The main activities of the Project No. LT-PL-1R-056 “Natural Heritage – A Tool for Development of the Birdwatching Tourism In Dzūkija and Biebrza Valley“ are as follows:
1. Installation and maintenance of ornithological tourism infrastructure, acquisition of equipment
Seeking to improve the birdwatching conditions 5 observation platforms, 2 m high, were built on the most interesting birdwatching sites, including information what birds and when can be found on that particular site. The Administration of the Dzūkija National Park established a camping site with an ornithological class-room where birds of the region with recorded sounds will be exhibited. In parks of Druskininkai an exposition of nesting boxes was produced for visitors of this resort town.
2. Management of Natura 2000 sites
With years, some habitats of importance for birds change, degrade and become not suitable breeding places for certain bird species. Thus, aiming at restoration of important habitats for birds areas in Dzūkija containing the highest ornithological value and potential were chosen; their management was started in the first Project year restoring favourable conditions for birds to breed. Two islands in the Nemunas river at Merkinė, formerly sandy and overgrown with grasses, that in the course of time became areas overgrown with bushes and Manitoba Maples (invasive tree species). In the first Project year all woody vegetation was removed and in the second year cattle was introduced to maintain favourable conditions in the area important for birds and to keep the habitat free from overgrowing.
The islands in the Nemunas river at the village of Lipliūnai is known as breeding sites of Little and Common Terns and stopover points of migrating waders. It is foreseen to do the management works on two islands in the Niedus Ornithological Reserve. It is anticipated that hundreds of Gulls, Common Terns, various species of ducks and other waterfowl will come back. It is planned to carry out management works in the lekking place of Black Grouses located at the edge of the former Pariečė polygon seeking to expand open habitat areas for the birds and to maintain the restored areas suited as lekking places.
3. Preparation of information products for tourists and visitors
Within the Project implementation period, a film for general public about values and uniqueness of the Dzūkija and Biebrza regions, their beauty and variety of birds, not known to everyone yet, was produced.
The newly recorded DVD of nature sounds will enable to feel like being encircled by Dzūkija and Biebrza nature, or just listening to nature sounds of the region at home.
In 2018, three books will be available for people interested in nature, birds in particular. A representative publication containing many nature photographs of the region will reveal mysterious beauty of Dzūkija and Biebrza. The pocket nature field guide for amateur birdwatchers who are eager to learn natural values will be useful travelling within the nature area. It includes descriptions of the most interesting sites and routes in view on nature travelling from Lithuania to Poland, or in the Dzūkija and Biebrza regions. The book is published in Lithuanian, Polish and English.
The professional birding field guide contains information about territories in South Lithuania, providing detailed description taking into consideration seasons, birding nature and birdwatchers‘ potential. The publication includes maps and photos of the suggested sites and birds. The map of the Dzūkija and Biebrza regions offers birdwatching points, recommends travel and hiking routes.
The mobile exhibition of nature photos will allow to unveil nature mysteries of Dzūkija and Biebrza. Within the Project period, it is exhibited in different places of the Project areas visited by numerous people.
One of the most important Project information products aiming at popularization of ornithological tourism in the Dzūkija and Biebrza regions is the website with internet application which will help travellers using smart phones to find the most important information concerning interesting birdwatching sites, with descriptions thereof, what birds can be found and in what season, where to look for them. Besides, the website provides all Project publications, thus there will be no need to search where they are distributed, and travellers will be able to learn information contained in them.
4. Trainings, workshops and study visits for the interested parties
In the second year of the Project, with the planned infrastructure already in place, in Dzūkija trainings are organised for interested institutions to get acquainted with the ornithological tourism opportunities in the region, how to use the created complex internet platform of ornithological tourism in South Lithuania. Two day trainings were organised for representatives of the tourism sector: staff of municipalities and their tourism information centres, personnel of administrations of protected areas, owners of rural tourism homesteads. The aim of the workshop is to provide the participants with the needful knowledge for popularisation of nature tourism in the Project region.
Two training sessions, with a day duration each, in Dzūkija are devoted to teachers of biology. The participants get acquainted with the natural heritage, including ornithological, with a major focus on its attractiveness and importance for education of schoolchildren. Field trainings are foreseen for teachers in the most valuable birdwatching sites in Dzūkija.
5. Project management
6. Information and publicity activities
Respective events were organised for general public. In spring of the first Project year two excursions were organised for people interested in birds and their living environment. They were taken by bus to the vicinity areas of Žuvintas and Čepkeliai where assisted by professional ornithologists and staff of the Reserves watched birds, visited sites of bird importance, heard information concerning importance of the areas for protection of natural values. In autumn 2017, three excursions were organised to bird farewell events in the Meteliai Regional Park, the Žuvintas Biosphere Reserve and natural areas in the vicinity of Vilnius. In 2018, excursions were organised to the vicinity of Žuvintas and Čepkeliai.
The idea of ornithological tourism was broadly presented in the International Exhibition of Tourism ADVENTUR-2018.
7. Project closing activities