Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Krakow, Southern Poland 14/04 - 28/04 (2013)

On Sunday (28th) I returned to the UK after spending two intense weeks in Krakow, Poland. The purpose of the two weeks was to attend an international conference focusing on socio-economic challenge in European forestry. Plenty of fun had and we met many of the students we got to know from our time in Finland. The weather was warm, really warm, especially to anything I have felt for the last 8 months. It was 20C + for the whole two weeks with perhaps only 20 mins of rain one evening. Birding however was frustratingly limited as most days were spent inside listening to lectures and presentations. We did however have a day or two off and some evenings too.

After arriving on Sunday (14/04) morning we dropped off our stuff at the University accomodation and headed into the old town part of the city to look around. Surrounding the old town is the Planty park, a belt of broadleaved parkland. Plenty of common woodland / parkland birds to be seen including Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Rook, Jackdaw and 1000's of feral pigeons. Return to the accomodation I heard my first Chiffchaff singing in the trees outside my bedroom window.

On Tuesday evening we took a wander through the city to the River Vistula that runs through the centre of the city. The banks were very busy and covered in people so we walked further along in the hope that it would become a bit quieter. Species present included Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull, Mallard and Tufted Duck. Also plenty of fieldfare around the city and also some Starlings.

The next couple of days were I didn't have the chance to get out much but there were plenty of Blue Tit, Magpie, Blackbird, Rook, Pheasant, Mallard, Wood Pigeons and Starling around the campus and the Chiffchaff was a regular sight and sound from the accomodation.

On Thursday and Friday a two day field trip had been planned to the Krynica-Zdrój area in Southern Poland near to the Carpathian Mountains and I was hopeful of seeing some interesting things. Thursday started off well with a Black Redstart singing from the canteen roof, a lifer for me. The 2 hour bus journey was fairly productive with plenty of Jays seen in the various park areas as we drove through the city and collared doves. As we moved out of the city I saw White Stork a few times (another lifer), Lapwing, more Black Redstarts, Hooded Crows, White Wagtail and my first Swallows of the year on the many powerlines at the roadsides.

Whilst I was in the Krynica-Zdrój more Black Redstarts, Grey Wagtail, Greenfinch, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Common Buzzard, Chaffinch, Fieldfare, Blackcap and many other common species. A surprise for me on the Friday morning was a group of c40 Waxwings in the trees at the research centre's accomodation. I have now seen Waxwings in three different countries in the space of 6 months. Whilst visiting a tree nursery in the middle of the forest I saw an eagle as I excited the bus. It flew over us and landed in a tree about 200m away for a few seconds before flying off, unfortunately I didn't see it long enough for a confident ID.

After the trip I was looking forward to the weekend as we had the whole of the Sunday as free time and I had planned to go to Las Wolski forest. Las Wolski is a large area of mainly broadleaved forest on the Western edge of the city which is also known for it's variety of woodpeckers and other woodland birds. Myself and my friend Luke made the trip which took only 40 minutes on a couple of buses. In the middle of the forest is the zoo so it is well sign posted and easy to get to.

Map of Las Wolski Forest
The weather was perfect, it wasn't too busy and we just enjoyed the woodland, exploring an enjoying the sights and sounds. Straight away I could hear several Chiffchaffs and there were plenty of Tree Sparrows and Chaffinch around the carpark. There was also a lot of noise coming from the tropical birds within the zoo. We headed off into the forest on the yellow trail and the woodland was stunning and consisted of mature Oaks, Beech, Birch and Silver Fir. There were so many birds singing it was hard to concentrate on just one and there were many songs that I did not recognise (my bird call ID isn't great anyway) A few hundred metres in and there were confiding Eurasian Jays, Blackbird, Robin, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a stunning male Collared Flycatcher!

Eurasian Jay
Great Spotted Woodpecker

Male Collared Flycatcher

As we moved through the woodland we saw Blue Tits, Nuthatch, more Great Spotted Woodpecker and both male and female Collared Flycatchers. I also had a close encounter with a Wood Warbler just a few metres away.

The wood was full of butterflys and I managed to see Comma, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock in high numbers. We then found a spot to sit down and have a bit of lunch. Again more Collared Flycatchers, a pair of Common Buzzards overhead and then to top it all off a pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers!

Comma Butterfly
Middle-spotted Woodpecker
As we headed back along the way we came I also saw a pair of Pied Flycatchers and a few Roe Deer. Definately one the best woodlands I have visited always something to see and it was rich with wildlife. We then killed a couple hours before the bus turned up by heading into the zoo. Some animals that I hadn't actually seen in other zoos before which was interesting but sadly some of the conditions weren't great. All in all though a superb day, even managed to get sunburnt as it was so hot.

The next few days were very busy and intense again so I was again restricted to what I could see on campus which included nothing I hadn't seen already apart from a Blackcap that I saw in the trees from my bedroom window. On Thursday however it was time for group work and the weather was so nice that we sat on the benches outside. Whilst discussing forest stakeholders I heard a now quite familiar sound in the tree above my head, more Waxwings, 17 this time! On Thursday night (25/04) a dinner had been organised in the old town and when we got there I could hear and see that the Swifts had made it back and were flying around many of the old buildings and into crevices in the walls.

The conference finished on the Friday and our flight wasn't til Sunday which meant we also had Saturday to ourselves, I couldn't resist so I went back to Las Wolski on my own this time. I decided to explore another area this time and took the blue trail. What a difference a week makes. On the first visit barely any of the trees were in leaf and now everything was green! I didn't see anything new but still had an enjoyable walk and had good views of similar species to last time.

So overall I managed 41 confirmed species and 6 lifers which include:
  • Black Redstart
  • White Stork
  • Collared Flycatcher
  • Pied Flycatcher
  • Middle Spotted Woodpecker
  • Wood Warbler
If anyone is visiting Krakow and would like some more information, please feel free to ask and I will try and help.

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