This is a trip report of a weekend spent in the Swina delta in Western Poland. The Swina is a channel that takes part of the water from the Oder river (the one with the recent floods) and delivers it to the Baltic sea. This area wasn't affected by the floods, the flood-water dissipated in the lagoon North of Szczecin.
A week ago (16th August) I visited the Slonsk reserve, where the rivers Warta and Postemia join the Oder. The town Kostrzyn had a close call, the town park next to the river is still underwater, and walled-off with sandbags, but the town itself escaped without too much damage. The Slonsk nature reserve was flooded, a few of the higher spots (such as the Corn-crake meadow near the Czarnow road) are just starting to re- emerge. It is now a pool of about 50 square kilometers, with occasional trees. The WHITE-TAILED EAGLES and GREY HERONS appreciate the change, but it is otherwise very empty and quiet compared with its normal state.
Now, back to the Swina delta:
This is an island between the Old Swina and the present straight course of the Swina. The north part of the island has recently become a nature reserve to protect breeding Aquatic Warblers (which I didn't see any of -- I'm starting to wonder if the species exists, or has been made up by ringers to make the other birders jealous!). However there were large numbers of the other Acrocephalus warblers fueling up for their migration, SEDGE WARBLER and REED WARBLER. The best bird in the reed beds was a BEARDED TIT (or whatever its current English name is). These look like very promising reed-beds -- I think I'll try to get back next year while the Aquatics are singing, and see if I can see one at last.
Although I "dipped" on Aquatic Warblers, I did have an unexpected success. Over the Old Swina were two CASPIAN TERNS, "lifers" for me. Really big compared to the terns I'm used to, a such huge red bills! These would be presumably be passage birds from Sweden. In the woods around the village Karsibor I saw GOLDEN ORIOLE and a late CUCKOO.
Swinoujscie is a port and seaside resort where the Swina enters the Baltic Sea. It is divided into an east and west part by the river, which has no bridges, but there are frequent ferries.
In the morning I walked along the beach in the west half of the town, looking mainly at the waders, which are migrating along the Baltic at present. It was a hot and humid day, and one of those rare days when all the waders have decided to be absolutely trusting, and don't fly however close you get. The Baltic is tideless, and I think this is part of the reason it doesn't have such large wader flocks as the North Sea has, but during the Autumn migration there are plenty of species possible (at least more than you would see inland around Berlin).
Most common were of course the DUNLIN, most still in black-bellied breeding plumage, also many juvenile CURLEW SANDPIPER. Other waders seen were KNOT, RUDDY TURNSTONE and SANDERLING.
There were also large flocks of gulls, mostly BLACK-HEADED GULL and COMMON GULL, with a few HERRING GULL and GREATER BLACK-BACKED. There's supposed to be one interesting bird in every large flock, so I spent some time looking through the gulls, and sure enough there was a young LITTLE GULL, a species I've only seen a few times before. I also noticed a Black-headed Gull with a paralysed wing.
To the east of the mouth of the Swina is an artificial breakwater extending about one kilometer into the sea.
To get there, you go through a strip of forest, growing on sand-dunes. This seemed like a good forest, during my crossing of it I came across a BLACK WOODPECKER, which is a sign of good old forest, and was noisily mobbed for several minutes by a pair of HOBBIES. I spotted their fledgling high up in a tree, it didn't seem at all nervous, despite all the fuss its parents were making, though it was watching closely. I wonder if it was a sort of "didactic" display, the parents showing the young one that humans are to be avoided? Even after I'd backed off from the youngster they kept following me for a few hundred meters.
At the breakwater there were good numbers of waders, though not as many species as along the beach. Here were COMMON SANDPIPER, as well as DUNLIN and CURLEW SANDPIPER. At the outer end of the breakwater there were some early migrant warblers in evidence, insect hunting among the lichen-covered rocks, mostly LESSER WHITETHROATs and WILLOW WARBLERs. Being from inland I was particularly looking for seabirds. The high-point of the day was a flock of about 60 LITTLE GULLs between me and the land. These were mostly adults in winter plumage, the first adults I've seen. Later a smaller flock, about 15, also flew by.
I saw another paralysed Black-headed Gull. After I got back I heard that there have been reports over the past week of gulls in the North Sea with a botulism-type disease, this may be the cause here too (this has been a very hot summer).
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