Latvia has a very rich nature and interesting birds are found everywhere. My own garden list is a proof thereof. Two areas stands out however, Kolka Cape in the north-western part of the country and the Lubans area in the south-eastern part. While Kolka Cape can rightly be regarded as a spring equivalent to Falsterbo, the Lubans area is unique with no counterpart in Europe . Lubans Wetland Complex with a total area of 51,032 ha was established as a nature reserve in 2009 by merging together 12 protected territories. Besides Lake Lubans (8,240 ha), this reserve is a mixture of small lakes, fish-pond complexes, rivers, canals, grassland, pastures, farmland, marshes, bogs, shrub and forest (broad-leaved, coniferous and mixed). It is a bird area of large international importance. No less than 188 species breed here, 51 of them included in the Latvian Red Data Book. The number of breeding pairs for a selection of species gives an idea of what one can find here: Hazel Grouse (50-240), Willow Grouse (?), Black Grouse (55-150), Capercaillie (16-48), Black-necked Grebe (20-30), Bittern (10-30), Little Bittern (2-5), Black Stork (5-12), Honey-Buzzard (4-13), White-tailed Eagle (5), Short-toed Eagle (0-1), Marsh Harrier (9-38), Hen Harrier (0-1), Montagu’s Harrier (0-2), Lesser Spotted Eagle (13-29), Greater Spotted Eagle (0-2), Golden Eagle (1), Osprey (6-10), Spotted Crake (1-10), Little Crake (2-10), Corn Crake (300-500), Crane (21-60), Golden Plover (18-28), Ruff (0-10), Great Snipe (110-150), Whimbrel (10-20), Marsh Sandpiper (8- 10), Wood Sandpiper (22-40), Little Gull (10-2,000), Whiskered Tern (0-5), Black Tern (50-2,000), White-winged Tern (10-200), Eagle Owl (1), Pygmy Owl (1-5), Ural Owl (18-27), Short-eared Owl (0-2), Tengmalm’s Owl (2-6), Nightjar (21-135), Kingfisher (3-15), Grey-headed Woodpecker (8-30), Black Woodpecker (13-37), Middle Spotted Woodpecker (21-54), White- backed Woodpecker (11-30), Three-toed Woodpecker (6-13), Citrine Wagtail (?), Bluethroat (0-5), River Warbler (?), Blyth’s Reed Warbler (?), Booted Warbler (recorded for the first time in 2012), Barred Warbler (1- 5), Red-breasted Flycatcher (58-180) and Red-backed Shrike (48-150).
The melting snow regularly results in a large spring flooding. Then, the area attracts large numbers of waterfowl. Count data from Lake Lubans for some selected species give an indication of what the area houses at this time of the year: Mute Swan (253), Whooper Swan (2,433), Bewick’s Swan (940), Tundra Bean Goose (7,500), White-fronted Goose (13,000), Wigeon (8,560), Teal (1,866), Mallard (2,542), Pintail (3,527), Pochard (810), Tufted Duck (1,006), Goldeneye (137) and Smew (364).
This nature reserve is also rich in red-listed species of higher plants and invertebrates. It is also the home for a large number of mammals, including Wolf, Lynx, Brown Bear and Otter. The spring comes late at this inland site. For instance, the number of staging geese at Lake Lubans still exceeds 20,000 in early May. The optimal time for bird-watching in this area is very likely the third and fourth week of May. Lubans Wetland Complex is not the only bird area of importance in this area. Three other Important Bird Areas are situated closer to Madona than Lubans: Teici and Pelecare bogs (26,263 ha), Kuja (10,834 ha) and Aiviekste flood-plain (1,156 ha). Also Gaizinkalns, the highest point in Latvia (312 metres above sea-level), is situated close to Madona.