Earlier this summer in June RSPB Scotland’s Jess Barrett attended a week long study visit to the Odra Delta in Poland, funded by Erasmus+ and coordinated by ARCH Network, to learn about the nature found there and the conservation practices associated with it. In this blog she gives us the top five highlights from her time in Poland.
Five great sights from Poland
1. Eagles everywhere!
This part of Poland, the north west of the country, has a huge population of white-tailed eagles. I lost count of the number we saw while there! Back home these majestic birds are very much associated with the wilds of Scotland but it’s a rather different story where we visited.
One afternoon we went out on boat from the city of Szczecin around some of the islands in the River Odra leading north away from the city. These islands are so close to the city and yet are an absolute haven for white-tailed eagles. It was an incredibly hot day – over 30 degrees – and so while there were a few eagles flying around high up in the sky most of the 14 we saw were perched in the trees with their mouths open trying to keep cool.
The first one we saw was right by the city flying above the dock area – you can just about make out the top left corner of this photo. On our very last afternoon in Poland enroute to heading home I spotted one from our minibus flying by the motorway, quite a special sight to round off the visit.
2. Butterfly influx
You may remember when Butterfly Conservation launched their Big Butterfly Count in mid-July they said they were particularly interested in gathering records of sightings of painted ladies as unusually high numbers of these butterfly had been spotted flying from Europe to the UK.
During our visit to Poland in mid June they were experiencing their own a mass migration of these beautiful butterflies. On a walk around the Odra Delta Nature Park it was as if we were walking through a painted lady cloud – they were all over the place flitting about and landing on flowers. It was a rather magical half hour or so, and we enjoyed spotting some of the other types of butterflies mixed in amongst them.
3. Highland cattle in Poland
Yes, you have read that right! Through the haze of the hot day we spotted some of the herd at the Odra Delta Nature Park where they have a very important role in helping to maintain the wetland habitat.
When the park was first created the wetlands were in a very bad condition but thanks to these cows (and some other livestock – more on them below) it’s now a thriving home to many species of birds and insects. The cows are perfectly adapted to living in such conditions and help keep the growth of plants back which otherwise could spread across the wetlands and damage the finely balanced habitat.
4. Konik ponies in their home land
If you have been to RSPB Scotland’s Loch of Strathbeg reserve on the Aberdeenshire coast you may have seen our herd of Konik ponies there who play a crucial role in looking after the site. These ponies can access parts of the reserve that machinery struggles to get to and chomp their way through plants that would otherwise come to dominate and strangle out others.
Koniks are native to Poland and at Odra Delta Nature Park we got to see them in their home environment! Like the Highland cattle they help take care of the site and keep the wetlands in check. It was an amazing sight to see them dashing about making a lot of noise.
5. Poppies galore
Everywhere we went around the Odra Delta there were fields and roadside verges full of beautiful poppies catching the sunlight. In some places they were mixed in with other wild flowers creating a visual treat of a sea of reds, blue and yellows. Wild flowers like this play a really important role in helping many species of insects. In the past few years I’ve noticed more and more wild flowers in Scotland from areas of parks to city gardens as more and more of us try to make places more wildlife friendly; even small wild flower patches can make a big difference.
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