What made you want to lead this tour in Poland?
I wanted to lead the Poland: Wildlife and Warsaw tour as Eastern Europe is just amazing for wildlife! Every time I visit Poland I just marvel at how rich it is in birds and other animals. Farm systems are still far less intensively managed than in the UK, so the countryside is so much richer – it’s like going back in time in England when birds appeared in every hedgerow and the air was full of birdsong. Plus, of course, there are fantastic birds like the white-tailed eagle, corn crake and aquatic warbler, which have their strongholds here. It’s brilliant!
What are you most looking forward to on this tour?
Just about everything, like all great places, you never know what you’re going to see from one hour to the next. What you do know is that you’re going to see some fantastic things. The sheer scale of some of the amazing habitats is breathtaking. Vast areas of marsh, fen and reedbed have marsh tern flying right past your head, harrier floating over fields wherever you look and black stork, like dignified funeral directors, lurking in the wet meadows.
Are there any birds that you are particularly keen to see? Where do I start! Scarlet rosefinch, very rare here but common in Poland, have a great song, sounds like ‘pleased to meet you’ emanating from hedge tops and roadsides all over. It’s a fabulous sound of Poland, as is the constant rasping of nocturnal corn crakes, another memory of bygone Britain. On my last trip, the amazing sight and sound of displaying great snipes against a backdrop of black anvil thunderclouds was unforgettable. But then so was finding ultra-rare singing aquatic warblers, seeing a huge black woodpecker outside my bedroom window one morning, a Montague’s harrier in a misty early morning water-meadow, the thunderous singing of a thrush nightingale... and don’t even get me started on the birds of prey!
What other wildlife do you hope to see whilst in Poland? One very early morning on my last trip to Poland, I was walking down a woodland ride when a beech marten came bounding down towards me. Freezing like a statue and hoping the wind was taking my scent away (it was), I watched until it was only a feet away. Pure magic. You don’t often get good views of mammals in Europe, but in Poland we could see beavers gnawing away or elk wading through deep waters. In Bialowieza there are lynx, wolf and bison. How fabulous it would be to turn a corner, deep in the forest, and see a pair of mammalian eyes gazing back at you down a shady ride. It could happen. That’s the brilliant thing about wildlife.