Kotvice educational nature trail

Kotvice plovoucí

When the Kotvice Nature Trail was opened in 1983, it had two introductory stops and six additional stations along the way. This educational trail served until 1997 when it was severely damaged by flooding and did not reopen until 1999, with new markings and two new stations.

The nature trail begins in the former game park, originally belonging to the manor house in Nová Horka, and represents remnants of natural riparian woodland. Some of the commonly found trees include large specimens of the English Oak and the White Poplar, which reaches the northern limits of its range in this area. The ecosystem is complemented by the Small-Leaved Lime, European White Elm, Black Alder, European Alder and the European Ash. The shrub layer of the ecosystem is represented by deciduous shrubs with the Alder Buckthorn and European Spindle being most common. The herbaceous layer is composed of an abundance of riparian plant species with the Common Snowdrop, True Oxlip, Common Lungwort and Ramsons as the dominant species. The waterlogged conditions are suitable for the Yellow Iris and the Water Violet, also known as Featherfoil. Nesting in holes and crevices are the Eurasian Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Owl, European Jackdaw and several members of the tit family. Birds of prey inhabiting the area include the Common Kestrel and the Common Buzzard.

The trail leads out of the game park to the embankment of Nový rybník (the New Pond) whose shallow waters are filled with Arrowhead, a flowering plant with arrowhead-shaped leaves, the Common Water Crowfoot and Common Water Plantain, as well as the Yellow Iris growing on the marshy banks. The shallow waters pass into extensive reed beds, which provide suitable nesting sites for a number of warbler species, the Reed Bunting, Eurasian Coot, Common Moorhen, the Great Bittern as well as the Little Bittern.

Naučná stezka KotviceThe surrounding shrubbery is a habitat to a number of small passerine birds, known less accurately as songbirds - the Dunnock, Chaffinch, European Robin and some others. The shore vegetation is abundant in flowering snowdrops, primroses and other riparian plants. The surface is covered with leaves of the rare Water Caltrop, along with buttercups and knotweed. The remnants of the original banks, which now form islets in Nový rybník (the New Pond), and reed beds conceal the nests of mallards, the Northern Shoveller, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, and the Tufted Duck.

The area around the Nový, Karlův and Kotvice ponds is a favourite place for numerous bird species - the Grey Heron and rarely even the Purple Heron, as well as common and rare species of ducks, or guests from the Nordic regions – skuas, mergansers and divers. The birds of prey that may be found in the area include the Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Osprey, Red Kite, and the Eurasian Hobby.

Distant reed stands in the shallows of the ponds provide suitable nesting sites for the Western March Herrier, swans and other waterfowl species. Rarely sighted is the Common Goldeneye, nesting in cavities of large trees on pond banks. Open areas are the preferred habitat for the non-venomous Grass Snake since the open woodland and pond edges provide adequate refuge and provide ample opportunity for thermoregulation through basking.

The nature trail continues along the banks of the Kotvice Pond which forms the core of the nature reserve. The pond is named after a Tertiary relic species - an endangered floating annual aquatic plant called water caltrop or horned water chestnut - a rare sight in the Czech Republic. On the surface of the pond, small free-floating aquatic plants may occasionally be found – Duckweed, Crystalwort and the extremely rare Floating Fern, or Floating Watermoss, an annual floating aquatic fern.

Slepé rameno OdryThe Common Bulrush (also known as Broadleaf Cattail) and Lesser Bulrush (or Narrowleaf Cattail) as well as Arrowhead and other species grow in the shallow areas. Along with ducks and coots, the Little Grebe, Blacked-necked Grebe and Red-necked Grebe can be seen rippling the surface. Bulrush and sedge stands are home to a large colony of gulls and water rails. On the outer side of the pond bank, there is an oxbow lake, a remnant of a meander of the Oder, with a series of pools which teem with life and often represent the last refuge to a number of rare species of fauna and flora.

The embankment between Kačák and Kotvice is the site of the original rail line between Studénka and Štramberk. The rail tracks have been removed but the three rail bridges are still in place. The Studénka Railway Station is within walking distance down the old railway embankment. The trail runs across the old rail line and continues down the bank of the Kačák Pond toward the Oder, a floodplain river with steep mud banks and riparian vegetation consisting primarily of willows. The river, rich in the Painter's Mussel, a medium-sized freshwater mussel, is a natural habitat for many fish species, e.g. the Common Nase, Common Roach, European Perch, and the Northern Pike. The water level fluctuates. When the river levels are low, gravel and sand sediments on the alluvial bank are exposed. The river is home to the Common Kingfisher, which nests in the steep banks. Several times a year, the river floods the adjacent meadows and the riparian woodland, and the annual surface run off results in the existence of distinctive wetland areas which are dominated by plant species such as Meadowsweet (or the Queen of the Meadow), Great Burnet and Purple Loosestrife. The riparian swamps and small pools are home to the European Fire-bellied Toad and the Edible Frog, also known as the Common Water Frog. It is also a favourite hunting ground for waders, which feed on small invertebrates picked out of mud or soft soil. Other birds found in great numbers, especially during the mowing of meadows, include the White Stork, whose preferred feeding grounds are grassy meadows and shallow wetlands, where the vegetation is shorter, and the Grey Heron, a wading bird feeding in shallow water.

The embankment of the Kačák Pond leads to nearby Albrechtičky, a small village with a population of close to 700. The nature trails crosses the Oder and continues over Oderská lávka, an iron footbridge over the river, and along Slaňáky, an oxbow lake with constant water level and belts of Yellow Water Lily and other aquatic plants, such as the Common Hortwort and Common Duckweed. The muddy edges are the habitat for the Water Violet, a rare marsh plant. Besides the common fish species like the Common Roach, Northern Pike and Crucian Carp, the old channels are inhabited by the endangered European Weatherfish (or Weather Loach). The overgrown stagnant waters are a natural environment for larvae of many species of aquatic insects. At the end of spring and throughout summer, the Beautiful Demoiselle, Emperor Dragonfly (or Blue Emperor) and a number of damselfly species can be observed. Another species frequently seen at the end of summer is the Ruddy Darter. The nature trails ends at the Pasečný Bridge, where the lakes merge with an artificial channel called Mlýnka (the Millsteam), a 23 km long raceway built in the 15th century.