Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Barycz valley nature park, part I

Here is as promised the review of this amazing place that not only provides the nature lover and bird watcher with a paradise, but also provides touchable insights into the history of the region, including the effects of WWII.

As you can see, the park consists of many lakes and forests, and there are plenty birds there.

Now, bird watching is ace.  I don't understand why not a lot of people do it.  It's  In other words: Bird watch, or die.  The Baryczy valley nature park is more than a place where one can see loads of birds, though, one can simply chill in a quiet place, have some good food, go for walks in woods and by lakes and see some interesting places of historical significance.  To learn more, read on.

Generally, central Europe offers the bird watcher with the chance to see birds and animals that one would either see seldomly or not at all in places like GB, and prices for the moment remain quite decent.

This review shall take the form of a diary.


We were staying in a very nice wooden converted stables in Wrobliniec (you can see the name underneath and to the right of Odolanów on the map above), a small village about 18 miles east of the nearest biggish town, Milicz.  The place we were staying in can see seen here and is a place I would recommend.  The house was right next to a wood, so I could simply birdwatch from the porch in front of the building.  

Within a few hours after our arrival (I saw some grey partridges along the way) I saw a flash of bright red in the trees ahead of me.  It didn't make the agitated-cat-with-a-sore-throat-and-a-grievance sound of a jay, and in any case the orange was too bright for it to be a jay, and it was smaller.  I can only conclude that what I saw was none other than a hoopoe.

Unfortunately I had forgotten that hoopoes are called as such due to their call, so didn't think to note the sound they make.  Of course, birds make more than one sort of call, such as warning, alarm and check-me-out-lass calls.

Liverpool fans may be amused to learn that the Polish name for the hoopoe is 'Dudek'.

Also that first evening we saw some greylag geese in a field close to the house, some actual jays, a marsh tit (for the first time in my life) as well as a few skylarks.  Not bad for a start.


The renting of the apartment included the use of bikes, so all four of us who were adults could go on rides and we decided to go to the wood around the 'Jan lake' not too far away.  We went along a cycle/horse path and were alone the entire time we were there (which surprised me, as this was the Easter week).  That day, we saw a red-backed shrike, great crested grebes, grey herons, cormorants, mallards, coots and also heard cuckoos.  I was later to go on further with my bike to the lakes north of Grabownica and saw, to begin with, a greater spotted woodpecker.  Moving on, I saw a bird that I had hoped to see while I was there, a white-tailed eagle:

By the end of the week I was to see loads of them; probably about twenty in all.  They are splendid birds.  They can be seen soaring above in the sky with a wingspan of 2 metres, great big massive black things, with 'finger-type' ends to their wings.  Even without seeing their yellow beak or feet they are still identifiable.

If that wasn't enough, I was to see a female tufted duck, a bird which I had seen in GB, but hadn't seen for years.  The female has a nice chocolate colour and a yellow eye.  Strangely enough, it was to be the members of the duck family that gave me more joy than the more spectacular white-tailed eagles, due I believe to the fact that I hadn't expected to see them.

The bike ride back was long and tiring (largely due to the many holes in the roads) but I allowed myself to have a break upon seeing a brownish bird soaring with spread wings in a V-shape ahead of me.  The fork of its tail gave away that it was a kite, and that it had red on its wings and back showed it to be a red kite.  Seeing as I was still about 15 miles away from home and was exhausted, this managed to energise me to get back home.


I didn't want to cycle this day and was quite saddle-sore, and in any case the others wanted to visit Milicz, so a car ride it was.  Milicz is a fairly small place which contains a nice (from the outside) Gnadenkirche (Church of mercy, founded due to the end of the 30 years war).

and a former palace which is now a school for foresters

Milicz also has a relatively nice town centre.

On the way back we stopped by the lakes I had visited the day before, and fairly quickly saw some great-egrets (interestingly, though perhaps only for me, the literal translation from the Polish czapla biała is 'White Heron', which reminds one that Egrets are in the heron family)  Wherever they are (unless they were to go mad and migrate to the artic) they stand out due to the brilliance of their white.  We also saw white herons, fieldfares, lapwings (a bird I have found interesting for years and must write about some day) and a marsh harrier.

A later visit to a massive hide (about four stories high) brought us sights of many white-tailed eagles.

Back home after supper we saw some yellowhammers (I was trying to teach my mother-in-law that we say in English that they make a sound like 'A-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese', which in Polish 'Trochy-chleba-bez-sera' doesn't make any sense whatsoever).  I also saw a reed bunting and (for the first time in my life) a nightingale. 

All in all, a good bird-watching's day, topped off by the excellent food at the hunter's lodge close to our apartment, 

where one got excellent Polish food (barszcz, potato soup with cream and mustard, potato pancakes with mushroom sauce) as well as fish and potatoes; all washed down with different compotes.


This was to be an unexpecedly interesting day, for reasons other than birds.

We decided to go on our bikes north via Bartniki.  I found Bartniki to be an interesting place.

While most of the villages Wrobliniec were not so much villages rather were hovels, Bartniki stood out by having a shop, a shop that served to be the local centre of meeting, as there was no church in the village.

As can happen in Poland, such shops have benches and a table outside of them and therefore offer a place for people to sit and drink vodka.  I have rarely seen this in Poland but here one can see it.  Effectively, this table is the bar of Bartniki.

(We were drinking Oranżade, a Polonised form of the English word 'Orangeade', by the way; though this particular Oranżade had a raspberry flavour.)

Part two continues here.

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