A Nice Story from Poland

Cows tapped to protect rare birds in Poland. 

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle


Twenty five cows are to be handed over to farmers in eastern Poland to graze in the open, creating an ideal habitat for the Lesser Spotted Eagle, Polskie Radio reported on January 5. 

This is part of a project aimed at protecting this large Eastern European bird of prey, launched in Poland with funding from the EU and the National Nature Protection Fund. 

“The farmers are expected to breed the cattle and hand over the young to other farmers in the region. The programme focuses on improving the habitat of the Lesser Spotted Eagle in Bialowieza and Knyszynska Forests,” the radio said. 

The project, which costs about 4.6 million euro, also provides for erecting 300 wooden posts enabling the eagles to look out for prey in the open fields, mowing overgrown deserted fields and creating small water reservoirs. 

About 1,900 pairs of the Lesser Spotted Eagle nest in Poland. I’ve been lucky enough to see some on visits to Poland. 

This is a story quite reminiscent of the project underway for the last several years down in the Burren – http://www.burrenlife.com/ – Farming for Conservation. 

While it sounds like a nice project, I’d have two basic questions : 

1. How could 25 cows, 300 wooden posts and project management possibly cost € 4.6 m ? 

2. Won’t there be other birds and animals generally that will lose out by the mowing of overgrown, deserted fields ? 

[Original story from The Financial – www.finchannel.com]


Major Victory in Poland

Tremendous news from Poland this week, where the government has bowed to pressure to re-route the planned new ‘Via Baltica’ trans-European motorway away from the most important and sensitive wildlife areas of the Augustow Forest, Biebrza Marshes (National Park) and Knyszyn Forest.

The Via Baltica motorway will not now cut through Biebrza Marshes.

The Via Baltica motorway will not now cut through Biebrza Marshes.

These are all Natura 2000 sites, protected under EU law and the Birds and Habitats Directives. Important species, which are under pressure but still have good populations in these areas include the Wolf, Lynx, Beaver and the Greater Spotted Eagle. Amazingly, the motorway was to cut right through these extraordinary landscapes and habitats.

Maybe two years ago, I signed a petition to stop this development. I don’t know how many signed, but every signature helped, no doubt. I’ll tell you one thing : if there’s an environment you want to protect, do something about it, however little.

Read Via Baltica Info here.

Trip to Poland, March 2010

I first visited Poland in 2006 and have been bringing a small group there, in March, ever since.

The trip is a five-day journey into the wonderful National Parks of the Northeastern corner of the country. Biebrza (Beaver) National Park lies along the wide valley of the Biebrza River. It is a birder’s paradise, with many species to be observed. It is forest country and in March the river is swollen by the melting snow. It is picture postcard stuff.

Bialowieza National Park is world-renowned, both for its population of European Bison and its famous Strictly Reserved Area, where man’s intervention is nil. The park is home to some elusive Lynx, as well as the Wolf.

I bring a small group, limited to 9. You need to book your own flights, with Aer Lingus from Dublin to Warsaw return. I’ll take care of the rest. We stay in a locally owned pension, full board, sharing. We have the services of a brilliant local guide, a National Parks and Wildlife Service equivalent officer. He knows Biebrza so well, he even wrote the guide book on it.

On past trips, we’ve even been demonstrated the Polish method for regenerating their oak forests by a Forest Manager with the Polish Forestry Service.

It’s a great trip for walkers, bird watchers and general lovers of the outdoors.

If you might be interested in joining us in March 2010, for five days great walking and nature discovery, drop me an e-mail on info [at] tourismpure [dot] com.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I am thrilled to see there are more and more reports of the wonderful Great Spotted Woodpecker in Ireland. In the last week, there have been sightings in Counties Wicklow (8), Dublin (2) and Down (1). Even last summer, there was a reported sighting as far west as Mayo.

I have been lucky enough to see this fabulous bird over the last number of years in far Eastern Poland, on the walking and nature watching trips I lead over there from Ireland. I’d love to get to see one over here.

We were all brought up watching Woody Woodpecker, but to see and hear the little guy actually doing his drumming ‘live’ is just brilliant.

See this article from The Examiner late last year.

See photos from this week from Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, copywrite Dick Coombes, here.

Biebrza NP – Total Wildlife Protection to Grow

River Biebrza in flood, Biebrza NP, Poland.

River Biebrza in flood, Biebrza NP, Poland.

Poland’s NPWS has decided to increase the area within Biebrza National Park that will be covered by total protection.

The Park, which covers a total of 60,000 hectares and is Poland’s largest NP, will from January contain 7,200 hectares of totally protected forest lands, an increase of 60%. Total protection means lands are kept away from man’s intervention. Nature is left to her own devices.

Biebrza NP is also beginning the process of application to become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which would give the Park even greater prestige.

The Park protects Europe’s largest marsh and swamp area, a landscape of truly international importance, based around the wide valleys of the Biebrza and Narew rivers in Poland’s North East. It is home to many bird species, as well as wolves, elk, deer, wild boar and many more.

Tourism Pure leads walking tours to Biebrza NP each year, using only the services of local guides, accommodation and transport.

Some Pictures from Poland

It has taken me a while, but I hope I’ve got the hang of embedding a You Tube slide show into this Blog. If I have succeeded, then I’ll try another few over the coming weeks.

The background music is the beautiful Mazurka Opus 68/2, by Poland’s Chopin (1827).

Reflections on Ecotourism (2)

It should include education.

It should include education.

There are a lot of comments out there in cyberspace about what is and what is not ecotourism.

Let’s look at one definition (from TIES – The International Ecotourism Society). They say that ecotourism is “responsible travel to natural areas, that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people”.

While that is fine and dandy, it just doesn’t cut it for me. Flor Burke, a great eco-friendly brain if ever there was one, talks about ‘education’. I think it’s his favourite word, or one of a shortlist anyway. You see, ecotourism must be quite a bit more than just travel that doesn’t damage the environment and puts some money in the pocket of providers. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that – it’s all good. But where’s the reference to education, the learning ? Where’s the interaction with local people, the cultural aspect ?

When I bring groups to Poland each year, I ensure there’s a meeting with local people. Of course, interaction is limited, because we don’t speak Polish and they don’t speak English. But we do a presentation about our tourism businesses, so they can learn, we can learn and ask eachother questions through an interpreter. It’s crude, but nice.

We stay in local accommodation, owned and run by local people. We eat local produce. We travel in a locally owned minibus, driven by a local driver. We use a local guide, who teaches us as we go.

Perhaps the definition adopted by the IUCN (World Conservation Union) is better. They say that ecotourism is “environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature and accompanying cultural features, both past and present, that promotes conservation, has a low visitor impact and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.”

Lovely, but a bit wordy. Clearly, there’s a bit more on people and culture. But it’s still lacking on education.

The Greenbox, on the other hand, does include education :

“Ecotourism is travel that is small scale, low impact, culturally sensitive, community and conservation orientated, primarily nature based, educational and capable of broadening people’s minds and enlivening their souls, while providing a unique experience, firmly grounded in sustainable principles and practices.”

Wow ! Try learning that mouthful off by heart. Interestingly, the version of this definition currently appearing on their website omits the words “and conservation” from the above, earlier, printed version. I hope and assume that’s just a typing error.

As an aside and a counter view, do read Todd Comen’s excellent book called “Integrated Rural Tourism” and see where he places ecotourism in the overall scheme of things.