Bocian Biały w dolinach rzek

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: www.burgaslakes.org, 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: www.lifeforsafegrid.bg, 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: www.saltoflife.biodiversity.bg, 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: http://www.greenbalkans.org/bg/XII_Festival_na_Beliya_shtyrkel_s_Belozem_13_may_2017_g_-p6341-y2017.

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.

In early April we wrote about an old spring ritual we at Drozdowo elementary school as part of the Life project entitled “Protection of the white stork in river valleys of the eastern Poland”. We baked the so-called “busłowe łapy”, that is stork feet shaped rolls. According to the tradition (and by courtesy of PGE Branch in Łomża), “busłowe łapy” were placed in an abandoned stork nest, to encourage storks to settle there. 
Just imagine today morning’s situation: not one, but two storks are in the nest!!! And they’re in an unambiguous position! The bakings of the children of Drozdowo must have drawn them there. We are waiting for the effects in the form of hatch.

Łomżyński Park Krajobrazowy

As part of our stork project we have just bought a drone to assess the hatching success using two methods - classic (from the ground) and from the air (by drone). We are planning to test them over a 3-year monitoring conducted in Biebrzańska Refuge, to verify how big a mistake is made with the former method and possibly suggest a correction that will allow more accurate estimation of the hatching success with large-area stock-taking of this species. Initial tests show that storks are not afraid of the drone, although it draws their interest. They neither attack the aircraft nor escape from their nests. Here are some photos from the first flights. More is coming soon.

Within the project of protection of the white stork funded from Life resources, in order to compensate for the loss of nesting sites of sparrows and tree sparrows, we decided to mount 3 nesting boxes under every moved nest. Why this number? Well, a few years ago we conducted a study of the occupation of white stork nests by other bird species and it turned out that their main inhabitants are sparrows, tree sparrows and starlings. There were on average 3.5 pairs per one nest. At the end of March, we checked a few of these boxes. There were no storks on the nests yet, but all the boxes already had occupants! This confirms that it is a necessary and important part of protecting these small passerine birds. We intend to explore this phenomenon more thoroughly.

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The Polish Society for Bird Protection has begun a series of meetings with residents living in areas of the ongoing LIFE project entitled “ Protection of the White stork in river valleys of eastern Poland”.
Many years ago, in early spring, in every village home in Podlasie and Kurpie, on 25 March, “busłowe łapy” (“stork's paws”) were baked. They were yeast rolls similar in the shape to the four-claw stork’s paw. It had to do with the belief that the last storks should return by this day. In folk dialect "busioł" means stork. People believed that by inserting “busłowe łapy” into the stork’s nest, they will lure the bird into the nest located on their property, and thus happiness and prosperity will not abandon them throughout the year. This tradition, like many others, have almost completely disappeared in the project implementation areas and to cultivate it, we scheduled 20 meetings with residents in order to bake “busłowe łapy” together.
The first “busłowe łapy” are already behind us. On 25 March we met with residents of Mielnik commune, who came in great numbers to the Commune Culture, Sport and Recreation Center. The workshop was divided into two parts. In the first part we learned the recipe and made yeast dough. In the second one we baked the elaborately prepared stork's paws. There were also harrows, sickles, brioches and even ducks on the baking trays. Of course, children had most fun with the baking, but adults matched their enthusiasm. During a break we invited the participants to watch the film entitled “The land of 1000 storks” realized under the previous project of protection of the white stork. The project gadgets, T-shirts and mugs were very popular. We would like to thank the ladies from the Commune Culture, Sport and Recreation Center for their help, Ms. Halina, who lovingly talked about the tradition of baking “busłowe łapy”, and all the participants for a few hours of joyfully working together.

 

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