Poland conducts annual census of large stork population


Poland's agriculture may be giving the European Union a headache, what with hundreds of thousands of small, uneconomical farms, but there's also an upside to this traditional farming. Poland is an ideal breeding ground for storks. In fact, a quarter of the world's stork population nests in Poland. July is the month where Europeans count their storks, this great operation includes almost all European states with special emphasis laid on Poland which for years has boasted the largest colonies of those red legged frog eaters.

North eastern regions of Poland are the places loved most by the storks. The national census of storks is one of the many initiatives leading to improve the living conditions of the birds and help their survival. Pawel Sidlo from the Polish Bird Protection Society, one of the initiators of the action.

"Every several years we count all storks in Europe to see what's going on with the species - if this number of these individuals increases or decreases.. We know that these species are very vulnerable to changes in agricultural us of land so such counts provides us data what's going on with, not only species, but also with agricultural land. This will be the sixth international white stork count which is carried out by ornithologists all over Europe. And as we know, Poland is one of the key areas for breeding white storks in Europe".

Indeed there is a saying that every fourth stork in the world is Polish which means that the birds have found an ideal nesting place in this country.

"Exactly, we have around 40 thousand breeding birds in Poland, which is a really impressive number. And when compared with other European countries we see, for example, in such countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, there are just several breeding birds. Poland is really a paradise for a white stork."

The counting of storks demands a joint action of thousands of people, volunteers, -ornithologists, village authorities - Roman Guziak from the Pro Natura Foundation,which organizes the census, says that every voluntary hand is needed and that counting the birds is not a difficult task.

"There are thousands of people involved who just go in the fields and count the storks. And also the village mayors they receive questionnaires to answer how many nests are in their villages, what happens in those nests, and so on. Generally it's quite difficult. But in case of storks it's slightly easier because we should call this census, the census of the white stork nests. Survey of the existing nests, nests of storks are always close to the people and they are large and are very easy to see. We try to involve as many people as possible because we have more than 40 thousand nests, maybe 50 thousand nests We really need a lot of people to take part in it. And then a lot of time to elaborate this data. We prepared a special questionnaire and instructions so almost everyone can take part in this census."

The collected data is compared with that from other European states which had conducted a similar census. Such actions remind that the white stork is a bird which needs special protection. And what are its major threats? Man, civilization or hunting, Pawel Sidlo again:

"Species cannot be hunted at all. So, from that point of view the species are not endangered. However, we can see that there are some, let's say, indirect threats to white storks. First of all, changes in agriculture. We can compare it with Poland and other European countries that have very intensive agriculture. Poland is still a paradise for the white stork because we have very small traditional farms, very traditional way of farming. When we implement very intensive farming and converting small farms to big ones with no field emergence, for example, with no slumps between the fields, without wet river valleys, then the species is endangered indirectly because it cannot find food. Not enough food resources to survive. The danger for the species is not meant directly, by killing the birds, but the changes of agriculture."

The national census of storks started this month and winds up in August. The organizers say volunteers are most welcome - all you need is a pair of strong legs and good will...