Lake Žuvintas and its surroundings are void of bird chirping only during winter months or stormy weather. It is one of the most important lakes for birds in Lithuania. In springtime, its reeds and typha are filled with booming calls of the Eurasian bittern, clucking of the little crake and sounds of various other fascinating species. Thousands of migrating geese and ducks as well as flocks of cranes make a stop at the lake to spend the night and get some rest every spring and autumn. Lake Žuvintas is like no other in the country in terms of the number of bird species that have been discovered there. The lake itself is a shelter to more than 120 different species of birds and as much as 51 species can breed there. The total number of bird species recorded at the biosphere reserve exceeds 240.
Looking over Lake Žuvintas from nearby hills, one can see dense vegetation and open water coves everywhere. The shores covered in reeds, typha growing from the bottom of the lake and floating aquatic plant beds form a mosaic of different lake habitat types that make it a suitable place to breed for many bird species. Lake Žuvintas is very shallow, with its average depth reaching only 0.6 meters. Its borders are covered in thick vegetation and are not clearly distinguishable, thus it is difficult to determine its precise size. The lake is now estimated to stretch over 940 ha. The layer of algae sediments and sapropel there is up to 4 meters.
First biosphere reserve in Lithuania
Žuvintas Biosphere Reserve was founded to monitor changes in natural systems, carry out scientific research and, most importantly, ensure the preservation of biodiversity and natural habitats. The central part of Žuvintas Biosphere Reserve (18,800 ha) is Žuvintas Nature Reserve (6,062 ha), where all economic activities are prohibited except for rare cases where they are essential to preserve natural assets. In reserve zones, farming is allowed only if it does no harm to the natural ecosystem. In 2011, UNESCO added Žuvintas Biosphere Reserve to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which includes 701 biosphere reserves in 124 countries. Žuvintas Biosphere Reserve is also part of the Natura 2000 Protected Areas Network and is inscribed on the list of protected areas of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat.
Founded on Tadas Ivanauskas’ initiative
Žuvintas Reserve was founded in 1937 on the initiative of Prof. Dr. Tadas Ivanauskas (1882–1970), the most well-known Lithuanian naturalist of the past century. It is the first protected area in Lithuania. The reserve was researched by many Lithuanian natural scientists, including the ornithologist Teofilis Zubavičius (1914–1993) as well as the writer and scientist Dr. Vytautas Nedzinskas (1940–2002) who spent a couple of decades working there. The biosphere reserve was established in 2002 by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.
Author and photo credits: Arūnas Pranaitis