As soon as Lithuanians swallow the last pancakes baked on Shrove Tuesday and say to themselves:”Finally! The damned winter is ending”, here in JeruLita some of us starting to pull out the equipment for the first and most exciting IMHO tour of the year: Spring Bird Watching.
Of course, the winter is not going to lose the ground immediately, however, anyway it is just a month or two maximum and many birds which migrate between Europe and Africa each year will choose to fly via Lithuania. Some of them will stay and breed here; others will just pass through, bringing us the message that spring is coming.
You know, being born and grew up in Lithuania we are very calm about the number of birds which in fact we are privileged to see here, however as soon as you meet people from other places and hear their permanent wows as the reaction to phenomenon you are absolutely used to, one day you start asking yourself if it is really so unique and little by little discover a new world.
I remember how it happened to me. I was accompanying a lovely family from Indiana, who arrived in Lithuania with the purpose to find the graves of their ancestors. After visiting the native village that is until today has been somewhere in the middle of nowhere, they said they finally understood why their grandfather chose Indiana as the place for his new home.
Not warm Florida or busy New York, not maritime Maine or spacious Texas but Indiana with its’ endless fields. Indiana reminded to a new nostalgic emigrant about the remote motherland – Lithuania. We began enthusiastically enumerate the similarities of nature: the same flat landscape, the same mixed forests, the same mushrooms (they simply don’t eat them) … and suddenly somebody shouted: “Stork! Stork! I saw a stork! Stop the bus, it was a stork!!” – Big deal I thought to myself…
At summer in Lithuanian province, it is more difficult to find the place without storks than vice verse. For ages, Lithuanian peasants believe that the white stork on the roof symbolizes peace and happiness, so the farmers are trying in all possible ways to make their possessions attractive for these birds.
Well, to be honest, I doubt if the system works so smoothly and each white stork guarantees a set “Wealth, Health & Babies” to each Lithuanian farm chosen for nestling, however, the slender creatures we saw that particular day did an absolutely amazing job.
In a wink, they managed to transport my American guests from bustling 21st c. of hi-tech and to immerse them in the atmosphere of the Shtetl that disappeared almost eighty years ago… Suddenly it became so easy to imagine tranquil Shabbat evening, Jewish men reading the Talmud in the only free day of a week, their wives discussing the latest news from the town, their children playing at the market square or at the bank of the river, and the same storks, pacing with dignity in the fields…
After a long but productive day, I came back home and googled about the number and frequency of the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) in the world. To my enormous surprise, I discovered the population of White Storks in Lithuania was the largest in whole Europe. And this is how my interest in bird-watching was born.
At this specific time of the year, migrating birds can be seen in significant numbers everywhere, even in the large Lithuanian cities. But the city tours exist to enjoy the architecture, not the nature that is why if you are seriously interested in bird watching you are welcome to join JeruLita Bird watching tour.
by Svetlana Shtarkman