How often we follow their example! We set out to distant lands, cross seas, go through deserts, and reach the highest peaks. Birds have to cover unbelievable routes for them to land in Lithuania and nest, lay eggs, or continue on their way after getting some rest. Lithuania is a country of passing birds, located under what is perhaps the largest bird migration route in the Western Palaearctic. About 80 per cent of all migratory birds fly south through our country from the western part of the Northern Hemisphere. There are days on the Curonian Spit when you can look up and see thousands of flocks – during the autumn migration, from mid-September to the second week of October, millions of birds fly along the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon. Some of them stop for a short rest in the natural forests, swamps and meadows, along the great rivers or at the shore. The places untouched by humans, the impressive nature, and the rare birds that hold concerts in it are a real treasure not only for ornithologists, but also for bird watchers, bird-call recorders and photographers.
It’s worth visiting Lithuania for these five birds alone. To see and hear the birds that no longer wander farther west, making a home and laying eggs in our untouched meadows and the thickets of our forests. Lithuania also welcomes newcomers – a few decades ago, the citrine wagtail and the Blyth’s reed warbler moved here from the East and started breeding. These two small birds are of particular interest to professional bird watchers. You can admire the citrine wagtail with your eyes, but you should listen to the Blyth’s reed warbler. Its intriguing song is a repetitive whistle punctuated with scales. Birdwatching can be an exciting hobby. Listen to and see the birds that few ever do.
A water and bird paradise that emits pure Baltic tranquillity. This is what bird watchers call the Nemunas Delta. The serenity and quiet of unspoiled nature, the morning fog, the flooded meadows, and the tall grass and shrubs make it a great hideout for the rare species of birds that appear when the freshet begins and leave when the waters begin to ice over. This is a place which provides shelter to globally endangered greater spotted eagles, great snipes, black-tailed godwits, Eurasian curlews, and aquatic warblers. Geese, swans, ducks and sandpipers fly here, and flocks of thousands of passerines and birds of prey fly past overhead.
More than 300 species of birds have been counted in the Nemunas Delta and its surroundings, and one of the first banding stations in the world has been operating in Ventės Ragas since 1929, which also has the largest mist net in the world.
The best time for bird watching in the Nemunas Delta and the grasslands of the Curonian Lagoon is spring or autumn. In spring, the Nemunas Delta Regional Park even holds Parskrenda paukščiai (“The Birds Return”), a special event to welcome the birds back.
Žuvintas – a unique corner of nature not far from Marijampolė that is often called “Bird Lake” – is Lithuania’s largest wetland as well as its oldest nature reserve, and has been included in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The shallow, naturally overgrown lake and the wetlands that surround it are a safe haven for the 14 rare and protected bird species that lay eggs here. Determined bird watchers can catch sight of the extremely scarce aquatic warbler, the western marsh harrier and Montagu’s harrier, the corn crake and the spotted crake, the black grouse, the common crane, the wood sandpiper, the black tern, the white-backed woodpecker and the middle spotted woodpecker, the greater white-fronted goose and the taiga bean goose, and the Eurasian bittern. Those who aren’t interested in going deep into the swamp to look for rare species of birds can take in the lake surroundings on the educational trail or from the observations towers next to the lake. Every autumn, people gather at Žuvintas to see off the migratory birds.
The best time for bird watching in Žuvintas is from March to October.
Next to the countless lakes and rivers in the boundless forests of Dzūkija, people who are tired of the city noise feel serenity, as do birds. Only mushroom and berry pickers can scare away the birds that have found shelter in the shrubs, grasslands and flooded meadows. From April to September, you can see corn crakes holding concerts in the valley of the Merkys, gorgeous kingfishers flying over the Ūla River, black storks standing on the shores, and goosanders just hanging around. In the ancient villages of Dzūkija, the Eurasian hoopoe that the locals sing songs about haven’t been scared off yet, and the beautiful western capercaillies and black grouses dance their mating dances in Čepkeliai Marsh. Figuratively speaking, if you plan to go bird watching in Dzūkija, you’ll kill two birds with one stone, since you will have a chance to spot rare birds while also becoming acquainted with the unique cultural heritage of this region.