March 12, 2017 by ChrisJamesAuthor
Two 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.
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.
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:
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.
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 🙂