BIRDING TRIP REPORT:
& Brandenburg, Germany
29 May to 1
In 2011 and 2012 I was fortunate to be able to
make brief visits to the Warta
Mouth area of Poland after business trips to Berlin in
early May and early July.
This time I decided to make a special trip at what I hoped was
the optimum time of year to try to connect with the species I had
missed previously, when I thought I must have been either too late or too early. I also had
new information on the Brandenburg area of Germany,
based on Roger White's excellent book "A Birdwatching Guide to
Brandenburg and Berlin" and also some extra tips he kindly
provided me with in advance of this trip.
This was a long weekend solo birding trip and I
decided to revisit the Warta Mouth area of Poland on day 1,
hopefully for Barred & River Warblers before moving on to
the Oder river area of Brandenburg, north east of Berlin for
days 2 and most of 3, before my evening return. As I was on my own,
fairly early starts and the occasional late finish were not a
problem, although a bad back was.
As I found
previously, the Warta Mouth area of
Poland is quite a 'manageable' area for a solo
self guided trip. I stayed
in the same small hotel in Slonsk I had used before, right at the centre of the area,
which was just about adequate - see the comments on
accommodation at the end of this report for more details. A
little English was spoken, but often I had to get by with a
few words of German, but this presented no great
difficulties. I still hardly know a word of Polish, even
after 3 visits to this area! I didn't come across any other birders
in Poland, but did (to my advantage) in Germany.
The contrast between Poland and its more
affluent neighbour was very apparent, and certainly the hotel
and nearby restaurant I
picked in Germany was a great improvement on the one in Slonsk,
without being overly expensive.
In the absence of the new Berlin airport, I used
BA to fly from Heathrow to the ageing Tegel airport, which will
hopefully be my last visit there! Both outward & return flights
were more or less on time, and I even got a small roll on the
return trip instead of the usual minuscule bag of nibbles!
Hertz was again
offering very good value car hire and I avoided the amazingly
expensive 'super cover' of over 20 euros a day by taking out
separate car hire excess insurance in advance. Note that for
driving in Poland you need to let the car hire company know in advance or when
collecting the car - as this rules out certain models of cars.
To avoid the mistake I made
previously, I made very sure I filled up the car on my
return - there is convenient filling station to the right on the
final approach to the airport at GPS 52.550132,13.297624.
As previously I used a Michelin 1:300,000 map
(556 Poland North West) from Stanfords for Poland. For
Brandenburg I used the better 1:200,000 Marco Polo map, titled
Berlin, Brandenburg, which also covers part of the Warta Mouth
area. I also relied extensively on my SatNav,
using lat, long (GPS) coordinates I had stored in advance by careful study of
Google maps - many of which I give below to help similarly
equipped other birders.
For Poland, this area has a brief mention in Gerard Gorman's excellent
book on 'Birding in Eastern Europe', but this lacks any real
site information. Previously extensive pre-trip trawling
of the web turned up a small number of useful birders'
trip reports. Thanks to all those who took the time to
New since my previous trips was
Roger White's excellent book "A Birdwatching Guide to
Brandenburg and Berlin", which has plenty of information on this
area of Germany and also covers Warta Mouth.
Again I was lucky
with the weather which was good almost throughout,
with mostly sunny and warm conditions with only a few spots of
rain on day 1. However there had clearly been heavy rain just
before my visit as all the tracks in Poland has large amounts of
water on them still.
All the pics shown
below were taken with my DSLR equipment - Canon EOS 7D with
EF400mm/f4 DO lens & x1.4TC, sometimes mounted on a tripod.
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 Poland
I spent nearly all
of my single day in Poland shuttling between two main sites (Dabroszyn
and the Czernowy Canal) in an only partially successful search
for the two lifers I had missed previously - Barred & River
Warblers. This was because these two sites had records for
both species in other trip reports.
As I had found before, Dabroszyn was again a nice site, with
good photo opportunities direct from the car. However
it had changed somewhat since my last visit, in that there is
now, at the
end of the main track that runs through the marsh, a large dyke which
runs both east and west
along the side of the Warta floods. This was topped by a good
but narrow quiet road which just what a birder with a bad back
needed to drive along! In the morning, with few people
about, this road provided me with effort free, good views
over the flooded areas south towards the river and north over
the reedy marshes. In addition to a host of common warblers,
birds seen from this road included White-tailed Eagle,
at least 3 Common Rosefinch (not seen before
here), a pair of Red-necked Grebes with young
and a distant booming Bittern. However on
a later visit it became apparent that the locals considered cars
should not be driven along here at all!
In the marshy section, along both sides of the main track
from the main road through the site, there were more
Rosefinches, including a brief view of a male with some
red on it, unlike all the others that were very drab. There was
Wryneck (as seen in 2011) and drumming
Snipe. However this time, I didn't come across any Savi's Warblers at this
site, unlike previously.
There was unfortunately not a hint of the presence of any
River Warblers, despite the optimum time of year and a previous
record in another trip report. Perhaps these can only be seen
and heard at dawn or dusk? in late May, the problem is that dawn is very early and dusk very late
Fortunately, during my final, early evening visit, at
last I had some success in the form of a very brief c. 3 sec
glimpse of the other of my target species - a splendid but
elusive Barred Warbler. This was seen from the
car in the bushy section of the main track, at about
GPS 52.612742,14.715466. Regrettably by the time I had
grabbed my camera, it had vanished! This was the only one I saw
on this trip. There was certainly no sign of them singing from
tops of bushes, as sometimes reported by others.
|Un-rosy Common Rosefinch (click to enlarge)
||Swallow in the evening (click to enlarge)
|Displaying distant Red-necked Grebes
2. Zabice/Czernowy Canal
Zabice is a small
village to the south of the 22, reached via a minor road
through Czarnow. At Zabice it is possible to drive to
the Czarnow canal by turning N along
a cobbled road by a small kiosk (at about
GPS 52.516423,14.714287). This goes through the village and
emerges into a pleasant wooded area containing Golden Orioles
(heard only). You can then drive right to the canal, reaching it at a small
52.530409,14.716009). The track to the right along the canal
is also perfectly drive-able. This reaches route 22 at
GPS 52.54486,14.722579. There are also tracks along the canal to
the left of the bridge N of Zabice but to me they didn't look
negotiable in the car.
This site also has records in
other trip reports of both Barred and River Warbler, but despite
visiting several times at different times of day, I couldn't
find any evidence for either of them. I did however manage to
see and photo a Great Read Warbler out of cover
(see below) by the canal near the bridge. Further on to the
right of the canal, there was a marshy area, a few hundred metres short of route 22, where I came across a singing
Thrush Nightingale, but unfortunately it spent
its whole time out of view. Several return visits to this spot
failed to produce any sightings of this lifer, and little song
for that matter. A Black
Woodpecker at the same spot the following morning was at
least some consolation.
|Great Reed Warbler (click to
3. Kamien Maly
I had previously
driven down the bumpy track that heads down towards the river
from the railway "station" in Kamien Maly. This site is very
close to Dabroszyn and also I reckoned a possible Barred Warbler site,
so I thought
I would give it another go. This was nearly a big mistake! Right
at the start of the marshy section, by a small bridge I found a
singing Marsh Warbler but thereafter the track
deteriorated badly becoming muddy with huge potholes filled with
deep water. At one point it was clearly time to turn around - to
have gone further would have almost certainly meant getting
stuck. However the only turning spot was filled by two cars,
making it an almost impossible task - and reversing would have
been a nightmare! So I persevered and managed to get round with
about a 20 point turn! Much relieved I then beat a hasty retreat
and saw no other birds here.
4. Tower on route 22
In previous visits
I had ignored this tower immediately beside the 22 between
Slonsk and Kostrzyn but this time the mention in Roger White's
book of a Barred Warbler here on the top of a bush had me
stopping briefly whenever I was passing. Of course, I never
found any hint of Barred Warbler, but climbing to the top of the
tower gives mega distant views of the marshes with a Crane once
on my first morning. There was also a pair of Red-backed Shrikes
and various common warblers at the bottom of the short track
leading down from the car park. There was also a passing
White-tailed Eagle that came quite close once, but I was unable
to get my camera onto it quickly enough.
Sites in Germany
On my second day, somewhat disappointed by only limited
success in Poland, I headed west out of Poland, stopping briefly
to check out the tower and the Czernowy Canal again (which
produced the Black Woodpecker already mentioned). I then headed
NW through rural eastern Germany to the Chorin site mentioned in Roger White's book as the
most reliable place for Red-breasted Flycatchers in Brandenburg.
Chorin is a small village north of Eberswalde.
From a bend in the road (GPS 52.894639,13.892549), a drive-able
track leads NW towards Brodowin through forest. In his book,
White recommends stopping along this track to listen for
Red-breasted Flycatchers, so I drove up and down listening hard
from the car with windows down and also stopping every so often.
The closest I came to this desirable target was a Spotted
Flycatcher, with no sound at all of any RBFs. I also went for a
walk along a path to the right of the track at his site 10 (GPS
coordinates above) on page 83, towards his site 11. Again no joy,
and little else either apart from one distant invisible singing
Site 5 on page 83 of White's book is very close
to Chorin, and said to be good for Barred Warblers, so I
headed there after the fruitless search for RBFs. By now it was
around mid-day and quite warm - not the best time for birding.
In the bushes along the track beyond the cross roads I found
various small birds, best of which was probably a Lesser
Whitethroat, but no evidence at all of Barred Warblers.
Discouraged by this poor start to my German part of this trip, I
didn't spend too long here, although I did hear a Quail
calling as I was leaving.
7. Randow Bruch
This is a good raptor site from White's book
somewhat to the north of Chorin & Brodowin, most notably
Lesser-spotted Eagles (which would be a lifer for me and is a
rare species in Germany and western Poland). Randow Bruch is in quite an
obscure location and I was glad of the SatNav to find it.
Arriving mid afternoon, I first stopped at the start of the
narrow track with grass growing up down the middle.
was a lot of farm machinery traffic and I quickly realised they
were mowing the hay. This was extremely fortunate as the activity was bringing in
various raptors and a few White Storks,
presumably to feed on the unfortunate creatures displaced or
killed by the harvesting. There were masses of Red Kites
and Black Kites coming in quite close.
Black Kites coming in to the hay harvest (click
bottom to enlarge)
After observing the kites for a while, I began to notice some larger but much more distant
raptors. With only bins, I wasn't too sure what they were, but I
then spotted a group of German birders with an array of 'scopes
in a field a good deal further on along the track with the grass centre. So
I made my way along to join them (these was a small parking area
here - for GPS coords see the section title). Fortunately at least one of
them spoke good English and I was told that both
White-tailed and Lesser-spotted Eagles
were about! Very soon, the most helpful birder picked up a
distant Lesser-spotted Eagle and kindly allowed me
to tick it through his scope!
It soon been apparent that a few of these birds were around, but they were very
distant and into the sun. So I headed back to my initial spot
and was rewarded with much closer views and greatly improved
light, which allowed some semi reasonable photos to be taken (see
below). One bird even did an amazing but very quick "loop the
loop", which allowed me to get an unusual view of its upper
side, from down below! This encounter with these rare eagles was
definitely the highlight of this trip.
Eagle & Buzzard (centre)
||Upside down bird
in mid "loop the loop"!
Chatting with the German
birders at the LSE site, they told me they had located up to
five Red-breasted Flycatchers earlier that day
in a forest just back over the border in Poland. They had seen
one of them, but had said they had been 'lucky' to do so. As
this was my number one target for this trip it was clear where I
was going to go the next day, especially as it was only about
1/2 hr from my hotel!
Site back in Poland
8. Cedynski Park near Bielinek
With breakfast on a Sunday at the Oder Hotel not
until 08:00, it was just after nine by the time I arrived in the
area for Red-breasted Flycatchers indicated by
the helpful German birders the previous afternoon. However, I
wasn't sure of the exact spot and to start with I couldn't hear
them singing from the road, unlike the Germans.
It took me the better part of
two hours, driving slowly up and down the minor road between
Bielinek and Baraki and beyond (just to be sure) before I caught
a snatch of what sounded like my target's song. Prior to that
all I had heard was several Wood Warblers. The
RBF song was coming from an extremely dense and dark stand of
tall trees, mainly beech with the odd pine here and there. The
GPS coords above are as accurate as I can get them to the actual
location. The song was coming from the forest to the south-east
of the road. Travelling from Baraki, this spot on the road was
about 100m short of a gentle bend in the road that had a track
leading off diagonally from it to the left.
Having got the right location, I
quickly located the singing bird about 50-100m from the road and
could hear another singing off to the right. However as the bird
was sticking to the canopy, way up above me, actually seeing it
was clearly going to be challenging. About 4hrs later I
had to admit defeat & leave to catch my flight home. During all
that time I had seen a couple of Spotted Flycatchers,
and possibly a glimpse of the RBF, but it certainly wasn't a
tick-able view. I had tried waiting under slightly more open
parts, where the view up into the canopy was better but this was
hopeless as the bird just didn't come anywhere near them, while
I was there. The more direct approach of following it around its
quite rapid circuit through the top of the canopy forest was
equally unproductive with minimal views up into the canopy
nearly all the time. So a rather disappointing and frustrating end to
Postscript: Determined not to be beaten by this setback, I
kept a close eye on the rare bird news back in the UK in the
autumn of 2014, and when a settled adult male was reported from
Beachy Head in far off East Sussex, I couldn't resist the
temptation to go for it, despite the long drive! I was rewarded
with much better views
of this delightful passerine than I could ever have obtained in
that wretched gloomy Polish forest!
|Hubertus Hotel, Slonsk
||This budget hotel is
where I had stayed on my previous short trips to this part
of Poland. Making the booking and
subsequent e-mail correspondence in English worked OK.
In Slonsk, it is to the east of the
roundabout to the S of the 22. It was then past the
petrol station and through an arch-way, over a mock
moat to the left of the restaurant. There was a car park at the
back. On arrival the receptionist spoke a little
English, and I managed to check-in OK and ended up
with a rather basic room on the ground floor near to
reception which had the advantage of free WIFI.
The adjacent restaurant
(open from 06:00 to 24:00) lacked an English menu - it was in German and
Polish, but the pictures gave you some idea of what
you were going to get. As previously it featured
quite prompt service, but was not haut cuisine by any
stretch of the imagination. However at those prices you
couldn't expect it! The
room was very reasonable at zl 120/night (c. £25),
with breakfast only about £5 with dinner about
twice that. Both accepted credit cards. As in 2012,
both the hotel and restaurant were sparsely occupied,
although there was some annoying noise from the
reception at night way into the small hours. For
breakfast, there were only set items from the menu and
nothing like cereal or fruit etc.
Hotel, nr Schwedt
||This was listed in White's book, and was a
considerable step up on the Hubertus Hotel, without being
too expensive (about £50 per night inc breakfast). Again the receptionist spoke a little
English and my room was much pleasanter and better
equipped than the Hubertus. The hotel restaurant was closed that
evening due to a private function but I was directed to a
pleasant place in the village nearby on the opposite side
of the main road. In the fine evening weather, this was a
busy place near the Oder which served much better
food than I had experienced in Poland! The hotel breakfast
was also good, with a comprehensive buffet, just as you
would get in an international hotel.
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