Cranes, geese and cranberry pies

Cranes and Cranberries of the Miory District Ecological Festival held in Vitebsk Region’s Miory District
By Andrey Afanasiev

The event comprised two parts: a holiday of gathering cranberries and the observation of migrating birds. A free bus took guests to a picturesque site where cranes and wild geese could be observed. Around a thousand cranes ‘posed’ for those equipped with binoculars and, the day before, almost 4,000 were seen on Yelnya upland marsh, having migrated from Scandinavia and Russia.

Simultaneously, travellers to the semi-peninsula annexed to Miory were able to enjoy folk performances and an exhibition of hand-made articles. The vegetable souvenirs aroused the greatest stir, while everyone enjoyed tasting delicious pancakes and cranberry pies. Representatives of the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection attended the event, as did those from the Ministry for Sports and Tourism. They were joined by members of the UN/UNDP, diplomatic missions and public associations. 

The UN/UNDP Representative in Belarus, Antonius Broek, noted that, every year, the Miory District welcomes over 4,000 cranes and more than 10,000 geese. Migrating birds stop at the Yelnya upland marsh to rest and prepare themselves for the onward journey, allowing bird watchers the chance to observe and photograph these noble birds in their natural habitat. Local authorities hope to attract Belarusian and foreign tourists, with an ecological festival planned annually to coincide with the wonderful event. As the Chairman of the Miory District Executive Committee, Igor Kuznetsov, notes, everything has met organisers’ expectations this year. He smiles, “I hope to see an increasing number of nature lovers come to Belarus every year for this holiday.” 

APB-BirdLife Belarus Public Association conducted a poll of local residents, asking whether they would prefer to see the Miory District’s marshes restored or dried. Most support restoration. Yelnya marshes (part of a hydrological reserve of the same name) are vital for migrating birds, which need a place to safely restore their strength. It would certainly be difficult for them to fly further.

The Yelnya Hydrological Reserve (of Republican significance) was set up 1968 and, in 1981, its borders were expanded. The reserve is located across the Vitebsk Region’s Miory and Sharkovshchina districts and remains almost untouched since post-glacial times. This truly unique marsh environment is home to rare and endangered plants and animals. It plays an important role in preserving the Belarusian and European landscape and biological diversity. Since 2002, Yelnya has been a water-marsh territory of international significance.

The Cranes and Cranberries of the Miory District Ecological Festival was organised by local authorities, Republican state organs, international organisations and local residents.
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