NATURE / Birds

Birds never leave the Kursiu Nerija National Park. Late in the autumn, when it gets quiet in the continent and lakes become empty, more than 300 bird species can be seen in the spit.

The geography of the Curonian Spit is well suited for scientists studying bird migration routes. The White Sea-the Baltic Sea migration "highway" goes along the spit and millions of birds passes it. For this reason the bird-ringing station was set up in Juodkrante. Every autumn scientists hang out nets for bird catching in the Nagliai Nature Reserve. Each season about 10 to 11 thousand birds are ringed there.
Large flocks of migrating finches (Fringilla) and tits(Parus) can be seen every spring and especially in autumn. Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) are following these birds. Buzzards (Buteo), ospreys (Pandion haliaätus), harriers (Falco subbuteo) and hobbies (Circus) very often are cruising in the sky. Shallows of the lagoon are favored by different species of ducks (Anatidae),grebes (Podiceps), Bewick's swan (Cygnus columbianus) and whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus).

In August beaches are full of dunlins (Calidris alpina),curlews (Numenius arquata), godwits (Limosa),oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), etc. Black terns (Chlidonias niger) and common terns (Sterna hirundo) fly crying in the air. One can count 5 species ofgulls (Larus) sitting on dunes and piers.

Thousands of water birds gather for wintering in the spit. Common scoters (Melanitta nigra), velvet scoters(Melanitta fusca), long-tailed ducks (Clangula hyemalis) and divers (Gavia) feed in the sea. Goosanders (Mergus merganser) and goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) flock near the unfrozen cracks in the lagoon. White-tailed eagles (Haliaëtus albicilla) often can be seen flying above.

Summer in the Curonian Spit is a breeding season for more than one hundred bird species. In May and June dunes are full of skylarks (Alauda arvensis) singing. The woods sing with the voices of chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), warblers (Phylloscopus), robins (Erithacusrubecula), thrushes (Turdus) and tits (Parus). Near the shore other warbler species (Acrocephalus), nest in the reeds. It is also home for great crested grebes (Podiceps cristatus), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and mute swans (Cygnus olor).

A mixed colony of grey herons (Ardea cinerea) andcormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) settled near Juodkrante. This is one of the largest and oldest colonies in Lithuania. 1361 pair of cormorants and 582 pairs of grey herons hatched there in 2000.

Several rare bird species breed in the national park also.White-tailed eagles (Haliaëtus albicilla) build their nests in places where humans hardly ever tread. Two or three pairs of these birds hatch every year. In the woods theblack kite (Milvus Haliaëtus) and the hobby (Falco subbuteo) also have nests. The later chooses tall pine trees. On a beach, the ringed plower (Charadrius hiaticula) places its eggs right on the sand. In the few old growth forests in the spit, the stock dove (Columba oenas) coos, which means it nests there also. Grey dunes and foredunes are home for the tawny pipit(Anthus campestris), rather rare elsewhere in Lithuania. In summer, the most beautiful Lithuanian duck - theshelduck (Tadorna tadorna) takes its hatchlings out to the shallows of the lagoon.

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