Haapsalu, Estonia, 24 July 2009 - A new interactive visitor experience in the Haapsalu-Bays is providing tourists with a bird’s eye view of the incredible journeys made by migratory waterbird species. Recently re-located from the neighbouring village of Saunja, Estonia’s Environmental Board recently opened the doors of the newly refurbished Nature Information Centre in Haapsalu on 30 June 2009 to make it more accessible for the many tourists who visit the area for its cultural heritage, beautiful landscapes and recreational value.
Set within 370 km2 of internationally important coastal areas and wildlife habitat, visitors can now enjoy new multimedia presentation highlighting migratory waterbird migration, a reed-bed exhibit and much more.
The north-western coastal zone of Estonia is one of the most important waterbird corridors in the Baltic Sea and millions of birds take advantage of its passage-friendly flyway annually between their breeding and wintering areas. “The Haapsalu-Bays is the perfect theatre to witness this spectacle of nature, whose bird migration connect our country and people to the rest of the world”, says Marko Valker, Project Manager from the Environmental Board.
Supported by the Wings Over Wetlands project, the Visitor Centre in Haapsalu is one of many notable achievements that have emerged from this demonstration project. The restoration of 100 ha of coastal meadows as a part of this initiative has had a remarkable effect on the diversity and numbers of migratory waterbird species. Active management of the habitat through regular mowing and grazing resulted in over 10,000 Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) using the coastal meadows as a stop-over during the spring and autumn migration. Haapsalu Bay has also become one of the most important spring migration staging areas of the globally endangered Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus).
One of the demonstration project’s most important results was the study of seabed habitats and the distribution of seabed flora and fauna in the Northwest Estonian coastal sea. With the help of the latest technology, scientists from the Estonian Marine Institute scanned almost 300 km2 of seabed. The study led to management plans for Northwest Estonia’s protected areas. These documents set out the main conservation priorities and activities for the next five years.
For those who enjoy outdoor recreational activities, two hiking trails and a boardwalk in the Silma Nature Reserve have been fully restored and new information signboards erected along key trails guide the way. Otherwise, visitors to Haapsalu can also let one of the 19 local tourist guides who recently graduated from Haapsalu Vocational School show them the way!
For more information on the WOW Demonstration Project in Estonia, please take a look at the publication below:
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