Saturday, 28 May 2016

Biebrza Marshes, Poland 3: wet alder woodlands with River Warbler and White-backed Woodpecker

In several parts of the Biebrza Valley the wide open expanses of reedbed and fen are bounded, towards the valley sides, by extensive areas of wet woodland - including willow scrub and alder carr.  The "transition zone" from fen to woodland seemed to be a particularly valuable habitat, an intricate mosaic of wetland habitats full of warblers (especially Blackcap, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat).  In the clumps of willow would often hide a Thrush Nightingale, a wonderful songster with a loud rattling song....but equally good at keeping itself hidden.
River Warbler
I tried several times to see one, but failed completely (I definitely needed a bit more patience!).  Never mind, I had more luck with the River Warbler, a bird I'd not seen before, so I was really pleased when one decided to sing on top of a dead-looking bush a few metres from where I'd decided to park up for lunch.  Not the most spectacular bird, but very much a part of the Biebrza soundscape.
The alder woodland was looking particularly stunning with the first flush of bright green leaves reflecting in the water.
Alder carr
I was fortunate to be directed to a nest site of a pair of White-backed Woodpeckers in this habitat.  The nest hole was in a decaying tree overlooking a wide ditch.
female White-backed Woodpecker visiting the nest
male White-backed Woodpecker
The birds seemed quite tolerant of people but I did worry that as the word got around they seemed to be under almost constant observation. I enjoyed watching them as they foraged in the woods, collecting great beakfuls of food.  I also heard Grey-headed Woodpecker in this location several times but just could not locate the bird - somewhat frustrating, but one for another trip!  Wood Warblers were much in evidence, perhaps even the commonest bird in pretty much all the woodlands (there are also extensive forests on the very sandy soils above the floodplain).
Wood Warbler
Evidence of Beaver activity was everywhere along the ditch:
Also a really nice selection of flowers, sedges etc.:


Lily of the valley
Wood Cow-wheat

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