Woodpeckers and Owls of Bielaviežškaja Pušča
the Belarusian part of Białowieża Forest World Heritage site
available from 15th March to 15th May each year
DAY 1: Transfer from Minsk airport to Bielaviežškaja Pušča National Park
The Belarusian part of this ancient forest is much larger and even wilder than the famous Białowieża Forest in Poland.
We arrive at our beautiful guest house, which is located in the forest at the edge of a swamp, which allows you to watch birds right from the yard
DAY 2: Visiting natural old-growth forests of Bielaviežškaja Pušča
In the morning we will walk into the protected forests of Bielaviežškaja Pušča.
Bielaviežškaja Pušča is home to all ten European Woodpeckers species. The calls of Black Woodpeckers ring out through the forest, where Middle-spotted and Green Woodpeckers forage in oak woodland. Old alder forests with many dead trees are the habitat of White-backed Woodpecker while the Three-toed prefers taiga-like conifer forests. Lesser-spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers can be observed in deciduous forests near small rivers: both often make nest holes in willow tree trunks. Great Spotted Woodpeckers are common while Syrian Woodpeckers, as a synanthropic species, can only be found in the local villages. Wryneck, the only European woodpecker to undertake long distance migrations, might be back to the national park by the time of our trip.
Hazel Grouse is a common bird of Bielaviežškaja Pušča, although it likes to hide in short spruce trees and dense low bushes. The enchanting woodlands conceal elusive Pygmy and Tengmalm’s Owls– but there is a good chance that we will hear and perhaps see both species.
DAY 3: Liasnaja Pravaja river flood plain and surroundings
Today we will explore the Liasnaja Pravaja River. In early spring thousands of migrating geese, ducks and waders stop to rest along the river flood plain where waders including Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Golden Plover and Ruff can be observed in large numbers. On the fields and pastures near the river is a Black Grouse lek where about 10 males gather each year. In the early morning and at dusk Short-eared Owls can be seen hunting over the reeds and sedges along the riverbanks. Nutcracker and Black Woodpecker live in an adjacent spruce-and-pine forest, while at sunset, if we are lucky, we may see an Eagle Owl flying out of the marshy black alder forest to hunt, or hear birds hooting from the edge of the forest.
DAY 4: Dzikoje Fen and surroundings
Today we will visit Dzikoje, one of the biggest fens in Europe — a habitat that barely exists in Western Europe. Preserved in its natural state, it is a breeding ground for Great Grey Owl and Greater Spotted Eagle. Dzikoje, together with Bielaviežškaja Pušča, are the only places among more than 20 breeding sites in Belarus for Greater Spotted Eagle where numbers are increasing—a sure sign that rewilding efforts are proving successful. During migration, numerous Cranes rest on the open marshes, and there are always some which stay and breed here. Black Storks make their nests on the islands of forest in the marsh far from human settlements, but often the birds feed on the fields or soil-reclamation canals. At the edge of the fen there is a complex of small ponds, a perfect place for observing the White-tailed Eagles that hunt fish and waterbirds here, while Great Bitterns boom in the reedbeds.
DAY 5: Transfer from Bielaviežškaja Pušča to Minsk
morning bird watching around the house and transfer to Minsk and the airport. Flight back.