by Daniel Walker
Waking up at 3am after a restless night (nervous excitement does not help with sleep). I get up, go to the train station, and arrive at Manchester Airport at 5am, to meet the group.
After two flights (the highlights of which were the unexpected croissants and breath-taking views of the Alps) we arrive in Warsaw. At 1pm local time we board our coach and set off on the long journey to Bialowieza.
We arrive at approximately 5pm after a long but interesting journey (I was able to spot Common Crane and White Stork from the coach). We are sorted into rooms and then go off to see what we can find, I manage to see a yellowhammer, cuckoo and a red fox. The rasping calls of Corncrakes can be heard in the distance and there are rumours that someone has spotted an eagle. At dinner we are informed of the schedule for the rest of our time here, Selvino says breakfast is at 6.30am tomorrow and everyone thinks he is joking (he isn’t).
We set out on a walk around the forest covering around 12.4 miles, between 7.30 am and 1 pm. Highlight was seeing an old disused beaver dam and the microhabitat it had created. The rest the day involved project planning and a trip to the shop which involved me seeing four new bird species, a great grey shrike, two whinchats, a black redstart and a lesser spotted eagle; with our project planned it’s time to pitch our ideas to the lecturers, Dragon’s Den style. Later on we sit around the camp fire, it’s been a very good day.
Today I got up at 3.30am, and left the house by 4am, it’s pilot study day! At this point everyone is on different schedules, so because my project involves bird it’s going to be waking up at dawn from now on. After breakfast we decide to listen to the recordings of the dawn chorus we have taken and identify the species recorded.
It’s the first day of data collection and yet again I’m up at 4am. Since the project I’m involved with is a bird census, dawn is the best time to collect data, we go to our grassland area and manage to identify 24 different bird species, including red backed shrike, skylark and white stork. At around 11am we get back to the house and take a well-deserved break. After lunch we start analysing the recordings we took in the morning, bird identification via song recognition is a steep learning curve but I’ve managed to learn ten songs so far.
At dusk myself and a few others decide to go for a walk with a bat detector in the forest, we ended up seeing a couple of red deer and several bat species such as noctule and pipistrelle.
Today we went kayaking, which was so much fun, initially I was pretty nervous but thankfully my partner was an experienced kayaker so it was really good.
Yay I have finished my data collection! Today has been dedicated to trying to get as much data analysed as we can, as we need to give a presentation on the night before going home, so if we can be prepared it means we can spend more time exploring the forest. In the afternoon my group travelled to Lake Siemianówka with Selvino, it was amazing, we saw so many species. The highlight for me was when a White Tailed Eagle arrived and all of the resident bird flew into the air (I think this decreases their chance of being caught), the eagle undeterred singled out a Great White Egret, a bird of considerable size, we watched in awe as the eagle chased to egret, the egret began to tire, the eagle inches and then suddenly the egret dropped from the sky to the reedbed, to live another day.
Today I carried out vegetation surveys for my project in the morning, working out the heights, densities and species of trees around our transect points, as well as assessing the abundance of ground flora using the DAFORA scale. After this me and my team continue going through our acoustic recordings and start to statistically analyse the data we have obtained.
During the day we carried out the rest of our data analysis and start preparing for our presentation tomorrow. At night we all sit around the campfire and roast sausages it was a lot of fun, and the risk of sausages falling into the flames only increased the excitement.
It’s the day of the presentations and it’s really interesting to hear about what everyone has been doing and what they have found. We give our presentation and then it’s over, we can relax, when we get home we have to hand in a report on our project.
It’s time to go home, we get our coach back to the airport at 6am, and fly from Warsaw at 1pm. It’s been such a good trip.
Do widzenia Poland, it’s been a pleasure.