Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Southern Poland - Bears & Birds

Brown BearIn recent years Poland has become a popular destination for birdwatchers from other parts of Europe.  We are in the extreme south east of the country, where Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland meet, we will travel along the former Soviet border, taking in habitats that range from mountains and the majestic beech forest of the Carpathian uplands, to lower-altitude - mixed woodlands and steppe. The Bieszczady Biosphere Reserve (consisting of a National Park and adjacent lands) holds most of the wildlife to be found on the Eastern Carpathian Mountains. As well as European Brown Bear we hope to find some very special bird species such as Pygmy, Tengmalm's & Ural Owls, Hazelhen, Black, White backed & Three toed Woodpeckers.

Our second range the Tatra Mountains are regarded as the most beautiful of the mountainous National Parks of Poland. Here also there is a good chance of finding bears as well high mountain species such a Chamois, Water Pipit and Alpine Accentor. We finish our holiday searching the Zator Fishponds a vast area of wetlands that will be covered with waders & wildfowl of all description. This week-long tour enables you to experience the remarkable scenery of these special places and to meet some of the local people of the mountains.

In addition to this we also offer an optional excursion to the German Nazi Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau just 10 kilometers from the excellent Zator fishponds.

Flights are planned to go from London Gatwick - Krakow using Easyjet (here)

brown bearDay 1:- Arrival to Krakow and passage to the rolling Bieszczady Mountains, which are situated in the south east corner of Poland between the borders of Slovakia and Ukraine, with the beautiful valley of San River in the north. These mountains are easy to walk and reach a high of 1300m covered with open meadows. The region has a very low population density (5-10 people/sq. km) and after the last war local people were moved to the Ukraine because of political reasons. This left the land to the wildlife with wide open fields and meadows that are excellent hunting areas for birds of prey and for observing mammals. Primaeval forests are home to all the European species of woodpeckers and many other birds rare that have now become extinct in Western Europe. 4 nights in a country hotel with excellent local food and wildlife in the garden.

fire salamanderDays 2, 3 & 4:- We will explore amazing meadows and forests to observe good birds and mammals. Our aim will be Owls which are all year round present. Especially Eagle & Pygmy Owls are quite easy to see in their teritories in day time. Very often magnificant Ural Owls sit on the edge of forest of and wait for prey on open meadows. Tengmalm's Owl is more difficult in autumn but still possible. They react our calling and arrive to defend the teritory. Hazelhen often cross roads and even feed on horses droppings where they may find seeds. They are easy to atract with special whistle. It is perfect time of the year as thety create teritories for the next breeding season. There will be an opportunity to find most of the European woodpeckers with White backed, Three toed, Black, Middle spotted & Grey headed Woodpeckers. Another highlight are the Nutcrackers that collect nuts for harsh winter in Bieszczady Mountains. Birds of prey are represented by Golden Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle and Black Storks still present in their breeding ground. It will be good pasage of Common Cranes flying to hungary along the San river. The birds present at this time in the mountaines: Common & Rough legged Buzzards, Peregrine, Kestrel, Merlin, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Raven, Northern Long tailed, Crested, Willow, Marsh, Coal, Blue & Great Tits, Nutchatch, Hawfinch, Crossbill, Siskin, Short toed Treecreeper, Corn Bunting and Lesser Redpoll.

We will be looking to find :-

  • Red Deer - this is the optimum of roaming season with many of them still roaring during the day and night. With a bit of luck we will spot them when rutting in open meadows of a magical misty morning.
  • Brown Bears - at this time of year they become very active just before their hibernation, and our local expert guides know the animals' routines, foraging or hunting sites that they visit before their long winter sleep.
  • Bisons - we will know exactly places where they are as they have favourite feeding places.
  • Beavers - this is an excallent place to see them and they are very busy in the evenings to collect branches for winter time. Their lodges and dams are found close to the accommodation.

Autumn flowering plants with Gentians Gentianella cilliata and Gentiana asclepiadea and Colchicus autumnalle. The other higlight is Fire Salamander the only amphibian mating in autumn.

Day 5:- Early morning again in the Bieszczady area followed by breakfast and then a drive to the Tatra Mountains National Park. The Tatra Mountain range is a World Biosphere Reserve and is shared between Poland and Slovakia. The Polish sector is divided into granite rocks on the high east, and limestone in the lower west. Vegetation zones change very visibly with the increase in altitude, with lower forests of beech and fir and upper forest of spruce and dwarf pine shrubs above the timber line. Above this there are only alpine meadows with a few species of creeping willows amongst the rocks. Here there is a very good chance of seeing Brown Bears here as they foraige for apples and bees on the wooded mountain slopes. Your local guide will get the most up-to-date information from the local wardens on their whereabouts. 2 nights in Tatra Mountains.

Day 6:- Today we take the cable car to reach Kasprowy Wierch high above the clouds (1,987m) where Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit occur and in some years, Dotterel may be seen. It is also a place for Chamois and Alpine Marmot that live in higher parts of the mountains. Within the Carpathian arch the Tatras are the predominate area for high mountain flora of exceptional richness with about 1300 species of vascular plants being found. Among them are a few western Carpathian endemics like Cochlearia tatrae or Delphinium oxyspelatum. After lunch we will visit one of the valleys in the western limestone part of Tatra Mountains with their unusual rock formations and deep gorges. Old mountain shelters are numerous on the meadows and karst processes have formed beautiful caves in the limestone. Birds here include Ring Ouzel, Nutcracker and Hazel Hen which can be attracted by making their call with a special home-made goose bone whistle.      

Day 7:- Breakfast and passage tothe extensive - 700 hundred years old - Zator fishponds near Auschwitz (30 km from Krakow) where autumn migration in full swing. They were created by monks in the Middle Ages and are today an important wetlands for birds and an excellent place for birdwatching. There is good access via the dikes. It is also the area where the highest account of bird species in Poland was recorded. We will observe good movements of migrating wildfowl, waders, terns and warblers and innumerable songbirds. Empty ponds with fresh muddy are feeding ground for vaders as Little & Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper within flocks of Dunlin, Ruff, Spotted & Common Redshank, Greenshank, Green, Wood & Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed & Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Northern Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrels and Eurasian Curlew. We will have a good chance of Marsh Sandpiper and maybe a vagrant such as Pectoral Sandpiper which is recorded here most autumns. There will be many Common Snipe and possible single Jack & Great Snipes. Other highlights include Common Crane, possibly White Stork & Black Stork which migrate little a bit later. Big flocks of 200+ Great White Egret and Grey Heron, along with Great Bittern and Night Heron hidden in the reedbeds. The beds also hold Reed Bunting, Bluethroat, Sedge Warbler, Penduline & Bearded Tit. Open water will produce huge numbers of waterfowl with huge numbers of Ferruginous Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Garganey, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Pintail, Red-breasted Merganser and Goosander. Over our heads White-tailed Eagle will cause panic amongst the flocks of wildfowl along with migrating Osprey, Hen & Marsh Harriers with Pallid Harrier becoming more frequent. Walking a bit further we get to the extensive cereal fields surrounding the fishponds that will give us an opportunirty to find some excellent land birds such as Northern Grey Shrike, Grey Partridge, Tree Sparrow, Siskin, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and flocks of thrushes with Fieldfare, Redwing and Mistle Thrush. 2 nights in Zator.

N.B.- If you wish we can visit the German Nazi Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau included on the UNESCO list and just 10 kilometers from the fishponds.

Day 8:- Breakfast and passage to Krakow. Short Sightseeing of the Old Town, shopping and depart.

In local hotels with en-suite facilities

What's been said...

Well both Frank and myself enjoyed the trip, Felix was very knowledgeable and a jovial host. Nothing appeared to be to much trouble for him, and he would sort out any hotel problem soonest. Talking of hotels, the first was was fine, but a little quiet at night, this l put down to us being there out of season. The second one was also good, food fine but again quiet at night. Third one was too noisy, l was kept awake by arguing poles till 2.30, but hey that was a one off. But to the birds, l saw 93 species in all 2 of which were lifers. The terrain was good, but bad weather stopped us seeing more birds. The forest was perhaps the most disappointing, again due to the weather, this could be helped l think if the trip was early to late August. The best place l thought were the fish ponds outside Krackow, with 6 hours it was very productive with Whiskered & Black Terns, Temminck’s & Little Stint, Night Herons, and White Tailed Eagle. So on the whole a very good trip.

Alan Moorhouse

Just to let you know that I had a marvellous time in Poland . Mixed weather but that didn't matter except we couldn't go into the Tatras . Felix is an excellent guide ,a larger than life figure with a good sense of humour . He was a bit concerned by my not liking some of the food ,mainly because of being vegetarian . The other 4 were fine -all more knowledgeable than me on birds but I take a broader view of these holidays and also very much enjoyed the scenery ,some of the architecture (e.g. old wooden Orthodox churches ,the castle in Niedzica etc) ,the way of life in rural Poland and the walking -we did lots , far more than in Spain last summer and some of it was quite strenuous e.g. when tracking bison . I was very pleased with the wildlife we saw-for me it's not a matter of ticking boxes but being able to observe clearly . I now have a good pair of binoculars which helps . Highlights for me were wild boar ( a family of 5 ) ,a grass snake just by our feet , pine marten ,baby bank vole , several marsh harriers ,13 male black grouse ,2 hazel grouse ,cuckoos on posts ,hobbys AND a brown bear! - it was a fabulous sighting of a young male going across a pasture. A great holiday and the travel was fine.

Frances Read


Cost £1090
Based on sharing a twin/double room.

Single Supplement - £100
Deposit - £300
Maximum Group Size - 6

Price Includes:

  • 7 nights accommodation at local hotels with en-suite facilities.
  • All meals
  • All transport costs
  • Information pack
  • Daily check list
  • Use of field guides & maps

Price does not Include:

  • Flights to Krakow. 
  • Travel and contents insurance.
  • All Drinks
  • Items of a personal nature.
  • Tips/gratuities

Flight are not included in the price quoted, however we are happy to help arrange these for you if required at no extra cost.

27th Aug - 3rd Sept 2011
(see icon guide)

Target Species:

  • Red necked Grebe
  • Great Bittern
  • Black Stork
  • Ferruginous Duck
  • Lesser Spotted Eagle
  • White tailed Eagle
  • Goshawk
  • Peregrine
  • Common Crane
  • Hazelhen
  • Marsh Sandpiper
  • Eagle Owl
  • Ural Owl
  • Pygmy Owl
  • White backed Woodpecker
  • Black Woodpecker
  • Grey headed Woodpecker
  • Citrine Wagtail
  • Water Pipit
  • Thrush Nightingale
  • Nutcracker
  • Alpine Accentor
  • Brown Bear
  • European Bison
  • Wild Boar
  • Red Deer
  • Roe Deer
  • Alpine Marmot
  • Chamois

© Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays 2011.

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