There are not many nature miracles like Słowiński Park Narodowy, which stretches west from the popular resort of Łeba. The majority of us correctly associate it with moving sand dunes, which since time immemorial have been changing their shapes under the influence of the wind.
Enthusiasts of observing winged nature know, however, that another treasure of this place is an abundance of wild birds. It is an important aspect to consider when planning a visit to this popular tourist destination in the Pomorskie Region.
The park’s landscape – almost 33,000 hectares – does not, of course, only include the emblematic coastal dunes. The area, which was included by UNESCO in the world network of biosphere reserves in 1977, covers the Mierzeja Łebska [Łebska Spit], Nizina Gardeńsko-Łebska [Gardeńsko-Łebska Lowland], parts of a terminal moraine from the last glaciation, as well as many lakes – of which the biggest one is Łebsko, with an area of more than 70 square kilometres.
Apart from the sands, characteristic landscapes are, among others, coniferous forests, swamps and peat bogs, thus formations liked by birds. The ecological variety of the park includes almost a thousand species of vascular plants, 165 species of bryophyte, 500 species of algae and 430 species of mushrooms. Included in these species is the sea holly, a plant characteristic of the region but both beautiful and delicate, which is why it is under strict protection in Poland.
That the logo of Słowiński Park Narodowy features a proud European herring gull flying over the sea is not without a reason. These are birds that constitute the richest part of the fauna here, out of a total amount of more than 270 species, half of which have their nesting sites here. Nature reserves have been designated specifically for protection of their habitats on lakes Łebsko and Gardno. (These are Rezerwat Przyrody Gackie i Żarnowskie Lęgi [Gackie i Żarnowskie Lęgi Nature Reserve], Klukowe Lęgi, Gardeńskie Lęgi and Ciemińskie Błota).
The local nesting birds include, among others, coot, teal, mallard, common pochard, tufted duck, the greylag goose – the only one nesting species of wild goose in the country – and the ringdove, the biggest dove. The sea eagle, red kite and western marsh harrier are among the birds of prey which regularly nest in the area of the park. In the park’s forests species active at night include the horned owl – Europe’s biggest – the boreal owl and the short-eared owl, which is rarely seen and spotted mainly in winter. The majority of the species in the park are water and marsh birds, like the common snipe, common redshank or various ducks like the common shelduck or shoveler.
The best attractions in autumn and spring!
Observers of migrating species will have most enjoyments in the park during autumn and spring. Then you can spot mixed flocks of widgeons, shovelers, northern pintails and teals. In the lake areas, mute swans, whooper swans and tundra swans often rest during their travels. Flocks of greater white-fronted geese, bean geese and barnacle geese also stop here. The park is also located on the migratory routes of wading birds, for example the oystercatcher, little stint, curlew sandpiper and red knot.
Ornithologists have even observed sporadic appearances of such rare species as the great northern loon, greater flamingo, king eider or snowy owl. Moreover, in the winter season, on the coastal waters of the Baltic Sea, we can see the red-throated loon, black-throated loon and various ducks, including the eider, scoter, long-tailed duck or red-breasted merganser.
Let us add that, among the other fauna of the park are species well worth observing and taking pictures of. Many of them are endangered species or in danger of extinction, for example, the Mediterranean water shrew, barbastelle and common noctule. In the meadows, forests and peat bogs of the park you can also meet species like the fox, badger, European hare, raccoon dog, boar, roe deer, deer or mink – whose presence is always a great danger for birds. Explorers have also registered the presence of wolves, and a few years back they even found a sensational trace of a lynx!