The wind howls across the rooftops and shakes the branches of the trees as you huddle in the nest beside your brothers and sisters, trying not to get blown off the chimney top. Then a deafening crack rends the air and branch lands on top of you, trapping you inside. You struggle and call out for your mother, but nobody comes. As the storm dies away, your strength begins to fail and you wonder whether you will ever break free. Then, suddenly, you hear the scuffle of feet against roof tiles. A hand descends and pulls the branch out of the way. You look up into the concerned face of a human being – but how did he know you were in trouble? How did he hear your cries for help?
What the baby White Stork didn’t know is that its nest – along with 800 others across the Czech Republic – was being watched over by a network of hundreds of volunteers across the country. The heroic human was none other than Zdeněk Vermouzek, chief executive of the Czech Society for Ornithology (CSO). He hurried to the scene following reports of two chicks trapped in the nest during a violent storm this summer, and climbed the chimney himself to free them.
Every year, the project has grown in popularity, boosted by annual ‘Stork Day’ outreach events. This year saw a record number of volunteers sign up – over 600 in total. Using a simple mobile phone app, they have mapped and astonishing 1,300 nests – nearly 800 of which are confirmed to be occupied. This information is very useful for working out how to safeguard White Storks, who are surrounded by danger every day. All around them, their wetland feeding grounds are being destroyed by intensive farming, and overhead powerlines present a constant risk of electrocution.
Some hazards even occur within the nest itself: plastic waste is a huge danger to chicks. Their parents often mistake it for food or nesting material, causing chicks to choke or get entangled in the artificial material. In cases like these, CSO actively helps storks in need, sending out staff in response to danger calls. It was such a call that saved the two trapped chicks this summer, who would almost definitely have perished without intervention.
We at BirdLife would like to say a huge THANK YOU the wonderful volunteers who dedicate their time to saving birds’ lives every year.
Help to keep amazing projects like this going. Donate today.