I chose the areas to visit using Gerard Gorman's excellent 'Where to Watch Birds in Eastern Europe' marked the areas on a countrywide map and worked out the itinerary from that.
Area maps are needed to find the best sites and individual fishponds and these are easily obtained from local service stations and tourist offices. We found that specialist hiking and cycling maps showed all the best paths.
Most areas have a superb network of cycling and walking trails which put us to shame.
Where to Watch Birds in Eastern Europe by Gerard Gorman.
The Rough Guide to the Czech & Slovak Republics
Collin's Bird Guide
I shopped around on the internet to find the best price and ended up with an Opal Corsa from Autoeurope which turned out to be Budget. This was ideal for the 2 of us. There are quite a few car rental outlets at Prague Airport, they are not in the Terminal and you have to cross the road and go into Car-Park C which is easily found. Motoring was easy; the traffic was light away from Prague and petrol was about 45p per litre.
I booked all the accommodation off the internet; usually just putting the town name into the Google Search engine and then going into the tourist info page.
Accommodation ranged from some very good hotels and some a bit more basic with prices ranging from £16 to £50 per room per night, usually with breakfast included. The Pensions were excellent and are usually cheaper than the hotels. Accommodation in Prague is twice as expensive as the rest of the country. There seemed to be plenty of accommodation available at this time of the year and booking ahead is not necessary.
The Rough Guide book does not praise Czech food and we didn't know what to expect, however, I must say that rarely have we eaten so well on our travels. We chose restaurants at random, most had an English section in the menu, there was a vast choice of dishes and all were well presented, well served and delicious. We ate such things as local carp and tench, salmon, wild boar, venison and steak accompanied by various vegetables and potato dishes and even the local dumplings.
One cold starter I had contained enough cheese, salami and ham to have made sandwiches for the England Rugby Team. At lunch times and when travelling, we usually bought a sandwich or baguette from a service station, most of which have a large range of snacks, cold drinks and coffee.
Beer, (Pivo) cost around 40p per ½ litre.
During my travels, I have picked up smatterings of several European languages, however many Czech words and place names come straight off an Opticians Eye Test chart and are mainly unpronounceable.
Usually, the better hotels have English speakers but more people speak German.
The Czech Krona can be easily obtained in the UK, there were about 46 to the £ when we were there. Banks in the towns have ATM machines that take Cirrus Bank Cards and getting cash from these was easy.
We used the new BMI Baby Service from East Midlands, cost was £170 for the two of us but prices depend on the time of booking. The Czech Republic is now as easy to get into as Spain. There are no visas required and no red tape.
A visit to Prague is a must, it's a beautiful place and we spent a very enjoyable day here before coming home. Our hotel was close to a tram station so we left the car and used the trams. We bought the tickets from the Hotel, about 50p for the return trip. We put the ticket in a machine when we boarded the tram but as the locals never did this, then I'm not sure whether they bother with tickets or not. We never saw any checks. Some of the Bars and Restaurants near to the castle advertise cheap food but inflate their beer prices so always check up on this. One was charging 59 kc for a beer that usually cost around 20 kc. Most advertise their prices outside. The Czech Museum at the top of the hill in Wenceslas Square has mounted specimens of all the species you failed to see.
Day by Day
Thurs 30th May.
After clearing the airport, we picked up the car; there seems to be only one road out of the airport which connects to the southern Prague ring road and though we were careful, missed the road that we wanted to take us south to Pisek, I'm still not sure whether this road connects to the motorway or just passes beneath it. We had to take the road south towards Ceske Budejovice and work our way across country. In Pisek, we kept asking directions for the hotel but kept on coming across pedestrian only areas. Eventually we parked the car and found the hotel on foot, it appeared that we had to drive through the pedestrian areas to get to the hotel. Accommodation: Hotel Pod Skalou, clean, cheap, very basic.
Friday 31st May .
Rezabinec Pond. After buying a local map, the pond was easily found. Gerard Gorman's book is excellent for listing the best sites but probably through pressure of space, fails to give you the best directions to get in.
We drove round the pond and found a track off the road south of Kestrany. This led across the north side of the pond to the wood that runs along the east side of the pond. There is an elevated viewing platform in the wood. In the southeast corner is a farmhouse and barn with a track that runs alongside the railway line into the village of Razice and that is the best way in, it starts from the level crossing in the village. Park at the farm and walk either way. On the path to the left, alongside the railway line, there is a large rock in the grass. In the willows nearby, there was a Penduline Tit building a nest.
Walk the other way, on the path through the wood to the viewing platform. The northern end had a large Black-headed Gull Colony with many duck. Spend some time here: Black-necked Grebe, Penduline Tit, Red-crested Pochard, Marsh Harrier, Greylag Geese, Black Redstart, Golden Oriole.
Drove into the Sumava National park and did a walk first into the forest near to Kubova Hut, west of the main road. A few singing Wood Warblers.
We then drove up to Mount Boubin and did the walk on page 51 of Gerard's book. We were too late for the active woodpeckers and owls and saw very little.
From Horni Vltavice, take the road southeast to Zaton and left again at the sharp bend up to the parking area, park by the kiosk and walk north, follow the green path though there are other paths in the area which might be just as good - Jay, Fieldfare, Whinchat, Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Blackcap, Bullfinch. Accommodation: Hotel Boubin. Down as a 2 star but very basic. Don't stay here.
Saturday 1st June.
Sumava National Park: Walk up the alpine meadows to the west of Nove Hute: Common Buzzard, Whinchat, Siskin, Jay and Black Redstart; both Corncrake and Quail heard in the meadows.
Sunday 2nd June.
Drove east towards Ceske Budejovice and had a look at Dehtar Pond. Drove in north from Cakov and parked near the lake. Walked along the track with the lake on the left. There are some Holiday Homes along the shore and we had a Corncrake on the lawn of the end one. There is also access to the shore road from Dehtar Village - Corncrake, Marsh Harrier, Golden Oriole, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Icterine Warbler, Fieldfare.
On to Trebon and a look at the southern end of Rozmberk Pond, again some problems getting in but eventually found a way. From the Trebon Railway Station, go north for 200 metres, go right across all the railway tracks then north to where there's a wood yard on the left and a lorry depot on the right. Go right alongside the depot to where the track opens out and left to park in the field by an old shed. Walk north along the stream to the southern ponds. Two ponds had been drained and there were 2 Little Ringed Plovers on the mud. An adult White-tailed Eagle was soaring over the woods to the east of the main pond. - Little Ringed Plover, White-tailed Eagle, Icterine Warbler, Fieldfare, Pheasant, Marsh Warbler.
Accommodation: Hotel Zlata Hvezda that is right in the town square and is a lovely place which was well worth the extra expense following the 2 last hotels. Trebon is a nice town with some good restaurants. Beer is very cheap in the pub inside the Regent Brewery gates.
Monday 3rd June.
Early morning walk along the eastern end of Svet Pond, Trebon. Got my first life tick of the trip with a male Collared Flycatcher, also Goldeneyes nesting in nest boxes above the path and the first Black-crowned Night Heron of the trip - Collared Flycatcher, Night Heron, Goldeneye, Fieldfare, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Velki Tisi Lake: Park on the left, immediately before the level crossing and follow the lakeside hedges around the lake. A female/juvenile Common Rosefinch was calling from oilseed rape by the crossing. An Otter was seen on the lake - Common Rosefinch, Marsh Harriers, Lesser Whitethroat, Marsh Warbler, Otter.
Rozmberk Pond, North End: Before you reach the level crossing, there's a cross roads, the left road is to Preseka and the right says Rozmberk. Take the right road to the junction with the path that is on the bank that forms the northern shore of the pond. Park and walk along the bank.
This is a great place. There are many nest boxes along the bank, most occupied with Collared Flycatchers, Nuthatch and Blue Tits. We must have seen over 20 male flycatchers along this walk. A Middle Spotted Woodpecker froze on a tree near to its nest hole and allowed us to scope all the main features - Collared Flycatcher, Night Heron, Kingfisher, Nuthatch, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Black Redstart.
Tuesday 4th June
Rybniky u Vitmanova: we found that the road into this area from the E49, from the southwest is closed so we drove in from the road to the north that gives good access. There is a large Cormorant breeding colony here and a good reed bed in the southeast corner where there is an access road - Common Cormorant. Hooded Crow, Savi's Warbler heard, Nuthatch, Marsh Harrier.
Drive to Mikulov: Black Woodpecker, Red-backed Shrike, Nightingale, Turtle Dove.
Nove Mlyny Reservoir: The E461 road passes across the dam that separates to Western and Middle parts of the reservoir. There is a car park on the left at the end of the causeway. There is a cycle track along the southern side of the reservoir and a backwater with reed beds in the bottom left hand corner.
There were several Great Reed Warblers singing in the reed bed and we had a good view of a female Little Bittern. There were Red-crested Pochard, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Tern, Marsh Harrier,Yellow Wagtail, Tree Sparrow on the Reservoir.
Accommodation: Pension U Slunicka in Mikulov. Excellent and very reasonable.
Wednesday 5th June.
We'd arranged via the Internet to go out with local birder, Josef Chytil who'd been reccommended by Gerard Gorman. Jo was an excellent birder and we learnt that he was the Chairman of the Czech Rarities Committee and also the Czech RAMSAR Representative.
Jo took us first to the Pohonsko area of grassland and forest to the south of Breclav. The area holds breeding Saker and Imperial Eagle as well as White Storks on every oak and many other excellent birds. We had 4 Sakers in one tree and distant views of what Jo said were two Imperial Eagles. Also River Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Hobby, Common & Honey Buzzards, Great & Lesser-Spotted Woodpeckers, Marsh Harrier, Stonechat, Black & Red Kites, Hawfinch.
Hranicni Chateau: A nice hotel where you can sit on the terrace, have a beer and look at the large reed bed at the back. A Water Rail was seen to swim/wade out of the reed bed before flying across. Savi's & Great Reed Warbler heard, 2 pairs Marsh Harriers, 5 Black-necked Grebes, Common Tern, Black Redstart.
Three Graces area: Reed Warbler, Wryneck, Little Ringed Plover, Common Tern, Yellow-legged Gull.
Thursday 6th June.
Josef had told me that Syrian Woodpecker were common around the parks, gardens and orchards of Mikulov.An early morning visit to the local park was rewarded when a Syrian Woodpecker was well seen.
Lednice Chateau: This is a major tourist attraction of the area with large areas of gardens and lakes and a heronry that contains Grey & Black Crowned Night Herons and Cormorants. Nuthatch, Hawfinch, Icterine Warbler, Serin, Goshawk, Common Buzzard, Collared Flycatcher, Red-crested Pochard, White Stork, Great Reed Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Lesser Whitethroat, Black Redstart.
We then drove north to the Krkonose Mountains. We decided to go via the minor roads but these had some slow moving traffic and the drive took longer than expected. We had booked into the Villa Ludmilla at Janske Lazni that was lovely and close to some good restaurants. This is a major winter sports area so is well equipped to deal with tourists with lots of hotels, restaurants and shops.
Friday 7th June.
The weather had closed in with heavy rain all morning. This was the day of the vital England - Argentina World Cup Match, typically the rain stopped as the match started so we went out.
The cable car to the top of the local peak was just up the road so up we went with the intention of walking down. At the top, we had close views of the lovely alpestris Ring Ouzel and added Siskin to our list.
Unfortunately the rain poured down again and we arrived back at the hotel like a pair of drowned rats.
Saturday 8th June.
Took the cable car up to the top of the highest mountain of the Krkonose Mountains, Pec Pod Snezkou. It was foggy at the top and we had a long trek down back to the town.Common Crossbill, Water Pipit, Siskin, Black Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Common Redpoll.
Sunday 9th June.
Drive back to Prague. We had a brief look at the fishponds at Brehinsky and Novozamecky but saw little of note apart from an immature White-tailed Eagle.
Summary: The Czech Republic is a great place to visit with easy access, cheap food and accommodation and plenty of good birding sites.
Since this visit, I've been back with a guided party in April to the Sumava Mountains and Trebonska where we saw lekking Black Grouse, Ural & Pygmy Owls, Hazel Hen and White-backed, Grey-headed and Black Woodpecker and many more.
Local guides are essential to find the rarer owls and woodpeckers and their prices are very reasonable.