A small gray bird walks shyly in the heath vegetation on the edge of the talus cones. It is a bird of the Krkonoše or Giant Mountains, which otherwise has its main distribution in Northern Europe, Northern Asia and Central Asia. In Poland, the Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) nests sporadically in high mountain grasslands and raised bogs in the Carpathians and the Krkonoše Mountains, in habitats similar to the northern tundra.
It shares the habitat with the Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris). It is the bird species most native to the high mountains among the birds of the Giant Mountains. It is very rare in Poland – it only occurs in the highest mountain ranges from the Tatra Mountains to the Giant Mountains. The Alpine Accentor is easiest to observe near the Sněżka or Śnieżka summit, the highest peak in south-western Poland.
Another – even rarer – bird of the Giant Mountains is the Eurasian Dotterel. The Eurasian Dotterel, a bird from the Charadriiforme family, is an extremely rare species in Poland that migrates sporadically and only breeds in exceptional cases. In the 19th century it nested in large numbers in the Giant Mountains. Nests have been found in the habitats of the Krkonoše tundra at an altitude of up to 1,300 m above sea level. The quite numerous and stable population of Eurasian Dotterel in the Giant Mountains extirpated in the middle of the 20th century, perhaps as early as the end of the 19th century. The reason is mainly suspected to be human activities, especially hunting and the collecting eggs from nests.
The Eurasian Dotterel was one of the main causes, which is why a very early ornithologist, V. Capek, was dedicated to its (non-)discovery. He stayed from the 15th to the 17th. July 1886 in the Giant Mountains.
An article from September 18, 1886 under the title “From the Giant Mountains” describes how he attentively roamed the Bílá louka, a place where the bird used to breed. He also visited meadows, which were similar to the former main breeding area. Apart from a very vague reference from a shepherd, there were no clues whatsoever. Everything was in vain! Even the name “Bierschnepfe” sounded strange to those working on the Bílá louka. V. Capek suspects – in retrospect probably rightly – that the Eurasian Dotterel had already completely abandoned its former breeding grounds. However, it had been a sparsely occurring species in this area for many years He mourns the old days and conjures up the old days when in 1882 a Mr. J. Talsky shot the (so-called) “last Mohican” from the beautiful Giant Mountains.
Science in the meantime was not absent. Thus, the last broods were recorded on the Lučnia hoře in 1948, when 2-3 pairs of Eurasian Dotterels were said to nest. In the 1990s, on the Czech side in the area of the Bílá louka the peat bog named Úpské rašeliniště and on the Pančavská louka, individual birds and alarmed pairs of Eurasian Dotterels were frequently observed . However, it was only after more than half a century, in 1999, that a brood of Eurasian Dotterels was observed again at Luční hořa, at an altitude of 1,550 m above sea level. In May 2009, a pair of Eurasian Dotterels was observed on the Polish side of the Giant Mountains, in the area of the Wielki Szyszak. However, breeding of this species could not be confirmed. Eurasian Dotterel return from their wintering grounds in May and begin breeding in late May or June.
Let’s see. Maybe one day there will be a reunion for the on the Bílá louka. In the meantime, strict measures have been taken to control visitors. One can only hope that they are of some use overall.
But there are other “exotics” in the Giant Mountains that benefit from strict visitor control measures. The northern subspecies of the bluethroat (Luscinia svecica svecica) nests in the subalpine peat bogs of the Giant Mountains, including in the Úpské rašeliniště peat bog.
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