14 December 2012

Wildlife on holiday - Summer on the Rezéti-Danube

Gemenc is one of the largest floodplains along the Danube, that remained. The riverine forests and meadows have escaped the river regulations, thanks to the archbishop of Kalocsa. In the 19th century, the archbishop refused to join the regulation company which was founded to drain the floodpalins of Tolna county in Hungary. Thus the forests have survived and they soon became the most famous hunting places in Hungary, as a final refugee for game.

The most exciting program of our three days visit to Gemenc was paddling around Veránka Island. The 15 kilometers long river arm is called Rezéti Danube. Veránka Island used to be part of the "Duna-Tisza köze", the land between the Danube and Tisza rivers. But when the Rezéti side arm was cut off this land became a part of the opposite side, Dunántúl, in english Transdanubia. When the Gemenc became a protected nature reserve, this island was included in the new National Park.

Wandering on the Veránka Island is almost impossible. Wherewer we go in vain, we encounter signs like this: No trespassing: Protected area. These signs are standing next to every field road, path or byway, hiding the island's sights for sore eyes. Those who are planning to spend their holidays on this island are strongly advised to contact the Gemenc Inc. first to get the official permissions to enter the protected areas. Canoe can be hired at the holiday house of Veránka Island (if we do not have our own) for 5000 HUF/day. The apartments can be found on the northeastern tip of the island, so it is expedient to start our journey on the slow flowing Rezéti Danube, which has the shape of a human ear.

Of course, this 15 km paddling trip depends on the water level. It is possible (mainly in the upper and middle section) that we may find dry river bed in times of drought. 5th July, 2012. 250 cm water mark, measured at Budapest (305 cm at the nearest city, Baja) the entire length of the Rezéti Danube was navigable, although our paddle sometimes touched the bottom.

The Rezéti Danube is characterized by steep slopes in concave river banks. Tree roots are hanging in the air from almost upright slopes. Accumulation on the convex side prepares the river bed for herbaceous plants, later bushes and trees. Fishermen put their fish pots on the deeper, concave side, but there are fewer fish in them every year. Stabbed poles of fish pots guide us on the entire length of the river arm. Not only these poles guided us, there were huge horseflies (Tabanidae) circling above us. In shadier places, there were also a few mosquitoes, but far less than we expected.

Only one island can be found in the rather narrow Rezéti Danube. It was named after a novel of the famous Hungarian writer Mór Jókai: Senki-sziget (Nobodys Island). Its side arm, next to the Veránka Island is quite muddy, the water was flowing in a narrow channel. The so called "fok" (narrow breach on the rivers natural banks, where the flood enters the floodplains and later it draws back to the main river) leading to the Keszeges Lake was dried out, but at the Reitmann-fok a small creek still carried water left from the latest flood back to the Rezéti Danube. 

There was also water connection with the Lassi Lakes, where we saw the most amazigng scene of our trip. A herd of game was crossing the shallow lakes, but they recognised us before we could recognise them, so we could not make good pictures of them (see below). The Lassi Lakes and the Háromzátony had the most diverse bird population, herons, blue herons, gulls, and duck were circling in the sky above the flooded  meadow. From here we could paddle up a narrow channel, right to the small railway station, part of the narrow-gauge Gemenc forestry railroad. This channel was leading further on to rhe Malomtelelő Lake, but there was not enough water in it for the canoe. The Kerülő Danube side arm was also dried out, which embraces the Nagyrezét.

A fisherman is settling his fish pots

A heron (Egretta garzetta) taking off from the Senki Island

A young boar (Sus scrofa) looking for snails and worms in the mud

Dragonflies (Platycnemis pennipes) caught in the act

A living crayfish (Astacus astacus) in the Reitmann-fok

A blue-heron (Ardea cinerea), drying its feathers

Two boars enjoying the wallow

Shades of green along the Danube

Game (Cervus elaphus) wading across the Lassi Lakes

Planted riverine forest on the Háromzátony

Water caltrop  (Trapa natans) floating on the still water

A lone willow tree on the Veránka Island
As we approached the Danubes main course, the Rezéti river arm became wider, because all of the sediment were subsided on the upper section. On the banks fishermen's nets were drying under the july sun on tree branches, several fishing rods indicated the Rezéti fishing den. On the opposite side other weekend houses appeared, telling us that we have returned to the civilised world. And also the surrounding silence has disappeared.

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