Gražutė Regional Park is distinguished by being a member of a group of regional parks rich in lakes. The Park has more than 70 lakes covering an area of 5,700ha (Antalieptė Reservoir, Lakes Luodis, Samavas, Dūkštas, Šventas, etc.). The Park preserves the forested and lake-filled landscape of the lakeland of the upper reaches of the Šventoji. The body of water with the most complex configuration in Lithuania – Antalieptė Reservoir (formed by flooding 26 lakes that merged into the water of Šventoji at a flooded pothole) stretches for 16km with a great many islands, peninsulas and bays. The Gražutė forest and other woodlands cover around 55% of the territory, whereas bodies of water and minor swamps take up about one fifth of the territory of the Park.
The spectacular Tumiškė moraine ridge is rich with large shallow 20–40m highhills. There are many picturesque lakes – Luodis, Samavas, Asavas, Šiurpys, Veprys, Ligajas, Ažukalnis, Zalvas, etc. The Šventoji, the most beautiful river in Upper Lithuania, begins in this Park. From the hydrographical point of view, it is worth mentioning such unique features as Lakes Šventas and Šiurpys with no outflow, the body of water with the most complex configuration in Lithuania – Antalieptė Reservoir with its beautiful group of islands and unique network of peninsulas, the large Luodis lake with its two necks of land, and the Šavaša river with its exclusive falls. Lake Šventas, which has the highest water-level fluctuations, is a kind of hydro-climatic barometer. The largest part of the Park is covered by the Gražutė Forest, which in olden times was a large mass of forests. Lake Smalvas and Lake Smalvykštis, which has the greatest swamp complex in the Zarasai district, are characterised by their variety of habitats. Due to the large number of habitats, there are many protected species in the Park.
Picture Gražutės RP foto: Common spotted orchid(Dactylorhiza fuchsii)
In Gražutė Regional Park, 880 plant species and 412 species of lichen and fungi have been identified.
Lichen and fungi. Lichen and fungi have been studied only in a few places. 136 species of lichen have been identified, where Cetrelia (Cetrelia olivetorum), Needle lichen (Chaenotheca chlorella) and Hispid needle lichen (Chaenotheca hispidula), Ramalina (Ramalinabaltica), Sclerophora Lichen(Sclerophora farinacea) are included in the Redbook. One species – Lecanora norvegica was found in Lithuania for the first time. 276 species of fungi were distinguished. 6 members of the Redbook were identified: Lingzhi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), Phlebia centrifuga (Phlebia centrifuga), Cauliflower mushroom (Sparassis crispa), etc.
Mosses. This is a plant group that has been little investigated in the Park. 120 species were found only in a few places. 5 members of the Redbook were also identified.
Club-mosses. 6 species of club-mosses were found and 1 of them are included in the national Redbook - Marsh club-moss (Lycopodiella inundata) has been found in a single place only.
Horsetails. 7 species that are not uncommon in the Park were found (water horsetail, wood horsetail, field horsetail and other horsetails).
Fern. The list includes 14 species. Some of them are rather uncommon: Adders-tongue fern(Ophioglossum vulgatum), Common moonwort(Botrychium lunaria), Long beech fern(Phegopteris connectilis), and 2 species are included in the national Redbook, these are the Chamomile grape-fern (Botrychium matricariifolium) and Leathery grapefern (Botrychium multifidum).
Conifers. There are 9 species of conifers growing in the Park. Introducents that are worth mentioning are the White Spruce (Picea canadensis), Jack pine (Pinus banksiana), Savin juniper (Juniperus sabina).
Flowering plants. 724 species were found. The most common species are: Aspen (Populus tremula), Common nettle (Urtica dioica), Common knotgrass (Polygonum aviculare), Thyme-leaved sandwort (Arenaria serpyllifolia), Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), Field penny-cress (Thlaspi arvense), Silverweed cinquefoil (Potentilla anserina), White clover (Trifolium repens), Purple deadnettle (Lakium purpureum), Rough Hawkbit (Leontodon hispidus), Couch grass (Agropyron repens), etc. Quite a number of the species are included in the Redbook – overall 40. There are also especially rare species growing in the Park; these are Alternate water-milfoil (Myriophyllum alterniflorum) and Moor rush (Juncus stygius). Eastern pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens) is quite common to the Park (especially to Gražutė Forest). This is the plant species of the Redbook was identified in the greatest number of places in the Park. Other uncommon species that are worth mentioning include Star gentian (Gentiana cruciata), Silver birch (Betula humilis), Royal helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens), Flecked marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza cruenta), Felwort (Swertia perennis), etc.6 species found in the territory were included in Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive.
Picture of K.Čepėnas: Lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina)
Insects. Insect studies have been carried out in the Park episodically. They resulted in the identification of 740 species of insects, 221 of them are beetles, 432 – butterflies, and 23 species are included in the Lithuanian Redbook. This region of lakes is a perfect habitat for various species of dragonflies. Therefore, it is not surprising that such uncommon species as the Lesser emperor (Anax parthenope), Golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii), Dark whiteface (Leucorrhinia albifrons), etc. were found in the Park. The Park forests shelter some rare species of bugs: the Peltis grossa beetle and the Borosschneideri beetle. The Old World swallowtail (Papilio machaon) and Large copper (Lycaena dispar) are common to the mosaic landscape. The butterflies that are met with less often are the Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) and False heath fritillary (Melitaea diamina), and the Scarce heath (Coenonympha hero). It is worth mentioning some less common species of butterflies: the Small emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia), Broad-bordered bee hawk-moth (Hemaris fuciformis), Black hairstreak (Satyrium pruni), Arran brown (Erebia ligea), Tufted skipper (Carcharodus flacciferus) etc. 11 species are protected by the Habitats Directive of the European Union.
Fish and lampreys. 26 species of fish and 1 species of lamprey have been found. Only the Brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri) and European weather loach (Misgurnus fossilis) are protected by the EU Habitats Directive. The latter is also included in the Redbook. Perch, bream, pike, roach and other fish are common in the Park lakes. Catfish, trout or lings are less common.
Reptile and amphibia. 11 species of amphibia and 6 species of reptile were found. The Northern crested newt (Triturus cristatus), European fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina), European green toad (Bufo viridis), Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) and European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) are included in the Redbook. The pond turtle has not been found in the Park for the last two decades. 10 species are protected according to the EU Habitats Directive. Some of them (European green toad, Marsh frog, Sand lizard, etc.) are not uncommon in the Park territory.
Birds. The species composition of birds has probably been the subject of the most thorough investigation at Gražutė Regional Park. Starting from 1994, 205 species have been found, 51 of them are included in the Redbook, and 54 – in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive. The Park lakes are one of the most important breeding places in the country for the Black-throated loon (Gavia arctica). A significant part of the country’s population of Eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum) lay their eggs in Gražutė Forest. Other uncommon species of birds, such as the Great bittern (Botaurus stellaris), Black kite (Milvus migrans), White-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), Lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), Three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), etc. also breed in the Park territory. The Red-throated loon (Gavia stellata), Great white egret (Egretta alba), Red-breasted merganser (Mergus serator) or Red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus) may be met with during the migration period. If you are lucky, in winter you may see a White-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus) at the ice-free sections of the Šavaša and Šventoji.
Mammals. There are 46 species of mammals on the Park list. 7 of them are members of the Redbook and 17 members of EU Habitats Directive. Among the regular habitants of the Park are the rare Mountain hare (Lepus timidus), which is nonetheless common in the territory, and the European otter (Lutra lutra). The woods of Gražutė are visited only rarely by the Grey wolf (Canis lupus) and Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). They are also home to 13 species of bats that are all protected both at the national and European Union level.