Bird-watching in the Biebrza wetlands

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March 12, 2017 by ChrisJamesAuthor

Scenery1Two hundred kilometres northeast of Warsaw are the Biebrza floodplains, one of the last un-drained floodplains in Europe. Each March, geese migrating from Spain to Siberia stop off here, sometimes for a few hours, or maybe a few days, at the rate of up to 700,000 every day.

Scenery2

The wetlands are, unsurprisingly, very flat, and it can be tricky to get close enough to these birds to get a decent shot.  Our guide told us that serious photographers construct hides, which they enter two hours before dawn and stay there the whole day in the hope of getting a good shot.  I really enjoy photography, but let’s not get silly.

Birds1

Birds2

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What these photos cannot convey is the vast sounds as the geese call to each other to let them know there’s a good feeding ground here, or there are more of those annoying city-type tourists bungling along making a frightful noise there.  After five hours of being driven around the edge of the wetlands trying to get close to the geese, on our return we came across a beaver:

Beaver1

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What you probably can’t see is that this fellow is injured: he has wounds on his side and flank, which you can just make out among the wet fur. Our guide explained that he must have been rejected from his colony and had been unable to find another, or to build his own lodge. The injuries could have been caused by other beavers, a dog or a wolf. What she implied was certain was that, as he could not hide in water (due to those injuries) and as he was not able to feed himself because one of his paws was also injured, the writing was very much on the wall for the poor fellow. He did try to hide from us in some nearby water, and to me, his eye in this shot conveys all the pain and fear he’s feeling.

Beaver3

It took us a little over two hours to get to the Biebrza floodplains from Warsaw.  However, when the new S8 motorway is finished (my guess from the state of it yesterday is that it will be complete in 18 to 24 months’ time), that journey time will be substantially reduced. Although we went specifically to see the migrating geese, for a full list of all the activities, take a look at the main Biebrza website. Our guide yesterday was Katarzyna Ramotowska, a very well informed expert (fluent in English) who made our five-hour tour highly enjoyable, and whose Land Rover was well equipped with all the stuff that hopeless city-dwellers are likely not to bring on such an adventure, even though they really should’ve known better 🙂

8 thoughts on “Bird-watching in the Biebrza wetlands

  1. Laura Zera says:

    The geese story is amazing, but the beaver story breaks my heart. Who would reject that poor little dude from their colony?

    So over here, we’re currently reevaluating our Russia/Poland travel plans. We’ve already got flights booked to fly into Moscow on Aug.15, and then one of the government ministry’s forced a change to the dates for the MAKS airshow. Now it’s in July. So that has royally messed up our plans, as well as our friend’s. 😦

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    • Hey Laura! Actually, I’ve just spoken to the guide, Kasia, on FB and she said that at 2 years old, beavers are kicked out of their lodge by the parents to make way for new offspring, and have to find their own territory, which is likely what this fellow was doing when he was injured. It’s not easy for beavers to find their own territory because the population there is thriving… Let me know as your plans progress, please. We’re planning our annual vacation around the second half of July so won’t be here then. Would be best if you’re in this neck of the woods in August 🙂

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      • Laura Zera says:

        Hiiiiii! I just saw your reply yesterday when I checked my WP app on my phone (which I tend to never do). I will get in touch with you very soon but it would definitely be the second half of August. Did I tell you that a Russian ministry forced a change to the dates of the MAKS airshow? So we’re definitely not going to that now… Anyway, more soon. xo

        Liked by 1 person

  2. acflory says:

    I think they’re great photos Chris! I think you’re wise not to sit in a smelly ‘hide’ all day. :p
    I did feel so very sorry for that beaver though. I’m glad you managed to get some good shots of him. At last he’ll live on, on the internet.

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  3. Joanna says:

    Thank you for sharing pictures, fantastic ones. Loved the trip and your company. Hope you will come back to see more of Biebrza. Each season offer something to discover. Yesterday and today I have managed to see more geese and cranes, have seen woolf’s prints, quite fresh ones. More views of Biebrza and Narew seas.

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    • Hi Joanna!
      Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a comment. We enjoyed your company as well and are happy that you’re seeing nice things there – we went back to work today *sigh*

      Like

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