Study visit at Vistula Spit, Poland

In October, we made a study visit at Vistula Spit in Poland.

2nd October, Vistula spit

A cold and windy October day the project partnership met at Krynica Morska on the Vistula spit and in Elblag to take part of the Polish project tourist product development.

On the small land spit between the South Baltic coast and the lake Frisches Haff we took the bike along the trail to the bird watching tower in Piaski. In the mid October the birdwatching picnic takes place with thousands of birdwatchers looking for migrating birds passing the spit on the way to their winter quarters in the south. A huge birdwatching tower in two stocks offers good possibilities. Along the trail up to the hill several information stands about birds were present. A white-tailed eagle was fighting the strong wind and passed closed to the tower.

After lunch an interesting speech was held by Krystian Babski at the Maritime Authority in Gdynia. Krystian told us about the plan to make a channel through the spit to admit boat travels to the harbour of Elblag. The environmental impacts on the Natura 2000 area were presented together with the infrastructural challenges connected to cutting of road transportations to the eastern parts of the spit.

A stop was made at the hunting facilities to show the locations and to hear about the work to develop the projects hunting offer - fallow deer, wild boar and roe deer.

The afternoon was spent at the Kąty Rybackie Cormorant reserve which is the biggest cormorant colony in Poland and Europe. The nature reserve was established in 1957 and originally covered 4 hectares. Today the spot is a breeding place for 35-40 thousand of cormorants but in recent years the trend is decreasing number of birds. Due to heavy impact from the bird dirt called guano the trees die within 2-3 years after the nest is built. The guano also effects the ground and makes regeneration of new trees difficult. This is the reason why the open area today raised up to 102 hectares in size which is equal to one square kilometre. We could all image how this place sounds and smells during the breeding season. A spectacular experience and the place is a good tourist spot for foreign birdwatchers from all over the world. In October there were no birds in the colony accept of one white-tailed eagle sitting in a dead tree. Cormorant is big part of eagle diet and the eagles are profiting from the high amount of birds.

Before dinner a spontaneous visit at the Russian border took place.

Morning 3rd October, Birdwatching cruise in Lake Druzno

During the morning we visited lake Druzno. The name Druzno goes back to a German name Drausensee and is connected to the ancient trade city of Truso, which stood within the lands now occupied by Elbląg. The lake is the site of a nature reserve, one of the 13 sites in Poland protected under the Ramsar convention. The lake is about 181 square kilometres in area and sometimes up to 1.8 metres below sea level. The delta ends at Elbląg upland, much of which is wooded. The delta itself is sparsely populated, despite the presence of large cities nearby (Gdansk, Elblag and others). Lake Druzno is a shallow and largely overgrown lake in the Vistula Delta region near the Baltic Coast, with surrounding wetlands, reedbeds, and swampy alder forests which are a relic of a much larger water body formerly part of the Vistula Lagoon. The most widespread aquatic vegetation is represented through floating communities of different associations of water lilies. The site is important for birds migrating along the Baltic coastline and provides refuge for more than 150 bird species during the summer. Some 20.000 migratory waterfowl use the area too. From the boat we discovered several species of ducks and around 20 egrets.

Historically, in the troubled Viking Age and the conflicts and acts of piracy between the various tribes of the Balts and voyagers from Scandinavia and elsewhere, the lake would have been an ideal masked route for shallow-draft vessels, such as the Viking ships. When the lake became useless for that purpose Elblag was still a port with access to the Zalew Wislany (lake Frisches Haff) and through there to the Gulf of Danzig.

In an attempt to make the inland region more accessible, the Prussian government opened the Elblag Canal through the lake in 1860. The canal is composed of sections connected by tracks for lifting and lowering vessels. It joins several lakes to the south, but they are not drained by the canal. During its life the canal was used mainly to haul timber to the coast. After destruction in World War II the canal was restored in 1948 but finds little commercial use now. Instead the entire route has been converted into a recreational area featuring nature preserves such as Lake Druzno. We had the opportunity to experience the channel while the boat was pulled down the trail and put into the lake.

Lake Druzno has a big potential for becoming an attractive birdwatching site. However, there is still lot of work to be done to make the area accessible for birdwatchers. Among these actions construction of birdwatching towers and guided tour offers are prerequisites to develop and market the site as birdwatcher's paradise. The possibility to experience the adjacent attraction, to go by boat on land, is an added value which makes the potential even better.

Afternoon 3rd October, Elblag - indoor presentation of Polish Natura 2000 and related challenges

During a two-hour presentation held by Joanna Jarosik at the Regional Directorate of Environmental Protection in Gdansk we learnt about adaptations in Natura 2000 in Poland and Pomorskie region. Joanna talked about protection issues, tourism challenges and good practises on the project demonstration sites. Among the topics were experiences from overexploited tourism areas and the impacts they create on protected areas. Lack of cooperation between different stakeholders and gaps in legislation cause conflicts between nature and tourism business.

Not only bad experiences but also good examples were presented about solutions to channel visitors in protected areas with sensitive species by establishment of trails. Another good example focused on how to work with information and signs.

We share a lot of common challenges related to Natura 2000, nature protection and tourism.

Text: Ola Runfors

  • Last Updated: 1/9/2024