Military ground of Libavá turns into sanctuary for rare bird species  

Despite the sound of gunfire, explosions and ground army vehicles, the military ground of Libavá has become something of a sanctuary for rare species of birds. Since 2016, when the area partly reopened to the public, ornithologists have been closely monitoring the place and are now working on a special atlas dedicated to the local species.

The bird area of Libavá is situated in a military training ground not far from the Moravian city of Olomouc. Due to the presence of the military, the area has been largely uninhabited for decades, creating ideal conditions for many protected species of plants and animals.

The military training ground of Libavá was established in 1950 and after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, it served as a base for Soviet troops. Libavá continued to serve military purposes even after the last Soviet soldiers left the country in the early 1990s.

Ornithologists monitor bird species in Libavá | Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio

In recent years, the area serving the army has been significantly reduced and it has partly opened to the public. Since then, ornithologists have been closely monitoring the area.

Kateřina Ševčíková, head of the Moravian Ornithology Association, who has been monitoring the area for several years now, lists some of the bird species she spotted during her recent walk through the area, such as the Arctic Warbler, Common Finch, Common Snipe or Lesser Snipe.

But Libavá is also home to some rarer species, such as the black stork, the European honey buzzard or the lesser spotted eagle and, most importantly, the corn crake, says Mrs Ševčíková:

“Libavá was declared a bird area because of the presence of the corn crake. Another unique species that was spotted here is the common grouse. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen it for the past two years.”

The extensive, largely uninhabited area, surrounded by otherwise densely inhabited landscape, developed into an unpolluted environment, providing excellent natural conditions for many protected species of plants and animals. There is a preserved network of streams and wetlands but also a number of pools that were created by the military operations.

Kateřina Ševčíková once again:

“It's an absolutely incredible site. I have fallen in love with the place. It has escaped land development efforts and intensification of farming that took place in the surrounding landscape.”

In the future, ornithologists monitoring bird species in the area would like to publish a special bird atlas dedicated to the local species, says Mrs Ševčíková:

“We want to focus on the peridomestic species, which haven’t been examined in greater detail. This year, we are paying special attention to birds of prey, and also kingfishers, who we are closely monitoring water streams. But this is not a question of one year, we are in this for the long haul.”

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Lenka Kratochvílová
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