Monday, 3 June 2013

Estonia May 2013 - Day 5

Thursday 16th May 2013.

We started today at the wonderful Valguta Polder.

The Estonian Encyclopaedia defines the term "polder" as an area that is specially drained and protected with a dam from overflowing from a sea, lake or river and situated too low for natural draining to occur. To avoid overflowing and flooding protective structures are built in the drained area (protective dam, cut-off canal or drain, sluice) along with a drainage network and a collecting pool. The floodwater would thus flow away via the sluice or be pumped away.

In 1964 the Valguta Polder construction began in the marshy meadows between the Haani and Rongu river mouth. The Estonian Polder system was launched in three stages in 1965-1968. A total of 533 hectares was drained. The protective dam was 2.3 kilometres long. In addition to field hay, the polder proved to be an adequate location from growing potatoes, barley and winter wheat. The polder is no longer functioning today.

The Valguta Polder is now part of the Natura 2000 network as the Lake Vortsjarv special conservation area. The purpose for having the Lake Vortsjarv special conservation area is protection of the following habitat types listed in Annex I of the Council of Europe Directive 92/43/EEC: natural eutrophic lakes, alluvial meadows, transferred marsh and bog forests; habitats of the species listed in Annex II; of the species listed in Annex I of the Council of Europe Directive 79/409/EEC and of the migratory bird species not listed in the Annex I. 

The morning light was beautiful and the birdsong was once again wonderful. In the trees and scrubs we spotted Great Reed Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Yellowhammer, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Thrush Nightingale, Jay and Reed Bunting.

Along the muddy edges and in the shallow water Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Common Snipe were feeding. At least 50+ Little Gulls were present including some in full breeding plumage with pink flush. Black Terns danced over the water mixing the Little Gull flock made up a magical telescope view.

The bird we had come to see was Citrine Wagtail and the group was not disappointed. Two males and a female were seen during our visit. It was a pleasure to watch such as beautiful bird for the 2nd time this year and seeing this species as a lifer in UAE in March.

Other birds present were Pochard, Mallard, Coot, Great White Egret, Black-headed Gull, Cormorant, White-fronted Geese, Tundra Bean Geese, Whooper Swan, Grey Heron, Teal, Common Crane, Shoveller, Pintail and Herring Gull.

In the skies, we spotted Marsh Harrier, White-tailed Eagle and a Sparrowhawk flew past us whilst we watched the Citrine Wagtails.

We walked to another area within the Polder and we rewarded with good views of Penduline Tit, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Icterine Warbler. As watched the Penduline Tit, the air around us was filled with the noise from a booming Bittern.

We were also lucky to see Large Tortoiseshell butterflies. Although, all individuals seen were worn, it was still a new species for me and one I didn't expect to find.

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