GREATER SPOTTED EAGLE – A BIRD LIKE NO OTHER! Initiated and administered by Ptaki Polskie (Polish Birds), in cooperation with Komitet Ochrony Orłów (Eagle Conservation Committee) and Biebrzański Park Narodowy (The Biebrza National Park), the project aims at restoring Greater Spotted Eagles’ natural hunting and nesting sites, as well as at securing their future population. Conservation actions are funded by the European Commission’s LIFE+ Fund, Narodowy Fundusz Ochrony Środowiska i Gospodarki Wodnej (National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management) and Wojewódzki Fundusz Ochrony Środowiska i Gospodarki Wodnej w Białymstoku (Regional Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Białystok). Thomas Krumenacker (www.krumenacker.de)
WHAT ARE THE THREATS TO GREATER SPOTTED EAGLES?
HABITAT DESTRUCTION Biebrza wetlands used to be mowed by hand. It was very hard work in difficult conditions. From 1970s hand mowing was gradually seizing. As a result wet meadows and marshes began to overgrow with reeds, shrubs, willows and birches. Unfortunately, at the same time, secluded riparian forests where Greater Spotted Eagles build their nests are a valuable source of wood. Mature and monumental trees are being cut down, whereas young trees do not restore the original character of the birds’ breeding habitat. Therefore it is essential for our Project to restore natural wetlands and stop the devastation of the forests.
INSUFFICIENT OFFSPRING NUMBERS Each season a pair of Greater Spotted Eagles raise only one chick. As a result, at the end of each season only 2 to 7 young Greater Spotted Eagles leave the Biebrza Valley. These few young birds do not guarantee the survival of this species in Poland, therefore it is absolutely necessary to secure safety and longevity of adult Greater Spotted Eagles.
DANGEROUS MIGRATIONS At the end of September Greater Spotted Eagles leave Biebrza Valley to spend winter in Southern Europe, Northern Africa or Near East. The migration is a difficult and exhausting task for the birds. Apart from weariness, hunger or lack of resting areas, they have to face other obstacles, such as deadly collisions with high voltage lines and illegal shooting by hunters.
Tom Lindroos (www.tomlindroos.1g.fi)
Greater Spotted Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle are closely related species. Even experienced birdwatchers have difficulties in telling these two apart. As a result of drainage and deforestation, Greater Spotted Eagle’s habitats are becoming dry meadows, suitable for their close cousin Lesser Spotted Eagle. Habitats overlap, which leads to hybridization of the two species. GSE females very often choose LSE for their mating partners. It is still not clear why this occurs; whether the females perceive the LSE as more “attractive” and promising, or – similarly to birdwatchers – they have problems recognizing GSEs? We do not know the answer to the question of hybridization. Therefore, we hope that the research planned within this Project will provide answers allowing us to understand and reduce the threat of hybridization.
OBSERVING THE MYSTERIOUS EAGLES
HOW ARE WE PROTECTING GREATER SPOTTED EAGLES IN POLAND? RESTORING WETLANDS FOR GREATER SPOTTED EAGLES AND OTHERS… To preserve the natural character of the Biebrza wetlands and to restore dry and abandoned meadows, specific conservation works have to be undertaken such as mowing and removing of bushes and trees. Such actions stop the degradation of the valuable Biebrza Wetland and preserve the habitat of other rare birds like Great Snipes, Aquatic Warblers or White-winged Terns. Our Project includes mowing of around 1,000 hectares and removal of bushes from the area of around 500 hectares. Altogether, we will restore the area of wetland equivalent to 2,300 footbal pitches.
In order to protect vanishing Greater Spotted Eagles, we have to learn more about them and understand their needs. Conducting our LIFE Project we need to find out where they live and hunt, what they hunt for and whether they find it here, in the Biebrza Valley. We study their everyday family life, as well as their dangerous migrations. The information we gather will be vital for the conservation and future of Greater Spotted Eagles in Poland and the EU. In our research we rely both on traditional methods and new technologies. Ringing is a tested method which can be very efficient in collecting important data about animals’ biology and ethology. Placing GPS transmitters on birds, we can remotely record the birds’ movements, migratory routes and wintering places. Everyone can follow the Eagles’ travels on our website. During summer, special cameras hidden in the nests allow us to discreetly observe Eagles’ everyday life without disturbing them. We also simply follow our Eagles using binoculars, spend days and nights observing them over the marshes. Using dropped feathers we conduct DNA analyses.
TAKING CARE OF THE YOUNGEST ONES To build a nest and start a family, Greater Spotted Eagles need large old trees. The birds are intolerant of human presence and look for trees in wet and inaccessible woods. However there are fewer such trees and such woods than before… During the project we will construct and erect 30 breeding platforms. These will provide attractive nesting locations where the Eagles will be able to breed and raise chicks. The more birds breed, the better the chances for the increase in the population of Greater Spotted Eagles in the Biebrza Valley. Once a platform has been constructed, special protection needs to be added against predators that are a threat to the chicks. This is done by smearing the tree trunks and branches with turpentine which is a tried and tested method of deterrence by strong smell otherwise harmless for wildlife. In order to prevent human disturbance and allow Greater Spotted Eagle to breed and raise their young peacefully, there are 20 exclusion zones set up around each of the nests. During the breeding period, between April and July, the excluded areas have each the radius of 500 metres from the nest. Outside of this period the zones have the radius of 200 metres. Kordian Bartoszuk
SHARING THE KNOWLEDGE AND OUR PASSION We shoot a film and write a book about Greater Spotted Eagles. The year 2011 was celebrated as the Greater Spotted Eagle Year in the Biebrza National Park. We place special emphasis on educating the local youngsters – also by running GSE classes for both children and teachers. Everybody is invited to visit the Information Center of the Biebrza National Park as well as our GSE Center, located in Goniądz, at 21 Dolistowska Street (ul. Dolistowska 21). You can read further about Greater Spotted Eagle or… talk to somebody from the GSE Team. Learn more at www.orlikgrubodzioby.pl
HOW CAN YOU CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROTECTION OF GREATER SPOTTED EAGLES? Please respect the rules of the Biebrza National Park while visiting. Respect wildlife; their living space and their right to live in peace. Do not enter any of the closed trails. Watch Greater Spotted Eagles and all other from such distance as to avoid disturbance Learn more about the difficult situation of Polish wetlands and think how you could help to save these wildlife refuges. Visit us at the GSE Center in Goniądz at 21 Dolistowska Street (Goniądz, ul. Dolistowska 21) We will be delighted to talk to you and explain more about our rare eagles. Learn more at www.orlikgrubodzioby.pl
GREATER SPOTTED EAGLE Aquila clanga THE RAREST OF EAGLES Biebrza Valley is home to the last 15 pairs of Greater Spotted Eagles in Poland, constituting half of their population in the EU. Their numbers are diminishing as their world of marshes, wet meadows and riparian forests is disappearing from our Polish and European landscapes. Let’s save wetlands! Not only for Greater Spotted Eagles but also for us…
THE WETLAND-LOVING EAGLE The wetter, the better. The less accessible, the safer. Being exceptionally timid and sensitive eagles, Greater Spotted Eagles depend fully on secluded riparian forests and vast marshes. All these are still to be found in the Biebrza Valley – one of the last great natural refuges for many endangered bird species in Europe.
THE MOST TIMID OF EAGLES Greater Spotted Eagles are exceptionally timid birds of prey. Human presence near the nesting area is a disturbance to the daily life of a family and a serious threat to the species. When bothered by tourists the adult birds may escape, living the chicks or eggs unguarded.
Two non-governmental organizations are working together with one of the largest national parks in the country to secure the future of Greater Spotted Eagles in Poland:
Ptaki Polskie (co-ordinating beneficiary) Polish Birds’ mission is best described as : KNOW, LOVE and HELP. If you know more about Birds, you will surely love them and will be ready to help us save them and protect their habitats and our Nature. The organization was founded out of the need of the times and in response to specific tasks requiring urgent actions - for the sake of nature and people. It has been registered as a public charity. Currently, Polish Birds are undertaking another large LIFE + project of revitalization and protection of meadow-marsh habitat in cooperation with the National Park Warta Estuary “Wetlands work wonders!”. Their mission of nature conservation is pursued through education, social communication and through direct active protection. Komitet Ochrony Orłów (associated beneficiary) The Eagle Protection Committee is a non- governmental organization basing on volunteers’ work. It was established in 1981 as a specialised group of experts to carry out researches of birds of prey. It was formally registered in 1991 and has since been active in coordinating conservation works aiming at protection of 7 rarest species in Poland. Currently KOO has approximately 500 members.
Biebrzański Park Narodowy (associated beneficiary) The Biebrza National Park was founded in 1993 to protect the biggest and best preserved valley peat bog complex in Central and Western Europe. It is the largest of 23 national parks in Poland. With its area of 59,223 hectares it constitutes about 19% of the total area of national parks in Poland. The BNP is a governmental institution. The Park’s Director reports to the Ministry of the Environment. The park was created to further the protection of biodiversity, natural resources, elements of inanimate nature and landscape values.
Greater Spotted Eagle – a bird like no other! Securing the population of Aquila clanga in Poland: preparation of the National Action Plan and primary site conservation is funded by the European Commission’s LIFE+ Fund, ref. no: LIFE08 NAT/PL/000511, , Narodowy Fundusz Ochrony Środowiska i Gospodarki Wodnej (National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management), ref. no: 511/2009/Wn10/OP-RE-LF/D and Wojewódzki Fundusz Ochrony Środowiska i Gospodarki Wodnej w Białymstoku (Regional Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Białystok). Supported by Spółdzielczy Bank Rozwoju w Szepietowie (Cooperative Bank for Development in Szepietów).