The Spruces of the Krukawe Woods
Nature, World + People

The Spruces of the Krukawe Woods

New Life in the Białowieża Forest
Michał Książek
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time 11 minutes

In the Białowieża Forest, a small spruce grows on an oak tree. Tree on tree. Roughly 20 metres above the ground.

In the Krukawe Woods near Teremiski, some trees grow on tiny hillocks. Those that grow lower have high, stilt-like roots. I wondered why this was the case, until in autumn 2017, when several days of rain filled all the hollows with water. It became clear that Krukawe was once wet woodland, and marshland in places. The islets, now covered with black alder, Norway spruce and the increasingly rare European ash, were the only places where the seeds did not rot and were able to germinate. The stilt-like roots are yet more proof that the forest was once marshland: young trees grew and came into leaf on fallen trunks, which formed a kind of island in the water (so-called ‘nurse logs’). In order to eventually reach the soil, the young spruces had to engulf the nurse log with their roots. When the nurse log rotted and decayed, the spruce roots remained in a stilt-like, straddle position.

The Białowieża Forest has been dry for several years, so the new generation of woodland has no need for the islets or nurse logs. Over the last half-century, the period of snow cover in the Białowieża Forest has fallen from 80 to 40 days. Rainfall tends to be sudden and heavy, and the ubiquitous draining ditches quickly remove the rainwater

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Printed textile with game birds, 1814–16. MET Museum.
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After a few seconds had passed, Pinocchio said tsree and flew off, its wings leaving a breeze on my forehead.

Zee zee said the goldcrest, which can be translated as ‘here here’. Tsrree!, the treecreeper zealously agreed, dropping down like a leaf. Tsrree tsrree, the tits joined in a similar dialect, nodding their heads. Somewhere to the side, a nuthatch started to mock them. The single kik of the great spotted woodpecker mixed with the eager chit chit of the willow tit and marsh tit. Within a minute, floating right above me in the crowns of the pines and spruces, and even all around in the hornbeams and hazels, was a cloud of sounds and movement. Movement, because it was difficult to spot anything straight away. Waving. Jumping. Short bursts of flight. Something you could notice even in the remains of the nettles or reeds and on the ground. I was standing in the middle of a mob of birds, though I can’t fly.

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