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Biodiversity Immersion!

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

In June I immersed myself and my guests in biodiversity, in an area where wolves, lynx, bears, pine martens, wild boar and wildcats roam.

This was my annual pilgrimage into a wildlife-rich area that I'm getting to know more intimately every time I go and I have the added enjoyment of sharing it with my guests who were overwhelmed by what they experienced.

The expected numbers and variety of butterflies, dragonflies, moths and other invertebrates didn't disappoint and we had some unexpected bonuses including a mole cricket running along the side of the road in the sunshine.

Large copper butterfly
Large copper butterfly

The butterflies alone make the trip worthwhile, with coppers, blues, browns, whites, admirals, emperors and many more.

There are stunning moths like the scarlet tiger, exquisite beetles and flies, dashing dragonflies and dancing damselflies.

The flower-rich hay-meadows are buzzing with life, including myriad grasshoppers and crickets.

Bird-life is amazing, with all the species we're familiar with, plus many of the species we've lost in the UK, plus a few European species.

Red-backed shrike
Red-backed shrike

Red-backed shrikes are common, but in the UK they're extinct as a breeding bird.

Corncrakes, quail, yellowhammer, stonechat, black redstart, white wagtail, marsh warbler, spotted flycatcher, lesser-spotted woodpecker and fieldfare are common.

The high point of our trip last June was a close encounter with one of the most difficult birds to see; a bird extinct in mainland UK where once it was common. The corncrake is common in our 'secret corner' of Poland and we hear them all the time, but seeing them is another matter entirely.

It was during our walk to Nieznajowa that we saw it; a one mile walk that took us four hours and clocked up many species of birds, including golden eagle and golden oriole.

Our expeditions invariably involve walking very slowly and stopping every few steps to look at something, so we don't travel far but it fills up the days nicely.

We never know what we'll see next, perhaps a white stork flying overhead or stalking the meadows hunting for prey, or the much rarer black stork flying up from the river. Lesser spotted eagles are very common but easily mistaken for buzzards at first glance. To complicate things further, we also have both common and honey buzzards, plus goshawks.

Purple emperor butterfly
Purple emperor butterfly

Among the butterflies, the purple emperor, lesser purple emperor and poplar admiral are common but similar enough to be confused.

In the UK, the purple emperor is very rare and the other two don't occur, so we consider ourselves privileged to be able to see them together.

Nutcrackers and black woodpeckers are sometimes seen flying across the valleys and the tiny lesser-spotted woodpecker can sometimes be seen. We've also seen green, grey-headed, white-backed and greater spotted woodpeckers. Wrynecks may also be around, but we've not seen them yet.

Beaver habitat
Beaver habitat

Beavers are common and this is an example of what they can do to the landscape and for other species.

This area has been created by beavers and provides a mosaic of willow scrub, open water and trees alongside a major river. The area is teeming with fish, dragonflies, amphibians and birds.

We also have beavers just below where we stay and we can watch them every morning and evening. We don't always see them, but most of the time at least one is seen, as well as the odd fox, deer or other visitor. Pine martens are also present.

Beaver pool
Beaver pool

Above you can see another beaver pool, where we were watching lots of dragonflies and damselflies, as well as various butterflies and birds.

This could be a good place to watch beavers, though they're likely to be more wary than the ones in our back garden!

The opportunities for photography are many, whether your 'thing' is birds, invertebrates, reptiles, flowers, old wooden churches, landscapes or starscapes.

Huta Polanska church by Carl Payne
Huta Polanska church by Carl Payne

The photograph above was taken by one of my guests. It's of the church at Huta Polanska from the flower-rich meadow alongside where many invertebrates can be found, as well as sand lizards.

Sand lizards can also be found around the building and in the walls by the steps, where they can be very obliging for photography.

It's also a great place for purple emperor and fritillary butterflies.

Here's a little video I shot of one of the sand lizards around the walls.

I feel it's essential for anybody involved in wildlife conservation, habitat recreation and related issues to see what a biodiverse area actually looks like; to see and hear the species that live there and how they interact. Without this knowledge, how can we recreate habitats with functional ecosystems? It would be like trying to complete a really complicated jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing and no picture!

I have lots more photographs to show you on my website, so please take a look at them and if you'd like to join me next year you should get your booking in soon, as I only take up to six guests with me and I already have some bookings.

The only downside is that you may get depressed when you go back home and realise how little wildlife is left - perhaps it'll be an even greater incentive to try to get our wildlife back!

Warm Regards,


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