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Wildlife Watching, Tracking & Photography in Southern Poland
Photographs & videos from Summer 2018 trip
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Some of our photographs and videos taken during our two weeks in Poland
(click on images and videos to enlarge)
All images and videos taken by either Martin, Rob, Francis or Cherry. Copyright 2018
Sunday 17th June

I love it when a plan comes together...

Unfortunately, this time it didn’t.

It seemed simple enough:

Meet two guests at Manchester airport, fly to Rzeszow, meet our friend Jacek who hosts us, then wait for David to arrive from Birmingham via Germany, then all drive down to our secret corner of Poland in time for a late lunch.

I booked priority boarding and Fast Track security, to avoid any delays caused by my equipment and the scanners and was at the gate before they opened it.

Trouble was, they didn’t open it, at least not to let us on the plane.

We did get to go through to go back down to Arrivals and back through the Border Control and to the carousels to collect our bags. Very odd.

Then hours in a queue without any food or drink, waiting to see if we could get another flight to Rzeszow.

I knew this was unlikely, as they only fly from Manchester to Rzeszow on Sundays and Wednesdays.

We met up with Neil in the queue and he was issued a flight from Stansted to Krakow, arriving tomorrow night. He hopped on a coach and is now in a hotel at or near Stansted.

My other guest and I were offered a couple of stand-by flights from Manchester to Krakow tomorrow morning. If we manage to get them, we’ll be in Krakow several hours before Neil, so will have to do some exploring while we wait for him and then Jacek will pick us all up from the airport around 2130.

In the meantime, we’re at a hotel in Manchester Airport, the Crowne Plaza no less, where we’ve just had a passable meal, largely paid for by Ryanair, as is our accommodation and breakfast tomorrow.

It’s been a very long day and I’ve only had about an hour’s sleep since I got up at 0230 this morning, after only 2-3 hours sleep.

I will be asleep very soon and up again at 0630 for a leisurely breakfast before our flight, assuming we get it.

David, meanwhile, has dined with our Polish friends and will get to explore the valley on his own tomorrow.

I did get the chance to get to know one of our guests, at least, so not all bad.

Hopefully, tomorrow’s plan will come together.

Warm Regards,


Monday 18th June

The plan finally came together...

After an early start and breakfast in the hotel in Manchester, we were back in the airport getting our passes and then through security.

Not as simple as on Sunday and I ended up using four trays to put all my stuff in, but all cleared OK and we then had to wait ‘til last at the gate, to see if we’d actually got our seats.

Luckily we had, so were soon on our way to Krakow.

After arriving in Krakow, we decided to spend our time before Neil arrived from Stansted visiting the salt mine at Wieliczka.

First we had to go from the airport into Krakow town, to deposit the luggage while we went to Wieliczka.

At the bottom of the guided tour, we were 135m below the surface and it was pretty cool, literally.

After over two hours underground, we jumped back on the train to the airport, just stopping in Krakow to collect our baggage on the way.

We arrived to find Jacek and his daughter Julia waiting for Neil at Arrivals and shortly after, Neil appeared.

Then began the roughly three hour drive to Polany.

By the time we’d unloaded and eaten a welcome late supper, it was around 3am and we all went to bed, knackered.

Warm Regards,


Wieliczka Salt Mine, Krakow
Wieliczka Salt Mine, Krakow - view down the stairwell
Tuesday 19th June

This morning I was up at 0700...

After breakfast we went for a walk up the valley, stopping for lots of butterflies and dragonflies, including brimstones, purple emperors, several fritillaries, commas, tortoiseshells, red admirals and peacocks. There was a red-backed shrike on a wire, several buzzards, lesser spotted and great spotted woodpeckers and lots of swallows, house martins and house sparrows. There were green demoiselle damselflies along the riverside and lots of fish fry.

After a lie down in the shade of the church at Huta Polanska, we retraced our route back to the Old School, adding lesser spotted eagle to our list of cool birds.

Arriving back at 7pm to the sound of a yellowhammer singing across the road, we had our dinner and later went out to see if we could spot the beavers below the house.

We saw a few bats, lots of fireflies and then two brief glimpses of a beaver. That was enough and then everybody went to bed, except me.

Clients to get back to and this email to write. I also put out two bat recorders near to the beaver pond, so we’ll see what they detect, and I had a little play with a Pulsar Helion XP50 thermal camera, which looks like a very useful bit of kit for looking for and watching wildlife. I’m hoping we’ll have a chance to scan the hills and valleys for wolves one night this week. Now it’s time I went to bed.

Warm Regards,


Large Copper
Onychogomphus forcipatus
Beautiful Demoiselle
Onychogomphus forcipatus
Small Tortoiseshell
Transparent Burnet
Red-backed Shrike
Robberfly, Asilidae
Dark Green Fritillary
High Brown Fritillary
High Brown Fritillary
Larva of a silphid beetle
Araneus sp?
Scorpion Fly
High Brown Fritillaries
Purple Emperor
Purple Emperor
Wednesday 20th June

A pleasant surprise in the garden...

After a late-ish start this morning I was sitting in the Old School when I heard a sound outside.

It was a fluty bird call that I recognised as that of a golden oriole.

I went outside but couldn’t see it, but it was nice to hear anyway.

Later, we went off with Jacek and two of his kids to Wisokie, which is where I nearly died last year after my too-close encounter with the adder.

As we walked along the road from the car to the gate, I spotted a swallowtail butterfly, my first ever, flying around, but unfortunately it didn’t stop anywhere long enough for a photo.

By now it was pretty hot and we were surrounded by butterflies, including lots of purple emperors, brimstones and fritillaries, among others.

We spent some time at the pond, watching dragons and damsels, as well as the odd newt, before starting our slow climb to the top of the hill.

There were loads more butterflies, moths and other small beasties, as well as buzzards and eagles in the sky. There were tree pipits and yellowhammers, red-backed shrikes but no adders - we didn’t go looking for them this time.

There was no corncrake in the meadow where I first heard one, so I assumed it was too late in the year and we headed back to the car.

A quick visit to the village on the way back, for ice cream from the little van and supplies from the Atlantik supermarket.

I bought Cheryl some more Polish Zubrowka vodka and then we headed home, seeing a white stork in a field by a tractor and then a white stork on its nest on a pole by the roadside, with a young one.

David and I put out a couple of trail cameras for the beavers and we admired the dams they’d built since the last time I was here.

After dinner, two of our guests went to watch the beavers again and Neil got a great photo of one of them.

Later, we all went for a walk with bat detectors and the thermal camera.

We heard common pipistrelle, noctule and Daubenton’s bats and I scanned the fields and hills for wildlife with the thermal camera.

There were a few roe deer in the meadows, but not much else so I stopped watching to chat to the others.

Suddenly, there was a loud alarm bark from one of the deer and I spun around and switched on the thermal camera again. There was a canid walking between the deer, but I couldn’t tell whether it was a fox or a wolf.

A little earlier I heard a sound, apparently coming from the roadside ditch. We’d been hearing crickets and I’d told my guests about the mole cricket - a strange looking brown animal that lives in a burrow in the roadside ditches and elsewhere.

Naturally, I assumed the sound I was hearing was from a mole cricket, as I haven’t heard them for over a year and mis-remembered what they sound like.

It was Neil who asked the question: “Isn’t that a corncrake?”.

It turned out that he was right and the sound was actually coming from the meadow beyond.

Needless to say, I couldn’t see it, even with the thermal camera, but at least we’d heard one.

After returning to the Old School, I introduced my guests to the joys of Polish vodka. Sorry, Cheryl.

Discussions ensued until around 0100, so now I’m typing this email and trying to stay awake long enough to do so.

You can see below some images and videos. I’m very pleased with my new camera kit, though there are still many features I don’t understand.

Oops, fell asleep so I’d better get to bed.

Warm Regards,


Emperor & Fritillaries
Forester Moth
Magura National Park
Yellow-bellied Toad
Yellow-bellied Toad
Dear Tourist
1. Do not destroy
2. Do not make noise
3. Do not light a fire
4. Do not leave leftover food
5. Take your garbage with you
6. The shelter is not an accommodation place
Purple Emperor on Wolf faeces
Purple Emperor on Wolf faeces
Purple Emperor on Wolf faeces
Spotted Longhorn Leptura maculata
Thursday 21st June

A very busy and exciting day...

Today was a fun day, with black stork, more eagles, golden orioles and beavers.

To start at the beginning...

After another late-ish start, caused by yet another late night, we set off up the valley towards Salamandra, to pick up the car.

The plan was to walk up part of the river bed on the way, to see if we could find the rare black storks that hunt there.

We saw numerous cool birds, had some amazing close encounters with demoiselles and an eagle or two, but no black storks.

Arriving at Salamandra, we said hi to the kids, jumped in the car and headed for Krempna and thence to our destination.

On the way, we had great views of a white stork hunting in the fields, then we stopped for some more delicious ice cream from the little shop in Krempna and then paused to wander around the old church at Kotan.

Shortly afterwards, past the wolf sign on the roadside, we reached Nieznajowa which is the site of one of the many villages cleared during the wars.

It’s down a long track which we slowly walked along.

First stop was an amazing beaver-created habitat. Picture a 10m+ wide river that has a wall along one bank. This is no man-made wall, but a series of dams running alongside the river for perhaps a quarter of a mile.

These dams have raised the water level behind to around a metre or so above the level of the river, creating large pools and canals which the beavers use to harvest the willow.

Somewhere in there must be a lodge, but it would be extremely difficult to get to it and you’d certainly get very wet if you tried.

My eye was caught by a bird in the sky, a sparrowhawk, which was then mobbed by two golden orioles, while a lesser spotted eagle soared nearby.

Along the track we found pools/puddles with yellow-bellied toadpoles and broad-bodied chaser dragonflies.

It was very hot and Triska, one of our guests, was forced to retreat back to the car to wait for us, where she saw a grass snake and a few nice birds.

Meanwhile, David, Neil and I braved the heat (mad dogs!) and carried on towards the site of the old village of Nieznajowa.

We saw a few red-backed shrikes and heard a corncrake briefly, before arriving at the river near the old village.

David found some otter spraint on a rock in the middle of the river and we watched Gomphid dragonflies and small butterflies.

A young Polish couple arrived and we chatted to them, before heading back along the track towards the car.

An eagle or two, lesser spotted, plus a very nice flyover by a black stork and we were back at the car, hot and sweaty but happy.

By now, it was time to head back to the Old School for dinner, but we stopped at the white stork nest at the edge of the village to get some shots of the youngsters in the nest.

After dinner, some good views of the beavers below the Old School were had. We’ve also got some trail cameras down there, so hopefully we’ll get some images and videos of the beavers.

Warm Regards,


Beautiful Demoiselle
White Stork
Clouded magpie
Neil & David at Nieznajowa
Red admirals on Wolf faeces
Blue butterfly
David at the river
Neil, David & Polish friends
Black Stork
White Stork nest
Roe Doe
Roe Doe
Roe Doe
Friday 22nd June

A lovely walk in the countryside...

Today, Triska took a walk down through Polany towards Krempna and David, Neil and I headed off the other way towards Olchoviec.

It was a nice walk with plenty of birds and butterflies, including red-backed shrikes, stonechats, yellowhammers, white and grey wagtails and the occasional lesser spotted eagle and buzzard.

We diverted to visit the old Lemko house and Neil was dressed up in traditional Lemko clothes, including a jacket with a hidden pocket for a bottle. After leaving the lovely people who showed us the old house, complete with new, stepped, thatched roof, we were treated to the sight of a beautiful male black redstart on the fence. We saw several more, as well as a brief glimpse of another lesser spotted eagle, which flew up from by the track in front of us (David and I). Neil had a better view, as he’d dropped back to ‘adjust his equipment’.

At the church, we had a good view of a great spotted woodpecker, as well as a couple of young black redstarts on the stone bridge and several yellowhammers.

Heading back along the road towards home, we diverted across a field to look for sand lizards but didn’t find any. We did find another beaver pool, which was nice. The walk back produced more of the same birds and then it was home to get ready for dinner.

After dinner, I went up to Salamandra with Agnieszka, our host, to bring the Freelander back so we could go on an evening expedition to Czehania, another cleared village. Back through Krempna, Kotan and past Nieznajowa, through Grab and then left at Ozenna brought us to the old road back to Krempna, which we went up. We saw another lesser spotted eagle in the field and then entered the forest and continued to the viewpoint near the highest point of the road.

The plan was to scan the valley below with the thermal imager for deer and any other species that were about, perhaps even wolves! We did see some wildlife, though sadly not wolves. There were a few roe deer, some hares and a vixen with cub and then we heard a weird call up the road behind us: a croaky sort of noise.

I was hoping we’d hear it again and that we’d get to see the bird itself, but it didn’t happen and I forgot to tell our guests what it was. It was a woodcock, roding.

Shortly after, we heard a distant corncrake in the valley below and then our full attention was focussed, literally, on one calling from the meadow behind us. It was loud and we estimated it to be maybe 10m away. We trained the thermal imager on the area and saw nothing. We recorded its call and played it back, but saw nothing. In the end, as we were about to head home, I decided to head into the field with my torch and see if I could find it.

I waded through long vegetation for about 50-60m, with the call getting louder and louder. Occasionally, the calls would stop and so would I. Eventually, I was within about 5m of it, shining the torch at it, but still couldn’t see it. The sound was now deafening and I wished I hadn’t left the thermal imager in the car - this was harder than I’d anticipated.

Not wanting to give up, I retraced my steps to the car and retrieved the thermal camera, then headed back into the field. I got to within about 4m before I could finally see it with the thermal imager and I started to record what I was seeing. I could see its beak opening and closing as the loud call assaulted my ears and I stood as still as I could, trying not to shake the camera or spook the bird. I edged closer, until I was within 3m of it, at which point it went quiet and crouched down under the grasses and wildflowers.

I edged closer still, until I was too close to focus the camera. Turning off the thermal camera, I switched my torch on and peered into the grasses, but I couldn’t see it. Eventually, I spotted it, or at least part of its head. I could see its eye, glinting in the torch light as it watched me and then I retreated, retracing my steps to the car where Neil and Triska were patiently waiting.

An amazing experience and one that I hope to share with you when I get home and download the video from the thermal camera. We headed home, spotting a hedgehog (the first I’ve seen for decades) and a couple of red deer along the road, before arriving back at the Old School around midnight.

David had chosen to stay behind to set his trail camera on the beaver dam, so I didn’t see him until the morning. After dropping Neil and Triska off, I had to take the car back to Salamandra and then walk back a couple of miles in the dark, just missing the rain. I finally got to bed around 1.30am.

Warm Regards,


Neil as a Lemko
Black Redstart
Black Redstart
Red-backed Shrike
Slow! Bears!
Mystery animal
Corncrake Stalking 1
Corncrake Stalking 2
Saturday 23rd June

Today I was up just after 7am...

We went out for a short walk this morning, just across the road and up the track, and had great views of red-backed shrikes, stonechats, yellowhammers, another eagle or two and lots of butterflies in the meadows. There’s also a golden oriole around but they can be very difficult to spot. Nice to hear them calling, though.

The others have gone to Slovakia with Jacek and I’ve set one of my trail cameras and one of David’s on the beaver dams.

I went to the beaver pool around 8pm to see if I could see them before it got dark. It’s actually pretty easy to see them, if you’re careful to not spook them, and within half an hour I had a nice little clip. It’s a bit shaky, but for a hand-held video it’s not too bad. You can see it below. When it got too dark to film them, I headed back inside, just in time as the rain started to fall quite heavily.

My guests will be back late tonight and then we’ll all be up early, except David who has a later flight, to head to the airport. I’ll be waving goodbye to Neil and Triska and welcoming Francis and Cherry, along with Rob, for more misadventures in Poland.

Warm Regards,


Red-backed Shrikes
Mellitaea sp frit
Leaf beetle
5-spot burnet
Essex Skipper
Marbled white
Polany Church
Marbled white
Sunday 24th June

Goodbye to old friends and hello to new friends

Today we took Triska and Neil to the airport for their 1040 flight to Manchester and collected Rob, Francis & Cherry. Back to the Old School to settle them in and have lunch and then an afternoon bimbling about in a meadow, photographing butterflies, crickets and grasshoppers and watching red-backed shrikes and a white stork.

By the time we returned, David had left for his trip to the airport and I’ll next see him at the National Bat Conference in Nottingham.

We’ve just had our supper and a chat and Rob, Francis & Cherry have gone out to see if they can see the beavers. I’m expecting them back within about an hour, as it’ll be too dark to see anything soon.

That’s it for today, but the saga will be continued tomorrow.

Warm Regards,


Robin's Pincushion
Large Gold Grasshopper
Large Gold Grasshopper
Scorpion Fly
Wood White
Cherry & Francis
Roesel's bush cricket
Roesel's bush cricket
Chestnut Heath
Small skipper?
Francis & Cherry
Red Fox - photo by Rob
Red Fox
Dead Shrew
Blue mint beetle
Marbled White
Filming a slug! - by Rob
Beautiful Slug Movie
Look! Stork! - by Cherry
White Stork - by Rob
There it is! - by Rob
Monday 25th June

Very wet today but still lots of wildlife...

The morning started pretty well, weather wise, but soon started to look a bit grey. We went for a walk up the valley to Huta Polanska and got a bit damp but saw some fantastic wildlife.

There were insects such as the map butterfly, lots of burnet moths, a short-tailed blue, purple emperors, fritillaries, lots of grasshoppers and crickets, beautiful demoiselles, stone-flies, ringlets, meadow browns and a few whites.

We saw lots of birds, including serins, red-backed shrikes, spotted flycatchers, lesser spotted eagle, grey-headed woodpecker, buzzard, fieldfares and lots of swallows hunting over the meadows. We may even have heard a nutcracker!

There was thunder in the distance and a few heavy showers but we were only a little moist when we arrived ‘home’.

I was able to play with my new camera again, despite the rain, and have some nice photos to share below.

Rob, Francis & Cherry are now out trying to watch beavers again and Rob is trying out the thermal imaging camera while they’re out there.

Hopefully, tomorrow’s weather will be a little drier and the wildlife will be more evident, but even so, there can’t be many (or any?) places in the UK where you can see a similar range of species to what we’ve seen today, in any weather!

That’s it for today, but the saga will be continued tomorrow.

Warm Regards,


Magura National Park - by Rob
Roe doe with fawn - by Francis
It's in there somewhere! - by Cherry
Map Butterfly
Our river
Tufted Marbled Skipper - by Francis
C. alcaea (mallow skipper)?
Huta Polanska Church - by Rob
Taking a drink! - by Rob
Common blue?
Tuesday 26th June

The thunderstorms that failed to appear...

Today was supposed to be thundery and wet, but we escaped it.

Just as well, as we split the group, with Rob feeling intrepid and heading off on the big loop along the border with Slovakia, all alone through the forest.

Francis, Cherry and I pootled along the road towards Olchoviec at a very leisurely pace.

One of the many things I like about being here is that you never know what you’re going to see, but you always know that there’ll be something new.

Just stepping out of the Old School is great, with fieldfares, spotted flycatchers, woodpeckers and even golden orioles quite likely.

So, Rob headed up the valley towards Huta Polanska and we headed along the other valley towards Olchoviec.

Before we’d done more than 100m along the road, we’d seen yellowhammer and stonechat, as well as a roe doe up near the forest.

As we approached the ford, I spied some buzzards in the distance above the forest and then, suddenly, two bigger birds appeared with them.

They were eagles and our first thought was the common lesser spotted eagle, but these were obviously something else. Much bigger, dwarfing the buzzards that occasionally mobbed them, these were the kings of the air, golden eagles.

To see one is a treat and we do see them on many of our trips, but to see two together is a rare pleasure and we watched them for several minutes as they soared above the forest and meadow, sometimes closer and sometimes disappearing beyond the treetops.

Eventually, the eagles drifted away, leaving the buzzards to thermal alone and we continued along the road, stopping frequently to watch red-backed shrikes, some feeding their young with crickets, and then stonechats, while listening to yellowhammers singing their “little bit of bread and no cheeeeeeese”.

Sadly, yellowhammers are a rare sight in many areas of the UK now, having once been common in much of our countryside, another victim of the loss of habitat and therefore food, largely caused by intensified farming.

We saw a family flock of greenfinches, with five youngsters, white wagtails and lots of butterflies, including the later form of the map butterfly, brimstones, lots of skippers and wood whites.

Further on, we visited the beaver pool that we found last week and watched and photographed broad-bodied chaser dragonflies, fritillaries and short-tailed blues, among others.

Leaving Cherry in the meadow, Francis and I went in search of sand lizards, where last year we saw several, but we were out of luck, but the abundant butterflies, moths and other insects made up for it.

I saw my first ever holly blue, as well as some stunning beetles and a rose chafer. Later we saw what may have been another serin, but the black redstarts weren’t at the bridge as they were last week.

When we crossed the bridge into Olchoviec, Francis spotted a beautiful creature at the side of the road in a muddy patch, presumably getting salts from the mud. It was a stunning swallowtail, the first one I’ve been able to see clearly and photograph. You can see the photos and video below.

We went into the church yard, as usual, for lunch and saw that there were hornets nesting in the roof of the church.

We saw and photographed the Ilex (or was it sloe?) hairstreak and a black beetle that was living in the rotting tree stump. The great spotted woodpecker was there, as usual, and showed itself well and we heard a green woodpecker in the distance.

Rob appeared, striding down the path past the church, and we eventually managed to catch his attention so that he could join us.

After photographing some ‘humbugs’, first spotted by my daughter Caitlin a few years ago, we headed back to where Cherry was busy photographing butterflies.

Then it was an uneventful walk back to Polany, with yellowhammers, greenfinches and a white stork eating a young snake marking our way ‘home’.

Then Rob, Francis and I went across to the ‘beaver area’ to put a couple of trail cameras out on the beaver runs.

After a very filling dinner, Rob went out with the thermal imager to watch the beavers and Francis and Cherry soon joined him.

When we were walking back from Olchoviec, Francis told me a tale of a ring-tone someone had on their phone that made him think there was a golden oriole behind him. I then played my recording of the corncrake I stalked last week, that was on my phone. When Francis & Cherry were watching the beavers, they heard a corncrake behind them but thought it was me playing silly buggers.

They came in and told me and I assured them I hadn’t been outside but they didn’t believe me! Anyway, as I was snuggling up in bed, I heard the corncrake in the field outside. I’m still not sure they believe it wasn’t me.

That’s it for today and tomorrow we'll be going to ‘Carpathian Troy’ to see the reconstructed mediaeval village and probably some black redstarts.

Warm Regards,


Track to the border - by Rob
Olchoviec valley - by Rob
Latticed Heath - by Francis
Red-backed Shrike
Wild Thyme
Clouded border
Short-tailed blue
Common heath moth
Large copper female
Lesser stag beetle
Scorpion Fly
Border signpost - by Rob
Olchoviec church - by Rob
Red-backed Shrike
Skipper & burnet
Vernal Shieldbug - by Cherry
Francis & Rob
Border path - by Rob
Golden Eagle
Red-backed Shrike
Cherry & Francis
False heath fritillary?
Graphosoma lineatum
Wild Gladiolus
Bracket fungus - by Rob
Mining Bee - by Francis
Golden Eagle
Red-backed Shrike
Yellow-bellied Toad
Shieldbug nymph
Broad-bodied Chaser
Chrysolina polita?
Large scabious mining bee?
Rose Chafer
Wood White
Red Deer track - by Rob
Golden Eagle
Red-backed Shrike
Silver Y Moth
Robberfly, Asilidae
Hawthorn Shieldbug
Holly blue
Forest ravine - by Rob
Red-backed Shrike
Mellitaea sp frit
Holly blue
Bee-eating beetle
Clytra laeviuscula
Olchoviec - by Rob
Wednesday 27th June

Today we all went to ‘Carpathian Troy’ at Trzcinica, near Jaslo

It’s an interesting reconstruction of the settlement that was there from the early Bronze Age. There were also some nice birds, including black redstarts and green woodpeckers.

We also climbed the steel tower that gives amazing views across this area of the Lower Carpathians. As last September, I tried to run all the way up the tower, but, as last year, I had to stop for a break at the first platform, before continuing with my run to the top. Not bad for my age, though!

Now we’re back at the Old School awaiting dinner. Francis has gone for a walk, so there was just me, Cherry and Rob here when I heard the fluty notes of a golden oriole outside. Cherry and I went out with binoculars but couldn’t see it, but we did see a family group of fieldfares and two young great spotted woodpeckers chasing each other around the trees.

There’s always something interesting to see, or hear, here.

I expect my guests will be watching beavers again tonight, perhaps to the sound of the corncrake, and tomorrow we might be going to the museum in Krempna and thence to Nieznajowa, depending on the weather.

Warm Regards,


Francis was looking carefully at the posts and wondering how hard it must've been to hold a beaver to get the ends cut so neatly!
Thursday 28th June

Soggy shrikes and strange sandpipers...

Today started with golden orioles at breakfast, including one that flew past the window while we were eating.

It was a quiet and grey day today, with occasional drizzle, so we went to Nieznajowa so that I could show my guests the amazing beaver pools and channels.

We saw a roe deer, golden orioles, sparrowhawk, red-backed shrikes, burnet moth caterpillar and pupa, tiger moth, sandpiper, map butterfly, lots of beaver signs and runs, a strange bee that seemed to want to feed from us, some yellow-bellied toads and my first ever hawfinch.

On the way back to Krempna, we stopped off at three wooden churches, then visited the National Park Museum, where we looked at the skulls and photographic gallery before Rob, Francis and Cherry went into the diorama.

A quick visit to the gift shop so that Francis could buy the monograph about the Magura National Park and then across the road for ice creams before heading back to the Old School to drop everybody off before I took the car back to Salamandra.

We’ve just had a delicious dinner and Francis and Cherry are out watching beavers while Rob and I  prepare for a spot of batting. Last night Francis and Cherry saw the beaver cut down a small tree, so tonight they’re hoping to see even more activity.

It was Rob’s birthday today, so we were sampling Polish vodka later!

Warm Regards,


Beaver habitat
Wolf faeces
Beaver lodge
Beaver lodge
Beaver slide
Plume moth, Pterophoridae
Roman snail
Photographing a snail - by Rob
Burnet moth cocoon
Burnet moth caterpillar
Cherry at beaver tree
Rob at Nieznajowa
Red deer in the Museum - Rob
Martin at beaver tree - by Rob
Education sign in Museum
Beaver-gnawed tree
Orthodox Church in Swiatkowa Wielka
Beaver tooth marks
Orthodox Church in Swiatkowa Mala
Friday 29th June

A sore toe makes Martin a sad boy...

My toe has been swollen for a couple of days, so today I reluctantly decided to stay behind while my guests explored on their own.

Francis and Cherry have gone for a pootle and Rob’s gone for a hike.

I’ve been dealing with emails and listening to the golden oriole outside and am now waiting for everyone to come back for dinner, which Agnieszka has just started making - it’s now 5pm local time (BST+1).

Last night we stood outside with our bat detectors and listened to several species of bats.

There were species I knew, such as common pipistrelle and noctule, but for the rest we had to rely on the auto-ID function of the Echo Meter Touch 2 - I have the PRO and Rob has the standard version.

I’m well aware that the auto-ID can be unreliable for some bats, so I won’t know until I can get the calls analysed whether we did hear barbastelle, parti-coloured and Geoffroy’s bats.

It’s certainly possible and I know we have barbastelles here as we’ve recorded them before.

I also have an Anabat Express and an Anabat Swift that have been out since last week recording bats around the beaver pond and meadow, so it’ll be very interesting to see what they’ve recorded.

I brought the Anabats with me because they take up less room than some of my other passive bat recorders.

I also have a Batlogger M with me, which is one of my favourite hand-held bat recorders. It has a built-in GPS and no distracting screen, so is ideal for emergence surveys and transects.

They can all be found at www.batdetectors.uk

My guests just returned from their travels, Rob with very nice photographs of a female adder on a stump and the white storks on their nest with their young and Francis with tales of golden oriole, golden eagle, hawfinch, lesser spotted eagle and loads of butterflies including marbled whites, all within a mile of where we stay.

It’s been a very enjoyable trip with great guests, but it’s been tiring so I’m looking forward to getting back to the Cottage, Cheryl, the dogs and birds.

It also seems like the weather back in the UK has been better than we’ve had here, assuming that better for you means hotter and drier.

We still have the ritual of the evening beaver watch and we may also record a few more bats, but then we only have tomorrow left before we head back to the UK on Sunday morning.

We’d better make the best of it!

Warm Regards,


Adder - Rob
High Brown Fritillary - Francis
? - Rob
White Storks - Rob
White Storks - Rob
White Storks - Rob
Mazarine Blue - Cherry
Golden Oriole - Cherry
False Heath Fritillary - Francis
Marbled Whites - Cherry
Beaver - Francis
Not Beaver
Saturday 30th June

Wow, what an amazing last day in Poland...

It was a bit cool this morning and promising rain, but the rain didn’t come, the sun came out and we saw some amazing wildlife.

We walked up the Baranie valley and met Jacek, our host, who was looking for mushrooms in the forest.

We stayed on the track while he wandered back and forth, briefly joining us as we were having lunch to show us what he’d collected so far and to give us a mortar shell he’d found.

There are plenty of old shells from WW2 to be found in the forest, as well as various other things left behind by the Germans and Russians.

There were family groups of black redstarts and red-backed shrikes, white stork and black stork, lesser-spotted eagle, raven, goldfinches and yellowhammers.

Insects were aplenty, including: purple emperor; ringlet; heath fritillary; lesser marbled fritillary; green-veined white; small white; large white; map; comma; red admiral; painted lady; small, Essex and large skippers plus dock shield-bugs, long-horned beetles, crab spiders and a scarlet tiger moth.

The best sighting of the lot was probably the pine marten seen by Francis and Cherry, though Rob had gone ahead and I was photographing butterflies so we missed it.

On the way back we saw and photographed two sand lizards.

Not a bad list for half a day’s walking.

Warm Regards,


Walking with old friend - Rob
Skipper - by Rob
Essex skipper?
Rutpela maculata?
More mushrooms
Hazel leafroller
Purple Emperor
An old friend
Francis & Martin - Rob
A. sanguinolenta?
A. sanguinolenta?
Misumena vatia
Mushrooms & Mortar
Tank Parking?
Macro photography
Hazel nuts
High brown fritillary?
Francis & Cherry
Red-backed Shrike
Misumena vatia
Hey, look what we found!
Green-veined white
Macro photography
Wax Caps
Beautiful Demoiselle
Wood ants video
Agelena spider - Rob
Misumena vatia
First mushrooms
Maybe I can take it home?
High brown fritillary?
Scarlet Tiger
Dock bug - Coreus marginatus
Francis & Cherry
Cricket - by Rob
Misumena vatia
Mortar Shell
Mellitaea sp frit?
Chrysotoxum sp?
Fields of betony
Jacek & Martin - by Rob
Francis & Rob
Jacek, Rob, Francis, Cherry
Mortar Shell
Macro photography
& 6-spot burnet
Map butterfly
Sand Lizard
Sand Lizard
Kingfisher - by Cherry
Sunday 1st July

Back at the Cottage, at last...

We arrived at Rzeszow Airport in plenty of time and it was pretty chilly.

Checking in the baggage was uneventful, though I was 1.5kg overweight.

Security, too, was straightforward, though one of my guests commented that I shouldn't have made my quip about not having a bomb, to the blonde female security guard with the gun!

A brief wait in Departures and helping Cherry to choose the correct Zubrowka vodka (the maple flavour she liked so much), then I was off through Priority Boarding leaving Rob to come to the plane through the Other Q. Francis & Cherry were taking a different flight, to Stansted.

A very pleasant flight with brief naps and chatting to Eddy and Paulina, who were sitting next to me.

We arrived at Manchester on time but when I stepped out of the plane I thought we must've landed in the wrong country. Boy, was it hot!

Through Border Control quickly, collecting the big bag from the carousel and saying goodbye to Eddy and Paulina, I followed Rob towards the train station.

Rob is about 6ft 6in and can cover the ground pretty quickly, so with my big heavy bag trailing behind me I struggled to keep up.

Eventually, we were buying our tickets and were on the station, where we parted company, shortly afterwards meeting again as my first two train options had been cancelled and I had to jump on the Liverpool train that was going via Manchester Piccadilly.

A straightforward run, then hanging about on the station for about 45 minutes, but at least there was a cool breeze. The next train to Chester was smooth and comfortable and then it was straight onto the Holyhead train.

It was standing room only, I was stuck in the gap between carriages and the walls were so hot I couldn't brace myself on them. It was like an oven so by the time we reached Rhyl, I was soaking wet with sweat.

Cheryl was waiting to take me back to the Cottage (I was in no fit state to drive) and we stopped off for an ice cream before finally getting home around 5.30pm.

Needless to say, I slept well, after one of Cheryl's delicious salads, made with mostly home-grown veggies, and a nice piece of MSC-certified mackerel.

I hope you'll decide to come with us on our summer trip next year!

Warm Regards,


Book your place now, before it's too late!
Full-board accommodation with me as your guide. Includes airport transfers but not flights (cheap with Ryanair)
Francis and Cherry's account of their trip

Francis & Cherry’s Poland Trip
Sunday, June 24th 2018

Who said it was ‘The journey, not the destination that matters’, well they probably did not have modern air travel to contend with! Leaving the hotel at Stansted after getting up at 4am gave us plenty of time to get through the paraphernalia of an international airport – in fact it proved to be quite a smooth process.

We left the UK on the verge of a heatwave to arrive amid a downpour at Rzeszow in Poland. Luckily the rain stopped as we left the airplane and once through baggage collection and passport control it was time to look for the ‘man in the hat’. Martin plus hat was easy to spot and introductions were made as we met our fellow guest for the week, Rob. In the car park, Jacek, our Polish host, was waiting beside the SUV that would carry us to Polany, in the Magura National Park. The journey was uneventful except as we entered Polany we saw a White Stork’s nest on a pole with two young storks ‘at home’.

As soon as we arrived at the Old School House in Polany, our accommodation for the week, we were seeing new things. When Francis stepped out of the vehicle he immediately spotted one of our target species, the intricately patterned Map butterfly. We quickly settled in to our assigned rooms and then gathered for lunch. Looking out of the large windows at some large trees we became aware of a Fieldfare and then a Spotted Flycatcher, which Martin said was a new species for the Old School House.

Martin suggested that after we had finished eating we should take a short walk up a track opposite the Old School House to the hill top meadows. The weather was warm but cloudy as we set out and within minutes of leaving the road we saw a Red-backed Shrike. Up on the hill as the sun peeked out between the cloud we started to see many butterflies, including Marbled White, a butterfly that is not native in our home county of Norfolk so we were very pleased to be reacquainted with it, having previously seen it many years ago in Dorset. Many Ringlets, Meadow Browns (in numbers reminiscent of childhood summers) and Heath Fritillaries were also around. After a while we noticed a small brown butterfly that reminded us of Small Heath, however, this species was the Chestnut Heath and was our second true continental species after the Map. The flower-filled meadows are certainly a magnet for insects. As well as the numerous butterflies there was a continual chorus from the myriad of crickets and grasshoppers, which included Great Green Bush-cricket, Roesel’s Bush Cricket and the Wart-biter (an impressive looking grasshopper). At the top of the track Cherry quietly beckoned us to watch a Fox hunting and pouncing in the long grass.

On our return journey back down the hill we enjoyed some close views of a White Stork and listened to several Yellowhammers singing ‘A little bit of bread and no cheese’ – a common bird here but sadly not so much at home nowadays.

After dinner Rob accompanied us to the beaver pond behind the Old School House. Although we sat silently for over an hour no Beavers turned up, however, we did see a Grey Heron which had dropped in for a late fish supper. As we left, Fireflies appeared – bright lights glowing in the gathering gloom and a new experience for Cherry.

Monday, June 25th 2018

Before breakfast we headed down to the river bridge a short walk from the Old School House and after a few minutes were privileged to watch two fawns and a doe Roe Deer walk into the shallows. The fawns were quite large but still showed traces of their juvenile spotted coats.

While tucking into a hearty breakfast Martin suggested a walk up the valley to Huta Polanska, a village that had been razed to the ground during former conflicts, leaving only the church standing. While walking along the road a pair of Serins was seen. However, the clouds were thickening and soon it began raining heavily and we quickly sought shelter under nearby trees.

After eating our packed lunches and waiting for what seemed an age we decided to walk on regardless. As we stepped onto the road, as if by magic, the rain ceased and the sun came out. On passing the entry sign to the national park some Beautiful Demoiselles greeted us – another target species seen and a call from the forest may have been a Nutcracker.

While walking past a series of field ditches unfamiliar two-tone ‘hoo-hoo’ calls puzzled us. We wondered if they be competing Yellow-bellied Toads calling after the rain? Martin confirmed that they were.

Dogs ran out and barked at us as we walked past their homes. Each house has its own large well-stocked log store and steeply sloping snow-deflecting roof, a reminder of how harsh the winters can be. People need to be as self-sufficient as possible – every garden having space to grow food for the table. Chickens strutted around, pecking here and there. Cows grazed peacefully in nearby fields, some with cow bells, a constant melodious jingle as they grazed. Old-fashioned hay stacks completed a very rural scene.

We continued walking, with frequent stops, to watch bees buzzing around the sweet-smelling Lime tree blossom. On reaching a meadow full of wild flowers and butterflies we decided to stop and explore while Rob and Martin pushed on to the ‘village’.

In the meadow Lesser Marbled, Heath and High Brown Fritillaries were noted and Francis found a Tufted Marbled Skipper among the many Large and Small Skippers present. Walking back towards Polany Cherry spotted a Scarce Copper, a brilliant burnished copper-coloured butterfly that unfortunately was not hanging around for its picture to be taken. Francis also saw a couple of Grey-headed Woodpeckers.

With further rain and thunder approaching we hurried towards the Old School House, however, Rob and Martin managed to catch up with us despite having been all the way to the deserted village, where they had seen Purple Emperor and Short-tailed Blue butterflies.

After dinner it was time to watch the beavers again. Martin had brought with him a thermal imaging camera which Rob was keen to try out. The three of us sat quietly watching a set of ripples intently, while behind us Stasia (cook and housekeeper who didn't speak English) called loudly to her chickens. We waited and eventually Rob picked up an image on the thermal camera and Cherry saw a dark shape in the water. We left Rob with the thermal camera to explore the night around the Old School House.

! Beaver Pond (Francis)

Tuesday, June 26th 2018

Our pre-breakfast routine of heading for the river was rewarded with Fieldfares feeding fledgling young and a family of Grey Wagtails.

It was predicted to be a day of thunder storms but thankfully they did not materialise. Rob decided to do a hike through the Forest along the border with Slovakia. Martin led us off along the road to Olchoviec, walking at a very leisurely pace as there was so much to see and photograph.

In the first 100m we had seen Roe Deer, Stonechat and Beautiful Demoiselle. On crossing the river Common Buzzards were seen in the thermals and to our great pleasure two very large birds came out of the forest and started soaring with them. To our delight these were Golden Eagles and they dwarfed the Buzzards, even so the Buzzards were mobbing the larger birds, which at times turned upside-down showing the smaller birds their formidable talons. As the aerial conflict drew to a close our attention was drawn to the roadside where young Red-backed Shrikes were being fed by their parents on a diet of crickets. To see these birds at close quarters and the eagles was amazing as in the UK both species are rare.

We continued walking along the road noting butterflies, including Wood Whites, Clouded Yellow and a Painted Lady until we came to a beaver pond. Here we saw our first dragonflies, familiar Broad-bodied Chasers and an unfamiliar butterfly, the Short-tailed Blue. Cherry opted to stay around the pond while Martin and Francis went on to look for Sand Lizards. This was not successful although Forester moths, Large Copper and a Holly Blue were seen.

On entering the village Francis spotted on the road a magnificent Swallowtail imbibing mineral matter from the muddy edge of a puddle. We had lunch in the church yard sitting by a large tree stump which had a female Stag Beetle in residence and two small butterflies nearby were later identified as the Sloe Hairstreak. Interestingly there were a number of the orange and black striped shieldbugs known to Martin as the ‘Hum-bug’, which was first spotted by his daughter Caitlin some years earlier.

Sand Lizard field (Francis)

Rob was seen striding through the village and upsetting the local dogs by his presence. We managed to attract his attention and together we set off back to the meadow by the beaver pond where we had left Cherry photographing the wildlife – such as Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies, Four-banded Longhorn beetle, Transparent Burnet moth, Lattice Heath moth and a Vernal Shieldbug that decided to lay 14 eggs on her rucksack. On the way back to Polany a White Stork was seen to catch a snake in a roadside field.

Before dinner Rob and Francis went with Martin to the back of the beaver pond to look for ‘beaver runs’ and set up a couple of trail cameras.

After an ‘interesting’ dinner, that included dumplings with cooked whole strawberries inside, we again set off to the beaver pond to see if we could see any of these elusive mammals. While there we heard a Corncrake but as Martin had played us a recording on his phone earlier in the day we were somewhat reluctant to believe it was not a trick on his part!

Wednesday, June 27th 2018

It was down to the bridge again before breakfast and this morning we were treated to a short visit by a Hawfinch and as we came back to the Old School House a Serin was singing loudly from a fir tree in the garden.

Today was again dull and cloudy but no rain and we were being taken by Jacek in the SUV to Carpathian Troy. This is a reconstructed historical settlement originating in the early Bronze Age. The houses and exhibition were very well done and some of the larger houses were surprisingly roomy. Among the houses Black Redstarts were seen and heard. In the wooded area young Green Woodpeckers were calling, initially confusing us as the calls didn’t sound quite right. A tall steel observation tower is also present and is quite a climb and on a clear day would be worth it with views to the Tatra mountains, unfortunately for us it was rather misty.

We had lunch at the base of the tower and with rain threatening and hordes of school children advancing we beat a hasty retreat, well Rob and Martin did and we followed with the occasional stop to photograph something such as a very pleasing and colourful Cow-wheat.

Cow-wheat (Cherry)

On our return to Polany, Francis went for a walk to the river valley and heard a Golden Oriole and saw a Lesser Spotted Eagle. The oriole had also been heard by Cherry, Martin and Rob at the Old School House but remained hidden from view.

Back to beaver pond after dinner, without Rob this time. As we watched intently, the ripple activity seemed to increase and suddenly we witnessed the ‘felling’ of a willow branch and its subsequent dragging away. Plenty of activity tonight, but no actual Beavers were seen.

Thursday, June 28th 2018

Having heard the Golden Oriole yesterday and again early this morning, we went back to the river valley before breakfast to try and see it. No luck with the oriole, however, while we were eating breakfast one flew past the window. Wow!

After breakfast, Martin had arranged to borrow a car from Jacek (who owned the accommodation) to drive us to Krempna, where the National Park Museum is situated. Before visiting the museum we walked around an area called Nieznajowa where Martin was able to show us the real value of having Beavers back in the landscape.

We marvelled at the extensive workings of these amazing creatures, their lodge and the positive impact they have on their immediate surroundings ie creating habitats for all types of wildlife. Rob and Cherry scrambled down the wooded bank to the water’s edge where they found Hornbeams with their trunks gnawed by Beavers, revealing bright orange bark.

A fine drizzle made the hazy landscape very atmospheric, with countless sparkling water droplets hanging from every leaf and flower. Despite the on-off drizzle there was still plenty to see, such as Roe Deer, Red-backed Shrikes, the adult, pupa and caterpillar of the Transparent Burnet moth, Yellow-bellied Toads (mating and toad-poles), Hawfinch and a Green Sandpiper. We also found a Wolf scat, whitened due to the bones that had been eaten.

The National Park Museum is a modern building and well worth a visit. Among the exhibitions were skulls of the forest animals and an interesting display of the local trees. Martin arranged for us all to have a tour of the dioramas with an English commentary. This was an excellent exhibition showing the animals of the national park through the seasons.

Francis managed to buy the last copy in the shop of the Magura National Park monograph. It is in Polish but has an English summary at the end of each section and scientific names are used so the plants and animals depicted can be identified.

On the way back to Polany we took in some of the local churches, many of which were originally Greek/Russian orthodox but are now Roman Catholic.

Village Church (Cherry)

On the outskirts of Polany Martin stopped the car so we could watch and photograph the White Storks and their impressive twiggy nest.

Beaver-watching this evening was similar to before – lots of ripple activity but no sighting. It could be that we are not arriving early enough. Martin and Rob were trying out various bat detectors and having some reasonable success. Later that evening we toasted Rob’s birthday with some various flavoured Polish vodkas thanks to Martin.

Friday, June 29th 2018

With Martin having a sore toe no planned walk for today so we decided we would head back up the hill to see if we could find more Marbled Whites and other butterflies. Rob thought he would go out after lunch, however, all plans were delayed due to heavy rain. Once the rain stopped we heard the melodious, flute- like calls of a Golden Oriole, so we departed for the hill.

As we went up the track the oriole seemed to be just ahead of us in the river valley. We scanned the trees and eventually spotted it in a tall tree. It worked its way amongst the branches for several minutes before flying off only to land on a dead tree in full view – fantastic (even if it was distant). As we watched the oriole a Hawfinch flew behind it! A Corncrake was also calling and on hearing a screech we turned to see a Lesser Spotted Eagle soaring over the field behind us. Later in the day as the sun came out and the temperature climbed a Golden Eagle rose out of the forest across the valley and later still what was thought at first to be the eagle returning was a Black Stork.

On top of the hill many butterflies were fluttering around. Among what had become familiar were a few new ones including False Heath Fritillary, Mazarine Blue and a fly past by a Purple Emperor. Rob came up in the afternoon and carried on with a walk into the forest. As he approached us he said that he had just photographed a snake on a dead branch. On showing us his photographs we were able to confirm that he had just seen an Adder.

Flower meadow (Cherry)

Heading slowly back down the track to the Old School House we watched White Stork and Red-backed Shrike as well as noting the metallic green Forester moth, Painted Lady and Map butterflies.

Having said we should have gone out early after dinner to see the Beavers Francis did and was lucky to see and photograph one. Cherry came over a bit later and after Francis left as it was getting a bit cool she was also lucky in seeing one swim in the pond before it wacked its tail loudly on the water then dived beneath the surface.

Saturday, June 30th 2018

Instead of going to the bridge this morning we decided to go out very early to the beaver pond. No Beavers but we did hear a Nuthatch calling.

After breakfast we walked to the forest up the Baranie valley to meet Jacek who was mushroom-hunting. We meandered up the track while Jacek hunted back and forth in the forest looking for Ceps. Red Deer tracks were clearly visible in the soft mud by the roadside and as we entered the forest one of the local dogs decided it would join us for the walk.

Francis happened to look up just as a Black Stork was about to disappear behind the trees and in a wood pile some Black Redstarts were feeding young. The coolness of the air was keeping the butterflies down but after lunch the sun came out as did the butterflies and we were soon seeing High Brown and Heath Fritillaries, Comma, Red Admirals and Brimstone. The highlights, however, were a male Purple Emperor sitting on the track just ahead of us and then the sight of a Scarlet Tiger moth on a white umbellifer. Many beetles, including the familiar Black and Yellow Longhorn and the Sexton were noted. Crab spiders were also seen, particularly on Ox-eye Daisies, lying in wait for dinner to drop in. Martin also heard and pointed out a Raven overflying the track.

When we were about to leave the Park we heard unfamiliar snarling coming from the forest. Although Martin investigated we did not see anything. By now Rob had gone on ahead and missed it. Martin had stopped to photograph something, Cherry was just over the bridge outside the park gate and Francis was on the bridge when suddenly a long chocolate-brown animal bounded past him – a Pine Marten! Luckily Cherry was looking in the right direction and saw it also. Sadly Martin had missed the brief encounter. We later listened to recordings of Pine Marten and decided that the snarling was also Pine Martens. As we walked back along the road we saw two Sand Lizards on separate occasions. Not a bad last day despite the cold start.

On arriving back at the Old School House, Martin first joined Rob to look for the Adder on the hill. When they came back Francis went with them both to retrieve the trail cameras. After enjoying an early ‘last supper’ we walked around to the beaver pond. It was getting cold, so Francis decided to head back, just as a Kingfisher alighted briefly on a stick jutting out of the water. A two second encounter, but long enough for a surprised Cherry to get a quick photograph – in focus too!

On returning to the Old School House we watched the video footage from the trail cameras. The results were unfortunately not that good as Rob’s SD card had not recorded anything and Francis had ‘captured’ a cat but then a large leaf had continually triggered the system as it moved two and fro in front of the lens. Martin’s cameras which had been onsite for a couple of weeks had great video of the Beavers grooming, swimming and dragging branches. A Tawny Owl was recorded hooting one night during our stay.

! Cat ‘capture’(Trail Camera)

Then it was time to pack, ready for an early morning start for home tomorrow. The holiday was perfect for us as we enjoy just walking around watching and taking photos of the wildlife. To do this in amiable company, with a good dose of ‘intellectual silliness’, provides an interesting relaxing break - one which we would hope to repeat.

Book your place now, before it's too late!
Full-board accommodation with me as your guide. Includes airport transfers but not flights (cheap with Ryanair)
Full-board accommodation with me as your guide. Includes airport transfers but not flights (cheap with Ryanair)
Full-board accommodation with me as your guide. Includes airport transfers but not flights (cheap with Ryanair)
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