2 Roerdomp Night Heron 1 Kwak Great White Egret 1 Grote Zilverreiger Grey Heron many 2 sev sev Blauwe Reiger Black Stork sev sev 1 Zwarte Ooievaar White Stork sev sev many Ooievaar Mute Swan sev many many Knobbelzwaan Greylag Goose 4 sev Grauwe Gans Shelduck 8 Bergeend Gadwall sev sev 2 Krakeend Teal 4 Wintertaling Mallard sev sev many sev Wilde Eend Garganey many many many Zomertaling Shoveler sev Slobeend Pochard sev sev sev sev Tafeleend Tufted Duck 8 sev sev sev Kuifeend Goldeneye 1 2 1 Brilduiker Goosander 1f Grote Zaagbek Honey-buzzard 1 Wespendief Black Kite 1 Zwarte Wouw Red Kite 1 Rode Wouw White-tailed Eagle 1 4 Zeearend Marsh Harrier 4 3 Bruine Kiekendief Sparrowhawk 1 pair Sperwer Buzzard sev sev sev sev Buizerd Osprey 1 Visarend Kestrel 2 1 1 Torenvalk Pheasant 2 Fazant Water Rail 2 Waterral Coot sev 3 many many Meerkoet Crane 7 15 30 20+ Kraanvogel Oystercatcher 3 Scholekster Little Ringed Plover 4 Kleine Plevier Lapwing 6 sev sev Kievit Snipe 1 3 many Watersnip Black-tailed Godwit 3 Grutto Redshank sev Tureluur Green Sandpiper 2 Witgatje Wood Sandpiper 3 2 Bosruiter Black-headed Gull many 2 many many Kokmeeuw Common Gull sev Stormmeeuw Herring Gull 3 1 Zilvermeeuw Common Tern 4 many sev Visdief Little Tern sev Dwergstern Black Tern many many many Zwarte Stern Stock dove 4 2 2 Holenduif Wood Pigeon sev sev sev sev Houtduif Collared Dove sev sev sev sev Turkse tortel Turtle Dove 2 Zomertortel Cuckoo 3 sev 4 Koekoek Swift 3 sev sev Gierzwaluw Kingfisher 3 IJsvogel Hoopoe 1 Hop Wryneck 1 Draaihals Black Woodpecker 3 Zwarte Specht Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 sev 1 Grote Bonte Specht Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 1 Kleine Bonte Specht Sky Lark 3 2 sev many Veldleeuwerik Sand Martin sev Oeverzwaluw Barn Swallow sev sev sev sev Boerenzwaluw House Martin sev sev sev sev Huiszwaluw Tree Pipit 2 1 Boompieper Meadow Pipit 2 Graspieper Yellow Wagtail 7+ many sev Gele Kwikstaart White Wagtail 6 sev sev sev Witte Kwikstaart Wren sev Winterkoning Robin sev Roodborst Thrush Nightingale sev 2 Noordse Nachtegaal Nightingale 1 1 1 Nachtegaal Black Redstart 1 1 2 2 Zwarte Roodstaart Redstart 1 Gekraagde Roodstaart Whinchat 3 1 4 4 Paapje Blackbird 1 sev sev Merel Fieldfare 20+ sev sev sev Kramsvogel Song Thrush 5 Zanglijster Mistle Thrush 1 Grote Lijster Grasshopper Warbler 3 1 Sprinkhaanzanger River Warbler 1 (24/5)Krekelzanger Savi's Warbler 3 2 Snor Sedge Warbler sev 2 many Rietzanger Marsh Warbler sev 2 Bosrietzanger Reed Warbler sev sev Kleine Karekiet Great Reed Warbler 7 4 1 Grote Karekiet Icterine Warbler 4 1 Spotvogel Barred Warbler 2 Sperwergrasmus Lesser Whitethroat 1 1 1 3 Braamsluiper Whitethroat sev 5 sev sev Grasmus Garden Warbler 2 3 1 Tuinfluiter Blackcap 1 1 1 Zwartkop Wood Warbler sev Fluiter Chiffchaff 4 sev 1 Tjiftjaf Willow Warbler sev sev 2 Fitis Goldcrest 3 Goudhaan Firecrest 5 Vuurgoudhaan Spotted Flycatcher 3 sev Grauwe Vliegenvanger Pied Flycatcher 2 Bonte Vliegenvanger Bearded Tit 2 Baardman Long-tailed Tit sev 1 Staartmees Marsh Tit 3 Glanskop Willow Tit 1 3 2 Matkop Crested Tit 2 Kuifmees Coal Tit 4 Zwarte Mees Blue Tit 1 sev 2 Pimpelmees Great Tit 1 sev Koolmees Nuthatch 4 Boomklever Short-toed Treecreeper 2 4 1 1 Boomkruiper Penduline Tit sev Buidelmees Golden Oriole 1 Wielewaal Red-backed Shrike 8 5 sev sev Grauwe Klauwier Great Grey Shrike 1 1 Klapekster Jay 2 Vlaamse Gaai Magpie sev 3 sev Ekster Jackdaw 3 5 Kauw Hooded Crow many sev sev sev Bonte Kraai Raven 6 sev many Raaf Starling sev many many many Spreeuw House Sparrow sev sev sev sev Huismus Tree Sparrow 4 1 Ringmus Chaffinch sev many 2 Vink Serin 1 at hotel Europese Kanarie Greenfinch 5 1 6 Groenling Goldfinch sev 6 2 Putter Linnet 2 Kneu Redpoll Barmsijs Common Rosefinch 2 2 Roodmus Bullfinch 3 Goudvink Hawfinch 4 1 Appelvink Yellowhammer sev sev sev many Geelgors Ortolan Bunting 1 Ortolaan Reed Bunting many sev sev Rietgors Corn Bunting 2 sev Grauwe Gors