Well, this is something new and special - a weekly excursion from and to Cracow. The tour leads through a stunning mosaic of habitats and landscapes: steppe meadows, extensive fishponds, wild forests of the Carpathians, limestone mountains and peat-bogs at the foothills of the Tatra mountains. The bird life is as equally rich as in north-eastern Poland. Ural Owl Syrian Woodpecker or Ferruginous Duck are more than suitable substitutes for some of the northern rarities. Extensive fishponds enable perfect views of waterfowl, waders and herons. But southern Poland and part of Slovakia (where we also enter through the now non-visible border) has much more to offer than just birds. Wild flowers, insects and amphibians are also attractions of this study tour.
Day 1: Arrival to Cracow. Short travel from the airport to the city centre by very convenient express train or by taxi. We first meet in our office, and around 5 pm we transfer to Busko-Zdroj, a quite little spa town where we stay for 2 nights.
Day 2: Exploring the Nida River valley, a rural region with two different habitats: Riverine wetlands along the river Nida (a miniature of Biebrza marshes), home to numerous waders, Corncrake, Rosefinches, Marsh and River Warbler. White Stork is a common sight, like everywhere in Poland. But the real natural attractions of this region are the Gypsum Hills, overgrown with steppe vegetation (feather grasses). The nature reserve of Polichno Glade is a small clearing in in an oak wood, home to more than 10 orchid species and a perfect place for insects like Rose Chafer, Stag Beetle, Burnets and Hawk Moths.
Day 3: We travel further southward, visiting remote fishpond farms. The one near Tarnobrzeg is home to Poland's biggest breeding colony of Ferruginous Duck.
Days 4 & 5: We stay in Krempna, a small village in Lower Beskid (Beskid Niski), the lowest part of the Carpathian Range. This area is very scarcely populated since late 1940's, when, due to postwar expulsions, hundreds of villages literally ceased to exist. For a few years now, extensive parts of this land are protected as Magurski National Park - a real jewel of nature, so far completely unknown to foreign visitors.
Guided by local national park wardens, we have access to the best observation spots of rare woodpeckers (including the Grey-Headed, Middle-Spotted, White-Backed and Syrian), Ural- and Pygmy Owl, Nutcracker, Hazelhen, and Collared and Red-Breasted Flycatcher. Lesser Spotted Eagle is a common sight over the meadows and Black Storks can be frequently observed fishing in the streams.
Later in summer we also focus on insects, such as the splendid Rosalia Longicorn, and amphibians. An endemic Carpathian Newt occurs in small water pools.
Day 6: We move westward along the Carpathians and stop in the Pieniny - the scenic limestone range, widely known because of Dunajec River Gorge - perhaps the most picturesque corner of Poland and Slovakia. In the surrounding meadows and pastures and on rocky cliffs we find plenty of beautiful butterflies, like Apollo, Scarce Swallowtail and few species of Fritillary. We stay overnight in the region of Orawa, at the foothill of Tatras.
Day 7: We start very early at the atmospheric Podczerwone peat-bog where the dramatic Tatras form a photogenic backdrop to a Black Grouse lek and where we may also see Great Grey Shrike, Rough-legged Buzzard and various harriers. The woodland there could give us a final chance for Crossbill, Firecrest and Crested Tit. Nearby, we have a chance for Dipper and Grey Wagtail. In the mean time, the Chocholow wooden village will take us back several centuries. On the way back to Cracow, we stop at fishponds and gravel pits near Spytkowice, offering a feast of wildfowl and waders at any season of the year. A visit to a colony of Night Herons will be the last attraction before returning to Cracow for the last night.
Day 8: Return flight or continuation of your stay in Cracow. Cracow is a famous tourist town and it is really worth staying here a bit longer, before or after the tour. We can book you rooms in the centrally located, three-star Hotel Wyspianski, only few minutes walk to the Market Square and not far from our office.
In 2015 we offer the following departures:
SO-1 26.04. - 3.05.
Early spring tour - traditionally best for woodpeckers and owls and good for mammals. On the fishponds near Cracow are hundreds of migrating waders in breeding plumage. Mountain meadows are covered with richly blooming crocuses and the steppe hills near Busko with Adonis Vernalis (Yellow Pheasants Eye).
SO-2 24.05. - 31.05.
This departure in full birding season start just after the northeastern tour, so you can book both of them. All birds species are already present. In early June, they are still very active while the days are longest and the world of insects and flowers has much more to offer.
SO-4 16.08. - 23.08.
Summer tours are specially planned for those who like to enjoy nature in its full splendor during the pleasant weather. This is the best time for wild flowers and butterflies, and we can still see more than 100-120 different bird species. Late summer is also a good time for migrants in fishponds and mountain valleys, especially where bird ringing stations operate.
Price: £ 640 in shared twin, £ 730 in single room.
Our price includes:
- 7 nights Accommodation and half board in hotels and pensions (two or three star standard, rooms always with private facilities)
- Transportation from/to Krakow, guiding, and all entrance fees.
Not included are: flight to Krakow, lunches and drinks.
Extra night in Krakow before or after the trip: £ 60 for twin bedded room, £ 46 for single room Bed & Breakfast.