Birding in Lithuania Dzūkija region
About the field guide
Birdwatching is and excellent way to enjoy one‘s leisure time as birds may be found nearly everywhere and right along. Ornithological tourism or simply outing to nature that has gained popularity in Europe confirms it. In most cases it requires neither sophisticated equipment nor major initial investments. Minimal optics (binoculars, a camera) and initial knowledge about appearance of birds, their voices, what and where may be found in certain seasons is needed. Though relatively big diversity of birds occurs in towns or settlements, however, those seeking to discover something more interesting or unique are advised to visit different sites where nature has been preserved. Currently, much information may be found on the internet, also in recent years a few field guides in Lithuanian have been published that have considerably contributed to interest in birds. The number of internet pages, groups interested in birds in social media sharing information about birds and birdwatching have increased. Many birders face a problem – shortage of information concerning birdwatching sites.
The idea to publish a birdwatching field guide including the best birdwatching sites and routes in our country based on experience of other countries occurred several years ago. However, preparation of such publication needs considerable preparedness and knowledge. A field guide may be produced by experienced birdwatchers who explore the ornithofauna in the country, its distribution in different seasons as well as other specific features. Such work may be carried out only by naturalists who watched birds a number of years and know them very well. In 2016, the planning works of the field guide for birders in the Dzūkija region started. When the idea was presented publicly a wider interest emerged outrunning the predecessor: in 2017 “Birding in Lithuania Nemunas Delta Region” was published in Lithuanian and English. The publication was prepared by the Lithuanian Ornithological Society upon the initiative of the Baltic Environmental Forum and request of the Šilutė Municipality.
The current publication describes 18 birdwatching sites in the Dzūkija region (2 of them
overlap partly with the Suvalkija region). The routes cover different habitats: flooded and dry meadows, valleys of rivers and lakesides, eutrophic and meotrophic lakes, coniferous, mixed and deciduous forests, raised bogs and marshes, sandy areas, a peat mining field, pastured meadows, agrarian landscape, etc. The spectrum of different habitats in Dzūkija creates particular conditions for abundance of different birds – over 300 bird species have been recorded in the region. Here nationally rare bird species breed, such as Ferruginous Duck, Western Capercaillie, Black Grouse, European Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Wood Sandpiper, Great Snipe, Eurasian Curlew, Greater Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Snake Eagle, European Roller, White-winged Tern, Aquatic Warbler, Citrine Wagtail, Bluethroat, Tawny Pipit, Corn Bunting etc. Taking the routes in the right season and at the right time of the day you will enjoy an opportunity to find rare birds, also a number of breeding bird species that are not easy to discover.
Being in nature and watching birds, in particular, it is very important to comply with the birdwatching ethics and not to disturb birds without necessity. Spring is an exceptionally sensitive period when birds defend their territories, breed and feed their offspring. In that period moderate and considerate behaviour is obligatory, so that our presence in nature wouldn‘t harm it. It is also necessary to comply with the rules of visiting protected areas that ensure appropriate preservation of nature values. It is important to remember that a birder must be a friend of nature and foster it!
Another rule that must be obeyed in nature – respect to private ownership. Often birdwatching takes place in settlements or at private properties, so visiting such areas requires politeness and respect to private property.
We hope that “Birding in Lithuania Dzūkija Region” for nature enthusiasts will disclose unseen beauty of the country, acquaint with the most valuable birdwatching sites, rare and interesting bird species, arouse natural love for nature and encourage to take interest in birds and their protection in our country.
So, without any delay take binoculars and set out to nature!
In the Depth of wild nature
Back in ancient times, our country was home
to endless forests, clear rivers, lakes, and boggy
marshes. It is estimated that in the 11th-13th centuries,
forests covered 55 percent, and wetlands and water
bodies – 23 percent of the current territory of
Lithuania. The importance of forests and swamps
to the formation of the Baltic tribes, and later
nations, is invaluable. The vast areas of impenetrable
forests and marshes hampered the penetration of
the enemy and protected our country for centuries.
Swamps would provide safe refuge and food during
enemy onslaught. The secret underwater causeways,
kūlgrinda, would lead the Balts to their secret
settlements perched on the forest islands. The
endless forests and swamps were places where people
used to pick berries and mushrooms, fish, hunt,
graze cattle, and hollow trees for beehives. Only
much later, when our perception of the world and
nature was affected by newcomers, did the swamps
became a scary, desolate, unfamiliar or even loathed
place. Many of them were drained and the primeval
forests cut. Only a small part of the previously vast
wetlands and woods has remained.
Natural forests, water bodies, undamaged bogs,
uncultivated meadows are the favorite habitats of
many species of plants and animals. In large forests
and impenetrable marshlands, it is still possible
to find places where wildlife is almost undisturbed
by human activity. In most cases, these areas are
unattractive to humans as they are difficult to
manage – forests that grow on the steep slopes of
lakes and river valleys as well as large wetlands.
In such places, wolves safely have their cubs, the
lynx travel unnoticed, and eagles make nests and
have offspring in trees hundreds of years old. The
flora growing in the surviving natural habitats is
exceptionally rich and special, and insects and
mushrooms thrive. By constantly cutting the trees
as soon as they reach maturity, people prevent
them from naturally ageing, dying, falling and being
reborn in a new generation. During millions of years
of evolution, many plants, mushrooms and animals
have adapted to live in primeval forests and cannot
survive in forests run by people.
This book introduces the surviving natural
islands of a particularly rich primal natural world,
surrounded by urbanized landscapes. The publication
gives an overview of the unique and, in terms of
ornithology, very valuable, preserved sites in Dzūkija
and the Biebrza river valley in nearby Poland.
The photographs used in the book were captured
in Čepkeliai Marsh, the forests of Dainava and
Rūdninkai, the surroundings of Lake Žuvintas, the
wetlands by the Biebrza river and other areas. This
book is an invitation to travel and get to know your
country so that the goal of preserving the values of
nature will acquire a meaningful sense for everyone.