Bocian Biały w dolinach rzek

DSCN5857For the second time this year we started to move stork nests from old posts and buildings to new free-standing posts. 136 nests were selected for relocation. Due to the very wet autumn, the field works were shifted to winter months. In many cases it was only the freezing of the ground that made it possible for heavy equipment to enter. This time, additional parameters such as the height and weight of the nest are checked. We hope that the results will be very interesting, because so far nobody has collected such data on such a large scale.



DSCN5429When it's freezing outside, it is worth remembering the smell and taste of warm yeast rolls baked to welcome storks. We invite you to read the article that appeared in the PTOP bulletin in 2017. We are posting some photos from last year's baking of "busłowe łapy" [stork's paws] in Drozdowo.

Come, stork, to the Annunciation!

We all know how important it is to cultivate old traditions, but being absorbed by the everyday lack of time we don't always remember about it. Some rituals, especially religious ones, are so deeply rooted in the Polish tradition that they are not likely to be forgotten, e.g. Fat Thursday or Palm Sunday. When writing a project to the Life programme on the protection of the white stork, we wondered how we could try to promote it among the inhabitants of the villages where it would be implemented. It was then that I remembered the very old tradition cultivated in early spring in every village house in Podlasie and Kurpie. It was the baking of yeast rolls in the shape of a four-claw stork's paw called "busłowe łapy". In folk dialect "busioł" meant stork. People believed that by inserting “busłowe łapy” into the nest, they will lure the bird on their property, and thus happiness and prosperity will not abandon them throughout the year. The stork's nest was also supposed to protect the house from lightning. The rolls were baked on 25 March - in the Catholic Church it is an important feast of the "Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. Formerly, the proverb "Come, stork, to the Annunciation" was commonly known.

It was also a very important day for farmers. It was accepted that until the day of the Annunciation, there was a ban on works connected with "disturbance of the soil", especially ploughing, sowing and fencing. From that day on, the land was blessed to yield, so it was possible to start the field works. In order to highlight this, miniatures of agricultural tools made of dough were also put into the stork nest: ploughs, harrows, sokhas, scythes, rakes and other farm equipment. Especially children were happy with the stork’s rolls, and they would ran around the farm on that day with the loud scream "Busioł, busioł, tut busłowa łapka, tut twoja chatka" [Stork, stork, stork’s paw, here is your home] which was supposed to get the bird to build a nest there.

Stork is the hero of many superstitions, proverbs and fortune-telling. Each of us is looking forward to the first stork in the year. If we see the first bird in flight, it is certain that this year happiness will not leave us, if the bird will stand on the nest or meadow, then we can expect problems.

Despite many scientific studies that contradict this theory, for centuries people have believed that the stork brings children - the house on which it would sit, would soon see a new-born baby. Also rural children who wanted to have siblings knew this. So they asked storks: „Busioł, busioł kiszka przynieś mi braciszka” [Stork, stork, bring me a brother]. In every proverb or belief there is a kernel of truth. The presence of storks is proof that we live in a clean and sustainable environment. In other words, storks (and many other bird species) are good indicators of the quality of our environment and the biodiversity that surrounds us - they are so-called bioindicators. And without complicated research, it is clear that people live better in a clean and diverse landscape, in contact with nature. In such conditions they are healthier, less stressed and more children are born. The Central Statistical Office confirms that more children are born in rural areas than in the city! So what happens if there are no storks?

Storks living in the vicinity of man were closely observed and therefore many proverbs were created which concern phenology, especially the arrival dates, but also the biology of this species. Below are some of the best known:

„Bocian na ogonie jaskółkę przynosi” [The stork brings the swallow on its tail].

„Jak na Gertrudę (17.III) bociek na gnieździe siędzie, wiosna szybko przybędzie” [If for Gertrude (17 March) the stork sits on the nest, spring shall come quickly].

„Gdy na bocian na święty Józef (19.III) przybędzie, to śniegu już nie będzie” [If the stork arrives for Saint Joseph (19 March), there will not be any more snow].

„Na Zwiastowanie przybywaj Bocienie” [Come, stork, to the Annunciation].

„Na zwiastowanie bocian na gnieździe stanie” [For the Annunciation, the stork shall stand on its nest].

„Na świętego Franciszka (2.IV) zielenią się łany i ze swego zimowiska wracają bociany” [Saint Francis (2 April) is full of greenery and storks return from their wintering areas].

„Na świętego Izydora (10.V) na bociana pora” [Saint Isidore (10 May) is the stork's time].

„Kiedy bocian u nas trwa po Bartłomieju mnogi (24.VIII), tedy zima letka będzie i opał niedrogi” [If there are many storks staying with us after Bartholomew (24 August), then the winter will be light and the fuel inexpensive].

„Na jednej łące wół patrzy trawy, a bocian żaby” [On one meadow an ox looks for the grass, and a stork looks for the frog].

„Powiedziały jaskółki, że niedobre są spółki, powiedziały bociany że niedobre są zmiany” [The swallows said that companies are not good, the storks said that changes are not good].

„Wkradł się jak wróbel w bocianie gniazdo” [He crept up like a sparrow into a stork's nest].

The white stork is deeply rooted in Polish culture, so we are glad that we were able to restore this forgotten tradition. We hope that it will permanently fit into the cultural events of the places where the events organized by us took place.

This year we held meetings with the inhabitants of Mielnik, Goniądz, Różan, Narew and Drozdowo. In Drozdowo we placed one of the stork's paws in a stork nest, which has not been occupied for several years. And something extraordinary happened, which, frankly speaking, nobody had been expecting - a couple of days after the event, a couple of birds came! Empirical evidence that there is a kernel of truth in every superstition. Maybe this should be a good practice in the conservation of this species in order to increase the resettlement of relocated nests?

In all the villages the inhabitants came in great numbers, and there was no end to delight in the taste of warm yeast rolls. We are already preparing for next year in order to promote this wonderful tradition with as many stakeholders as possible.

Aneta Gajko

aga3Another task within the white stork protection project was successfully completed. It was a series of 5 training sessions during which we discussed basic issues in the field of biology and conservation of this species, as well as helping young and injured birds. The subjects of the training sessions were designed so that participants, including veterinarians, firefighters, employees of local government administration, power plant, Regional Directorate of Environmental Protection, national and landscape parks and other bodies dealing with nature protection, have basic knowledge in the field of "first aid" for birds. Such first aid is simply a skilful and attentive examination of the bird, an assessment of its chances for recovery, proper injury protection and preparation for transport in order to ensure a safe journey to the rehabilitation centre where it will be treated.
As part of the training we presented the following issues:
- Assumptions, goals, scope and implementation of the LIFE project "Protection of the white stork in the river valleys of eastern Poland".
- Biology and ecology of white stork.
- First aid to sick and injured birds and nestlings that have been thrown out of the nest, how to take care of such a bird, who to inform, how to organize help - this presentation was conducted by Dr. Agnieszka Czujkowska, Head of Wild Animals Rehabilitation Department from the Warsaw City ZOO.
Presentations given during the workshops will soon be published on the project website. 
The workshop was attended by 125 people. In the pictures, a large group of young people are students of the Veterinary Technical School in Łomża, who took part in a meeting in Osowiec in the headquarters of Biebrza National Park. Apart from Osowiec, the training sessions were held in Wyszków, Białystok, Siemiatycze and Ostrołęka in November and December. In the course of the implementation of the task, the idea was developed to make an instructional film for people who want to learn how to provide first aid to birds, and the project will be implemented by 2020, so we have a lot of time to create it. 
We thank all participants for coming!

The stork with a transmitter, which we wrote about in several previous messages, is unfortunately dead - he died as a result of an electric shock on a power line in Turkey.

At the end of May, the bird was brought to the Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Grzędy after the intervention of the inhabitants of Sztabin, who reported to Biebrza National Park that a stork chick had been thrown from one of the nests. At the Centre it turned out that a fragment of string swallowed by the stork was the reason for throwing him out of the nest by his parents. The string was probably brought by adult birds with food from the meadows or fields where storks were feeding. Because of the string, the young stork didn't want to eat and probably that's why he was thrown out of the nest. In the Animal Rehabilitation Centre, we removed the string from the digestive tract. Then the stork regained appetite and started to develop properly. Just before reaching volatility, he was selected to have a transmitter, thanks to which we could learn his fate after leaving the Centre. At the beginning of August, the bird flew out of Grzędy. Soon it turned out that he joined the group of 7 other storks. In September he flew over 1500 km to Turkey. Then, for about a month he was feeding in one place, which looks like on a waste dump on satellite images. In October it started to move further southward. He went to Greece for a few days and then returned to the European part of Turkey. Unfortunately, after returning to Turkey, the signal sent by our stork stopped in one place. When we started to suspect that something could have happened to our stork, we contacted ornithologists from Turkey, who could check what had happened on the spot. Yesterday, we received the sad news that our stork is dead. He died electrocuted.

This example shows that thanks to the cooperation of the local community with Biebrza National Park, it was possible to restore a young stork into nature that would have no chance without human help. Unfortunately, he was killed in an accident. As part of the LIFE project "Protection of the white stork in the river valleys of eastern Poland" implemented jointly with the Polish Society for Bird Protection and Łomża Landscape Park of the Narew Valley, works are being carried out in order to secure the elements of the power grid that are most dangerous for storks. Collisions with lines and electric shocks are the most common cause of death of young storks shortly after leaving the nest. We also appeal to you to clean strings and other rubbish that you will notice on the ground. They are a deadly dangerous threat to storks, because they cannot only be swallowed, but also get entangled around stork legs, cutting off blood supply.

We sincerely thank the ornithologists who contributed to learning about the end of the story of our stork, these were: Ian Harrison from the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, Kerem Boyla and the local ornithologist Özmen, who came to the site (shown below are his photographs). Of course, we would also like to thank those who were moved by the fate of the stork thrown out of the nest from Sztabin, who informed Biebrza National Park about it.

Next year, we are planning to put on new transmitters in order to have a more complete picture of how storks perform after the rehabilitation in our Centre in Grzędy.

By: Łukasz Krajewski (Biebrza National Park)

Photos: Animal Rehabilitation Centre

As part of task F.4 "Creating a networking with other projects", we organized our first study trip to Bulgaria. The trip took place on 25-30 September, with the participation of employees of the PTOP - 6 people, and of the Biebrza National Park - 1 person, and of the Łomża Landscape Park of the Narew Valley - 1 person as well.

The first project we visited was "Life for the Burgas lakes", carried out in the Burgas city area on the Black Sea coast by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds. There are extensive, shallow lagoons in this area, which are a very important resting point for the 1.5 million migratory birds flying over the area on their way south every year. 333 of the 420 species seen in Bulgaria can be observed in this area. This project included i.a. the collision protection of power lines, the task is analogous to the activities carried out in our stork project. Project website:, LIFE08NAT/BG/000277.

Another project that we visited was "Life for safe grid", conducted by the EVN, a company that produces and supplies electricity. The main aim of the project was also to protect power lines against collisions. The priority species here is the Eastern imperial eagle, a bird particularly vulnerable to collisions with these devices. The eagle's population is 29 couples throughout entire Bulgaria, and it is another project in Bulgaria which aims to protect these birds under the LIFE programme. We were very lucky enough to see two specimens! EVN employees, our field guides, have only seen these birds several times. Official website of the project:, LIFE12 NAT/BG/000572.

On the third day we met with representatives of the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation to get acquainted with the "Salt of Life” project. This task is carried out in the area of one of the lagoons with the highest salinity of water - over 22%. In this place, a part of the water is enclosed with special wooden partitions, forming tanks from which cooking salt is extracted. The Foundation is renovating the system of these barriers and is rebuilding the rainwater drainage channels in order to preserve this unique European ecosystem. In this area, the Pied avocet is protected in particular, and we had the pleasure of observing groups of Flamingos, Dalmatian pelicans and several thousand birds of prey, including over a thousand Lesser spotted eagles, during an hour-long observation. Project website:, LIFE11 NAT/BG/000362.

On the last day of our trip to Bulgaria we visited the White stork village Belozem, located in the central part of the country. The village is surrounded by vast plains with arable fields, the landscape is very different from wet meadows, the places of foraging of White storks in northeastern Poland. Belozem's trademark is a primary school building located in the centre of the village, with several nests on its red roof. Apparently, for many years the school management has been concerned about the preservation of the Stork population, because we have not found a single nest on roofs of other buildings, including private houses covered with red tiles. Single nests are located on power poles and on the church tower. A festival dedicated to White storks takes place every year in Belozem. You can find more information on theis event here:

The task was carried out within the project "Protection of the white stork in river valleys of the eastern Poland" LIFEciconiaPL LIFE15 NAT/PL/000728 co-financed by the European Commission from the LIFE Programme and the Vogelschutz Komitet e.V. programme.


bociekThe white stork, which had been fitted with a telemetric transmitter at the Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Grzędy, has already reached Turkey. The bird was brought to the Centre at the end of May as a small nestling thrown out from the nest in Sztabin. After successful rehabilitation, the stork left the Centre in early August. On 12 September, he started his trip to the south. On 20 September he reached the European part of Turkey, where he is still staying. Within 9 days he travelled 1500 km through Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria.

Despite much progress in migration, he is still well behind the rest of the birds. During the autumn migration, most storks pass the south-eastern ends of Europe before the end of August. Since mid-September, only the most late individuals remain in Europe. But this applies only to birds from Central and Eastern Europe. The rapidly developing Spanish stork population has different migratory habits. These birds are increasingly feeding on landfills, which make it possible to obtain food all year round. That is why most of those storks remain on the Iberian Peninsula for winter, not moving away from the nests for more than a few dozen kilometres.

We look forward to what our stork will do. Will he stay in Turkey and try to stay for winter there? Will he fly to Africa? And if he does fly to Africa, will he fly safely through countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, which have gained a bad reputation in the mass killing of migratory birds. BirdLife estimates say that around 25 million birds are killed every year in the Mediterranean area. The largest number of birds are killed in Italy, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus. Birds of different species are killed. From small singing birds to the largest eagles, pelicans and storks. Birds are killed with the use of various methods. Legally and illegally. On the Internet, you can find reports about how a group of hunters in Lebanon hunt a flock of storks that have stopped for the night to rest during their migration. With the use of dazzling lights, heavily armed, they kill the whole flock. Why? Not because of hunger, but to publish photos on Facebook where they proudly and joyfully present their trophies. There are many drastic pictures and films on the Internet, as well as petitions calling for an end to this massacre. As technology develops, the scale of this phenomenon increases. For many migratory bird species, illegal hunting is becoming one of the most serious threats. The victims of hunters/poachers are not only common species but also the rarest species. Remember Bruzda? May our stork be more lucky.

Text: Łukasz Krajewski, Biebrza National Park



21199810 10155738380791683 3626070395232233647 oLast storks are slowly preparing for migration, and among them is our friend - the wired stork (any idea of a name for him?). Today we watched a group of 8 birds (3 adult and 5 juvenile) preying in the rain near the village of Jabłoń Kościelna in the north of Podlasie. Our stork has already flown 80 kilometers from the place of breeding. That’s not many. At least the direction is right. He’s heading south.

The bird has been staying there for a few days so we decided to check what stopped him there. Haying, plowing and harrowing all around - a peak of field works. Abundance of food has drawn not only storks, but also numerous clawed birds: western marsh harriers, kestrels and buzzards; tens of them were hunting in the fields today.

This year we put GSM transmitter on two young individuals bred in a rehabilitation center at the Biebrza National Park in Grzędy; the transmitters allow ongoing observation of their migration. Through this activity we want to test whether birds rehabilitated in the so-far recognized way feel the same migration anxiety that makes them move to wintering areas just like the completely wild individuals, or maybe they are the storks we see here in winter periods or wandering all over Europe.

Unfortunately, one of the devices stopped transmitting. We don’t know the reason for that. Luckily, one of the storks is well and travels along some wild individuals. We hope he will reach Africa successfully. A very long road is ahead of him. It’s full of deadly dangers: power lines, wind farms, poachers. We keep our fingers crossed.

Next year we plan to repeat the experiment. This time we want to put transmitters on 4 storks.

00Storks are leaving our country. Their number is decreasing day by day. It’s a good time to sum the last season up.

In the first half of July, we controlled more than 2228 stork nests in the north-eastern Poland, in the territory of 9 Natura 2000 areas! 1628 of them were occupied by couples who had already started hatching. Unfortunately, not all of them have succeeded. Lucky enough were 1415 couples who bred 3516 chicks. Thus a statistical couple bred 2.1 of chicks. That’s a good result for the species, as it allows keeping a stable population.

The research conducted in Poland shows that approx. 4% of the young will die right after they fly off their nest. The main reasons for that are collisions with power lines and electric shocks. That is why we have elaborated a special protection device which eliminates this phenomenon in a quick, simple and cheap manner. We will continue to write about it.


9821We encourage you to read the article by Łukasz Krajewski on the first travels of one of them.

In mid July the ornithologists from the Polish Society for Bird Protection, together with the employees of the Animals Rehabilitation Center in Grzędy put transmitters on two storks. The transmitter records the bird’s location on an ongoing basis through an in-built GPS receiver. The recorded coordinates are sent by the transmitter every once in a while using a GSM signal and recorded on a server. This way the data on the current location of the wired stork is obtained. We will learn whether the birds raised in the Center, without the care of adult storks, are able to cope with their freedom and whether they join other storks to fly with them to Africa in winter.

The first of 2 storks wearing the transmitters left the Grzędy Center last Saturday (05.08) late in the evening. The storks in Grzędy are staying in an aviary, from which they can fly out if they can fly. The bird was nurtured since it was a little nestling that fell out or was thrown out of a nest in Sztabin. The young stork spent the first night after leaving the Grzędy Center on the peatbog between the Grzędy forest complex and Czerwone Bagno. On Sunday and Monday, the bird traveled short distances in the meadows by the Jegrznia river near Wóźnawieś and Kuligi. And on Tuesday, it flew over 30 km in the south-west direction and stayed near the town of Sulewo in the Grajewo poviat (map attached). The other stork wearing the transmitter is still in the Center. We will keep you informed about the fates of our storks in subsequent news.

author: Łukasz Krajewski, Biebrza National Park

4 sierpniaHere is an example of why our white stork protection project is so important. Apart from moving nests from roofs we also replace old and fatigued wooden and concrete poles on which nests are located, with new spun prestressed concrete poles. This time the birds were very lucky. The pole broke over a week ago during a storm, but the young had already been well grown and had a soft landing. We recommended the owners to leave the lucky three on a fenced property and watch if the parents come and feed them. They did. We visited them today; the birds can fly and are doing well. In September a new pole will be stood in place of the broken one. It will have a 25-year guarantee. This time such an accident won’t happen.

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