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BIRDING TRIP REPORT:

North East Poland May 2017

18 to 23 May

By Stephen Burch, England

Introduction
My previous three brief visits to Poland had been on the back of business trips to Berlin, and were to the Warta Mouth region which is the extreme west of the country within a comfortable drive of Berlin. These visits had been moderately successful but had left me short of a couple of lifers. For sometime now I have been interested in visiting the famous north east of the country to try for these and a few others which should be possible in the Bialowieza and Biebrza areas. However I was put off somewhat by the prospect of the long drive from Warsaw.

But finally 2017 seemed the time to make the effort and visit these special places - especially given the severe logging threat that hangs over Bialowieza. Indeed I was dismayed to hear that this had already started and extensive devastation had been reported prior to my visit. In the event I saw little of this. Although some trees had been felled along the main approach to the village, there was no clear felling that I saw, and much of the area still seemed relatively unscathed. It remains to be seen how long this will last.

Fortunately, I have already seen all the woodpeckers and owls of these areas, so I had a relatively modest target list of four - Thrush Nightingale and River Warbler, both "unfinished business" from my previous trips to western Poland, plus Collared Flycatcher and Aquatic Warbler. In addition, summer plumaged Citrine Wagtail would be very nice to add to my previous fortunate sighting of an immature at my local reservoir - Farmoor, back in 2011. Given my limited number of targets, I decided against hiring a guide, believing I could connect with all of these singled handed. To see if I succeeded, read on! 

This was a pure birding and photography trip, independently organised and on my own, which allowed for early starts and late finishes, if I had the stamina for them.  In NE Poland in late May, it gets light very early (dawn shortly after 04:00) and stays that way until quite late into the evening (sunset was after 20:00)!

General
Flights
Not being a fan of Ryanair and its miserly baggage allowance, I opted for BA from Heathrow to the main Warsaw airport (Chopin) and return. With their generous hand luggage policy (how long with that last?), I was able to take two lenses - my relatively new 500f4 USM II and the 100-400 USM II zoom. 

The outward flight departed at a challenging 07:25 so not being keen on ridiculously early starts, I stayed in the Bath Road Premier Inn which was just next door to my favourite Purple Parking. The hotel provided me with a quiet room, and PP were as efficient as ever with the car side of things. On the flights, BA of course now charge for all food, which makes the service very slow if a reasonable of people are prepared to use it. On the evening flight, I was glad I was relatively near the front as those at the back had only just got served when the seatbelt signs went on for landing!

Car hire
I again used Herz for my car hire as they were offering good value car hire and I avoided their amazingly expensive 'super cover' of over 20 euros a day by taking out separate car hire excess insurance in advance. There was no problem re-fuelling on my return - at one of the several large, well signed service stations on the main S8 back into Warsaw.

Driving their and back
Not a good experience both ways! Prior to the trip I had read bad accounts of the long car journey from the main Warsaw airport to these sites and was not looking forward to them.

The journies turned out to be at least as bad as I had read, probably worse due to the horrendous roadworks along the main S8 that heads north east from Warsaw. These stretched for mile upon mile, with nose to tail heavy traffic most of the way and speeds down to c. 40kph.

On arrival, route finding my way out of Warsaw, even with the SatNav, wasn't that straightforward due to a hold up on one of the main roads and heavy traffic even at midday. Someway north of the city, I then hit the roadworks on the S8 which, several miles later, prevented me from taking several right hand turns indicated by the SatNav - the roads had simply been dug up and didn't exist anymore! Finally after what seemed ages I managed to escape eastwards on smaller and generally quieter roads. Total travel time to Bialowieza was at least 4hrs with one short stop.

The return to the airport from the Biebrza middle basin took even longer (c. 4.5hrs with one brief stop) and I had the "pleasure" of the full length of the S8 roadworks which again seemed interminable. I didn't measure their exact length, but they stretched for tens of miles, maybe even as much as 50! Also even just mid afternoon the Warsaw traffic was bad, with heavy congestion getting onto the "ring road" from the S8 and also again nearer the airport. Must be a real nightmare at peak times.

Maps
I bought a Michelin Regional map 555 which was quite small scale (1:300,000) and not a huge amount of use. As previously on these sorts of trips,  I relied extensively on my SatNav, using lat, long (GPS) coordinates I had stored in advance by careful study of Google maps and the Gosney Booklet - many of which I give below to help similarly equipped other birders. 

Birding information
I ended up buying 3 site guides. The best was definitely the incredibly detailed Bialowieza Site Guide pdf that can be downloaded from Wild Poland's web site. In this format, it is cheaper than the paperback version, but was a bit of a chore printing out the relevant pages. The Gosney booklet "Finding Birds in Eastern Poland" was also useful, although I saw nothing like the range of species he mentioned for most sites (a general problem I've found previously with his guides). The North-east Poland Crossbill Guide was less useful. 

There are also a large number of trip reports on the web, of varying value. These included Ewan Urquhart's excellent blog account. I'd also like to thank him for some very useful additional info he supplied me with.  

Weather
Once again I was extraordinarily lucky with the weather. Until just a few days before my arrival, it had apparently been dull, wet and cool. However I saw virtually no rain and mostly had warm or even hot sunny conditions with blue skies. Temperatures in the mid afternoon rose to at least the mid 20s C, but were distinctly cooler just after dawn (more like 10C or less).

Mosquitoes
These were a real pain - perhaps because of the warm, still conditions for much of my visit. My insect repellent was reasonably effective on the parts I had applied to, but not when I had not applied it to enough places, or left the tube in the hotel (as I did the first afternoon!).  One of the worst trips for bites from these miserable life forms!  I should have taken more care...

Photos
All the pics shown below were taken with my DSLR equipment - Canon EOS 7D Mk II with either a new EF500mm/f4 II (with a x1.4TC) or a EF100-400f5.6 II. All pics were taken in RAW format, and I use NeatImage for noise suppression, with PhotoShop Elements 9.0 for subsequent processing. For further details see the equipment and image processing pages elsewhere on this website.

Sites in the Bialowieza area
I decided to spend three nights in the Bialowieza before moving on the Biebrza area for the remaining two night of this 5 night trip. Here is a description of the various sites I visited in approximate chronological order of when I first visited them.

Palace Park (Eastern Entrance: GPS 52.702584, 23.850471 )
I had high hopes for the well-known Palace Park and first visited it just after I had checked in at the Unikat hotel. It was a pleasant area of wooded parkland with a couple of lakes along its southern edge. My main target here was photographable Collared Flycatchers, following Ewan's visit last year when he found a most obliging pair just inside the entrance. Unfortunately there was no sign of these this year, and my only sighting was a glimpse of a possible female high up in a bare tree near to the main building (museum). I also got a brief view of a Middle-spotted Woodpecker near the museum but it didn't hang around, just like the possible Collared Fly.

Around the lakes there was plenty of Rosefinch song and I once saw an uncoloured male briefly. Also plenty of cronking Great Reed Warblers. I also tried both the bridges over the Narewka river, to the east and west of the park. The eastern one was slightly better but I saw little of real note there, apart from distant drumming Snipe over the marshes beyond. Fairly early the next morning I walked up to and round the northern perimeter with only a singing Wood Warbler and glimpsed Thrush Nightingale. So no pics, and all in all a somewhat underwhelming experience. Given how Pied Flys benefit from nest boxes in the UK, I reckon the park would benefit from a new collection of nest boxes - there were a few but most were broken.

Narewka Bridge (GPS 52.690285, 23.879229  )
"The" Narewka Bridge is a short distance to the east of the village and reputedly a good site for various species both at the bridge and along the road before and after the bridge. I first visited here just after dawn on my first morning, with high hopes of both Thrush Nightingale and River Warbler. Sure enough, I could hear both of them singing but seeing them was quite a different matter. I eventually got a tickable glimpse of my first Thrush Nightingale from the road somewhat before the bridge (coming from the village). I could also hear a loud River Warbler in the bushes and trees on the east side of the road, just before the bridge - but it never showed.

A small group of birders then appeared, led by the famous Marek Borkowski, and swiftly moved along the road beyond the bridge towards a loud Woodpecker drumming. Arriving a bit later, I was told it was a White-backed Woodpecker but it was very high up at the top of a tall dead tree and all I got was a poor view through Marek's wobbly scope before it flew off!

In the early morning, this was an atmospheric site with nice views along the river both ways, but of course no sign of Otters or Beavers - I probably wasn't early enough!

Views up and down the River Narewka in the early morning

Later that day I spent time using the car as a hide to take these photos of an obliging Red-backed Shrike that had adopted the tall bush at the corner of road south from the bridge (at GPS 52.688867,23.878192).

Red-backed Shrike
 

Wysokie Bagno bridge (GPS 52.685192, 23.889722)
Beyond the R B Shrike bush, there is a walking track that heads through some wet forest south east towards the Belarus border. It is described in both the Gosney booklet and the Wild Poland book. After about 1 km, there is a crossroads and turning left takes you to a wooden bridge over the Narewka. The wood is supposed to be a good site for various species including Collared Flycatcher, but all I found were distant singing Wood Warblers. However spending some time at the bridge, I got a brief glimpse of my second target - River Warbler, but as with the Thrush Nightingale it was a very fleeting sighting with no possibility of a photo. At one point it was singing loudly in an adjacent bush but, to my considerable frustration, I couldn't see it! I found it very difficult to pin-point where the song was coming from. It often sounded like it was from high up, but I suspect the bird was actually low down in the densest parts of the bush.

The flooded forest Downstream from the wooden bridge

Dyrekcyjny Park (GPS 52.702875, 23.874843 )
With glimpses of two of my three targets on my first day, I now tried a couple of sites for the third - Collared Flycatcher. The first was a small park just outside the village, and was described in the Wild Poland book as a site for all 3 flycatchers. As these are generally active all through the day, I thought a mid-day visit might be productive. It wasn't! In fact this was a disappointing site, in that I saw not a single bird of interest. There was persistent loud woodpecker drumming, but this was coming from the inaccessible centre of this site. So not a place to rush back to...

Bison Enclosure (GPS 52.703747, 23.795094)
This is a somewhat surprising birding site, but was described by the Wild Poland book as a good site for Collared Flycatcher. It is basically a zoo with most of the native mammals of the region, including Bison, Wolves etc. It closes at 17:00, so I decided to visit starting at around 16:00 hoping that by then activity would be picking up after its midday lull. I parked in the car park, walked what seemed a considerable distance to the entrance and then paid my 10 zl to get in. Following the only path around the place, I came to a fork and headed left (clockwise) round the loop. At the end of the Bison enclosure, I thought I heard a snatch of Collared Flycatcher song (my first ever!) and had a fleeting, barely tick-able view of my final target for this region. But as with the other two lifers earlier in the day, it wasn't obliging, and this one was briefly high up in a bare tree.

Collared Flycatcher
Collared Flycatcher record shot!

It then moved away and I could barely make out its song. So I decided to head round the loop to see if I could locate anymore. I couldn't, so returned to my original spot and waited. Eventually the song became more distinct, and I got slightly better views but again the bird was again high up in the canopy, making for almost impossible photography.

At one point during my wait, I heard a sound behind me, turned round and was slightly surprised to see a wolf not more than about 1m away, looking intently at me! The fence between us was reassuringly high though!

"Blue" bridge (GPS 52.746079, 23.716549 )
This bridge over the Narewka is near Budy, to the west of Bialowieza. It is on a small tarmacked road and is given a brief mention in the Wild Poland book. It was also somewhere Ewan and his friends had considerable success last year. They seemed to think it was on a bicycle-only stretch of road, but I saw no stop signs and some other cars passed from time to time when I was there. Also Google Streetview images are available for it! Hence  I concluded it was perfectly Ok to access it by car, so did so at least 3 times, once in the evening, once just after dawn and also in the middle of the day.

Unfortunately I didn't have a great deal of success here, especially photo wise.  It was a lovely quiet and remote spot, with flood meadows either side of the stream surrounded by deep forest. Probably the best bird I heard and then saw here was a White-backed Woodpecker which I persuaded into a nearby tree - but I couldn't get onto it with the 500f4 before it flew off. On my first evening visit, the only thing of note I saw was a Green Sandpiper which breed here. It alighted briefly on the stream but was off in a flash before I could get the camera on to it. On my early morning visit, there were plenty of Cuckoos around, a Snipe on the top of a distant dead tree and an even more distant Buzzard. Nearer to, there was briefly a River Warbler that sung loudly from a nearby bush, but typically all I saw was it flying out of the bush and back across the stream.

Early morning at the "blue" bridge Distant Snipe on a dead tree

Budy bridge (GPS 52.7281, 23.7477)
This bridge is on the road to Budy from Bialowieza and is over a small stream in a damp forest. It is mentioned in the Gosney and Wild Poland books. It was mildly productive for me over 2-3 visits, with Rosefinch, Collared Flycatcher (only a brief view again on one visit - no sign on the others) and Thrush Nightingale singing loudly but only poorly seen. On one visit, the latter was just beginning to show when an extraordinary convoy of at least half a dozen heavy tractors thundered past!  Needless to say it moved further away after that. I also had a fleeting view of a probable male Hen Harrier from here but the view through the trees wasn't good. There was not a hint of the supposed woodpeckers at this site during all my visits.
 

Rosefinch
Rosefinch Budy Bridge
White Stork
White Stork by the road to Budy from Bialowieza

Unikat Hotel (GPS 52.701690, 23.856444)
The hotel I was staying at was notable for a couple of birds - a very brief view of a Wryneck one morning and nesting White Stork. These were very numerous in this area of Poland, and their large nests were a familiar sight in every village and town. From the hotel, there was a very obvious but slightly distant nest, which made photography of the nest itself not worthwhile. However once, after breakfast, there was a fair amount of action when a third bird appeared. This prompted the birds to land on or near the nest and then come off it, whereupon they would do a little circuit towards the hotel, which brought them very close. So I grabbed the 100-400 and tried my luck. Unfortunately, the action was soon over and the birds resumed their normal quiet ways.

White Stork White Stork
White Stork approaching! Getting closer!
Almost a good shot - shame about the clipped wing and the foreground bush! Crop of the shot to the left

Siemienowka Reservoir (south side) (GPS 52.8995,23.8831  )
This reservoir is about a 45mins drive to the north west of Bialowieza. To get there I kept to the main roads, and drove round via Hajnowka, avoiding the bumpy, un-surfaced Narewka road and thereby perhaps missing the devastating clear felling that has been reported recently from this area.

My main target here was Citrine Wagtail. On my second day, I fancied a change of scene and headed first to the south side at the pumping station where they have been seen in previous years. However there was no sign of them in the meadow below the perimeter embankment, nor from it, as suggested by Gosney. However from the embankment there were good views over the eastern end of this extensive, shallow body of water. All three marsh terns could be seen in the distance - Whiskered, Black and White-winged Black. However on my first visit, only the Whiskered Terns were coming anything like within photo range. Other birds included Marsh Harrier and distant Bittern booming. I also visited this site again after a brief excursion to the north side (where I saw nothing notable) and found the Whiskered Terns were coming closer. I even came back here the following morning, en-route to the Biebrza area, again looking abortively for Citrine Wagtail, which I concluded (wrongly it turned out - see below!) had eluded me. This time the White-winged Black Terns were also coming a bit closer.

Whiskered Tern Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Terns
White-winged Black Terns

Sites in the Biebrza area
After three nights in the Bialowieza area, where I had had glimpses of my three main targets on the first day, I moved over to the marshy Biebrza area, via the southern side of  Siemienowka Reservoir (see above), for my remaining two nights - which gave me only one full day there.

Wizna Marshes (Ruff site: GPS 53.1276, 22.3144  )
Driving over from Bialowieza, I decided to first try the Wizna marshes area which is at the southern end of the Biebrza southern basin. It has a famous spot where it is possible to photo lekking Ruff on a track, from your car! This track is unsurfaced and it is 7km from the road to the Ruff spot. With high water levels I found the last 50m or so was partially flooded before a deeper flood beyond with some birds on it. I drove through the first pools and found them rather deeper and muddier than I would have preferred. Also there was no sign at all of any Ruffs! I'm not sure why there weren't any - perhaps it was already too late in the season. In fact, I didn't see any Ruff at all on this trip. It was also impossible to turn the car round, so I had to reverse through the muddy pools almost managing to get stuck, which would not have been a good idea at all!

I travelled back along the 7km track somewhat slower than on the way out, and found a Marsh Warbler right by the track but it refused to pose for the camera. There were also several Thrush Nightingales singing from the depths of the hedge by the track. One even briefly appeared in a not totally obscured location, which allowed this photo to be taken from the car. The flooded fields on both sides of the track were hardly teeming with waders as Gosney suggested they would be. All I saw was a couple of Gargeney, the inevitable White Storks, and the odd marsh tern.

Thrush Nightingale
Thrush Nightingale

Returning to the road, I briefly tried Gosney's site 2 (GPS 53.1639,22.4223) and had a brief view of an adult White-tailed Eagle flying away. After that I tried his site 5 which is by the river in the village of Niwkowo, where he reported close views of large numbers of all 3 species of marsh terns. I saw none! 

After that it was time to head north towards Dobarz, in the southern basin, where I was to spend the next two nights in a simple but perfectly adequate guest house. En-route, I took a quick look at the floods to the east of Laskowiec. These looked promising for White-winged Black Terns and I decided to return the following day. 

Dluga Luka (GPS 53.2873,22.6108)
Heading north from Laskowiec towards the end of the afternoon, I decided on a first speculative visit to the famous Dluga Luka boardwalk. This goes out 400m into the marshes and is almost certainly the easiest site in the world for Aquatic Warblers, but mainly at dusk or dawn, according to the books I had. On arrival at the far end of the boardwalk, I found it quite crowded with a coach load of Dutch birders. To my amazement they told me one bird was showing quite well from time to time and even put me onto it through one of their scopes almost immediately! Job done! But wanting better photos, I headed back to the car to collect the 500f4, as I had come with only the 100-400, and the bird was some way off. As I was heading back, the Dutch were leaving, so I had the place more or less to myself for a while. The bird was showing some way off to the left (south) of the far end of the boardwalk, and would periodically pop up and then disappear again. Just once it came a bit closer and I was even treated to a song flight at one point.

It was then time to leave and head up to check in to my accommodation and get an early evening meal there. I returned to the boardwalk after dinner, and enjoyed the superb light as the sun got lower and lower. This time the company was provided by a group of German birders! Unfortunately the bird actually seemed less active as dusk approached and never came as close as it did on my late afternoon visit. The wind made for difficult photography as well - not only was my camera moving around, so was the bird on the stems it chose to perch on! Still by taking large numbers of images, there is always a chance one or two will be reasonably sharp. There were also several Sedge Warblers around for the unwary although they rarely showed. As the sun set, Snipe started drumming and 3 Black-tailed Godwits flew over. So a great spot!

After this success, I was still keen for more! Being interested in what it was like at dawn, I returned early the next morning, and had the place completely to myself. Unfortunately there was no sign of the Aquatic Warbler! This accords with what a Polish guide I met at my accommodation said - to see Aquatic Warblers you should visit late afternoon and evening, not in the early morning. It may also be notable that it appeared only one bird was present - and at very end of boardwalk about where the encroaching reeds petered out. If this encroachment continues, the birds may be displaced beyond the end of the boardwalk and become too distant to find.

Aquatic Warbler Aquatic Warbler
Distant Aquatic Warbler (in the afternoon - left and in the evening - right)

Laskowiec (GPS 53.224893, 22.573315)
Having "cased the joint" the day before, I returned to this site with one aim - photography of the White-winged Black Terns that I could see from the car in the distance along the first track. There was however one minor snag - the track was flooded along a fair stretch and there was no way I was going to attempt to drive through that. So there was only one thing for it - paddling! This worked well as I had come prepared with a spare set of footwear and after a few minutes of cautious wading I was through to the un-flooded section beyond. The further along here I went, the closer I got to the terns, until I reached a point very close to where they may have been breeding. I didn't spend long here and backed off somewhat. Overall though I spent some time in this magical spot taking loads of photos with my 100-400 lens of these fast moving, erratic targets. A very small percentage came out OK, as shown below.

Other species included yodelling Black-tailed Godwits that came to look at me as I walked along the track but then disappeared.

The second track is actually reputed to be better for tern photos as it has a row of posts on which the birds are supposed to perch, allowing great photos from the car. However there were no terns in this area at all when I visited and driving along this track was not a good idea - no place to turn round!

White-winged Black Terns

Osowiec Twierdza (GPS 53.491605,22.639406 )
This is a marshland site in the middle basin, but not too far north of Dobartz where I was staying. It consists of a boardwalk running through a marshy area, with a couple of viewing platforms and an observation tower. Gosney's entry for this site includes various interesting species such as Bluethroat, Savi's Warbler, Penduline Tit and Little Crake. I neither heard nor saw any sign of any of these! However once a school party and a British tour group had departed I had the place to myself, and it was quite a pleasant site in the afternoon sun. Birds weren't exactly stunning, but included plenty of the ever invisible Thrush Nightingales singing from bushes along the boardwalk, a distant Great White Egret and this Marsh Harrier than made a reasonably close approach when I was up in the observation tower.

There were some even some dragonflies around, including two Common Clubtails - rather easier to find in Poland than Oxon it would seem, as well as some damselflies which I have yet to identify. 

Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier

Middle Basin
During the final dinner of my stay, I was chatting to Michal, a local guide who was also staying there with a female American twitcher he was guiding, very successfully it sounded. At one point it emerged that they had seen Citrine Wagtails earlier that day! Michal then said that nobody had seen them this year at Siemienowka Reservoir, which made me feel slightly better about not connecting with them there.

He went on to say that there is now a reasonable breeding population of Citrine Wagtails in the Biebrza area, centred on the Middle Basin. I certainly hadn't heard anything about them being here before this trip. He was also kind enough to tell me where the most accessible site was - about a 40min drive north he reckoned.

So I thought for a few minutes and decided on a mad dash there to try to see one that evening before the sun set in just over an hours time. So having spent a few moments getting the GPS coords for the site from Google maps, I think I shaved a fair bit off his estimated journey time!  Within about 10 minutes of my arrival at this remote site, I was extraordinarily lucky to get a nice but rather distant view from the car of one of these splendid birds perched up on a reed, with the setting sun behind - in glorious light. A great last evening to my trip which made up for some of the less successful earlier birding in the Bialowieza area. Also in the area were loads of Yellow Wagtails and calling Corncrake - its sometime since I'd heard one of those! Also a large number of hungry mosquitos.

Returning at a rather more sedate pace to the guest house, I contemplated a return visit the next morning. The downside to this was that it was in completely the opposite direction to Warsaw airport where I needed to be later that day for my 18:15 flight home. We had also already arranged breakfast for the rather late hour of 08:00.

Having mulled things over during the night, I reckoned I would go for it, as there was nothing else of comparable interest on offer. So I was packed up and all ready to go before 08:00, had a quick breakfast and then returned with high hopes to the same area (and another nearby location that Michal said was even better). However, it wasn't nearly so easy the second time. Michal's "better" site produced nothing but Yellow Wags, which were also everywhere at the original site as well. He said learning the call was the way to find them, but to me my recording didn't sound much different from Yellow Wag. Eventually, after about 2 hours of driving around, looking, listening and waiting, and about 15mins before I reckoned I needed to leave for the airport, I found one some distance from where the bird was the evening before. It wasn't as obliging as the other one, but eventually I got some partially obscured images of it low in vegetation right by the car, but rather looking into the sun.

So that was it, and I departed, none too soon it turned out, for the long and difficult drive back to the airport - which took at least 4.5 hours, as mentioned in the introduction.

Citrine Wagtail Citrine Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail (in the late evening - left and the following morning - right)
Yellow Wagtail  
Yellow Wagtail

And to close this trip report, my traditional sunset:

Sunset at Dluga Luka
 

Accommodation Details

Place Comment
Unikat Hotel Small, economical and friendly hotel which appeared quite popular. Friendly and helpful staff that spoke English quite well. My simple ground floor en-suite room was very convenient for the car parking area and perfectly adequate. The restaurant wasn't bad either - much better than the hotel in Slonsk which is the only other place I've stayed in Poland. The breakfasts were quite good as well, with bread, cold meat, cheese and salad - excellent for discretely making packed lunches from! There was also a main dish that varied from day to day. It was eggs the first day, and some rather strange sweet pancakes on my last day.  The first night there was a large, quite rowdy coach load staying there and I was worried about late night noise but in the event it wasn't a problem. Added bonus of White Stork nesting nearby and a Wryneck seen very briefly one morning. Recommended.
Leśniczówka Biebrzańska The adjacent Dobartz hotel was full so I chose this modest guest house instead. It doesn't look much from the outside but was perfectly adequate inside for me. My en-suite room was similar to the one at the Unikat. The proprietor spoke quite understandable English. Meal times need to be negotiated in advance and I think dinner is generally around 18:00 and breakfast between about 07:00 and 08:00. The dinners were OK, but a bit let down by the tepid soup. Breakfasts were similar to the Unikat, but plastic bags, yoghurt and fruit etc was also provided for making up your lunch. No need to be discrete about it!  I even found some beer in a fridge under the stairs! Birds in the grounds included Hoopoe one morning and Corncrake at night! Remarkably good value for 40 Euro "all inclusive" per night. Recommended.

© All pictures copyright Stephen Burch

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