Once back at Brno I went to the most expensive hotel opposite the station, this is now traditional, as Grant and I had stayed here in July 2001, something David was laughing about when I met him. It was only £22 each then, now it was like 88 euros. They had some conference on so I ended up going to the next most expensive hotel, the Grandezza hotel near the square and paying the same kind of money, I didn't care, I need to wash, eat, and get dry. It was perfect. I spent the evening walking around recording stuff, mainly sounds in the churches and cathedrals nearby. There was a service in one of the churches with a lovely organ sound, I went in and recorded that. The following morning bells from the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul.
I decided to catch a train to Trutnov, to go on to the Krkonoše mountains, then I'd planned to go to the Šumava Mountains in the west on the border of Germany. The train went through Adamov on the way, maybe one of the first places I went birding here in 1996. Once the train pulled in at Pardubice, the weather improved incredibly, it was gorgeous, the sun was out and it was warm. Then after another change at Hradec Králové with seconds to spare I was on the last stretch to Trutnov. The countryside all the way up is impressive, going from hills back down to rural lowlands with grassy fields up into the foothills of mountains, past a huge lake and dam at Česká Skalice, then up into higher ground before ending at Trutnov.
From there I walked to a place to the south called Dolce, near a town called Oblanov. I knew a quick way of getting there but for some reason I took the wrong route and it took ages to get there. Once I got there I went to the visitor centre. I came here in 2001 with Grant in July, peak season. I knew they had shalets here. So I asked the girl at the reception. She said they were 270 koruna a night which is equal to just £7.20. I was in. But better still she said that there was an empty penzion in a town in the mountains for the same price! I was ready to leave. She said she would drive me up there when she finished. So I went down to a kiosk that served beer and food down by a lake. Then I went for a walk around the area. When I came in July I hadn't really noticed that many birds. But today the place was teeming with stuff. The habitat here is varied and close together. From Spruce woodland, open farmland, quaint little cottage gardens, two small lakes and a valley with a marsh and scrub and hills. I could hear Yellowhammers singing in the fields and as I walked round the marsh area I could hear a variety of warblers, 2 River Warblers singing, and then in a chase across a path. Marsh Warblers, Reed, Icterine, Willow, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and 3 Garden Warblers. Add to this Serin, Black Redstart, Redstart, Crested Tit and Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Crested Tit and 4 alarming Fieldfare fending off something in the birches.
The following day I walked up to Černá hora through the spruce forest. Lots of Firecrest, Crossbills, Coal Tits, Siskins, Willow Warblers, Tree Pipits displaying and the odd Redstart and Wood Warbler (even singing from spruce trees as long as there was one or two beech trees amongst them). As I got to the top I started seeing lots of Ring Ouzels, the alpine race, slightly brighter on the wings and checkered on the sides than our birds. They were quite tame and busy collecting food.
Yet another Black Woodpecker flew down on to a tree stump, but flew off again within a few seconds. I then could see the mountains over yet another valley. They looked a fair way off. I carried on past an abandoned old hotel and followed the signs to Pec pod Sněžkou. Down a beautiful valley with Yellowhammers, Grey Wagtail singing. and into a deep valley. At the next town I walked up to the cable car terminal, stopped for a coffee, then continued up. A return trip up to the highest peak called Snezka is around 320 Koruna. I hopped on to a car with 3 german tourist (by the sounds of it) and tried to talk to them, however they didn't seem to speak English. I could feel a draft from the door which I thought odd, as we got higher, it was clear my binoculars (being in my pocket) had wedged the door open, I quickly pulled them out! This happed twice though!
At the top of Snezka I came out onto a quite rocky summit, it's around 1602 metres and walked across to another building which turned out to be a restaurant/bar. The place was busy. Lots of parties of school children on trips plus other tourists. A couple of Water Pipits flight displayed from the rocks nearby, a Black Redstart sang from the cable car terminal roof. I went in to the restaurant and it was clear from the menu I was now actually in Poland, I figured out the border posts running along the summit, a white post with a red letter C or P was all the border consisted of. I decided to move down the other side of the mountain as I couldn't quite hear if there were any birds, too many people here. I heard what sounded a bit like a Skylark flying over, but couldn't help think it was an Alpine Accentor as there is supposed to be a very small colony up here. Further down all I could hear was a lot of Meadow Pipits.
|Snezka from further down|
Up here there are places called Bouda's dotted about, these are huge wooden hotels with restaurants. I had originally expected there to be a bothy or two, but this was a different thing all together. You can't get a pint of Tyskie or Lech in a bothy! There was one below, so I went for a Lech.
After that I continued down a track that literally followed the border line. Suddenly I was aware of a strange bird singing from a post with it's tail cocked, then flight displaying. It was a Red-spotted Bluethroat, this being a major stronghold of the species in the Czech Republic at least, probably not Poland though. I got some not particularly good shots. I saw another guy with binoculars and asked him where he was from, 'Poland of course' he said. I then asked him which side of the border I was on just to check and he pointed at the posts to the north and said, 'Czechy.... Polski'. I was on the Czech side. I then asked him if he had seen the Bluethroat, and he just said, 'What?!' and walked off.
Further along the path there was another place called Luční bouda, this was even bigger and an impressive building. I saw a couple of girls from a group I had seen on the train on the way up and they also recognised me and we talked for a bit.
|Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina)|
I had another drink in yet another Bouda and then headed down a very long road with very little variety of birds in more spruce forest.
The following day I went shopping in Trutnov, then spend the afternoon birding lower down in the village. Checking out some beech woods, looking for and finding a nice male Red-breasted Flycatcher, the only one I saw here. But it perched out right above my head until I got the camera out and I got a shot of a blur.
On the Wednesday I went back to Snezka. The weather didn't look too good but it wasn't raining heavily. However at Pec pod Sněžkou it was clear the cable car only went up half way to Růžová hora due to the wind. So went half way up, trying to exit through the security office door in Mr Magoo fashion, much to the bemusement of the two security guards, then found the right exit and walked up the rest of the mountain. From here on it is Dwarf Pine and Spruce, Dunnocks singing everywhere, along with Willow Warblers. As I got to towards the top the wind got very strong and there was ice on the ground. When I got to the summit it was a complete contrast to Monday, I was the only person there, there was a thick mist that turned to ice whenever it came into contact with anything, including my hair.
|A chapel I kept coming back to to warm up!|
|The Czech/Polish border|
I walked down a path on the Polish side, a big party of school kids were battling their way up in the wind in colourful jackets with very little practical use in this weather it seemed. A female teacher asked how far to the top, I said about 15 mins. Another male teacher was pulling his collar up to protect himself against the icy wind, it looked as though he was dressed to pop out and get a pack of cigs from the local store.
I continued down a steep path to the north and into a fantastic fairly glen type valley, quiet different from the Czech side with some small growth Ash trees, waterfalls and some open spruce forest. Quite beautiful. A couple of very smart male Common Rosefinch were singing at the bottom. I continued on a bit but it very quickly became spruce forest. I returned back up the path, quite a climb!
I got back to Janské Lázně in the later afternoon, exhausted. I had been invited to join the nice girl who's name still escapes me and watch her ex playing guitar in a band down in the town. I managed to make this and had a good time, I got talking to him during the break and had a few beers and a couple of Jagermeisters. He told me he was a skiing (or was it a climbing) instructor during the winter. I didn't feel particularly drunk but was getting tired so I eventually left. During the night I was really sick. I really wasn't expecting it but I spent the whole of the next day in bed and wasn't able to eat anything till about 5pm. At about 7pm I went to my favourite restaurant in the square and had a meal then followed a road up a different way up through a forest and out into a fantastic open meadow with long grass. Tree Pipits were singing from the telegraph wires.
Then a Corncrake started up in the long grass somewhere. 3 Whinchat were in the field, a pair of Bullfinch flew into a copse. A group of Hawfinch came in to roost. A Grasshopper Warbler started reeling somewhere nearby but I couldn't locate where. A Black Woodpecker flew over the forest at the back. I heard what sounded like a Scops Owl, but may have been a Pygmy Owl, this was whilst it was still quite light, so I'm not sure if it was one or not.
This was certainly a great spot and very quite. I think the name of the place was Hladikova vysina. It was near Janská Bouda.
On the Friday I was back off yet again to the hills. Taking the cable car all the way up. This time I went down to one of two glacial lakes on the Polish side, this one was called Mały Staw, again very beautiful. Another Rosefinch was singing lower down. 2 Lesser Whitethroat were singing from Dwarf Pines higher up, definitely about 1000 metres.
|Dwarf Primrose (Primula minima)|
|A Clubmoss species|
The following day it was time to leave, I really didn't want to, I ended up getting the local train after walking several miles to the next village. A really great train this, one single diesel powered carriage that shoots along a straight track to Trutnov with a very loud horn.
I caught a train back fairly quickly, had to change to a bus (in Great Anglia style) at (not Ely) but Chlumec nad Cidlinou then go to the next town and get another train. Very shortly I was in Prague where I spent a couple of hours walking in a park, then spend a couple more hours in the square watching gypsy folk music and dancers whilst I ate sausage and had a couple of beers interupted at one point by a noisy march of what sounded like a hundred football supporters marching and chanting along the road diverting everyone's attention from the performances for a little while.